February 4, 2015
Out of the hundreds of companies that applied to the 2014 class of the Techstars R/GA Accelerator, they chose mine. I still remember the day the call came that startup founders dream about. I immediately began to imagine how my startup would benefit from the attention, connections, and money we would attract on Demo Day.
When I stopped dreaming, I realized that I had two weeks to pack up my life and my business and move to NYC from Orlando.
Step One: Identify What Doesn’t Scale
I had been running FreedomAudio (formerly FRESHeTECH) in Florida since 2013. We design and sell portable outdoor smart speakers. We built up a great team, were selling thousands of products a month online, and worked out of a beautiful 1300 sq ft office in a prime downtown Orlando location.
But our ambitions were growing beyond our current structure. We were handling fulfillment, customer service, returns, and inventory management manually. As I restructured my team to focus on developing our new product during the R/GA accelerator, I knew these manual processes wouldn’t be sustainable.
My first step to prepare for the move was to automate as much of that process as possible. We set up BoxC fulfillment (a start-up out of 500Startups) and Amazon Fulfillment to take care of our orders. Not only did this solve our fulfillment problem, but Amazon also manages some customer returns and both systems help with inventory management. I only wish I had enlisted their help sooner.
Step Two: Unforeseen Personal Logistics
Next, I had to take care of my own logistics. I booked flights and began to look for housing. Finding housing in a city like New York is difficult, but securing a 4-month lease on such short notice without being there in person proved to be nearly impossible. I ended up with a $3,500/month one bedroom, which definitely took a big chunk out of the money I received from the accelerator.
I arrived in NYC on Oct 20 to start the program, but what I left back in Florida has proved more difficult to manage than I expected.
Choosing not to forward my mail and bills to NY was a mistake. Even though I planned to return to Florida once a month, the piling up of to-dos during the trips home creates a lot of confusion and worry.
Not only am I going to have to pay for housing and transportation in NYC, but I am still carrying the cost of my apartment, office, and car in Orlando. Knowing my prime real estate would be left empty for 3 months was frustrating.
Of course, the most difficult thing to leave behind was my awesome, beautiful, wonderfully smart, and amazing girlfriend (did I mention she’s great… and may be reading this article). Shifting from seeing her everyday to once a month has been a tough transition. Not only am I not with her, but when I end up spending all day and night working, by the time I talk to her I’m exhausted.
If I Could Prepare for an Accelerator Again, I’d:
Now halfway through the program, I’m glad I did it but there was a lot I didn’t expect. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here is what I would recommend.
- Consider changing the structure of your business to meet the new demands of the program
- As an entrepreneur, I see a problem for me as an opportunity for an accelerator like Techstars. Accelerators should rent apartments and sublet to teams during programs. Surely they could help us and help themselves at the same time.
- Look for opportunities to sublet your permanent apartment or office back home to help defray some of your costs.
- Assume you will not be able to manage things back home during the program — forward all mail and important papers to your current location.
- Budget in several flights for significant others.
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