Archives for category: entrepreneurship

In the old days you had a business idea and kept it secret until you were ready to release it to the world in a blaze of publicity. Before the product hit the streets you would have tried to protect your Intellectual Property (IP) to make it as hard as possible for others to copy.

This is all changing, particularly for high growth, low capital intensive, internet startups. The key here is speed to market and customer feedback, which you need as rapidly as possible. It’s all about getting that minimum viable product out there and receiving as much input as possible. The channel for this is often social media with traditional PR playing a supporting role.

We see the change at our networking events. A few years ago, entrepreneurs were reticent about sharing their early stage ideas in public. Now they feel confident about receiving reaction. It’s all part of the PR strategy.

We have also seen increased focus on UX.  Great product design creates significant barriers to entry. When this is coupled with early product release and great PR it is difficult for competitors to make up ground.

A great PR strategy runs alongside product development. The use of Twitter and Facebook creates a buzz about the developing proposition and helps the founders gauge reaction to product features. This avoids the situation where a technical team work in isolation for months only to discover that no-one wants what they are building.

We will be covering some of this topic at this weeks Dreamstake Academy session on Agile Marketing.

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

There are lots of good reasons to create a great tech startup right now. It is has never been easier from a financial perspective. The cost of technology has gone down and social media has slashed the marketing budget. The economic climate has cut out many of the other attractive options. Plus it is both exciting and fulfilling.

However, a lot of people just don’t know where to start. So I thought I would write down 12 simple rules to help those looking to become tech founders;

1) Learn from the experts

The theory of creating successful startups is well documented and although it is far from a science there are many obvious things that you can learn to increase your success chances. Attend networking events and workshops and meet entrepreneurs as often as possible. Read books about startups and learn from people who have done it before. Attend Dreamstake Academy if you happen to be in London.

2) Evaluate the risk before you start

Don’t kid yourself that it won’t be risky. It is much more a question of whether you are prepared to take that risk and how to minimise the effect. Taking on board that you will have lose the material things in life for a few years is a good idea. You may have to sell the car, re-mortgage the house and live in poverty for a while. Make sure you are prepared for this.

3) Focus on the vision not the idea

Visions stay, ideas change! Find something you want to change in the world. Make it easier for people to travel, find a home, deal with their finances. Solve real problems or open up real opportunities. Think big. Tell people about your vision at networking events and online. If people buy-in it is a sign you are on the right track. Don’t obsess about the solution at this stage. It’s going to change anyway. Share your vision with other Dreamstake members

4) Start building your team from the outset

Your team is going to be your secret to success. It is never too early to start looking. If you don’t have funding your team will be the people who most buy into your vision and will help you to achieve it. Network like crazy and tell people what you are planning. Don’t expect anyone to buy-in immediately. Would you work for someone that you have just met for little or no money? Get to know your potential team members over a few months. Let them help you shape your ideas. Use the team finding functions on Dreamstake to find your Dream team. It works!

5) Use professional advisors

There is plenty of free advice available for startup entrepreneurs. Talk to both an accountant and a lawyer about your startup plans. They will give you the basics on setting up your company in the right way and ensure that your don’t fall into any major pitfalls. The professional advisors on the dreamstake platform have been selected because they are prepared to give a lot back to the entrepreneurial community.

6) Be prepared to work like never before

Being an entrepreneur isn’t glamourous. It is hard work. Success is directly relational to the amount of effort you put. It is both mentally and physically exhausting. At times, the only thing that will keep you going is the pursuit of your vision and the desire to make a difference.

7) Build the best possible team

The quality of the team is the key to success. It is good to realise this from day one.  A strong team will enable you to develop ideas quicker, build prototypes and attract investment more readily. Identify your gaps from day one. Even if you are multi-talented don’t contemplate going it alone. Investors don’t like single founder firms. If you are a business person, find a great technical co-founder. If you are technical look for business or marketing support. Find them on Dreamstake.

8) Bootstrap

Don’t get a fancy office. Work from a co-working space. It’s cheap and you will get lots of free advice from other occupants. Cut costs wherever you can. Don’t recruit staff until you really need to. Make sure that your co-founders are happy to work for little or no reward until you receive funding or generate revenues. Don’t pay large amounts to attend events. Many are free or low cost.

9) Watch out for charlatans

The startup world is full of people selling snake oil. Beware of easy solutions to getting funding. It is a difficult process. Do not pay to pitch. Do not pay large upfront fees to financial advisors, angel networks or anyone offering help with funding. Check people out. Most people offering investment dont not have money. They will simply charge to help you find it. Use linkedin to check credentials and then double check with others in your network

10) Enter contests, join accelerators

Entering contests raises your profile and gets you PR. If you are fortunate to win you can often get enough cash to seed your business. Accelerators and other online platforms can also be extremely useful. Some give quick effective access to mentors and investors and speed up your time to get your product launched. Join the dreamstake online accelerator, its totally free.

