Seattle Accelerator Alum: Post-Program Reflections from LionHeart Innovations
Tammy BowersFounder & CEO, LionHeart Innovations
Having founded LionHeart Innovations last year and being new to the startup scene, I tried to attend as many relevant events as I could, including a Microsoft Accelerator information session. The director at the time, Mukund Mohan, was hosting the event and I was determined to meet him. I waited in a long line of eager entrepreneurs—in fact, it was 10:30pm when it was finally my turn, but it was worth the wait.
He was one of the most sincere and kind men I had ever met. His first words to me that night and every time I saw him after that were, “What can I do for you?” And he really meant it. In a following meeting with Prashant Sharma via Skype, I was asked the same question: “What can I do for you?” A simple question, but one that made me realize Microsoft is where I needed to be.
LionHeart was accepted into Seattle’s Digital Work Accelerator and we began the program in March of this year. The four-month endeavor turned out to be an important milestone for our startup. We received a warm welcome, were made to feel like a significant extension of Microsoft, and the experience helped us improve our company on multiple levels.
We learned a great deal about customer segmentation, curation, and acquisition. The program team helped us hack through our business model and introduced us to the right industry experts and relevant mentors. Above all, we were exposed to customers through formal and informal channels. The Microsoft Ventures team lined up an impressive set of customers that were not only open to listening to our pitch, but were willing to invest their personal time in giving us feedback, sharing recommendations, and in some cases, helping us test or pilot our product.
While I can list several reasons every startup at the ‘accelerator stage’ should consider Microsoft Ventures’ program, the most obvious for me are Microsoft’s connections and the team’s desire to do whatever it takes to make you successful.
But perhaps most importantly, we were part of something bigger: a diverse team of startups that invested in one another! Hence the use of the term ‘cohort.’ Sure we each had our own problems to deal with, yes, we were chasing our individual goals and ambitions; but everyone in the class was willing to go the extra mile to help others in the group. We found experts, audiences, and coaches in one another, and I believe each of us in the accelerator played a part in our colleagues’ success.
I have met and spoken to many entrepreneurs since we participated in the Digital Work Accelerator. One of the things people ask of me most frequently is to highlight the biggest program benefits to the participating companies. While I can list several reasons every startup at the ‘accelerator stage’ should consider Microsoft Ventures’ program, the most obvious for me are Microsoft’s connections and the team’s desire to do whatever it takes to make you successful. They challenged us—no doubt—but gave us the tools we needed to overcome those challenges. And, I can’t say it enough, they care about YOU, not just your company. Every challenge they throw your way is in your best interest—to help you succeed.
Moving to Seattle for the program was a life changing decision for us in many ways. The Microsoft Ventures program grant covered part of our living expenses, enabling us to explore all the city had to offer, both personally and professionally. We decided that in order to scale LionHeart at the right pace, Seattle is where we should be. So we decided to move—both family and startup—to Seattle permanently, and we’re loving every minute of it.
Persuading company bosses to take on new, disruptive technologies can be a struggle. Luckily, there are a host of benefits to taking on new and emerging tech – it’s just a matter of finding ways to sell it to those C-Suite decision makers.
Joining Microsoft’s San Francisco Founders’ Day gave me a chance to engage with other Microsoft alumni, and an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities I face on a daily basis as a startup CEO and founder.