Week 1 of thoughtbot Startup Incubator: Senga

Lindsey Christensen

Somewhere between the journey mapping and the customer dynamics exercise something clicked for me. - Agnes Malatinszky, Senga founder and thoughtbot Incubator participant, week 1

We’re here in the thoughtbot Incubator reporting to you live with the latest updates. If you aren’t familiar with the Incubator and our recent launch with Agnes Malatinszky, you can find all the launch details here.

Let’s learn more about what the first week was like from a programming perspective and whether the team has already experienced any early insights or challenges as they dig into Agnes’ product idea.

Incubator Stage 1: Education and Segmentation

The big goals of the first week are to A) educate the thoughtbot team as quickly as possible on everything the founder knows and assumes about this business opportunity and B) start narrowing in on the target segment as a team.

Here are excerpts and exercises from the actual program:


  • Who are you? Who are we?
  • How we all prefer to work, e.g. Slack vs. Email
  • Goals for the next eight weeks
  • Program overview, milestones, and timeline
  • What happens next?


  • What is the idea? How did we arrive at it? How does it represent a business opportunity?
  • Who is this for? What are their pain points? Which of their pain points can be addressed with software?
  • What have we validated so far about the opportunity? What have we not validated?

Market Focus

  • Out of all of the possible people who might be our customer, where should we begin? Why?
  • For any market segment we’re considering, what are the dynamics that matter most to us? E.g. How long does it take to close a deal with this buyer? How proximate is our team to this segment?

Founder’s journal

Agnes check in! What stood out to you after the first few days of the incubator?

I started the week riding high on a wave of Dunning-Kruger induced optimism and ended the week with a twinge of imposter syndrome. But more than anything, feeling grateful to have the thoughtbot team’s expertise guiding me. (You can really tell when a team’s been through the startup process many times over!)

On Wednesday we kicked off the program. The thoughtbot team shared process notes, expected timeline and milestones, and a recommended reading list.

On Thursday we had a more in-depth working session, where I shared a narrative of my concept and how I came up with it. From that, we teased out key assumptions around market size and competitors, customer pain points, and the freelancer journey. Jordyn and Jimmy then helped me start to scope out in more detail what the new freelancer journey looks like and dynamics within a potential early adopter market.

One thing that’s been on my mind this week is the tension in early stage startups between planning/researching and doing. Conventional wisdom says that entrepreneurs spend too long in the planning/research phase, and miss out on the benefit of having their idea collide with the world. Two days into the incubator, and we were already starting to test our assumptions from yesterday’s working session through real world interviews. Loving this momentum!

Are there specific insights or challenges emerging for you as you delve deeper into the segmenting and customer interviews?

The big themes for me are:

  • Trusting in the process through this early uncertainty. (Art + science)
  • The tension between divergence and convergence. (How do we know we’ve explored all the options? How do we know we’ve talked to enough people?)
  • Being open to letting go of ideas that sound so good in my head, but just don’t mesh up with reality.

Next up

For the next stage, Agnes and the thoughtbot team will continue to go through customer interview cycles where they quickly surface suspected trends to inform the next iteration of customer interviews. As they do this, the team narrows in more and more on the best early target market focus.

If you are going through a business validation process, or hope to in the future, this programming can be a resource for you as well. We are also doing weekly LinkedIN Live broadcasts with the incubator team to dig even deeper into what’s being uncovered as it happens. Follow thoughtbot on LinkedIN to catch us live or watch the recordings.