By Allison Berliner WG’13, Co-founder and CEO of Spot It Buy It
Watch Allison Berliner pitch her startup at DreamIt Venture’s demo day, which took place in December at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live. In the pitch, she tells the story of her company’s pivot – how the team realized their first marketplace wasn’t working, and what they did about it.
My startup was accepted into the DreamIt Ventures accelerator program on a Thursday afternoon and my Co-founder and I had 48 hours to decide whether or not to participate. It wasn’t a decision we took lightly, since the accelerator takes 6% equity. We asked ourselves, ‘was $25K and access to the DreamIt community of entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors worth it?’
Flash forward five months and one pivot later, and the answer is clear. Yes.
When we started DreamIt, our company’s main product was an online marketplace serving small and medium sized retailers. Within the first 4 weeks of the program, we released substantial updates to our platform. These updates had been planned before we got into DreamIt – but, because we were suddenly in an environment with weekly mentor meetings and group presentations, we were forced to change the way we worked. Updates became “tests”, and we had to articulate exactly what we hoped each update would achieve and whether or not it was successful. This exercise became baked into our internal processes and ultimately forced us to acknowledge that our marketplace wasn’t working.
This realization could have been crushing, but we were surrounded by 11 other startups that were hustling all day, every day. The environment wasn’t conducive to quitting or taking a pass. It was conducive to making difficult decisions and working harder than we had ever worked before. So, that’s what we did.
We talked to hundreds of customers, brainstormed concepts for a new product, and tested our ideas with surveys, landing pages, and one-on-one conversations with target users. We also bugged our DreamIt classmates – the founders of those other 11 companies – to no end, asking their feedback on everything from web design to naming our new product, which is now called Spot It Buy It. Although these people had their own companies to run, they were always willing to take the time to help.
Today, we have a great team, a great product, and we’re on track to start generating revenues in February. It’s hard to know where we’d be if we hadn’t participated in DreamIt, but I think we’re better off for having done it.
People always say that being an entrepreneur is like riding a rollercoaster – high highs and low lows, sometimes in the span of a single day. When the track does start to head down, and you feel yourself speeding towards something that feels inevitable, it’s helpful to have a community to remind you that entrepreneurs make their own momentum.
Bio: Allison Berliner is the Co-founder and CEO of Spot It Buy It, a DreamIt Ventures backed startup that helps retailers and brands create mobile optimized shopping experiences and sell more through social media. She got her MBA from The Wharton School of Business, where she was an Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow and the recipient of an Innovation Grant. Over the last decade, Allison has worked on marketing and business development for a number of entrepreneurial organizations and startups including Wanderly, which was acquired by TripAdvisor, and Endeavor, an international group that sources and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets. She currently resides in Philadelphia and is a Fellow with the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs.