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Nick Boucart, Technical Consultant at Sirris, advises start-ups to take a really close look at their problem/solution fit.
What are the most important things for every start-up to know?
First and foremost, you must be sure that the problem which you are trying to solve is really something which keeps people awake at night. In other words, think carefully about the problem/solution fit. Start-ups need to identify a problem in the market, and you need to ask yourself if that problem is worth solving. Be self-critical, and ask your potential customers plenty of questions. It doesn’t matter whether you do this online or in person, just be sure you do it.
Also be sure to check early on how much people will be prepared to pay for your product. This might be painful – nobody likes talking about prices. But whether someone is willing to pay 5 euros or 50 euros per month for your solution will make a huge difference to you, and your pricing will determine how many potential customers you will be able to attract.
Don’t forget to make use of open source software as well as the many cloud APIs available. This will speed up the whole process. The more time you spend sitting at your computer writing code, the less time you have available to spend talking to customers or monitoring your analytics. In other words, do just enough yourself to ensure that your app is unique, and outsource the rest.
The most important thing of all is to have a strong vision for your product. It’s also very important that you clearly define how far you are prepared to go for an individual customer.
As a mentor, what expertise do you bring to the Roularta Mediatech Accelerator programme?
I am a Technical Consultant at Sirris, a non-profit organisation. As an expert mentor, I will be addressing product management, as well as the technical side of running a start-up.
Our goal at Sirris is to make Belgian businesses more competitive by encouraging technical innovation. One of my roles at Sirris is to coach software businesses on matters such as product management, technology choices, streamlining their development team etc.
Why should start-ups sign up for the programme?
Start-ups face many uncertainties. Initially, you don’t know who your customers are or how to address the issue of pricing. It can be a great help to talk and exchange ideas with others, as sometimes you are too closely attached to your own idea to be able to see clearly. By working with other start-ups, and creating a good network, you will be able to keep both feet on the ground. It seems that start-ups with a good network are three to four times more likely to succeed than those without. A good example being Genome Project, an American start-up, which has already consulted hundreds of other start-ups.
Will start-ups be deciding the future of the media?
I believe that start-ups with a fresh approach can point the media in a new direction. Facebook and Twitter started life as start-ups, and they have made things very difficult for the traditional media. The field has changed enormously.
The best and newest ideas usually come from people who ignore traditions and approach things in their own way. Taking part in the accelerator programme is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse.
I’m curious to see what Roularta, with its powerful media influence, will be able to bring about as a result of the programme. There are other accelerator programmes out there, but they can’t really offer what Roularta can in terms of sheer power.
What is the most important thing to do if you want to scale your start-up?
You need to take a close look at every aspect of your business model and think carefully about user experience. Whatever you are offering, you need to try to limit work intensity wherever possible, so that it’s doable for your team. You need to find good, cost-effective channels for attracting more customers.
As you grow, it’s important to hold on to some of the atmosphere of the early days, but your team needs to grow too, otherwise your start-up will get stuck in a rut. Growth and scaling require a certain level of maturity within your organisation, and with that comes the need to formalise certain processes.

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