Start-ups are the most open of businesses: very few sectors share as much fundamental business information as tech start-ups do, and internally there’s often complete transparency on information that other types of business keep hidden.
Whilst start-ups share a huge volume of data with the outside world they also suck up as much as they can from external sources; from client feedback, usage data and information from industry sources to one-on-ones with peers and direct-sharing of information with other start-ups. The bandwidth of data flowing in and out of start-ups is huge.
In our short life Formisimo has won five awards and last week we picked up “Best Digital Tool/Software” at the Northern Digital Awards. Awards give us exposure, and they get us in to a room full of people who we can network with. Our first award won us a trip to Israel, which led to a huge change in myself and my co-founder Tom New – but there’s something more important about winning awards than exposure, networking and trips to the “Start-up Nation”.
Entering to win an award leads you to a further source of information – succinct feedback from your peers. Even in the fail state (not making shortlist, or not winning) a quick (and polite) prod to the organiser can give you an understanding of your weaknesses and how the outside world (judges) sees you. If there is a misunderstanding about who you are, what you do and what you’ve achieved then you can use that feedback to re-frame future conversations.
If you lose out on an award but get valuable feedback from the process then you haven’t lost.
If you win an award then the judges feedback can spur you on. In the rough-and-tumble world of a technology start-up you suck up all the positivity you can (and then share it with your team).
There were two things that stuck with me when we won our first award – the judges said: “this product has global potential” and “we couldn’t believe that someone hasn’t done this before”. These words fundamentally changed how we viewed our product, it changed our mindset (let's conquer the world) and our view of the market (We need to move faster).
In the last award we won the feedback was “[With] the qualitative and quantitative results that [Formisiomo] gave, it was really difficult to choose anyone else. When a submission is this easy to judge, they have to be number one”. The impact these words have on a busy, head-down team, is huge.
Finally, in one of our awards fails, it was clear that the judges did not understand what we did and how it impacted businesses, and whilst this isn’t un-common with a start-up, it led to me ripping up the words I used in that submission and reframing our proposition. This doesn't just help us with future awards, but the way we talk about our product with customers and partners.