GIST Masterclass Brings Critical Learnings to ASEAN Innovators

GIST Masterclass Brings Critical Learnings to ASEAN Innovators

Concept to Capital: Lessons Every Early-stage Innovator Needs

September 18, 2023

Starting a business can be overwhelming, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. But finding the right resources for success doesn't have to be difficult. Entrepreneurs at the early stages of their journey face common challenges worldwide. They need help creating a solid business plan, managing their financial runway, understanding their customers, building a strong team, and more. But most challenging of all, they're trying do all of this while they're completely new to these concepts. For this exact reason, we created GIST MasterClass.

A Masterclass is a single day event tied to a regional or event-specific theme that includes many foundational elements that are critical to the success of an entrepreneur who is just starting on their venture journey. For many innovators who have thought about bringing their innovation out of the lab and into the market, this is their first exposure to the world of entrepreneurship. One part informative, one part inspirational, the Masterclass can give a fledgling founder the knowledge and courage to get their venture started. 

On September 6, 2023, GIST had the opportunity to bring this format to the Symposium on Accelerating Science, Technology, and Circular Innovation in Southeast Asia in Jakarta, Indonesia. Innovators, policymakers, private sector partners, and industry leaders gathered for the three-day symposium designed to explore smart sustainable cities; cooperation in science, technology, and innovation; and circular economy and entrepreneurship. 

Led by C’pher Gresham, CEO emeritus of SEED SPOT, the GIST Masterclass: Concept to Capital covered seven critical insights for an entrepreneur’s journey. Each insight provided key concepts and strategies to help the founder grow their startup and identify the best-fit, value-aligned angel and venture capital investors. We’re going to explore a few of them below. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a great place to start and we hope you find as much value in them as we do.

Why is Product-Market Fit Critical for Early-stage Innovators?

At the foundation of the presentation was the product-market fit process. Every solution begins with the problem it is solving. As C’pher is quick to point out, once you have your solution in mind, it is important to do proper customer discovery where you talk with real people about their actual “pain points” and actual needs. This is the time where you can see if the product you have in mind is truly going to solve the problem your customers have. Once you’ve validated the solution, you can build your minimum viable product (MVP) and put it into the hands of your prospective customers. These fortunate volunteers are going to test the product for you and give you critical feedback. 

C’pher’s advice for getting the most out of this customer discovery process is to talk directly with the customer. Email surveys might work after you have an established product, but to get that first solution as close to a perfect fit for your customers as possible, you need to be in a conversation with them. You need to listen to their stories. You need to observe them. This helps you build empathy: a deep understanding of the problems and realities of those who you’re serving. 

What Do Potential Funders Want to See?

C’pher emphasized a valuable lesson concerning company culture. The first part of this lesson underscores the importance of always aligning with your "North Star." In essence, the "North Star" signifies your company's guiding vision. What is the impact you hope to have with the solution you are creating? What values do you want to bring to the company to guide your decision making? Addressing these fundamental questions empowers you to establish cultural norms, ensuring that your team comprehends and applies them to their work.

Devoting thought to this matter is crucial, as startups lacking a clear and robust company culture can easily veer off course without the structures that provide guidance. This approach aids in defining acceptable behaviors and serves as a compass for actions to take when faced with uncertainty. This becomes particularly evident when it's time to celebrate your successes—an additional point stressed by C’pher in nurturing a company culture.  This acknowledgment not only fosters a sense of value among team members but also reinforces the ethos of the organization. Creating an environment that encourages open communication when encountering challenges is equally essential. A culture that welcomes members to voice their concerns is better equipped to address and resolve issues promptly.

Learn more about the MasterClass program

GIST's goal of fostering early-stage venture development in emerging economies is best illustrated by the over 100 training events we have hosted. Since 2011, GIST has sought to find and connect innovators to the resources they need to succeed. As GIST alumna Queenny Lopez from Ecuador stated at the 2019 GIST Business Incubation Investors Forum event, this support seeks to empower innovators "in their own countries, using their own technology." We couldn't think of a better mission than to support the efforts of your science and technology innovators to have a positive impact on their homes. Learn more about our Masterclasses and other opportunities by visiting our Programs page.

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