For many startups, growing happens organically and processes evolve as new business rolls in. The saying “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is especially true when working within a small team under tight deadlines. On top of that, developing new and effective methods for customer outreach and performing traditional market research can be prohibitively expensive. Wouldn’t it be great to learn from those who have been there and done that?
For four months, Otis AI joined 7 other startups to work with Intuit and Highline Beta’s accelerator leaders and Intuit’s Innovation Catalyst (IC) coaches. ICs are employees trained in design-thinking that uncover customer problems and develop innovative solutions to create, invent, and look for new and better ways to improve customers’ lives. Each startup was paired with dedicated ICs who coached them on Intuit’s Design for Delight (D4D) innovation framework.
Clarence Williams, Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Otis AI has always had an appetite to build simple solutions to rival those used by larger companies. They are on a mission to create an AI-powered app that allows anyone to launch data-driven digital ad campaigns on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Google within minutes. Looking back at the four-month long journey, Clarence reflects on the key takeaways from him and his team’s experience participating in the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator and how it’s changed their business model.
1. Find new opportunities by speaking the customer’s language
Navigating a large business can be complex, especially when startups are looking to get the most value out of partnerships. Otis AI was able to get an inside look at how Intuit thinks about product development and marketing strategies. Through Intuit’s D4D methodology, Otis AI picked up on how Intuit spoke the customer’s “language” which pushed their team to think about their own operations differently, and illustrated the value of looking at things from the customer’s point-of-view. By looking at problems through the customer’s lens, Otis AI improved the connections made with their customers long-term.
2. Unlock new insights by running rapid experiments and quick prototypes
Clarence, an experienced startup founder who has a passion for uncovering and developing easy to use solutions, shared that working with Intuit’s Innovation Catalysts (ICs) was an awesome experience. The ICs surprised the startup with their focus on the customer, and the D4D methodology unlocked a number of new insights. The process involved validating Otis AI’s assumptions about their customers and using rapid experiments to test their value proposition with small businesses. For example, Otis AI applied Intuit’s D4D process to identify the friction points within their onboarding process. The ICs helped Otis AI enhance its approach to solving problems for their customers.
The Otis AI team was challenged to think beyond their own perspective and get to the root of the customer’s problem in a very short amount of time. This process was so effective that it resulted in their team creating a quick prototype that became a brand new product offering. D4D is now integrated into how their team works every single day.
3. A custom curriculum can fuel startup growth
Finding new ways to delight customers and solve problems with a customer-first lens is crucial for improving services that fuels their success. While many programs follow a standard curriculum, that wasn’t the case with the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator. Both Intuit and Highline Beta took the time to get to know each startup, from highlighting pain points to providing guidance on how to better improve customer acquisition.
The program’s flexibility and feedback provided room for personalized sessions, allowing the Otis AI team to connect with industry networks and startup expertise which was specific to solving their customers’ needs. The perfect balance of startup expertise and corporate network connections delivered immense benefits to startups like Otis AI that will remain valuable moving forward as the company continues to grow.
4. Forming strong relationships can take startups to the next level
Collaboration comes in many different forms and part of the magic of collaboration happens when you connect with different people and can form genuine relationships. Throughout the program, Otis AI and other participating startups not only collaborated with Intuit, but also worked with each other. Hands-on sessions provided the opportunity to share challenges, wins, and work through questions, where the 8 startups could learn from each other based on their experiences. Clarence found a key takeaway from the program was to focus on the people and relationships around you. Shared connections have not only helped Otis AI grow to the next level, but they walked away from the program knowing that contacts are available for collaboration whenever needed.
5. Finding the right mentors = results
Within four months of the program, Clarence and his team at Otis AI had the opportunity to connect with notable figures such as the national head of sales at Intuit to discuss sales strategies, and Highline Beta’s founding partner Ben Yoskovitz for an in-depth look at startup metrics. These mentors along with the IC coaches resulted in many great wins for the startup. Otis AI created a QuickBooks integration that will be included on the QuickBooks App Marketplace. This marked a huge milestone for Otis AI, all thanks to the experience and expertise provided by the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator.
Otis AI also created a new product offering, developed from the work they did with Intuit ICs, which is set to launch soon. The future can never be determined, but having grown from their valuable experience in the program, Otis AI is moving forward with excitement and anticipation of the many more achievements yet to come.
Helping to level the playing field for small businesses
A year later, Clarence and the Otis AI team continue to grow! Since completion of the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator in March 2021, Otis AI has doubled their revenue and doubled their team – up to 20 employees now. The organization has started partnerships with Intuit QuickBooks, OLO and GoSite — just to name a few. The team is excited to have raised a successful seed round from a group of great investors, and can’t wait to continue growing. By making digital marketing uncomplicated regardless of your experience level, Otis AI is truly leveling the playing field for SMBs with their AI-powered mobile and web app. Learn more at meetotis.com
If you enjoyed Clarence’s story, be sure to check out how our Intuit Prosperity Accelerator helped Homewise CEO & Co-founder Jesse Abrams.