Aug 18, 2021

What Does it Take to Become a Future Founder?

Anita Dordic
NBT Visionaries Program Lead
About the NBT Visionaries Program

Next Big Thing AG’s Visionaries program is a three-month initiative for entrepreneurs to buildtest, and refine new ideas into venture-funded companies.

NBT has developed a modern way to build technology startups and wants to give YOU — the future founder — the tools and support to create technology-enabled solutions that address the world’s most prominent industry challenges.

During this three-month program, you’ll get paid to test out your ideas with a team of exceptional people who are invested in building impactful technology startups.

To gain deeper insights into the entrepreneurial journey, we spoke to Anita Dordic, NBT Visionaries Program Lead.

The Ideal Founder Candidate

Why is NBT’s Visionaries program the best choice for entrepreneurs to start a new business?
On average, less than 3% of companies make it through their first year. It’s not easy to build a tech company from scratch, however, co-founding a new business idea with a venture studio makes this difficult journey much easier.

Minimizing risk with NBT’s venture studio business model will positively impact success rates. The Visionaries program is systematically designed into sprints to validate early-stage ideas and hypotheses. Together with the Venture Development team, entrepreneurs will research a problem area, scope out the competition, talk to potential customers and various stakeholders, create a prototype, develop a GTM strategy, conduct revenue forecasts, and at the end of the sprints, the entrepreneurs would have made a complete business plan for the chosen venture idea. This framework is necessary to validate the business idea in six exciting but challenging sprints. As the technical co-founder, NBT is the venture building expert and we will use our extensive industry expertise, development tools, and network to make this process as smooth as possible.

What makes NBT’s Visionaries program different from other initiatives like accelerators and incubators?
NBT’s specialties lie in recognizing good ideas, co-innovating, and founding successful startups based on early-stage ideas. As a venture studio, we provide capital, and tech development, and have created different functions as part of our service package to support each entrepreneur. We have our internal software and hardware teams, product and UX experts, marketing, finance, HR, and operations teams who support the entrepreneurs and play an essential role in the fast growth and development of the venture.

Our Visionaries program follows an agile approach with very clear milestones that indicate the viability of the idea. The program offers a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to challenge their professional skills and knowledge in today’s dynamic business landscape. At the end of the program, selected entrepreneurs will co-found their venture with NBT, who will assist in further developing the product, establishing a team, and growing the venture.

How would you describe the ideal Visionaries candidate?
The ideal candidate has a deep understanding and industry expertise in the field of their business idea. This person understands the specific market and has used their expertise to ideate a solution that will solve an existing problem in the space. This will help define the USP and secure a competitive advantage when creating a business plan.

NBT specializes in deep-tech topics which is why we focus on the entrepreneurs who come from or are associated, with this particular industry. Our entrepreneurs don’t have to have previous founding experience or have deep, technical knowledge. However, they will need to have experience and industry expertise to direct the development of the idea.

The Complete Visionaries journey

What does the typical Visionaries journey look like from start to finish?
Successful applicants will go through the hiring pipeline which includes two rounds of interviews. During this process, we evaluate the candidate’s professional background and business idea. After a decision has been made, selected entrepreneurs will be presented with an offer and contract for a three-month paid incubation program.

The six sprints of the program start by exploring the problem space, conducting research, mapping out the ecosystem, analyzing the competition, and making customer discoveries to validate the initial hypothesis and get a deeper understanding of what customers want. Once we have answers to those questions, we move on to product ideation where we design the prototype and main MVP features. Following this, we focus on the GTM strategy, financial forecasting, pricing model, and at the end of the program, the entrepreneurs present the business case on a demo day to NBT’s investment committee which will decide whether to invest further (or not).

During the Visionaries program, there are two main milestones: 1) Complete a business plan and; 2) Obtain three signed letters of intent from potential clients.

