Building a Startup: A good network is key

Building a startup from an idea can be an exciting adventure that tests resilience, passion, and commitment. It’s about creating something entirely new and adopting the right mindset to turn it into a successful reality.

With “Becoming Crono” we’ll revisit our starting point through an honest and captivating memoir written by our CTO, Marco Maddiona

Each month, you’ll have the opportunity to witness firsthand the steps that propelled Crono into a startup with a €500,000 pre-seed investment. This will encompass the obstacles we overcame and the choices we made. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to develop software while building a business? 

If you are already on board then, enjoy our second episode of Becoming Crono!

Episode 2 – People (and startups) have the power

Hi Croners, I’m Marco Maddiona, CTO & Co-Founder of Crono, welcome to the second episode! In case you have missed the first one, head here to read the very start of our adventure.

Once we got back from Tuscany, we took a few more weeks to refine our MVP, while starting to get closer to our first customers. The idea of Crono appealed to the companies where some of our contacts worked and to whom we were able to show a demo of the product.

Launching an MVP in the Sales Tech world is a challenging feat. The majority of the best-known software is really top-notch in many aspects: integrations, UX/UI, functionality, customisation and support. How could a software developed by one person in six months compete with the best ones

Working day, night and weekends wasn’t enough, of course, we needed more time (and more resources) and every time we had the opportunity to talk to a potential customer, a number of still undeveloped functionalities, that were essential to have before we could start, would come up.

However, we did not lose hope and continued to develop. At least we had created an audience and there were some potential customers on our side ready to tell us what they needed.

In the meantime, we decided as a company to rent two desks at the C30 co-working space in Milan, the headquarters of OneDay Group. Our co-founders Marco and Alex, for reasons of proximity, start frequenting that environment, which is full of exciting people and start-ups.

The myth that start-ups are born in a garage or in the bedroom of some nerdy eyeglass-wearing guy reigns supreme in the narrative. Surely this must have happened but, from my own personal experience, I can tell that ideas flourish in environments where bright and ingenious people with similar interests come together.

Explaining the reason is easy: bringing together several enterprising entities (people or companies) is definitely something that generates an increased value. Ideas become contagious and mutually beneficial and ultimately they not only improve but also gain value for more people.

Thus, also thanks to the environment of the C30, we began to find our first customers as well as many people who, from the very beginning, fancied Crono and tried to help us by suggesting contacts that might be useful for a growing start-up, in the most diverse aspects.

Our shared home at C30 in Milan

People at C3O did not like us only because we were nice but also because of our networking approach of which Alex is a masterful player. We were not only trying to develop and spread our solution but also to create synergies between our networks and the other start-ups there.

We were trying to offer a solution to many, helping them like never before and we were getting what we were giving.

In mid-September we finally went live with our product, closing the first contracts and seeing the first clients using the platform. I was amazed because Crono was far from complete and still had a few bugs, but in its first version it was already doing what it set out to do, and for us that was an achievement to be proud of.

And we were; as our Co-founder and CEO Lorenzo Tiberi used to state “They say you should be ashamed of your MVP, I’m not ashamed, on the contrary. We might even got something wrong.”

With each new customer, we discovered some features we hadn’t thought of yet that turned into necessary software development that delayed the customer onboarding.

I wouldn’t recommend this now but at the time, and it’s still a funny story to tell as a CTO,  in order to show we were ready we would provide very tight start dates with the result of finding ourselves forced to work until the night before on the product to make sure everything worked.

Besides these tight deadlines, which we always managed to meet (thanks also to the patience of our first customers), each new user brought with them a lot of suggestions that often turned into useful functionality for everyone. Step by step we were increasingly enriching our solution, which was beginning to acquire its own form and identity.

The first month of the live product was quite a race against time

We had set ourselves the goal of reaching 10 paying customers by the end of October, as we would be attending the WebSummit in Lisbon at the beginning of November.

Huge ledwall at WebSummit

We were convinced that 10 customers, 3 months after our launch, would have been a good achievement to show to potential investors. Our goal was to raise funding within the next 3 months, in order to increase the development and sales team and scale the product.

By focusing on sales, development and the onboarding of new users, we achieved our goal, sacrificing the customer support and taking it for granted that everyone was already able to use our solution the way we had designed it. But this is something we had not yet realised at the time, and above all, in the beginning, resources were few.

So at the end of October we flew to Lisbon, for Crono’s first WebSummit (and mine too).

The atmosphere was incredible: an entire city flooded with startuppers (about 70,000) for a whole week, where everything is designed and organised for the event.

The WebSummit is an incredible experience, the fair is huge and full of super interesting start-ups but above all, at every corner we could meet amazing people with whom to create synergies.

Our energies were mainly channelled into finding potential customers and investors, as well as obviously sharing experiences with other people we met there.

For those unfamiliar with WebSummit, it was not easy to understand that things started getting serious after 6 p.m. when the fair activities ended. In the evenings, the city would come alive with parties and events organised by unicorns (ed. start-ups that have actually made it) and a real “investor hunt” began.

People would be at different places at the same time because they had heard rumours of mystical apparitions of cheerful investors. I don’t know if these people actually had the gift of ubiquity or if they had simply unlocked the infinite credits on Uber, in any case, the parties weren’t that bad and sometimes one would stumble upon the occasional open bar kindly offered by unknown benefactors. 

I never figured out whether anyone actually managed to meet an investor at one of these parties with whom things actually turned out, but it was certainly easy to find other good people to talk to and make friends.

 

Crono's founders posing in Lisbon

The fact is that our first WebSummit was definitely a positive experience. In addition to the many contacts from potential customers, investors and partners, we were able to get a slightly more concrete idea of what it takes to succeed in our industry.

We understood that it wouldn’t have been easy, but we knew that we had to think step by step and tackle problems one by one. The last day in Lisbon, after a week of racing, we took some time out, wandering the streets of the city and focusing on the strategy for the following months.

The next goal was to close the pre-seed round by the end of 2022 or January 2023 at the latest. How did we manage to reach that goal and what happened in the meantime? 

Becoming Crono will return to you next month; make sure to follow our updates on LinkedIn and on our blog. If our adventure is inspiring you, consider sharing it with someone who might like it as well!

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