11) Start marketing from day one

A common mistake is to think of your idea as unique and hide it from the world. It is not unique and you will only find this out when too late unless you share it as widely as possible. You need market feedback from day one. You need to know you are on the right track and get buy-in from potential team members and future clients. You need to test whether there is demand for what you are creating and that people will pay for it.

12) Network like crazy

Your network is probably the single most important thing in the early stages of entrepreneurialism. Before you jump into creating your startup, test ideas with others, get feedback and judge whether people are prepared to join you in your quest. If they are not it maybe that you are on the wrong track and need to change your proposition or that you are not pitching it right. Either way the feedback is invaluable. Join dreamstake, its a network for tech entrepreneurs

I hope that these tips are useful. They are aimed at first time early stage entrepreneurs. The key message is to make sure you are at a stage in your life where you can manage the risk and give it a go. It will be an exciting roller coaster ride like  no other but the rewards can be extremely high both financially and in terms of fulfilment.

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

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

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.

Building a startup is all about connections!!

Let me explain why;  You are an entrepreneur and you have an idea that you think will change the world. However, you don’t have any money.  You have to buy people into your vision or they won’t be prepared to help.

However, at this stage no-one knows you. They listen to your pitch and like what they hear but it takes lots of trust either to join your team or to invest in you. Therefore unless you happen to have enough funding to build a team you need to get to know people.  This does not happen overnight.

There are plenty of ways to find your ideal team.  You may, for example, be seeking a technical co-founder. Checkout startup events for developers or at least ones with a technical bias.  It is important to build a relationship before pitching your great idea.  Talk about what interests them and get to know what they are looking for.  If you pitch your idea and you get no interest from anyone it is probably a strong sign that you have got something wrong.  Listen to feedback and try to adjust your thinking. Don’t try to hook a co-founder on the first meeting.  By all means sow the seed but you both need plenty of time to get to know each other.  They need to be able to trust that you are capable of following through with execution. You need to know they can be relied on to help.  Building a team without funding is clearly not the same as building a team with funding.  With funding, you can create a job specification and lure suitable candidates with money.  If you are bootstrapping your only asset is your vision and the belief that the reward will come with success.  This is a lot to ask of anyone.

Looking for funding is exactly the same.  Don’t approach a potential angel with a direct request for money.  The first meeting should be about building the relationship and relating your vision.  Ask for advice and listen to the answers. Refine your pitch and incorporate feedback.  Check they will make a good partner with appropriate expertise if that is what you are looking for. Arrange to meet a few times to update them on your ideas.  Network like crazy, to build contacts and spread the word about what you are doing.  Be seen as the authority in what you are doing and identify the opinion formers and early adopters. It’s all about building credibility!

None of the above can be done without extremely good networking skills and I don’t just mean physical networking.  Join entrepreneur networks like www.dreamstake.net and meetup.com.  Plan a social media strategy long before you launch a product.  It is important to build awareness of your target group throughout the development phase.  This will help you to find resources and get feedback for beta testing.  It also builds momentum for launch. Participate in relevant discussions on twitter, Facebook and other networks. Useful contacts will come to you and partnerships will develop.

A word of caution!  Networking is a complete waste of time unless you have clear objectives.  Know what you are looking to achieve.  Are you looking for a co-founder, team members, investors or mentors? Are you looking for startups to work for or invest in or are you looking for clients or consumers.  All are great reasons to network but be clear on what you want and use your time wisely.

Building a startup is all about networking.  It is clear that the success of companies such as Instagram is largely due to the power of both their online and offline networking. This is the quick and efficient way to scale a business.

Our mission is to help passionate founder teams build successful European startups.  We aim to help create at least 100 great European startups by 2015. You can join www.dreamstake.net free of charge and link with all the resources you require online, at our events, in our academy and in the co-working space we provide through club workspace. 

Those of you who know us well will know we have a passion for helping creative  entrepreneurs.  The big questions are…Are you really an entrepreneur?  What are the credentials required to be entrepreneurial?  Are you prepared for the challenge?

The first essential is a passion for a business idea.  Without passion it is unlikely that you will succeed because launching a business is tough.  It will a involve taking a risk and it will almost certainly necessitate working 60 or 70 hours a week.

Next you will need to check your business idea out.  Will you find clients? How much will they pay?  What’s the competition?  How easy is it to copy your idea?  Why are you the right person to execute it?  These are all obvious questions but it is surprising that many aspiring entrepreneurs lack rigour when evaluating their own proposition.  Be prepared to be challenged by anyone who is willing to invest their time in offering constructive criticism. If you are defensive, you probably won’t make a good entrepreneur.  You need to listen and learn.

Next you need to ensure you have the right mix of skills to execute your idea.   If you don’t have all the necessary skills you will need to build a team.  The quality of the team is the most important success factor in any start-up.  A strong team can make a moderate business idea a success.  A poor team with a great business idea will always fail.

