Archives for posts with tag: founders

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


It seems to me that over the last 10 years the art of creating startups has come a long way in the United States. In fact it is striking that what was once an art is slowly turning into a science.  Books like The Lean Startup and reports such as The Startup Genome describe the processes that startups should follow to increase their chance of success. The authors have studied critical success factors and are spreading the word to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Of course these works can’t take credit for the success of the current batch of US startups but they do start to show that successfully launching a startup is not as unpredictable as previously thought. I would point to areas such as the quality of team, flexibility to pivot and openness to mentoring as some examples of what is driving success in the US and particularly in Silicon Valley. 

So what about Europe?  I feel we are still somewhat in the dark ages. The process of setting up a startup is often ignored in favour of the cool idea. European startup founders need to appreciate success will more likely be achieved by following some well tried steps. 

We have a great tendency to muddle through in Europe. I believe that has come about because in the past there was little choice. We just did not have the support infra-structure available to launch global startups. We didn’t have access to the early stage capital or the quality advisors needed to scale such businesses.  However, The Lean Startup and other such works show us how we can now launch great businesses without access to massive resources. 

So now it is largely about mindset and a willingness to accept these tried and tested concepts. By far the most important is the need to accept the need to build a strong team from a very early stage. An entrepreneur with an idea is not a startup and has little appeal to investors. US entrepreneurs realise that the strength of the team is paramount. 

The real challenge is how to build a team without significant funding. This all comes down to the ability of the founder to persuade potential team members of his vision. A credible founder with a strong vision will attract the best co-founders. This in turn will greatly increase the chance of success. 

ImageThe challenge here is building trust and this cannot be done overnight. This is why networks are so important. It is often stated that London does not have the close network that is found in clusters such as Silicon Valley.

In London it is possible to network with entrepreneurs every night of the week. It is simply a problem of maturity. We are not yet capable of team building in the way the Americans do.  This is often because we do not accept that a team is essential, preferring to make do. 

Online networks such as Dreamstake will go some way towards connecting entrepreneurs with the human capital they need to build scalable businesses. Such platforms help to build trust between members by encouraging regular interactions online and in the real world. For example, a strong network supports the non-technical founder in finding a CTO or the Technical founder find a business partner. These are not trivial issues in the current job market where quality resources are still very hard to come by.

If European startups are to make an impact, we need to change the mindset of early stage entrepreneurs. We need to instill the belief that it is possible to create world beating teams here in Europe and that it is not purely a US phenomenon. We need to provide the networks to allow entrepreneurs to identify the best people with whom to work and support them in building great European startups

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.