Berlin-based start-up Robbi was participating in a 4-month US program The MassChallenge. Founded in 2009 in Boston, MA, MassChallenge’s mission is to equip bold entrepreneurs to disrupt the status quo and create meaningful change. Programme invited 250 startups. In this interview, two cofounders of Robbi: Jhorman Pérez and Andrés Jiménez Pacheco share their reflections and lessons learned from this American program. Robbi offers a tech solution for wildfire prevention with Robotics & AI.
SIBB: Please describe shortly programme you have participated and why have you chosen it?
Robbi: We have applied for different programmes. This one was especially interesting as it had a focus on products which create global impact. It was also important for us to have US market focus. Additional advantage was the fact that it is non equity programme. MassChallenge programme lasted 4 months. We could choose from a couple of options including Houston and Boston as a place to stay for our residency programme. We chose Boston because of the match with the ecosystem, where we stayed for 1,5 months. For two months, we have participated in the programme remotely. Thanks to the participation in the programme, our company had access to a great network of experts, potential customers, and other stakeholders, who allowed us to better understand US market.
Programme offered several networking opportunities, with focus on relevant themes: entry the market, climate, insurance. Important takes from the experience was a network of the experts and advisors who support Robbi with its expertise (both on technical side of our product, but also in area of business development). Some of the experts continue their support after the Programme. During the programme we had many matchmaking events and 1 to1 sessions with experts. We were lucky to have 7 mentors supporting us.
Presentation of Robbi for the Mass Challenge Award Competition can be watch here:
SIBB: What have you learned in developing your business? What are differences between American and German approaches?
Robbi: Quite a significant difference is with the importance that they give in the USA to networking! They encouraged us to meet new people and possible stakeholders as often as possible. Also, based on our experience, people tend to react faster. They offer follow up connections and activities very quickly. So, we had the impression we move forward faster with development than back here in Germany.
SIBB: What (if) have you change in Robbi business model after the programme?
We had to learn to focus better. If we want to enter the market, we must first focus on one type of the customers. We have learned not to make too many things at the same time, there’s already enough work, so prioritising is key.
Lot of the attention was given to Strategic thinking. We planned small details, narrowed down our customers sector and focused more on the software side of our solution to make the product offer more versatile. We had many opportunities to present our product, the features, the vision. We managed to close some pilot projects during our stay.
Pitching in Europe and the USA also differs a bit. We had to be ready to present our startup to diverse audiences too often, anywhere, and prepare efficient 1 minute presentations. That means that the US public usually expects you to be clear, direct, and quick. You need to be precise to explain what you do in such a short time. They pay great attention to opportunities to interact with the public, including proactive Q&A sessions. It always helps boost our presentation skills.
SIBB: What would you recommend other startups who apply for acceleration programmes abroad, especially in the US?
Robbi: Not to put all your efforts into only one programme. Generally such programmes have low acceptance rate, ca. 5%. So, we recommend looking for more than just one.
Look for additional activities specific programme has to offer before the Application Round. They often organise Q&A sessions. We also recommend interacting with director of the programme. Such talk allows both sides to feel better whether there’s a match. Try to understand well what this specific programme is about. Especially if you are an early-stage startup, check if you are good fit! You will spend/invest a lot of time in such programme so try to be sure it matches your company needs. It’s important to learn and accelerate but it’s also important to have time for your company. So choose wisely where you apply! But of course, it is worth it! We managed to close some pilot projects during the programme and we have built solid, global networks of contacts, experts and potential partners.
SIBB: Robbi has won 2022 Mass Challenge Community Choice Award. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
Robbi: Yes, The Community Choice Award engages the MassChallenge Community and the startup’s network of supporters through Startup Showcase and online voting. Out of 250 startups enrolled in the programme, they chose 5 semi-finalist who received the most votes. Robbi was one of them. Then there was a second round of voting and we got the highest number of votes. We would like to take this opportunity and thank all the people here in Germany and other multiple countries who voted for us and supported us to Win the Challenge!
SIBB: Thank you for sharing your story and lessons learned from your US experience. Once again congratulations for your win and all the best for the future plans.
Robbi: Thank you.
To read about Robbi please visit website: https://robbi.co/