Archives for the month of: April, 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 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.

It occurs to me that a large part of the success of the large Silicon Valley internet stars is down to their ability to get a following very rapidly.  The US tech press plays a large part in this.   

Why is the tech press in Europe so weak and ineffective?  

The coverage of European startups is woefully poor, even for those that navigate the politics and potential conflicts of interests.  It seems that European technology journalists have little interest in technology or journalism. This has an adverse effect on the tech sector and makes it far more difficult to get a startup off the ground.

In an effort to address this issue we would like to do whatever we can to support any startups on our platform.  Please feed us stories about your startup and we will feature the interesting ones to our growing community.

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.

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.

It is Saturday morning 7 am here in London. This weekend is a little different because I am off to DevsLoveBacon a conference for developers.  I am there to network and find out what developers want from a startup platform. However, I have many other things need doing for my startup. I can work on attracting more members by blogging, i have write a press release or i can focus on expanding the network geographically.

The main point is that at this stage in the maturity there is a direct link between the amount of work put in and the chance of success. I would therefore argue that early stage entrepreneurs have to work as much as their health and stamina will allow.

I am talking here about scalable businesses where the direct impact of work is the size of the community following. This is not necessarily the case with consulting or lifestyle businesses, although I believe that many of these will fail due to lack of effort.

Luckily startup entrepreneurs often have a passion for what they do to the point where it is almost an obsession. This helps them to put in the hours.

I am also not suggesting that it is unimportant to work smartt.  Of course it is!  It is important to be extremely focused and ensure that all the effort goes into worthwhile objectives.

So launch that startup you have been dreaming of, get on the roller coaster, build a great team and show an example by working all hours. The prize is worth the effort.

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

The Accelerator Academy provides intensive training, mentoring and access to capital for high growth tech start-ups. The Academy works with emerging entrepreneurs to help them to achieve high growth, through intensive training, mentoring from successfully exited tech entrepreneurs and providing them with access to seed capital. Delivered over 12 weeks, the part-time (Monday evenings) programme improves the market traction and investor readiness of 25 of London’s most ambitious start-ups, helping them to succeed and achieve higher growth. Applications are open for one more week at www.AcceleratorAcademy.com.

 

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. 

Yesterday’s Start-Up Genome report – http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/10/startup-genome-compares-top-startup-hubs/ has revealed that London is way behind the Valley and New York in it’s ability to produce great scalable startups.

It really is not surprising that we have such a weak startup scene.  The eco-system is dominated by everyone other than the startups founders themselves.  While the quality startups beaver away quietly, the rest of the eco-system is dominated by politics and infighting.

What should a startup do to get noticed here?  hang out at the Google rocket centre?  suck up to Techcrunch?  Join Techhub?  The scene here is cliquy to the extreme.  The poster boys are either out dated celebrity entrepreneurs who wouldn’t recognise a disruptive business model if it stared them in the face, or creators of kids online games companies.

To my horror I find myself subscribing to the views of the Kernel on a whole host of issues. Over the last 2 years, we have run at least 20 startup events, co-hosted many more with General Assembly, Startup Weekend and others and built an online community of over 6000.  We have had no government support and no press coverage.

We believe in cutting through all the hype.  Our new platform connects startups with the resources they need, helping them engage with potential co-founders, team members and investors.

We are on a mission to find the best startups wherever they are in the world and spotlight their capability so they get noticed and thrive. We call Dreamstake a global online accelerator platform because it connects resources across continents and provides on-going support.  It addresses the issue of poor mentorship and investment infrastructure that is dogging the European scene by opening it up to US players.

The quickest way to boost the London scene is to highlight the attractiveness of specific startups to a wider investment community.  The likes of Y-Combinator and Angellist have started this process in the US. Investors like Dave McClure have recognised that European startups are under-valued.

We need to cease this navel gazing and get on with channelling proper support to deserving startups.

Dreamstake can be found one www.dreamstake.net.

Working tirelessly to support high impact startups

With the launching of the new platform we feel it is a good time to let people know what the platform is all about.

Our mission has always been quite simple – to help create greatstartups. However, it is a bit more complicated than that. Every business has to focus where it can make the most impact. We therefore focus our attention on businesses that we believe have the potential to scale and make an impact themselves. We have launched Dreamstake as a global online accelerator for high growth potential businesses. Of course, at the outset it is impossible to identify which businesses have the ability to scale but it means we particularly encourage technology based businesses or businesses where technology plays a part in the distribution of the product.

We also want to act as a catalyst for change. We don’t believe that the current eco-system gives European startups the support they deserve. We want to leverage the internet to bring lasting change.

Image We are on a mission to cut down the barriers between startup entrepreneurs and investors, to open up parochial markets to global capital.

So this is the vision. What does it mean at a pragmatic level?  We need you to engage on the platform. It is all to the benefit of the community as a whole. Completing full personal profiles makes it easier for others to connect in a meaningful way. Building your startup on the platform will get you noticed and make it easier for us to introduce investors.

The platform is also designed to help you make the right moves. The algorithms governing the rating system are based on the latest startup science.

There are many other ways that you can engage in Dreamstake. You can come to our events, you can attend the Dreamstake Academy or you can work with us in our co-working spaces (provided by Club Workspace).  We also provide access to a network of advisors and experts.

Dreamstake is about you!  If you are an entrepreneur, want to work for a startup or just love to help startups we provide a platform to help you make an impact. Please join on www.dreamstake.net and check us out.