Archives for the month of: May, 2012

The accelerator model is now well established with big names such as Y-combinator and Techstars becoming an essential part of the startup eco-system. Funding platforms such as Angellist are also changing early stage investment. However, there is still a lot of scope for the web to transform the startup scene.

There are a number of issues with traditional accelerator models;

  • They are only suitable for certain type of high growth low capital intensive startup
  • They require a time commitment of several months at a critical stage in the startups development
  • They involve early release of equity
  • They have relatively small cohorts of startups at any particular time
  • They provide limited access to global investor/mentors

The advantage of an online accelerator is that it is inclusive. It is open to entrepreneurs at any stage of maturity. Single founders can launch their startup on the platform and work through the accelerator at the pace most appropriate to their business. The platform provides access to all the resources required to grow the business; co-founders, team members, mentors and investors.

The entrepreneur and their investors or advisors can track progress of the startup through to launch by using the unique the rating system. This monitors progress using a complex algorithm to assess team size/mix, funding stage, social media interaction and other criteria.

Once the team has been formed they are put through a series of workshops at Dreamstake Academy where they further improve their startup skills.  The Academy covers essentials such as company setup, shareholder agreements, protection of IP and other topics.  Further specialist electives will be offered.  Completion of the Dreamstake Academy modules counts towards the companies rating.

Founders can take their startups through the workshops at their own pace. Once they become investment ready they will be introduced to investors. The platform is currently investor agnostic.

A big advantage of the online accelerator model is that the startup is visible during the whole launch phase. This means that interested parties such as investors can track progress and engage with the startups they prefer. It also means that the best startups are linked with the global investor/mentors community rather than simply the local eco-system.

Dreamstake is currently free to join on www.dreamstake.net

Dreamstake is an online accelerator for startups.  We combine data from Linkedin and Crunchbase with other startup related details to provide a startup launch platform. A key feature is advanced profile search which allows entrepreneurs to find resources from across the 6000 members. We also connect entrepreneurs at our regular events and in the workspaces we partner with The Workspace Group. We are also organising #startupprevolution across Europe on 14 July 2012 http://www.dreamstake.net/dreamstake-startup-revolution-july-14th-2012

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This week we met up with Tim Buick, CEO of www.streetpin.com an innovative startup that is focusing on providing people with the means to share locally relevant information. Streetpin is a new member on www.dreamstake.net. We want to see more companies like this emerging in Europe.

The Streetpin team is made up of web, mobile and travel enthusiasts. They are London-based but have travelled round the globe. and love to meet the locals. Tim believes that there are a huge amount of situations where it would be great to share thoughts, questions and plans with those around us. They know that in most of the major cities you’d probably get at least a strange look  if you start talking to random people. They want to change that, with Streetpin;

  • They want commuters to be able to discuss their interests, aspirations or alternate travel plans.
  • They want travellers to be able to share stories, travel tips, advice or just a bar stool or two for the evening
  • They want to enable you to start your own local communities anywhere, or join any community, for a minute or a lifetime
  • Most of all They want to provide you with a tool that you feel you can grow with. If there’s something that you don’t think works, or that they could be doing differently, please tell us – hello@streetpin.com

We interviewed Tim and would like to share this with our readers

Tell me a little bit about your background and why you founded Streetpin

Tim Buick is Global Web Manager at a travel company by day, CEO at Proximate Ltd (StreetPin) by night. He has 12 years+ web experience, and a background firmly within the creative build and delivery of online/mobile projects. He also ran several start-up companies including a hospitality and software company, online wedding gift company & alcoholic fruit juice company (product seen on ITV’s Tycoon). Bringing together a lot of learnings, passion and creativity – StreetPin is the culmination of his experience and vision to date.

What is Streetpin all about? What is your vision?

 StreetPin aims to bring people together at any given location, providing tools to explore the immediate vicinity or investigate areas of interest on the other side of the world. We want to provide open communication with a view that every opinion counts and the online community world should not just be restricted to existing contacts. We see the immense value of sharing knowledge, resource and experience with those in the same location rather than each individual doing their own thing. We aim to be the catalyst of local opinion.

How do you monetise? What is the business model?

We have a functional, open revenue stream planned from the outset, whereas Twitter and Facebook integrated adverts post-launch, we incorporate these into the product and tailor for the individual from launch.

Boards are essentially two-tiered – generic (free) boards and branded (paid) boards. We will aim to gain revenue either from the supply of advert-free business boards or via advertising on the generic or free branded boards. These adverts are in turn displayed based on user preferences, reducing irrelevant offers.

