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Catchr Jumps on the Startup Bus
My name is Brett Willemsen and alongside my business partner Levon Sarmazian, and through the Laurier LaunchPad we’ve been building Catchr: Your Transit Schedule.
Catchr is a small project that started at the beginning of 2012 simply out of personal frustration. I personally do not own a vehicle and rely on public transit to do most of my travelling. When I moved to Kitchener-Waterloo I became very frustrated with the available solutions for making public transit easy. With all of this frustration I decided to spend a weekend and create an app just for me.
After posting the app on the Google Play Store I quickly realized that this solution was something that other people wanted as well. This is when I decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship (scary stuff!) and I joined the Laurier LaunchPad.
I started the LaunchPad thinking that I could simply make a great product and that if the product was good enough that people would download it and pay for it. Obviously, like many initial assumptions in any startup company, I was wrong! The LaunchPad has taught me that before I do anything else I have to validate my idea. The worst thing that could happen in any startup is that you create a product to solve a problem that does not even exist. I have to get outside the building, actually talk to people, and see exactly what they want. Only once I have done that can I know the product I’d like to create is something people will actually use and see value in.
The flipped classroom has been a great learning tool for us. It has been so stimulating seeing the startups in the same stage growing week by week. Every week we get to see different challenges the groups have faced and this has helped us avoid making similar mistakes. One great example of this was when we saw one group getting ahead of themselves before identifying their core customer segment and value proposition. We quickly learned how dangerously close we were to getting too far ahead ourselves.
There have been many lessons learned in 4 weeks of the LaunchPad, but 3 very important ones that really hit home. We have learned that people absolutely love our idea and would use it on a regular basis. But while learning this we also determined consumers don’t want to pay for the app. This point of realization hasn’t put us off, but instead caused us to pivot the business model to focus on a different value proposition. The other great lesson we have learned is that while failure may depress us a bit that it is actually a great learning tool, and without the failure that we have encountered thus far we would be out of business within a year. Finally we have learned that the initial ideas of our business will and have changed every week and that an iterative mentality is a crucial characteristic for successful entrepreneurs. The Laurier LaunchPad has trained us to look critically at each segment of our business model to make our company strong and sustainable.