The Fluency Score

Like a FICO Score for Startups.

The Fluency Score is a sophisticated, standardized measure of product-market fit, which captures the majority of risk in any early-stage company or investment.

Fluent’s cutting-edge analytical tool uses qualitative data and a complex algorithm to deliver an objective report and actionable analysis to innovation stakeholders.   

This data changes everything about how we select, invest in, and accelerate startups and innovation.

The Fluency Score for

Supporting Startups

Grow your local startup ecosystem with the power of actionable insights from objective risk assessment.

The Fluency Score for

Startup Investors

Leverage the cutting-edge insights of this data technology to track and support the growth of your portfolio companies.

The Fluency Score for

Startup Founders

Diagnose the riskiest assumptions in your business model and de-risk methodically based on actionable intelligence.

Fluency Scores provide actionable insights on Product-Market Fit

Lack of product-market fit accounts for 75% of the primary reasons startups fail.

The Fluency Score algorithm quantifies business model risk across 300 data points and produces a report with a standardized score and visualization of business model risk for fast, accurate, and strategic decision-making across the innovation stack.

Four powerful use cases for Fluency Score Reports

Selection

Evaluate and choose best-fit startups at a glance

Diagnostics

Tailor resources and focus mentors for each company

Tracking

Show trajectory, even for early-stage companies

Reporting

Communicate impact efficiently with data

What is a Fluency Score report?

Fluency Score reports provide a current snapshot of a startup’s risks and opportunities as they work to achieve Product-Market Fit.

  • Standardized company level data on business model risk
  • Efficient, consistent reporting of stage and progress
  • Visualization of risk and recommendations for next steps

Risk Vector Breakout

The Fluency Score measures product-market fit across five vectors of risk.

Validation

This vector visualizes the extent to which problem and customer segment assumptions have been tested in the market with customers.

Traction

This vector visualizes the extent to which assumptions about the product/solution and customers’ willingness to buy have been tested.

Growth Strategy

This vector visualizes the extent to which a repeatable, scalable growth strategy has been developed and tested.

Speed

How fast is the company de-risking the most important assumptions and risks in its business model?

Focus

How focused is the company’s work on de-risking the most important assumptions and risks in its business model?
  • 89% 89%
  • 43% 43%
  • 10% 10%
  • 77% 77%
  • 20% 20%

Build a Product-Market Fit trajectory over time with standardized, high quality data

Data designed for strategic decision-making

A lot of data leaves you thinking “That’s cool, but so what?” You need data that cuts through the noise of a shiny, perfect pitch to highlight the company’s actual current risks and opportunities. 

  • Measure a company from Idea to Series A to track their growth trajectory over time
  • Measure companies across industry verticals using a single standardized process for easy comparison
  • Build a custom dataset on a single company or an entire portfolio to track and report growth and ROI to external stakeholders

Data for your organization

Fluency Scores

Your organization needs to gain strategic visibility on the exact stage and needs of your companies for by creating your own dataset for decision-making.

A batch of scores in your Analysis Dashboard is useful for ranking and comparing companies. It’s also incredibly powerful at helping you deploy exactly the right resources to support these companies.

$300 per company, per report includes sharable mentor views and your organization’s Analysis Dashboard.

Value for your organization

Testimonials

“The Fluency Score creates a foundation of objectivity from which accelerators and investors can make data driven decisions. Having Fluency Scores as a part of our multi step review process gave our team confidence that we were making the best decision on behalf of our fund and the companies.” – Kellie Clark, Director of Programs at Innovation Depot

Fluency Scores are giving us the valuable information we need to win grants, onboard more entrepreneurs, and move our ecosystem forward.” – Debbie Irwin, Director at Staunton Creative Community Fund

The Fluency Score algorithm measures, analyzes, and reports on business model risk with laser focus

E

Prior Validation

Data is collected to understand the company’s business model and the steps they have taken to de-risk core assumptions in the market with customers.

For example, if they believe their customers need help with a particular problem, the Fluency Score process collects and evaluates the ways in which they have worked to understand this problem from their customer’s point of view.

Following the principles of design thinking and Lean startup methodology, the Fluency Score captures the quality of the approach to validation, specifically with the targeted customers.