Tell me about your team

The current team is made up of web, mobile and travel professionals. We’re London-based but there are few places in the world we haven’t been. Collectively, we have decades of experience in design, development and management across a myriad of softwares & platforms.

What stage are you at with the business and what comes next?

We are just about finalising the business plan and forecasts and are ready to go head long in to the investment process. Our Beta app is functional, but we are faced with a chicken and egg situation – users vs investment. The next round of investment would create big changes to the stickiness, usability and design but in order to get the investment, we probably need more traction. We have opted to ‘softly’ introduce the Beta app, get feedback, plan the next stages and look for the seed stage development in tandem with getting the iPhone and Android apps up to scratch ourselves. There are lots of routes we can now take, and I view this stage as a real crossroads.

We have had initial investment from STA Travel – the biggest global student and youth travel agent, operating with 13 globally owned web sites & attracting more than 2m unique visitors per month. StreetPin is planned to be integrated in to the offering, with a view to increasing customer engagement and retention.

What is the main challenge you face?

Our biggest challenge is attracting and retaining the first few thousand users. The StreetPin apps are only on iPhone and Android, and in Beta at the moment, so we’re not shouting about it quite yet, but lots of usability and sticky additions coming soon. There are lots of social media platforms out there, but we believe that our differentiator will be getting location-based, relevant, real-time interaction right.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I run long distances, for fun. I completed this year’s London marathon dressed as Snow White, in just under 4 hours. Stockings, dresses, capes and wigs are not necessarily recommended for runners.

Dreamstake is an online super-connector for startups.  We combine data from Linkedin and Crunchbase with other startup related details to provide a startup launch platform. A key feature is advanced profile search which allows entrepreneurs to find resources from across the 6000 members. We also connect entrepreneurs at our regular events and in the workspaces we partner with The Workspace Group. We are also organising #startupprevolution across Europe on 14 July 2012 http://www.dreamstake.net/dreamstake-startup-revolution-july-14th-2012

It is clear to everyone that the European startup scene is fundamentally weak. This is obvious when we look at the number of major success stories coming out of Europe compared to the US.  Even NewYork, the second US startup hotspot, outranks any European city by a long way.  So much has been written about the reasons for the difference, I will only paraphrase: lower quality investors and mentors, lack of support network, ineffectual government, little appetite for risk and poor technology press are just the major ones.

However, social and technological change presents an opportunity to tackle some of the main issues;

Poor mentors

In Europe we have lacked the major internet exits that the US has experienced.  This means that we do not have access to the same steady stream of experienced entrepreneurs with time and money to re-invest in startups. Instead many of our investors have a financial services background and our mentors are often corporate dropouts, lawyers and accountants or consultants with no real experience of running a startup.

Accelerators and  incubators have some role in plugging the knowledge gap but generally suffer from the same issues. It is simply very hard for them to attract enough high quality mentors on a consistent basis.

There is a need to broaden the available knowledge base by linking the best European talent with experienced entrepreneurs from the rest of the world.  The web now gives the potential to access learning either online or in the classroom by building a network of interested participants from wherever they are in the world.

Poor investors

There is a mismatch between investors and early stage entrepreneurs in Europe.  This is because the investors have had little experience of scalable/disruptive business models and feel uneasy to invest in them.  VC funding has moved away from early stage and even angels do not like to get involved in projects they don’t understand. This means there is a tendency to fund boring startups with lower potential growth.

Once again the solution is to look further afield for investment and once again the internet is the answer.  Platforms can bring greater transparency to startups by providing insights and ranking accordingly. This information can be viewed globally to enable investors to be less parochial.  This trend is already happening and looks likely to increase.  Crowd-funding is simply a variation on this but it will also make capital available for more exciting startups.

Poor Government

European Governments can simply not be relied on to support entrepreneurship in a meaningful way.  The UK Government has introduced some useful tax incentives to support startups but support is patchy and delivered inefficiently. The answer is just to get on with it.  The barriers to creating a digital business have never been less.  Technology more affordable now than ever before and digital media greatly reduces the cost of market.

Poor Quality Press

Silicon Valley is blessed with a supportive technology press that delights in every success.  They are part of the hype process that creates great startup successes. Here in Europe we have a pale imitation which is highly partisan and lacking in real credibility.

I believe that the internet has a role to play here too. We do not need to rely on mercurial professional journalists to celebrate our success stories.  We just need to become more open about sharing the news and making sure that new products get seen.  There is a strong case for peer level reviews of startups and platforms like dreamstake will help to get the word.

