The Best Things in Startup Land are Free

 

Everyone’s busy yeah? But in early stage startup, the ticking clock, the withering bank balance, the bajillion things that need your attention, turn busy into besieged.  Every hour of every day you’re making decisions on the hop about how to best allocate your resources, lest you become a statistic.

Incubators and accelerator programs offer the promise of helping startups grow and develop ideas. Often the startup pays in cash or as an equity swap. After researching a number of said programs, we struggled to find one where the value of doing either felt justified.

In May 2019, Eggy’s Marketing Lead, Gerard Doyle (Fractal frontman, soccer dad and Mr Everywhere) encouraged us to apply for the Suncorp digital incubator program. In his words, “this could be a game changer”.

Our hair temporarily bristled. Do we want to align ourselves with a bank? How much would it cost? How much of the company would we have to give up? Is it really going to be a good investment of our time given that we’re already burning the candle and pouring our everything into getting Eggy off the ground?

But with a little further encouragement, we relented and went along to Suncorp’s info night. And holy mind blown. Our preconceived thoughts were turned on their heads. That night, we had some of the best conversations around people and product that we’d ever had. We also discovered that if successful, there’d be no cash swap, no equity swap, no strings. It was looking as though, if we didn’t apply and if we didn’t get in, THAT would be the game changer. Eggy needed this.

So at the end of June, in freshly screen printed shirts, our whole team converged on Suncorp HQ in Brisbane to attend the bootcamp. Surviving on very little sleep, multiple coffees and pure adrenaline, we did our first ever pitch to a panel of Suncorp execs. Just hours later, the announcement was handed down by The Hon Kate Jones MP. Eggy had beaten 50+ other tech startups. We were in.

We might as well have won an Oscar. It was a flurry of hugs, tears, beers, cheers, congratulatory wishes, and frantic messages to our team and families. “They said yes.” It was almost too good to be true. That night was a bit of a blur. And to be honest, the next 3 months that followed was a big blur. But once we had time to breathe, think and reflect, the true value of what took place in that time came to the surface.

So here’s the three most valuable things we got out of our time in Suncorp’s digital labs.

 

Place

With team members based in Sydney, Northern NSW, the Gold Coast and Brisbane, and with no funds to afford an ‘office’ yet, having the Eggy team physically together is a rarity. Being in the digital labs meant we had a home. A temporary Eggy HQ. From day one, we were basically told to “come in, get comfy and help yourselves to whatever you like.” Our team could come together and have actual face-to-face conversations on the reg. Working remotely sure has its advantages but being in the same room every week did wonders for our morale and communication.  We got to chat over coffees, we got to have lunch together and we even got to share an occasional after-work beer/wine.

 

Product

In the words of the legendary Paul Graham “the product is what wins in the long term.” The progress we made and the validation we received about the Eggy product nearly brought us to tears. In our very first customer testing session, we ran the Eggy prototype past a group of Suncorp employees who’d volunteered to give honest feedback. One in particular, a married mum of four, told us that “Eggy will be a game changer” for her and her household. We could have cried. Actually, we did a little bit. Not only were we able to run multiple customer testing sessions getting objective feedback from everyday people like us, we had loads of meetings with experts around Eggy’s tech, security, compliance, design, user experience, corporate partnerships, messaging, branding and customer acquisition, to name just a few. Hello accelerated strategies.

 

People

Anyone who knows Eggy knows that one of our company values is family. This isn’t just a word we brainstormed in a strategic planning meeting. It’s something we live and breathe. Our immediate family (i.e. us and our kids) comes first for us personally, and every single stakeholder who is involved in enabling our vision (our team, our investors, our advisors, our users) is part of the Eggy family. The people we met and formed relationships with during the program, were bloody smart cookies, were genuinely keen to help enable our vision, AND were the kind of people we’d invite over for a BBQ. To us, that’s hitting the jackpot. We’ve remained in touch with our Suncorp family as we continue to discuss potential partnerships. As well as future catch ups over coffee…and after work drinks.

 

So yes, Suncorp was a game changer for Eggy and yes, applying to the program was one of the best decisions we’ve made in our startup journey so far. The wins we had regarding the place, the product and the people, all culminated in a final showcase where we were cheered on by a room full of family, friends as well as existing and potential users and investors. But the icing on a very substantial, generous and fulfilling cake was the awesome short video package that Suncorp put together for us. That, just like the entire Suncorp digital labs experience, was free. And Eggy will be forever grateful for all of it.