What is HVL’s Office Hours program?
The Office Hours program is designed to provide support for startup founders through free access to advice from our team of experts on topics ranging from customer discovery to go-to-market strategy to fundraising, among others.
Why Office Hours?
Three fundamental activities guide our daily work at HVL: we launch new ventures, grow our portfolio companies, and support startup founders. We’re startup people and have a deep appreciation for the hard and oftentimes lonely and exhausting work of bringing an idea to market, willing it to early traction and finding product-market fit. Hosting Office Hours is one of the tangible ways we support founders and startup leaders to let them know they’re not alone, help troubleshoot a particular issue, or unlock new insights to propel them forward.
One thing that has become clear from helping to facilitate these sessions is that there’s no shortage of startup ideas in markets like Birmingham. There’s an abundance of energy around new venture creation. Founders are willing to take risks and make big bets on the future. Part of our role is equipping them with lessons learned, best practices, and pitfalls to avoid along the way.
What’s a common startup problem that Office Hours has helped solve?
Speaking of pitfalls, one very common issue we see repeatedly with founders is that they are too quick to start building expensive software applications before properly validating their fundamental assumptions. Poorly executed or non-existent customer discovery and lack of research can lead to a lot of time and money wasted.
Being honest with yourself about your riskiest assumptions and taking time to test them with unbiased market analysis and feedback from prospective customers will save founders from significant headaches down the road.
What can founders do to prepare for their session?
Come prepared with a specific issue to tackle. If possible, give the HVL team member a brief overview of the topic and your desired outcome to help set the context for the conversation. Expect a listening ear and an offer to either provide real-time feedback and solutions or a follow-up session with the same if the challenge requires additional time or consideration.
How can founders who have a variety of questions figure out where to start?
Be selective in which advice you take and from whom. There is no shortage of voices in your ear offering advice on how to proceed. Advice is rarely all good or all bad. Like many things, it exists on a spectrum. Choose your advisors carefully. Stick with advisors who not only have requisite experience as founders themselves, but also have the ability to connect with your mission, industry, model, and can effectively communicate with you in a way that brings you clarity and inspires action. Then, be sure to contextualize the advice for your own specific needs.
Remember, it’s your vision and your business.
“Be coachable, take sound guidance from carefully-vetted advisors, and then move confidently towards charting your own path."
Expect there will be many highs and lows. Above all else, try to enjoy the journey.
What happens next?
It depends on the context and needs of each session. Some sessions warrant specific follow-up resources and guidance. Others require homework on the part of the participant before additional guidance is warranted. And other sessions are more informal with opportunities for future conversations as the founder’s journey progresses. Everyone’s path is different, and our team is here to provide support for startup founders as they navigate their personal entrepreneurial journey.