There has never been a greater need for European startups to stand together to promote their cause.  It is the only really credible way out of the economic mess we find ourselves in.  Be proactive and support each other to create some truly great startup success stories.

Dreamstake is an online super-connector for startups.  We combine data from Linkedin and Crunchbase with other startup related details to provide a startup launch platform. A key feature is advanced profile search which allows entrepreneurs to find resources from across the 7000 members. We also connect entrepreneurs at our regular events and in the workspaces we partner with The Workspace Group.

London is creating quite a buzz in the startup world.  The unique fusion of technology and creative talent is evident across the city. However, we still underperform our main rivals in Silicon Valley and New York.  Silicon Valley has it’s own long established support eco-system and New York has started to help their entrepreneurs with specialist academies.

In London the whole startup scene is less mature.  There are plenty of potential entrepreneurs willing to quit the city or leave university to set something up but they don’t know who to turn to for advice.  Unlike Silicon Valley we do not have the super-mentor/investors who have made their fortune from Google or Ebay and who now want to put something back. Here much advice is at best biased, being delivered by consultants with an axe to grind, or at worst irrelevant to high growth startups.

If you take the example of the ex banker who wants to become an entrepreneur,  they will be on an extremely fast learning curve, needing to learn about everything from lean product design to pitching to investors.  They could consider joining an accelerator but this would involve giving equity before even fully understanding the market.

We believe that an Academy brings the right balance.  The emphasis is on fast tracking startup talent by delivering a practical targeted curriculum. This comprises both core modules and more niche electives. Each module can be attended individually or can be taken as a complete programme. The workshops will go into each topic in depth and be given by tutors with an understanding of how early stage startups work.

Our mission is to transform the way that Startup education is delivered. We want it to augment lean thinking and be undertaken in parallel to product development and launch.  This way the learning can be directly applied and immediate benefits achieved.

With this philosophy in mind we have integrated our Academy programme into our online startup accelerator platform. This means that Academy modules score directly in the startup ranking as an indicator to investors that they have invested in increasing their knowledge.  Through this mechanism we can provide the benefits of an accelerator programme without taking equity.

It is our objective to run Academy workshops on a weekly basis alongside our more informal networking events.

Dreamstake is an online super-connector for startups.  We combine data from Linkedin and Crunchbase with other startup related details to provide a startup launch platform. A key feature is advanced profile search which allows entrepreneurs to find resources from across the 6000 members. We also connect entrepreneurs at our regular events and in the workspaces we partner with The Workspace Group.

 

The Cause

There are many great entrepreneurs building amazing startups all over Europe. The main startup hotspots (London, Stockholm, Berlin, Moscow, Tel-Aviv etc) are a hive of activity with new internet businesses emerging by the day. Europe  has a lot to shout about with it’s own big success stories such as Skype, LoveFilm and others. But the whole startup scene is nothing compared to Silicon Valley. It’s time for a Startup Revolution! 

There’s lots been written about the Valley eco-system and how it can’t be replicated here in Europe. We believe, the internet offers a huge opportunity to globalize and democratize the startup process by providing universal access to capital, human resources and ideas – the essence of Silicon Valley.

We want European mindset to change. It has never been easier to launch a startup. The cost of technology has dropped through the floor. Lean techniques have reduced the risk of failure. There are plenty of intelligent young people with great ideas, but we lack role models, great mentors and success stories.  We have failed to produce a Facebook or a Google.

Y-combinator, 500 startups and Angellist are changing the US startup scene. In Europe there is nothing comparable. Now there is a need to unite to make a real impact.

Our objective is to create over 100 truly great European startups by 2015. 

We propose to make 14th July 2012 a day of startup solidarity across Europe.

The Hotspots

London, Amsterdam, Vilnius, Stockholm, Tallinn, Berlin, Moscow, Tel_Aviv and wherever we find willing volunteers.

The Manifesto

We believe in:

  • Freedom to follow startup dreams
  • Equality with Silicon Valley
  • Global collaboration between entrepreneurs
  • Lobbying governments to act now
  • Democratise investment
  • Creating world changing startups

Call to action

Start the #startuprevolution with Dreamstake!!

Dreamstake is an online super-connector for startups.  We combine data from Linkedin and Crunchbase with other startup related details to provide a startup launch platform. A key feature is advanced profile search which allows entrepreneurs to find resources from across the 6000 members. We also connect entrepreneurs at our regular events and in the workspaces we partner with The Workspace Group.