McGill X-1 Weekly Recap Series | Week 5 (2017)



In this week’s recap, you can look forward to Saad Benryane from GradeSlam, Alex King from Desautels, Alex Haque from RetinadVR, and a lesson from HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Welcome to Week 5 of the the McGill X-1 Accelerator, where we’ll be getting 8 McGill startups venture-ready for Demo Days in Montreal, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, and New York City in Fall of 2017.

This week’s focus was on Product Development.

Here are some of the highlights:

Saad Benryane talked about developing a product roadmap based on inputs that you collect from your customers – this includes things like user stories or testimonials and different use cases which should inspire you to come up with new product initiatives. There’s no scientific method on the best way to collect these inputs – just figure out a system to be aware of the problems your customers are having, and regularly interview them to deepen and broaden your understanding of them.

On that note, he spoke about the importance of taking a customer-centric approach to creating products as opposed to pursuing cool ideas that you came up with. When doing this customer research and gathering inputs, it’s crucial that you speak to ACTUAL users based on the customer profile and market segmentation you’ve developed. Because if you don’t, the feedback you get will be inaccurate. (silent scene) It’s kind of like that scene from Silicon Valley where Richard gets feedback on his new product from a bunch of smart, technically-inclined engineer friends he has, as opposed to the target demographic: which were average everyday people that didn’t know much about tech. (silent scene begins) Because of the inaccurate inputs he gathered, he miscalculated the demand for his product. 

Alexander King – the director of Advancement at Desautels gave a talk on Networking so that we could get the most out of the accelerator since we have interesting people come to our space every single day. He pointed us to the basics, which people often overlook. Over the course of building your business you will need things from people. To get those things you’ll have to ask.

The key insight which laid the groundwork for everything else he said was this: People actually  like when you come up to them after a talk and say thank you. They also like it when you follow up with them whether it’s through email or LinkedIn, to let them know how they improved your business or life, and to ask them for more help. In fact, put yourself in their shoes. If you just spoke at an event, and a dozen people (insert pics of smiling faces/teams) lined up to thank you and tell you how great your talk was, and they were asking questions and asking to follow up with you, wouldn’t you feel great? Treat people accordingly.

Next, Alexander Haque who’s the CEO of RetinadVR grilled each startup on their pitches and one thing that came up again and again was the notion of distilling and simplifying your presentation. He made it clear that people have limited attention spans and cognitive abilities – design your presentation accordingly. Having a lot of text and competing demands on people’s attention makes it tough to keep them focused on what matters – you.

Finally, Rubin Gruber who graduated from McGill in 1965 and went on to found multiple million-dollar companies, and who’s a member on the Board of Directors at Kaybus (a knowledge automation company)  came in to share his wisdom – my favorite takeaway was his point about building an A-TEAM: Only hire people who are smarter than you.

He also had this practice of having the whole company meet for dinner at his apartment at 6PM every Wednesday to just talk about work. He would say that “Wednesday night doesn’t belong to you – it belongs to the company.


That’s it for now, I’ll see you back here for week 6.

Mo Akif

Mo Akif

The Editor-in-Chief of the McGill Dobson Chronicles. Never having started a lemonade stand as a child and tired of reading blog posts about entrepreneurship without actually doing anything, he was on the verge of giving up and joining a pyramid scheme. Luckily the McGill Dobson Centre decided to adopt him, allowing him to get a closer look at what it takes to build something valuable.