Esteem student Keith J. Marrero Jr. is providing daily updates of the Class of 2014 Spring Break Trip to Silicon Valley.
Tuesday was job shadowing day for the ESTEEM class. With our class scattered about the Valley, our schedules varied due to travel times, travel mode, and company policy. I, along with Daniel Collins and Finn Pegler, traveled to Lemnos Labs in San Francisco. Our day began before dawn as we were shuttled to downtown Mountain View to catch the 7:37 a.m. train into the city. We arrived at our stop around 9 and found a local coffee shop to take in a bit of the neighborhood before officially beginning our day at Lemnos at 9:30.
We first met founder Eric Klein, who took us on a brief tour of the facility, explaining that they had recently relocated because of a need for more working space. While showing us around, he told us what exactly Lemnos does. Lemnos Labs is an incubator that provides mentorship and resources to hardware start-ups. They place a strong emphasis on creating "duct tape prototypes" – minimal iterations of products intended to show proof of concept. Companies are encouraged to show these prototypes to potential customers to gain feedback and insight. This serves as a means of tailoring the product to meet the needs of the customer. One important part of the Lemnos culture is a business vision in mind for products. While advising companies, Eric analyzes the business potential of products in development. As Eric put it, "the product is great – how is it a business?"
After the tour and company overview, Daniel, Finn, and I got to live a day in the life of Eric. This began with a meeting of all the companies at Lemnos. Everyone in the building came together and shared updates with one another about developments in their own businesses, and Lemnos management updatee the businesses on happenings around the facility. It was also a great way for the people working in the building to interact with one another informally, fostering a sense of community in such a unique working environment.
From this meeting, we moved to a conference room and met with one of the companies. Eric meets with each individual company on a weekly basis to receive business and product development updates and to provide mentorship through each stage of development. The topics addressed in such meetings range anywhere from choosing a partner company for larger-scale production to effective behavior when potential investors come to Lemnos to see a company firsthand. Eric's goal is to provide any information or resources he can that will benefit the companies within Lemnos.
Next we had lunch, where we had the opportunity to ask questions and delve further into Lemnos Labs. We learned that Lemnos has invested in 17 companies so far, and their typical investment is $100,000 for a 10% stake in the company. Currently there are eight companies working in the facility, with plans to add another company in the near future. We also learned about some companies that have left Lemnos and continue to grow today. One example is Bia, which creates GPS-linked sports watches for female triathletes. This amazing company and others are a testament to the great opportunity for success that Lemnos provides.
After lunch, Daniel, Finn, and I sat in on another individual company meeting. Following this, some representatives from Ricoh came to tour Lemnos and to visit the companies at the facility. On this tour we got to see some of the
companies and their products in further detail. The tour ended at 3 p.m., and we reluctantly left Lemnos.
The three of us took the train back to Palo Alto and returned to NestGSV to meet the rest of the ESTEEM class. On the train, we all agreed that we had just had a wonderful experience at an amazing company, and we were eager to share our story with our classmates. Back at NestGSV, we found that were not alone in our excitement, as our classmates were also eager to recount their days.
When the last of our classmates had arrived, we had an evening pitch session. Students gave presentations on their thesis projects or ideas for the McCloskey Business Plan Competition to a panel of local venture capitalists. This exercise served to hone our pitching skills and to expose us to the experience of pitching to real VCs, as much of our experience thus far has come from pitching to each other and ESTEEM staff. It helps greatly to give us insight into the minds of VCs and their criteria for evaluating business ventures. Only four presentations were given Tuesday evening, with the exercise set to continue Wednesday morning with 12 presentations. After these four pitches, we returned to the hotel to rest up for Wednesday, which comes with a bright and early start time of 7 a.m.! I see much coffee in our future..