Archives for posts with tag: startup

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

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Thanks to Milo Yiannopoulos and Jason Calacanis http://www.launch.co/blog/the-age-of-excellence.html

for pointing out some interesting consequences of the internet on polarising society. The web has the potential to create an elite of entrepreneurial product designers who will be measured entirely on merit and customer reaction to their innovations.

I see this happening in the case of startups.  The reason Silicon Valley still leads is that they have grasped this simple fact.  They are designing products that are good enough to change the world we live in. Sometimes these products are technically simple. However, the founder has had the vision and ambition to act boldly even when the business model is not obvious at the outset.

Contrast this with the UK where the young generation is fooled into thinking that they too can be Richard Branson or that Alan Sugar is a role model. We are told that it is a good thing to have shows like Dragons Den or the Apprentice. It encourages participation. These shows simply promote mediocrity, instilling the idea that anyone can become an entrepreneur and downplaying the hard work and intelligence required.

Then we have a low quality network of ‘business advisors’ with generic business skills and little knowledge of technology or social media. These advisors do more harm than good by encouraging young entrepreneurs to play safe in the areas they personally understand. It seems that the credentials to be a mentor is the ability to ask the question’what is the business model’. This question alone has become such a clique and adds little value to the businesses being advised.

We should look towards US, and UK internet entrepreneurs as role models if we want to have any degree of success in this field. As Milo and Jason intimate, unless we start to promote serious product design the internet will consign our startups to a lower tier.

We are applying these principles to our http://www.dreamstake.net startup platform, where startups are evaluated on merit and the best are identified by the ratings system. We measure the personal profiles of the founder teams and the maturity of the startup. We are improving the algorithm constantly and this will do a lot to encourage quality.

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.

You are a European student with a passion to change the world with a great idea. You have evaluated your options and decide to resist the lure of the City. You see the success of startups in Silicon Valley and decide to give it a try here. You go to networking events and subscribe to blogs and start to look for a co-founder. You start to realise that it is tougher than you thought but does it really have to be this way?

There is a European disease that has many symptoms and probably the worst is we often don’t even recognise them. Firstly, there is an unwritten rule that we can’t be like Silicon Valley. We don’t have the infrastructure or the 50 years of experience to provide startups with the support they need.  I think this fails to recognise that the world is changing. The web opens up the startup world to infinite resources across the globe. Of course, it is in the interests of the investment community to claim that business only happens in small groups of insiders. Ironically, the tech investment community has been one of the slowest to leverage the power of the net.  Platforms such as Angel.co and kickstarter are starting to change the US scene. However, we have different needs in Europe.

ImageIn Europe we have to nurture earlier stage businesses. The whole market is less mature. However, the internet presents the opportunity to link startup hotspots with the resources they need. There is, for example, plenty of potential to link the best European startups with investors in the US who already recognise that startups over there are over-priced.

It has long been recognised that creating successful startups is about fusing the best human capital with the best advisors and supporting that with financial investment. The fact that this is all available in one place is becoming less significant.  No one can tell me that we don’t have the intellect in Europe to create a Pinterest or an Instragram!  What we do have is an extremely negative investment community that has little domain experience and little propensity for risk. This is backed up by mentoring networks that are stuck in a time warp and don’t understand social media and other trends.

It is these vested interests that shape the mindsets of young European entrepreneurs by pouring cold water on their business ideas.  I am sick of attending ‘so called’ startup conferences and listening to ‘late stage’ investors spouting on about the state of the early stage market.

Over the next few years we will see a renaissance of startup activity in Europe. The main startup hotspots will create their own startup success stories.  The best startups will gain visibility through platforms such as www.dreamstake.net and have access to funding from a far broader base.  This is all part of a trend towards democratisation of the startup scene that includes crowd funding and crowd sourcing.

Now is the time to start a European startup!

Connect with us and let us connect you with the best startup resources on www.dreamstake.net

We hear a lot about Silicon Valley and it’s unique eco-system for supporting tech startups. We also hear about organisations such as Y combinator that nurture very early stage businesses through to launch. Does Europe need similar support structures? I believe the answer is clear yes, but of different kind.
London is undoubtedly the startup capital of Europe, although there are a whole host of structural weaknesses in the support eco-system. In terms of nurturing there are too many sham ‘dragons den’ type contests and too few opportunities for long term relationship building. The formal funding mechanisms are also very weak in relation to those of Silicon Valley. Here, for example, VCs are dominated by investment managers from a financial background rather than experienced entrepreneurs. Furthermore, there aren’t enough angels who have experience of technology startups.
All this leads me to believe that we do need to strengthen the support eco-system for very early stage businesses. However, it is no longer all about funding. The low cost of technology and the ability to create markets at virtually zero cost through social media has reduced the need for early stage finance. The age of bootstrapping is with us, especially for creative internet based business propositions.
The emphasis is moving away from funding as the predominant focus to other support requirements. The most important of these is the ability to network efficiently with other elements of the eco-system. This is also one of the great strengths of Silicon Valley. It is a truism that in the Valley it is possible to go into any cafe and run into useful contacts who are happy to spare time to discuss and engage in interesting projects. In London the creative entrepreneur community is more fragmented and business does not flow so freely.
We are in the process of tackling these issues. We have set a goal to establish a support eco-system that can add value by bringing together entrepreneurs and link them with vital services. The web-site has been completely revamped to reflect this vision. We have added a number of services targeted at helping the emerging entrepreneurial community. Our events programme is also part of this philosophy. We are now running two major events per month with the aim of bringing entrepreneurs together with the collaborators they need to successfully launch their business ventures. This is particularly important in the bootstrap economy where it is essential to find business partners who will often work for sweat equity because they believe in the vision of the entrepreneur and the quality of the project.
Our next event on the evening 17th February is all about collaboration. This time between creatives and technologists. We are convinced that some very interesting business models will emerge from the fusing of these two communities.
Please sign up on the events pages and come and join us on Thursday. It will be a great opportunity to hear about all the initiatives we are launching.

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.