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The On Deck (ODF5) Journey

Since we’re nearly two weeks into the fellowship, this submit will cowl the time between acceptance and the top of the second week.  Verify again for observe ups and I will in all probability do a last “synopsis” submit on the finish. Thanks for the help and I hope this helps somebody!

(I have been suggested to place an intro right here. It is going to present up by tomorrow)

“Ought to we do On Deck?”

We discovered about On Deck again in Might of 2020.  Alex and I have been interviewing with accelerators to assist take Deft to the following degree and break away from our 9-5’s. It was a busy couple of weeks. COVID is in full swing, Alex simply had a child, and we’re juggling the demand for our product with tense accelerator calls & demos. Because the interviews dragged on, we began to come back to our personal conclusions about what we wished over the following 6 months.  Accelerators can present a ton of profit in a short while (~3 months), however you wish to just be sure you’re leveraging that point successfully to your startup.  In our case, we have been nonetheless making monumental enhancements to our textual content search and picture search capabilities and weren’t prepared to flee from the safe-space of closed beta.  We determined that utilizing our time in an accelerator to go from 1 to 1,000 was in all probability a greater use of the chance than going from 0 to 1.

In direction of the top of one of many interview course of(es), good friend of mine gave me a name about On Deck.  He was working by a partnership deal and thought it might be an awesome match for the place Deft was. Their web site learn “The place high expertise goes to discover what’s subsequent”.  Whereas we had a fairly good concept of what is subsequent for us, our curiosity was piqued by the tracks for discover vs. construct.

I jumped to Twitter to verify the sentiment.  Glowing opinions from #ODF1, #ODF2, #ODF3 individuals and a few superb corporations evolving from this system. I went again to the apply web page.  The functions have been due in 4 days…..

Making use of to be On Deck

I may really feel the dread effervescent inside me.  For individuals who have utilized to an accelerator earlier than, you know the way lengthy an utility can take. Both Mark Twain or Blaise Pascal is credited for saying “If I had extra time, I might have written a shorter letter.”   A variety of these functions require 250 phrases or much less for each reply. Whereas I usually imagine this constraint is useful, each for the readers of 1,000’s of functions and startup founders who must suppose extra deeply about what they’re fixing, it actually makes making use of in 4 days difficult.

We set to work over the weekend, however have been relieved to search out this wasn’t your customary accelerator utility. The questions targeted extra on the founders and our aspirations than intricate components of what we have been constructing.  Our notion of On Deck began to alter.  From an accelerator for our enterprise to extra of a group of like-minded people targeted on making issues.   On Deck felt like one of many new “startup communities” that have been popping up.  It appeared just like which we have been already individuals of.  Nonetheless, we reasoned {that a} bigger community is nearly all the time a internet constructive.

Blank Paper and Pencil
Photograph by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

The rise of idea-stage communities

For those who’re simply on the lookout for the On Deck expertise, skip over this.  I wish to elaborate briefly on this pattern to offer somebody a body of reference in the event that they’ve already joined a startup group.

Over the previous few years, I’ve watched and took part within the rise of numerous startup communities.  Indiehackers,, Startup Grind to call just a few. They cater to founders with completely different objectives, however in the end are fixing the identical downside. The issue is that the highway to constructing a profitable startup is lonely, testing, and rife with failure. To place a quantity on it, one thing like 90% of recent startups fail and 75% of venture-backed startups. These communities are bringing like-minded people collectively in order that collectively they are often extra profitable. The thought is that once you be a part of, you may instantly have entry to teams of prepared consumer testers, companies to promote your new merchandise, introductions to folks it is advisable communicate with, and many others.

Previous to this, accelerators have been the golden ticket to having a startup group round you, however at the price of a piece of fairness. That all the time felt like an affordable trade-off, however over the previous 5 years their picks have skewed in direction of later and later stage corporations. From our personal expertise in these interviews, it would not really feel just like the founder + founder-idea match takes priority any longer.  As a substitute, it has been changed by how a lot traction you need to de-risk their funding. I imagine that this modification, together with a rise within the variety of startups making use of, have opened the door for startup communities to seize the eye of earlier stage corporations. Accelerators appear to have realized their mistake and are shortly making an attempt to cross the divide, however they have not hit the mark.