 

E

Current Activity

The Fluency Score also measures and visualizes the velocity with which the company is tackling all remaining business model risks for a real-time snapshot of their current activity.

For example, if a company’s riskiest assumption is around their growth strategy, the Fluency Score Report will identify the speed and focus with which they are testing and validating those assumptions.

This component of the score can help answer the question of whether this company may reach product-market fit before running out of resources.

How is the data collected?

Data is collected qualitatively through an adaptive form directly from the CEO/founder in a single data collection step. No preparation is needed to submit this information.

How is the data analyzed?

The data submitted is quantitized and processed through the Fluency Score algorithm to evaluate risks across five vectors. This produces a single, standardized score.

 How long is the data accurate?

Early stage companies evolve quickly! A Fluency Score is considered “fresh” for three months. After that, it is useful to create a trend line by ordering a fresh score.

All Fluency Score Reports include:

Standardized Score

A single, numerical score that can be used to compare, rank, and track a company or group of companies objectively

Breakout of risks

Visualization of risk to diagnose strengths and weaknesses within each component of the business model

Business model stage indicator

Precise labeling of stage allowing for greater differentiation between similar companies

Customized analysis & recommendations

Analysis of a company’s greatest current business model risks and recommendations for next steps

FAQ >>

Learn more about the Fluency Score and FLEX Acceleration here

Fluency Score Process

What is the data collection process?

The data needed to produce a Fluency Score is collected directly from the founder through a single adaptive data collection form, totaling no more than a half hour of the founder’s time. After that, leave it to our proprietary algorithm to analyze over 300 data points, create a standardized score, break out a visualization of five vectors of risk, and provide customized recommendations.

What kinds of companies can the Fluency Score measure?

Because the Fluency Score process is longitudinal, measuring the speed and focus of work, it can measure innovating companies from Day 1 all the way through Series A, and is vertical agnostic. If a company is innovating their business model, the Fluency Score can quantify and illustrate that risk.

However, it’s important to note that each Fluency Score measures a single business model. Some companies are an umbrella for two business models — for example, a consulting business and a direct to consumer e-commerce business. In that case, our clients often chose to measure the business model which promises to be the future of the company, or perhaps the one with the most potential to scale. Measuring both business models is also something we do, as that’s simply two separate scores. In these cases, two scores keep the risk factors clearly separated for the business entity to make smart decisions that further their goals.

Why focus on product-market fit?

The Fluency Score deliberately focuses on product-market fit because 1) PMF contributes to 16 of the top 20 reasons startups fail and 2) it’s the factor entrepreneurs have the most control over. PMF is something that can be managed and optimized. Bringing data and more objectivity to this critical element is a huge win for startups and the innovation industry. k.

How does the Fluency Score tell me about the founder/team?

The algorithm is focused on product-market fit on purpose, to bring clarity and objectivity to an area of business development that is often the source of the greatest risk in an early stage company. We recognize there are other very important elements in evaluating a company that are outside of the focus area of this tool.

Half of the Fluency Score is measuring the Velocity with which the team is de-risking their business model assumptions (the speed they are executing at and to what extent they are focusing on their riskiest assumptions). This Velocity data is often a very clear window into the team’s execution strategy and is a great way to visualize/measure team performance as well. Not exactly the same thing as grit/experience, but definitely in the same category.

 

How often does a company need a score?

A Fluency Score is a snapshot in time that can be used for diagnostic purposes, not a set-in-stone final output. In fact, a score should change over time! The only way to improve a Fluency Score is to build a better business, derisking the business model in fast and focused ways.

Clients who order a single Fluency Score for a company see enormous value in that single report. However, more than one score shows the true power of this data tool.

Multiple Fluency Scores for a company start to draw a trend line for that company, illustrating their progress and tracking how inflection points (programming, resources, investment) impact them.

We recommend multiple Fluency Scores because businesses are constantly growing and evolving. Some clients choose to order pre- and post-program scores. Others prefer to set a cadence of scores quarterly to be able to communicate company progress with third-party objective data.

Because scores are a snapshot in time they are no longer “fresh” after three months. The measure of business model risk should change in that amount of time.

