We sit down with the founders of Small Change and their journey in the University of Sydney’s Incubate program for start up businesses.
Small Change is a new web app that lets people share any media content – articles or videos for example – via social channels to raise money for charities. Essentially, the startup creates a ‘virtual donation tin’ that allows the media content that describes the world’s problems to be linked with the groups working to solve them.
Small Change recently completed the Incubate program, which Lenovo is proud to sponsor.
Incubate is a startup accelerator and entrepreneur events program developed by the University of Sydney Union.
We caught up with Henry and Sam from Small Change to better understand their startup experience working with Incubate.
How did the idea develop before you pitched it to Incubate?
We only had the idea in its absolute infancy around that time, just the concept. We discussed it and fleshed it out more before pitching it. To be honest, we didn’t really expect to get accepted into Incubate, but we did, which was a surprise and fantastic.
We primarily thought: Small Change is something which could and should exist… a mechanism for people to give a little to a relevant charity at the point when they are engaging with that exact issue. Instead of an ad hoc, disconnected donation or even monthly subscription fee, we thought we could build something that’s integrated into your every day social media behaviour.
What did you begin to learn once you were accepted into Incubate?
One of the first questions they put to us was “exactly, who are your customers?” Well, we had thought everyone on social media was a customer! But we learned you must be more specific than that, so we did a whole lot of interviews with people to help with our validation efforts over several weeks.
We then grouped customers and clients into different groups such as: socially conscious people on social media, people who run charities, the more hard-core activists and so on. This was largely a question of considering all the target groups, finding existing data that’s out there, and getting out and interviewing people.
How did the program help you to communicate or pitch your idea?
Most of the people at Incubate were fairly comfortable talking about and presenting their startup idea. So I suppose where the program really helped us was around refining how your idea is put forward – for example – the problem, the solution, and precisely what your idea does to improve the category you’re in.
That experience was very helpful for us – especially as we’ve taken the business forward.
Once you get a decent pitch shell, you really do see the areas that are lacking. For us, that translated to getting figures around traction – so the Incubate process forced us to get some solid figures to support the entire premise of Small Change.
Were there any other interesting learnings you perhaps weren’t expecting?
Probably the next biggest thing was in realising the market for Small Change was different to the market we were expecting. We thought consumer cared the most about the shortcomings of what’s called “slacktivism”. Which is, you know, feel good but ultimately empty gestures when people like or share issues
on social media as opposed to actually donating to that cause.
But it turns out this is a much bigger issue and concern for charities. So we realised the primary market for our product was charities and activists. And that makes these groups the first real evangelists for our platform, as they’re the ones that need it the most. Our end goal is still to deliver a consumer product or service, but the focus of our initial product has changed in ways we didn’t expect before we conducted the whole validation process.
Did Lenovo help you guys with support in terms of technology?
Yes definitely, we were given a tablet and a YOGA laptop, which has been fantastic – especially the projector for the tablet, that changed my life! Actually, on the tech side, that’s something we realised very early on as well. With a tech startup, you really do need that software engineering side to the team as well, whereas we were really just starting out with coding. So you might say, we’ve been on a pretty steep learning curve.
Which is par for the course as a startup. The fastest way to upskill is to start your own company due to all the hats you have to wear from sales to finance to design and software development – the list goes on.
Absolutely. Any final words about the Incubate experience?
Yes, it’s been an amazing experience. We arrived at Incubate with little more than an idea and some misconceived notions about how to start and grow a business. What followed was a crash-course on lean startup methodology and best practice.
Out of nowhere, there was all this helpful support via Incubate. We were equipped with the knowledge, networks and technology to navigate the unfamiliar and often counterintuitive world of startup business. They kept us focused and accountable and opened doors we didn’t even know existed. So yes, we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
To find out more about Incubate, visit https://incubate.org.au/