Personally, the expertise we have had in On Deck in two weeks has been worlds higher than months at different applications I’ve tried.  The one different I might examine it to is Pioneer. To do a fast comparability, Pioneer has a really world attain whereas On Deck nonetheless feels a bit extra centralized within the US (it’s increasing although). As well as, On Deck’s curriculum is extra intensive, so if you would like extra startup schooling, that is the place to go.  Nonetheless, each are extremely priceless and I might advocate each to anybody in a heartbeat.  

Photograph by Daniel McCullough / Unsplash

Interviewing for On Deck

So, we utilized throughout the 4 remaining days and anxiously awaited a response. In comparison with the traditional accelerator utility, the entire course of was way more streamlined. Alex and I each acquired an e mail quickly after for an interview. For the reason that functions are particular person, we have been thrilled that we would have an opportunity to be within the fellowship collectively. We did some preparation and used the questions from the On Deck utility to information us. Our focus was on questions like: what did we actually need out of the fellowship, how may we give again to the group, and why would we be match.  

Our interview day got here and except for perhaps speaking a bit too quick, we each felt we did our greatest and received the purpose throughout. Quick ahead just a few extra days and we each received our acceptances across the identical time. After having re-evaluated what we wished and feeling a bit bummed about stepping away from accelerators, this was a much-needed success.  Now we solely wanted to attend just a few months for it to start out….

The primary and second week

I’m sure folks have already coated what it seems like once you begin, however in a single phrase: whirlwind.  There is a little bit of construct up, then a kickoff and then you definitely’re launched into this system like a cannonball. Neighborhood occasions, 1-1s, core curriculum, icebreakers, and socials are thrown at you quicker than you possibly can click on “sure” in your calendar. It is fairly overwhelming, however actually, I would not have it some other method.  You may really feel the vitality pouring by your display screen, zipping up the wires of infrastructure that energy Slack and Zoom. Provided that we’re going by this throughout quarantine, all the things has been totally distant, however I’ve received to say the On Deck staff has achieved such an incredible job at making it simply nearly as good as in-person. On Deck has created Silicon Valley within the cloud.

The primary and second week have targeted rather a lot on the early phases of a concept. Specifically, setting new founders up for fulfillment within the co-founder search and navigating the primary steps of a product’s journey (ideating, validating, and many others.). Nonetheless, that does not imply it hasn’t been priceless for these additional alongside like we’re with Deft. The instruction has helped us rethink a few of our personal choices and will definitely inform us with future endeavors. As well as, there was a mess of fundraising chats, perks, and recommendation have stored us working full velocity forward.

Pomeranian working on an iPad
Photograph by Cookie the Pom / Unsplash

Learnings to date

With out going into an excessive amount of element on the programming and spoiling issues, let me undergo the intrinsic advantages I am reaping from On Deck.  

  1. You are not in it alone

    After I joined the Slack, I instantly felt a way of aid. “Wow, there are actually 1000+ folks throughout me going by the identical issues I am going by”. It seems like even should you fail, you may immediately have a spot to get again in your toes and check out once more.  

    Historically, startups have been an remoted expertise.  You toil away day after day in a vacuum.  You lastly get to a stage the place you place it out into the world and…….crickets.  Nobody leaping up that can assist you work out the place you went improper, nobody to have a good time the small wins, nothing.  On Deck solves that. On a regular basis you hear and see folks doing the identical issues.  Which leads me to my subsequent studying from On Deck.

  2. Others have been the place you might be

    Making an attempt to determine your go-to-market? Yup, somebody simply received their first huge clients.  Making an attempt to fundraise? 2 folks closed their seed spherical immediately.  Making an attempt to determine in case your concept is value it?  Individuals in your market are prepared to offer suggestions.

