Archives for posts with tag: technology

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

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.

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

Would you like to spend lots of time getting to know the startup scene in your country?  Do you understand the startup scene in your city? Do you have a Silicon Valley mindset? Would you like the support of the first global online accelerator platform in building a vibrant startup network where you live and linking it with Silicon Valley, London and other startup hotspots?

ImageDreamstake www.dreamstake.net is currently looking for startup ambassadors in all the European cities with big startup communities to help build global chapters and spread the startup culture. We have already built a network of 6000 startup entrepreneurs from over 100 countries. We are passionate about what we do. We believe that everyone should have the right to successfully launch a high impact startup wherever they are. We are trying to spread the ‘can do’ Silicon Valley’ mindset across the globe.

To be a Dreamstake ambassador you will need to live and breath startups. You will probably be either a startup entrepreneur yourself, a startup team member or someone who works with startups every day.

We would particularly like to identify ambassadors in the main European hotspots; Helsinki, Tallinn, stockholm, Copenhagen, Moscow, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Tel Aviv to name a few. However, we are open minded to supporting startups in other major cities.

If you would like to Volunteer to help, we can provide support from our platform. We can help you post local events and accelerator programmes from the events page. We can help you manage the community and connect using our advanced search and you can see progress of the startups with the rating and ranking system. Dreamstake is the most sophisticated startup platform anywhere today. It has been designed to support early stage high growth startups with scalable business models. We love lean philosophies and the other exciting trends that are impacting the world we live.

If you want to join us, please let us know. We can’t pay at this stage but we are happy to discuss ways in which you will benefit as we monetise our operations.  Please look at dreamstake and make contact through the platform or here!!

Paul

CEO and founder

What is a Digital Accelerator?

On 22 March you can find out for certain.  We launch DreamStake//:Digital Accelerator. To pre-register sign up on register.dreamstake.net/new.

So what is all the buzz about?

This will be the first platform to combine the connectivity of a social network with the functionality of a startup ratings engine. Our vision is to disrupt the traditional investment market by giving a platform to quality startups.

Why is this significant?

The internet is already having an impact on startup investment.  The scene is becoming less parochial as the likes of AngelList and Kickstarter open up the market.  The DreamStake//:Digital Accelerator takes this a step further.

Detail from the new platformWhat’s new then?

There are 6000 entrepreneurs, mentors and investors on the current DreamStake platform.  These will now be linked by sophisticated talent matching.  A founder will be able to launch a startup, find team members, build the team, find a mentor, choose a workspace and gain investment.  The dreamrate will reflect the startups progress again critical success factors.

Why will this change the investment scene?

Startup investment is currently a local activity, mainly centred on clusters like Silicon Valley. The new platform will give visibility to startup performance and open up the market to the global investment market. For example, US investors will be able to review the best European startups.

How does the platform rate the startups?

The platform monitors activity by the founder and team. As the startup develops the rating increases. The rating algorithms are based on team size and quality, learning, governance, quality of advisors, investment stage, network and social media activity.

Is this about Crowdfunding?

The new platform is agnostic to funding type.  It will make crowd funding more likely but only because startups will be able to showcase their capability online and therefore attract investment from a broader base.  The platform is more likely to disrupt the traditional investment sources by skewing the market in favour of the startups in much the same way as off-line accelerators such as Y-combinator.

What next?

signup on register.dreamstake.net/new.  You will also automatically get an invite to our Pivot Party on 22nd March

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.