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Longstanding Baltimore-area entrepreneurship resource hub Betamore has transitioned from its initial focus on coworking to building a stronger community through diverse programming. In addition to its existing offerings, the hub now provides paid entrepreneurship education opportunities, aiming to further support the growth and success of local entrepreneurs.
Its latest program, Startup 101, aspires to offer Baltimore-area entrepreneurs who can afford the program’s $500 fee a comprehensive platform to navigate their businesses’ critical early-stage aspects. Betamore’s website highlights the program’s focus on idea validation, effective product definition and early customer acquisition. During the six-week program, entrepreneurs received support from Brendan McAdams — a fellow entrepreneur, startup founder and B2B and enterprise sales executive who has provided mentorship and coaching to startups associated with TEDCO, ETC Baltimore and Techstars.
According to Betamore’s website, the program is designed to be accessible and affordable, offering six weeks of in-person instruction, mentorship and online resources. Founders from diverse backgrounds, including those working on haircut scheduling apps and websites aggregating music venue data, were part of the inaugural cohort.
On the eve of the first cohort’s June 20 end date, Technical.ly spoke with two participant founders to learn about their program experience:
How did the Startup 101 program help you in your business’s early stages?
Sebastian Colon (Runiuni): The program helped me refine my app and focus on the core value of connecting users with local music. It guided me to purchase a simpler domain name [SongsNearMe.com] and optimize the user experience. Additionally, it provided valuable insights into approaching customers, narrowing my target market and improving my marketing strategy.
Will Harrison (a scheduling platform for haircuts): The program helped me prioritize functionality and avoid over-complicating my app. It taught me to seek customer input before building and not get stuck in the planning stage.
What were the most valuable lessons or takeaways you gained?
SC: Learning to narrow the focus of my app and optimize the UI/UX through user testing was a valuable lesson. It allowed me to set clear goals and prioritize features that add value to users. Market research and customer feedback also helped me validate my product’s potential.
WH: The program emphasized the importance of exploring ideas without having everything figured out. Seeking customer input before building anything was a crucial takeaway.
How has the program helped you validate your product’s potential in the market?
SC: The program emphasized market research and customer feedback. Through interactions with local music festivals and events, I identified the needs of my target audience, optimizing my product to connect users with music events and local bands.
WH: Discovery sessions and user feedback allowed me to quantify the potential value of my idea. The program also highlighted the significance of targeting a specific geographical location.
Can you share any specific challenges you faced during the program and how you overcame them?
SC: Balancing the workload with other commitments was challenging, but I developed a rhythm and managed to keep up with assignments.
WH: Initially, finding the right balance between rapidly prototyping new features and maintaining focus on the core offering was challenging. Discussions in the program helped me prioritize and stay true to my passion.
What resources or support did you receive from Betamore during the program?
SC: Betamore provided networking events, workshops and exercises on pitching, customer interviews and early-stage sales strategies. These resources helped refine my business model, develop effective marketing strategies and generate initial sales momentum.
WH: Betamore provided valuable resources like an AI toolkit, handouts and presentations, which were immensely helpful throughout the program.
How did the program help you create an effective customer solution?
SC: The program emphasized customer-centric thinking and market validation, allowing me to create a more targeted solution that resonated with musicians and smaller music venues.
WH: The program guided me in identifying the right customer segment, formulating customer acquisition strategies and devising monetization methods for my solution.
What strategies or techniques did you learn to generate initial sales momentum?
SC:  Identifying prospects and understanding their resistance were key strategies. Overcoming resistance or realizing they aren’t ideal customers helped generate initial sales momentum.
WH: I learned to identify prospects, create compelling value propositions and leverage social media platforms, email marketing and local events as effective marketing channels.
Can you provide any examples of how the program has helped you refine your business model or pivot your approach?
SC: The program helped me pivot my business model by shifting the focus to showcasing events and charging a fee for ticket purchases. This new approach provided a clearer value proposition.
WH: The program prevented me from creating an extensive rollout plan.
Here are all the Startup 101 cohort members and their businesses:
Karen Matsuoka: Matsuoka’s service involves placing pets in retirement homes and providing them with a comfortable and caring environment.
Jessica Erler: Erler developed a pet sitter app that caters to a wide range of animals, including livestock, offering reliable and professional care for pet owners.
Barry Lancaster: Lancaster’s app is designed to promote high school athletes, helping them gain visibility and recognition for their talents and achievements.
Twi McCallum:  McCallum offers financial services and a savings platform tailored explicitly to low-income users, empowering them to manage their finances effectively.
Will Harrison: Harrison’s platform facilitates the convenient scheduling of haircuts for barbers and consumers, ensuring a smooth and efficient experience.
Danielle Zaheer: Zaheer has created a loyalty program exclusively for dermatologists and spas, rewarding loyal customers and enhancing their experience.
Khalil Z. Mirza: Mirza’s system specializes in authenticating saffron’s purity and quality to maintain customer trust in the market.
Rick Abell:  Abell’s service provides ad optimization to maximize the performance and impact of online advertisements, increasing their effectiveness.
Sebastian Colon: Colon’s website aggregates information about music venues, allowing users to find and explore various music venues in their area easily.
Learn more about Startup 101
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