Be proactive. Get out there and network.  Meet collaborators. Line up potential investors, get buy-in for your ideas.  We believe that you can launch many creative digital businesses at very low cost.  However, this involves getting buy-in for your vision. If other people believe in what you are doing it probably means you are on the right track.  If you are on the right track life will become easier. You will find co-partners who will invest their time on the strength of your vision.

Land and Expand - Business Accelerator Programme

This is what DreamStake is all about.  We are looking for members who are serious about becoming entrepreneurs. We want to hear from you if you are determined to launch or grow a business within the next 6 months.  If you have already made your mind up to become an entrepreneur we will devote our time and resources to help you increase your chance of success and accelerate your time to revenues.  We are not driven by a need to make an investment return.  If you don’t need investment we will tell you and advise you on the best way to bootstrap.

We give a lot away free.  Our events are designed to encourage collaboration. We want you to find business partners and support each other.  In addition we offer free mentoring and low cost services.

Our eco-system will only work for you if you engage.  Invite your entrepreneurial friends to DreamStake,  come to our events, share your business ideas and tell us what you need from us.  We want to see some great businesses come out of our Land and Expand business acceleration programme.

Please participate on http://www.dreamstake.net.  We will help you fulfill your business dream.

There has been a lot of talk of Silicon Roundabout recently but it is a pointless label that is undermining the importance of London as the centre of European tech/media innovation.  Firstly the Silicon’ tag’ only leads to unfavourable comparisons with the Californian original when emulation is not necessarily the answer.  Secondly, the ’roundabout’ is an over-hyped micro-cluster that only represents a tiny part of London’s amazingly vibrant start-up scene.  Small scale but welcome initiatives such as TechHub have only gone to further fuel the hype.

We debated this very topic on Tuesday at the first of a series of ‘Startup Conversations 2.0 being run by DreamStake in conjunction with ThinkPLANK.  The evening was organised by @moni_gi and moderated by @Ved_ThinkPlank assisted by @pragnasen.  We had fantastic input from @ptegelaar, @ioloj and Jeanine Athas. as well as the audience of around 35.

I believe we are in for a sea-change that will ultimately make the silicon valley comparison redundant.  The reduced cost of technology and ability to address a global market at minimal cost will reduce the need for early stage capital and decrease some of the disadvantage of London over capital rich areas such as the valley.  The main driver of success will move to maximizing the effectiveness of human capital.  This is where DreamStake come in, by providing the opportunity for collaboration across London and beyond, and by providing training, mentoring and other services to make the human capital effective.

I love the idea of taking the debate away from the VCs who are not investing early stage in any case.  We strongly support the following ideas;

– By Entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs

– Long term relationships with members, not funding contests and dragons den,

– Nurturing through hands on intervention such as training and mentoring

– Developing human capital rather than depending on Financial capital (bootstrapping)

– Developing the eco-system rather than limited single location solutions

I would like to see a distributed accelerator model that can really provide London with what it currently lacks; places where entrepreneurs can go and meet other entrepreneurs, develop business through serendipity and gain access to other essential components of the infrastructure.


The week started with plenty of disruption!  Monika G was snowbound in Edinburgh and the tube strike was not helping matters in London.  This made it fun trying to get to Brunel University to stand-in for Monika for the evening’s speed dating event.  However, it was well worthwhile.  I was inspired by the enthusiasm of the young entrepreneurs and it gave me faith that the London entrepreneurial scene is flourishing at the grass-roots level.

We are very eager to build links with the university community across the UK and would welcome new members to Dreamstake from this group.

On Tuesday I met up with Pragma and Ved from ThinkPlank.  These guys are inspirational and have

The venue for our great 8th December event

long been associated with the Convergence Conversations series of debates run by Intellect.  We are in discussion about running a series of debates on the London startup scene.  More about that later.

A large part of the week has been about designing the future Dreamstake service offer.  We are seeking to add value to the entrepreneurial community by offering practical services that enable the entrepreneur to get on with building the business without taking their eye off the ball.  At this stage we are interested in getting views on what these services might look like.  Please let us know!

On Friday morning I went to #tuttle run by @lloyddavis.  This weekly event, run out of a collaboration centre in Acton Street is always a brilliant place to meet creative entrepreneurs.  We had a lively debate about the true meaning of collaboration and how effective current initiatives are.  I think we all came away with the view that there is an amazing talent pool in London, so we only need to find ways to harness it effectively.

On Friday afternoon I was down at Westbourne Studios with Monika preparing for our event next Wednesday.  The venue is amazing.  It is a huge space with a funky vibe, situated below the Westway.  Doesn’t sound much but has to be experienced to be believed!!  I am looking forward to displaying some art as part of the event.

Next week will be about more event organisation, leading up to Wednesday night’s event. We are looking forward to seeing at least 100 creative entrepreneurs enter into a lively panel discussion about how technology will impact the UK’s position as a global player in the creative industries.  This is all part of our drive to help London get the recognition it deserves as a powerhouse of creativity and entrepreneurial flair.