During week two of the programme, the Booster startups perfected their pitches, and developed different parts of their business with the support of experts from Booking.com and the Impact Hub. They covered several area, from developing financial models, optimising their technology solutions, building fruitful partnerships to developing proactive PR and media strategies. Week two was a busy and exciting week but of course there was time to enjoy Amsterdam as a destination too! The group went for a boat ride on the canals, while discussing their personal challenges as entrepreneurs.
Sascha from Seabin Project commented on the second week saying: “It's so good to be away from the office for a few weeks and really work on our plans and priorities. And not get distracted by the 999 daily emails.”
Some highlights of the week:
Marketing in a shoestring and communication deep dives
Day one was focused on marketing and how to successfully build and execute a strategy on a limited (shoestring) budget. Each team started the day with a self assessment based on their current marketing results and then zoomed in on various parts of their marketing strategies such as social media, PR, media planning and developing and testing communication campaigns.
Awake from Colombia found out that, although almost all travellers who booked a nature trip with them become ambassadors for their company, still much needs to be done to make their website really user friendly. “Only 1,8% of visitors end up booking - the site doesn’t seem to be user friendly and it can confuse users on what to do and how to find their trip” said Laura from Awake.
One of Backstreet Academy’s biggest challenges is to conquer the Chinese market and dealing with the uncertainty that comes with entering a market they don’t know. To their help came Kelly Lee (Global Media Manager Booking.com), who explained how essential it is to target the right person at the right time with the right message.
Chloe McCloskey (Content and Editorial Lead Booking.com) talked about how to use social media as an effective way to speak to the audience. “Social Media may seem like an easy-win marketing channel, but it’s very easy to get wrong”. She explained that before getting into action it’s important to think about why a business wants to be present on social media (for example for demand creation, brand recognition or trustworthiness) and what the implications of this decision are. One of the key takeaways is that entering the realm of social media means opening up a platform for conversations with customers, so it is essential to think about what you want those conversations to look like.
Cristina from Good Hotel reflected on the day commenting that she finds it challenging to maintain the brand’s values in each location with different stakeholders. Chloe’s (Booking.com) answer to this challenge is starting with building a strong brand base in the central location and then working with each location and giving them the freedom to adapt it to their market.
During the session on developing campaigns, the key takeaways were:
- Data is king
- Test, test, test and then optimise
Working in an agile manner means lower risk and higher reward. Robert Schreuders (Marketing Manager) and Diana Marcela Agudelo Hernandez (Senior Marketing Communication Lead Booking.com) showed two images of the search box of Booking.com’s website and asked the startups to find the difference in design. No one spotted the round shape of the search button compared to the angular shaped edges on the other image. This example was to prove how a tiny detail can make a difference in conversion rates.
Pizza and Pitching
After a full day of immersion into marketing and communications strategy, it was time to practice the pitches! While enjoying pizza, pitch trainer and TEDx coach David Beckett shared his expertise on how to give the perfect pitch.
Laura from Awake said about the session, “I have never met anyone who can teach so well how to communicate and express ideas in a powerful and synthetic way!”
All startups had the chance to directly implement the learnings David shared and practice their pitches with each other.
Building a future-proof organisation
On Tuesday all startups worked on their scaling plans and on Wednesday we invited Nicolas Chevrollier (Executive Director of the Inclusive Business Accelerator (IBA) and a visiting fellow at Nyenrode Business Universiteit) to talk about how to build a future-proof business. He explained that in a business world that is more complex and interconnected than ever, new generations have expectations that favour personal development and more sustainability in the workplace. Consequently, companies evolve to cope with these new parameters and become future-proof organisations.
Pete from Seabin commented, “We realise that the successful set up for the future also depends on the people you chose to work with you in your business. We want to expand our team. We need people with the same mindset and warmth.”
Catriona from Desolenator wondered how to keep the company culture while growing. Nicolas answered that, “unfortunately you can not control this, but you have to be clear on what your core is - you have to smell and breathe it. Try to have at least one personal connection a year with you employees if you’re spread across locations. And tell stories. Stories are the way to keep the core alive.”
Tech consulting sessions
Wednesday afternoon the group went to TQ, the Amsterdam based startup tech hub, to speed date with over 20 Tech experts from Booking.com.
Jamon from Backstreet Academy said, “The security guys started off our session with some slides on the importance of security. We’ve learned so many new things so fast!”
Priyanka from Authenticook added, “The tips of the Tech experts were great. We are now implementing their advice. Do testing on price differentiation (with hosts) and pop-up survey questions on the site (with guests), to be quicker to find out what people want, instead of implementing things based on our assumptions.”
Getting investor ready
Thursday was all about finance scenarios and investor’s views. During the morning the startups had 1-on-1 sessions with Finance experts from Booking.com, working on three financial scenarios: worst, normal, best case. In the afternoon each team pitched to a panel of 3 investors, including Peter Hofmann and Jae Chung, part of Booking.com’s Corporate Development team. Prior to listening to the startup pitches, Peter and Jae said that in order to prepare your pitch for investors you need to: 1. know your market cold, 2 know the business problems you aim to solve. They also emphasised the importance of data: have a business model overview; draw a historical financial performance and KPIs and create a realistic 3-5 business plan.
Pitching to 300 of Booking.com’s ‘techies’
The week ended with a big practice pitch in front of more than 300 tech experts from Booking.com during their annual get together. It was an exciting afternoon and the startups said it was valuable to receive feedback in preparation of the final pitch event this Thursday. To wash off the adrenaline, everyone enjoyed a very well deserved locally brewed Amsterdam beer and a BBQ.
The final week
Now it’s time for the startups to finalise their scaling plans and pitch decks. Thursday will mark the climax of this adventure, as they pitch their scaling plans to a live audience (you!) and panel of expert judges for a chance to be awarded up to €500,000 for their proposed scaling plans. So stay tuned to follow everything about the grand Booster finale.