Why does the Fluency Score collect qualitative data?

Many data tools trying to solve for similar problems either scrape data or rely on self-reported data. Scraped data is too lightweight and contains too many vanity metrics. It cannot help us understand product-market fit in rich ways, nor can it accurately (or even at all) measure what’s happening in early-stage companies. Self-reported data can be overly optimistic, or simply. It can also bias against founders who are not steeped in the language of the startup industry..

How is this data different from a pitch?

Innovative businesses are most often asked to pitch a vision of a future state they hope to create. The vision is important, but often masks the reality – and the risks – inherent in that approach.

The Fluency Score takes an objective approach to measuring what is already built, already known and de-risked about the business as a counterpoint and reality check to the pitch.

What is the basis for the Fluency Score algorithm?

Innovation industry experts know how to reliably and predictably build entrepreneurial success. They use best practices in design thinking, lean startup methodology, and agile frameworks.

The Fluency Score incorporates these best practices into the algorithm’s core measurement and reporting.

Our standardized qualitative data collection process asks jargon-free questions that will nots urprise you as a supporter of entrepreneurs, as they are based on a logical progression of de-risking a business model in the market with customers.

What has this business learned in its journey to product-market along the following vectors: Problem-Customer Validation, Solution and Market Demand, and Growth Strategy?

Our proprietary algorithm quantitizes (yes, it’s a word!) over 300 data points to produce a single, standardized, numerical score and a visualization of how that risk breaks out.

What is the experience like for founders?

To complete a Fluency Score, a founder answers questions online (no prep needed!). The time needed varies based on the maturity of the company, but is less than 30 minutes.

Founders love talking about the work they’ve already done to derisk their business. So often as an industry we ask them to pitch what their business will become, which requires the art of storytelling. But the Fluency Score isn’t interested in that narrative. Rather, it evaluates what is true about the business as it is right now — a snapshot in time of what has been derisked in the market with customers. And founders love to share what they already know about their company’s product-market fit!

What will I need to do when we buy Fluency Scores for a batch of companies?

Getting started is easy! All we will need are the email addresses of the companies for which you are ordering scores

How can I improve my Fluency Score?

De-risking a business model in the market with customers, at every step, is the basis for the Fluency Score. 

Return to vectors that have “gaps” and think of those as opportunities to really move the needle for the company. What is still unknown in that area, and how can you push ahead with high quality learnings from customers to continue to resolve your business model assumptions.

There are lightweight recommendations in each Fluency Score report to help you kick off strategic thinking about how to do that work. 

Also in the platform, founders will find a place to take the riskiest assumption, as identified by the Fluency Score, and design a lean experiment to test that assumption in the market with customers! We call this the Fluent Lean Experiment system (FLEX). Acceleration for your company, the work of designing lean experiments to rapidly de-risk your business model will be the focus of your weekly work with our coaches. 

What is FLEX Acceleration?

The need for the Fluency Score came out of our founder Beth McKeon’s work leading 20 startup accelerator cohorts. As she sought to iterate on tailored, focused founder support, a system for working founders through the “how” of de-risking a business model emerged. 

The FLEX (Fluent Lean Experiment) Acceleration program brings value to founders by helping them de-risk their business model in fast and focused ways by combining coaching expertise in weekly sessions with a streamlined platform that organizes founders’ work. 

The FLEX Acceleration program starts with the Fluency Score 1) to provide baseline data for the organization for tracking/reporting and 2) so the coach knows precisely what founders need and can hit the ground running in the very first session, creating a plan within our online platform for how the company will begin to tackle the riskiest assumption in its business model in the very first week.

The FLEX Acceleration program will deliver value to founders week over week. There is no other programming that will keep them accountable to doing the hard work of working on their business model, and for that reason it can stand alone as programming or it’s often an incredible value add to the wrap-around support being provided by entrepreneurial support organizations. For more on this plug and play acceleration including pricing, contact the Fluent team.

 

Getting started is easy

The best way to engage with the Fluency Score is to see it in action with a batch of companies. Pricing is simple, at $300 per company, per report, which also provides your organization with an Analysis Dashboard for your dataset.