A Hacker Lab Start-up Hustle Success Story
Donté K. Aklin recently relocated to Sacramento, CA from Charleston, SC and works as a Licensed Financial Planner. One of the challenges of relocating was finding a mechanic. That inconvenience and drive to help others save time and locate someone to handle auto repairs at a reasonable price, led Aklin to consider launching an app. He worked on his own to develop a business plan but the Hacker Lab Start-Up Hustle in fall 2015 sponsored by Sierra College and others, turbocharged his efforts.
Aklin’s start-up is called iBiddo, an online bidding system for individuals to connect with mechanics for automobile repairs and diagnostics to save them time and money.
One thing he learned in the six-week intensive program that included training from industry experts, one-on-one mentoring and other start-up resources, was the need to validate the idea with customers. “We were told, don’t fall in love with your product; find out what the customer really wants,” said Aklin.
To reach the recommended 100 customer interactions, Aklin used Meetup.com to find and attend social activities in the Sacramento area. While he was talking with people, he asked them about their auto repair needs and if his business concept had any appeal. Additionally, Hacker Lab gave participants access to Google AdWords that he used to test key words relating to automotive repair. The online advertisements resulted in 19 people signing-up to learn more about his product. He further tested the idea by advertising on Craigslist and paying for Facebook ads. All of these inputs helped him refine his business concept.
Start-up Hustle participants also learned to develop a pitch-deck or short presentation that explained the product and benefits quickly. “Developing the presentation was a game changer,” said Aklin. “With mentoring, my message changed constantly. It prepared me to talk with a venture capitalist.”
Start-up Hustle ended in mid-November 2015. By mid-December, Aklin was working with a developer to create the application. He connected with mechanics and did more research on repair costs. He was exploring ways to structure the service based on feedback from a venture capitalist. He expects to formally launch the business in spring 2016.
Although Aklin was pursuing his idea before Start-up Hustle, he explained that it gave him a push. “Just being selected to participate, added a pep in my step,” said Aklin. “The mentors really pushed us to communicate with customers to develop a more solid concept. I am absolutely going to continue developing this business.”
Rather than going at it alone, participating with a group of entrepreneurs was definitely an advantage of Start-up Hustle, according to Aklin. “It was beneficial to meet like-minded individuals who have become my friends,” said Aklin. “We collaborated and fed off of each other’s ideas. I appreciated the encouragement.”
The mentors and industry speakers were also helpful. “It was humbling to listen to their experiences,” said Aklin. “The contacts I made with other founders and the advice I received was invaluable.”
“Overall, Start-up Hustle was a great experience,” said Aklin. “I’ve fine-tuned my Minimum Viable Product and through numerous iterations I have what I need to move my idea forward. I’d encourage those who have an idea not to get discouraged. Start-up Hustle can connect you with people and resources as well as help you think more creatively about your business.”
For automotive repairs, connect with Aklin at iBiddo.
Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) is a proud sponsor of Hacker Lab‘s Start-up Hustle. Hacker Lab is powered by Sierra College at the Rocklin CA location. Applications for the next Hacker Lab Start-up Hustle are due March 17, 2016. Sign up for news on the Hacker Lab website to be notified of this event, hackathons and other opportunities for makers and entrepreneurs.