Piloting: your startup's way to success! 5 steps to running a great pilot

Whether it’s a new solution within a company, or a new idea created by a startup ... Before implementing any solution, you need to be sure that it will work in practice.

Business woman sitting at the table with two people shaking hands with one of them.

If you are an ambitious entrepreneur who would like to launch a new solution on the market, learn that developing a pilot project allows you to test different aspects on a small scale, discover new ways to go, avoid mistakes, create valuable connections and - the best part of all - enter the market more easily and associated with a renowned brand. As our Community Manager stated in a video on approaching corporates to develop pilots, "corporates have a lot of resources that startups normally need. They can really be a launching pad for what startups are trying to do", since after the pilot, startups will have greater market credibility and, consequently, sell more.

To do this, it helps if you start by looking for companies or public entities that are willing to create these types of partnerships and perhaps asking for advice in order to narrow your choices.

At BGI, we are currently conducting a program aimed at entrepreneurs with mobility solutions who want to enter a global competition and get the opportunity to create pilots with 4 Portuguese cities. So, we thought it was relevant to bring this issue up, and possibly help you in this process.

Here are 5 main steps you will need to address success:

Step #1 - Identify your goals and match them with the goals of your client

To create a successful pilot, the first step is to set clear goals and be sure of what you are trying to achieve. Keep those goals in mind throughout the pilot, so that in the end you can evaluate the results. After defining your goals, it is important to know if they are in line with the corporate mission, vision and objectives. As in a marriage, a compatible union between client and startup will be the key to success.

Step #2 - Reveal how you are one of a kind

Build a proposal that shows how you are making a difference and what were the exciting lessons you've learned so far on your journey. Be careful not to get excited and escape reality. It’s good to emphasize your qualities, but keep your feet on the ground. Also, be sure to justify what you are solving. What challenge or problem are you addressing? How big is it? How are you going to do that? How will the company benefit from your innovation? Be flexible, stay attentive to the corporate’s needs and play with your best qualities to help the company see value in you.

Step #3 - Create a timeline and a strategy

It is equally important that you have a sense of how long you'll keep the pilot going, as the resources allocated for the pilot will depend on its duration. Still, nothing is done without a good strategy. Having a good plan and the whole team involved in it, will be crucial to avoid mistakes and know how to act in unforeseen circumstances. Another important step is to define good KPIs. Metrics are very useful for you to gain insights, measure and evaluate various activities. These should indicate where you are in relation to your goals. In the end, look at your initial KPIs and see if you've met them or not.

Step #4 - Cultivate a good relationship - find your champion

Maintaining a good relationship with your point of contact within the company or entity with which you are developing the pilot is necessary, as it is this person who will make things work internally. So be nice, be present, meet deadlines, respond on time. This is a relationship where both parties win. Companies seek innovation and learn from entrepreneurs. These, in turn, look for an opportunity to prove their worth. In the middle of this there will have to be a balanced and healthy relationship. This person of contact is your ultimate champion inside the entity that will take the decision of becoming, or not, a client. You need this person by your side, fighting for you.

Step #5 - Receive feedback on the pilot experience and measure your success

The pilot really is a chance for trial and error. A great opportunity for you to test the technology, adapt it, and improve according to the client’s feedback. To know what went well or wrong, it is necessary to do periodic monitoring and identify points for improvement. It helps if you give your team the opportunity to share feedback on the pilot program experience. Make sure that everyone reflects about what they have learned from this experience. Make sure you report your pilot all the way until the end! Testimonials from your client will be key.

Overall, make sure you start with a great proposal that is about your client problem, and not focused on your solution only. Make sure the client's opinion always comes first, and remember: the customer is always right! Try to convert a pilot into a client, and use the success story to attract more clients - documenting the all process is crucial. Ready to pilot?

Also read: These 4 facts about startups will blow your mind