Once the investment decision has been made, we move on with the foundation of the venture with the entrepreneur as a Managing Director. In case the entrepreneur doesn’t have a second co-founder, NBT will support them in finding the right co-founder. After it’s been founded, the venture is incorporated into NBT’s portfolio and is moved from the Visionaries program phase to the venture-building and growth phase.

What element of the program do you think candidates find most challenging?
The first two sprints of the program are make-or-break. During the customer discovery phase, the entrepreneurs need to research to understand what customers want and their pain points to validate if the solution is going in the right direction. Founders must ask themselves: Are we resolving pains and creating gains? Is the problem significant enough for the customers to pay for the solution? How much are they willing to pay for it? These are just some of the questions we are trying to find an answer to.

It’s with this in mind that I’d say that the first two sprints are the most challenging. The entrepreneur must have sufficient industry knowledge to properly analyze the market and understand underserved areas. Since NBT specializes in B2B solutions and industrial automation, our projects are very technical and although we act as the technical co-founder, specific industry know-how is essential for the entrepreneur to develop a successful solution.

How do entrepreneurs that join the program with an original idea know if it’s a good one before pitching?
Potential entrepreneurs thinking about joining NBT’s Visionaries program should ask themselves the following questions:

Is my solution resolving the customer’s problem?
Often, candidates pitch ideas that are unclear and don’t solve a specific problem, or candidates create solutions based on false assumptions where they incorrectly assume that the problem is ‘ABC’ but instead its ‘DEFG’.

Have you identified underserved customer needs?
Entrepreneurs need to speak to people and experts from within the industry to validate their assumptions. The sooner entrepreneurs engage with potential customers the better for the project.

What is the USP of the idea?
Entrepreneurs need to define the value proposition of the solution by outlining what makes their product or service superior to other solutions. It’s helpful to define how this offer will outperform others and what unique features will delight customers.

We don’t expect entrepreneurs have perfect answers to all these questions before the start of the program since we work with very early-stage ideas. However, we do expect that they have at least taken these questions into consideration. We don’t expect them to have a financial projection, a clear MVP vision, or a product roadmap before joining. Although, we do ask that the entrepreneur understands the pain points of a specific industry.

Is it more important for entrepreneurs to be focused on achieving profits or defining the purpose of their business case?
During the Visionaries program, we actively engage with potential customers to understand their needs. When customers are interested in further conversations, we offer them a letter of intent to test the MVP once it’s completed. Currently, we aren’t making profits during the program because we are still designing the solution. Once the company is founded, generating revenue will become one of the main tasks.

A Market View of the Visionaries Model

What industry and technological trends are becoming more popular for new ventures?
Sustainability is becoming a strong buzzword in the startup world but we need to distinguish between greenwashing and real impactful sustainable projects. Personally, I’m glad that this trend is becoming more popular, however, solutions need to align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and through real features that positively impact health, energy efficiency, and other SDG-related verticals. Another trend that we continue to see is industry 4.0. Organizations are becoming increasingly aware that they need to optimize and become more efficient by tracking, measuring, and collecting data. We are seeing more and more startups offering solutions that help these organizations manage their assets more efficiently with networked communication protocols and intelligent sensors.

How can we encourage and support more female entrepreneurs to get involved in the technology space?
Even though women make up a fundamental part of the startup ecosystem, female founders remain underrepresented on a global scale. To combat this outdated narrative, organizations around the globe need to place more women in leadership positions. We need diversity in the investment and tech world for real progress to occur. Funds and VCs should be actively sourcing and investing in projects that are women-led to help bridge the gender divide and bring more opportunities to women. In addition, governments can put policies and initiatives in place that provide education to female entrepreneurs and help place them into business positions. In support of this, NBT aims to play an active role by encouraging female founders to join our EiR program to build their very own venture from scratch.

Get Involved: Join NBT’s Visionaries Program

By leveraging our innovative venture studio model, we empower talented, ambitious, and experienced entrepreneurs to co-found and build technology startups from scratch. If you’re inspired to work on a new idea then now’s your chance:

Apply today & change the world!