Our Project Manager, Alice, arrived last week for three months in Switzerland to complete the EIT FAN (Food Accelerator Network) programme with MassChallenge Switzerland. Here, she reflects on the first week:
Steep learning curves
It’s a huge learning curve for me, not having had any experience in business thus far and – I’m fairly certain – being the youngest person here. Even with only a few seminars, I have learned a considerable amount about how businesses operate. There’s been a lot of jargon to get to grips with, from acronyms such as SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and concepts such as ‘Growth Hacking’.
We have been learning how to pitch our idea for the Food Hub more effectively, and this will be the way in which the competition is finally judged. The Food Hub is a bit tricky in that we have necessarily complex vision, so summing it up in one minute (which we will have to do for the Minute to Pitch evening) is not easy. Every Tuesday morning there are Life’s a Pitch sessions where you get an opportunity to practise your pitches and receive feedback for it from experts. It also gives you a chance to hear what the other start-ups are doing.
There are lots of other awesome events to get involved with. There are opportunities to network with entrepreneurs in a range of fields, and tomorrow I am attending a Women Founders’ event where we will hear from a panel of female entrepreneurs about the challenges they have faced and the value women (I would argue – non-men) bring to a business.
The main aspect of our project we are currently working on is completing our Business Plan for the pilot phase of the Food Hub project. This will employ the ‘lean start-up’ philosophy where we identify what is our minimum viable product – the simplest product that will satisfy our early adopters and enable us to test certain hypotheses regarding the final Food Hub.
Our pilot phase will involve a simplified version of the incubator kitchens and the distribution infrastructure, including the online trading platform that will connect buyers with producers. We still have a way to go to make it a comprehensive plan, but we are steadily making connections and filling in the pieces: for example, the location of our pilot phase and development of a workable trading platform.
Living in Switzerland
My family is Swiss, and so I was excited to learn that the programme would be in Switzerland – in fact, one of the cities (Lausanne) where I have cousins. I also wanted to take the opportunity to practise my French (which is embarrassingly bad). I manage to do this in day-to-day interactions, although all of the seminars and sessions are done in English. Even though we have finalists from all over Europe (and the world), English is the common language.
Living in a new country is incredibly exciting. There’s so much I want to do and explore before I leave. The view from the balcony of the host family I am staying with is full of possibilities: there are rolling vineyards either side of the house and, across the lake, mountains that light up when the sun sets (these are, however, in France).
I think the following months will be challenging, but hopefully they will be rewarding too: both personally, and for the ultimate success of the Food Hub.
If you’re enthused by the Food Hub’s vision and developments and want to be involved in any way, do get in contact with us.