    With this many fellows, there’s a excessive share likelihood that somebody on this group has achieved it earlier than and is prepared to assist. It is like having entry nearly 24 hours a day to Napoleon Hill’s total lifetime of interviewees. The very best half is, On Deck has created a listing to kind and shortly entry the precise proper folks for the issue you are going through.  It is about as shut as you may get to having the solutions to the startup take a look at.

  3. Curing your imposter syndrome

    This a little bit of a misnomer, as I believe it’s going to be tough to remedy it completely, however being in On Deck has dampened (and will definitely proceed to dampen) my imposter syndrome. As a little bit of background, I am not reduce from the Forbes 30 Underneath 30 material.  I grew up in South Carolina.  I had modest grades at a public highschool.  I went to a public state school as a result of my mother mentioned “You may exit of a state and pay loans for $40,000 a yr or you possibly can keep in state and pay $9,000”.  Who was I kidding, I did not have the grades to get into a college that may make out of state value it. In school, I did not do something to face out apart from make the dean’s checklist right here and there.  My diploma was in economics. Partly as a result of it appeared an affordable diploma to get an affordable job and partly as a result of I had modified majors so many occasions I used to be apprehensive about racking up extra loans for a fifth yr (which I ended up doing in any case). My first job out of school was in finance working as a inventory dealer.  I hated it.

    The conclusion that I’d spend the remainder of my life on this horrible profession path woke me up in underneath a yr. I want I hadn’t been dragging my toes by life for the opposite 22.  I rekindled my love for computer systems and childhood net tinkering to show myself modern-day net programming.  Given the competitors for tech jobs, I knew the one method for somebody with my background to get an edge was to work tougher. I received respectable and utilized to one of many solely respected tech corporations in South Carolina.  I received the job which gave me my first win.  From there I stored making an attempt issues on-line, together with my first enterprise.  It did nicely after which I made a decision to shoot for a loftier enterprise concept.  I moved out to San Francisco to pursue it, sleeping on a good friend’s ground till I may discover a place to maneuver into.  It failed, however I discovered resilience. I received an even bigger product function there after which stored working and learning, making incremental enhancements.

    I will cease there as a result of it is nearer to current day and I am taking ceaselessly to get to the purpose, however you possibly can see that I am not some cream of the crop.  In On Deck, like many different issues I’ve certified for since leaving that finance job, I used to be terrified.  I believed to myself there was no method was I going to slot in and be capable of give worth to those extraordinary folks.

    However, that is what I like in regards to the startup world. For those who persevere and work laborious after which create one thing fantastic, it would not matter your background. The product speaks for itself. On Deck isn’t any completely different.  Sure, there are a lot of very achieved folks right here, but it surely’s not about your background.  It is in regards to the effort you place in to contribute so that everybody could make one thing fantastic.    

  4. What goes round comes round

    The ultimate level was encapsulated within the earlier sentence, however I will give some particular examples.  On Deck, like different startup communities, isn’t one thing you possibly can come into and sit again.  You get out what you place in.  There’s an awesome submit about it right here.

    Within the first two weeks, I’ve hopped on tons of 1-1s to offer recommendation and help. That is led me to doing deep dives on search engine marketing to assist an e-commerce product, connecting the founding father of a brand new meal-delivery service with my private community, and even constructing a touchdown web page, mailing integration, and migrating servers in underneath 3 hours for somebody who wanted it urgently.  In return, I’ve gotten on-the-spot fundraising recommendation, pitch deck opinions, and even some $money after having been a part of one of many profitable construct weekend groups!

    This rule applies to life exterior of On Deck, but it surely’s a priceless one and I am unsure there is a faster approach to study it within the context of startups than 10 weeks with the On Deck program.


Properly…not likely as a result of we nonetheless have 8 extra weeks to go! I will report again nearer to the top of week 4 and hyperlink the story right here.

By way of Deft, On Deck and its individuals have helped introduce us to angels, we have been capable of reduce down on picture search occasions considerably through some intelligent suggestions, and we launched our open beta!  This better part is that it is solely the start.

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