Archives for the month of: May, 2013

The sharing economy is growing rapidly across a range of sectors and is now believed to be worth at least $26b according to Rachel Botsman, the author of a book on the subject, Whether it is room-sharing with airbnb, car-sharing with zipcar or ride-sharing with lyft, sharing is becoming big business and is popular because it makes efficient use of resources and avoids waste.
The startup community is a sector of the economy that can benefit more than most from sharing resources, providing access to vital resources without the a financial commitment.

Startup founders need access to a broad range of skills to build their product.  These skills are in short supply and often very expensive.
A typical founder may require access to graphic design, UX expertise, and development skills just to get to build an MVP.  Thereafter, there will be a requirement for sales, marketing, social media and PR skills to take the product to the next stage. Skill sharing is a way to avoid costs at an early stage.
As in other sectors it is the internet that has opened up the possibility to share skills between startups. Platforms such as  Dreamstake allow detailed searches of personal profiles to help identification of the relevant skills for specific projects. Contact can be made through the platform and exchanges can be agreed.  For example, someone with marketing  skills may need a developer to complete a web-site. Once a match has been made agreement can be reached on how many hours each participant is willing to provide.
Networking at events is another very important component of skill sharing.  It is hard to make decisions regarding human resource, purely from an on-line profile. It usually makes sense to get to know potential providers in real life and networking events provide an excellent opportunity to do so.
In summary,  startups will always struggle to find good resources at a cost they can afford.  Swapping skills provides a way around this problem.  We would like to see more Dreamstake members taking this innovative approach to building a startup.
Dreamstake www.dreamstake.com is Europe’s fastest growing platform for early stage internet startups. Our objective is to help build robust new businesses by providing access to knowledge, resources and funding. We run weekly Dreamstake Academy workshops as well as larger networking events at Google Campus. We also provide Startup Loans and access to angel investment.
We are keen to help European startups to get noticed by potential users, investors and the press.  We help by offering guest slots at our ‘startup stories’ events and welcome suggestions for guest blogs. Our unique rating system allows others to track progress of startups as they emerge.

leonardo_da_vinci_proportions_of_the_human_figure-e1348507759911Early stage funding of low capital intensive technology startups has always been a challenge, especially outside Silicon Valley. The text books suggest that ‘Friends, Family and Fools’ are the only reliable source of initial investment. However, early stage funding is being shaken up by a number of positive and disruptive influences:

- MVP. The reducing cost of the technology required to produce an MVP or proof-of-concept is redefining the size of the first funding round.  In the UK we are seeing MVP’s being launched on Government backed startup loans or very small levels of personal finance.  This allows the entrepreneur to establish whether product/market fit has been achieved and that further rounds of funding are justified.

- Crowd-funding. We are also seeing a trend towards obtaining follow-on funding through crowd-funding.  In the UK this can be non-equity funding through the likes of Kickstarter or Indiegogo or equity crowd-funding through Crowdcube or Seedrs.

- Other Funding platforms. Put this all together and add the influence of platforms like Angellist and Dreamstake and I predict we are about to experience a revolution in early stage funding.  This will in return lead to a renaissance of startup activity outside Silicon Valley.

The rise of these funding ‘platforms’ is shifting the influence away from a handful of technology angels to a much broader base of participants. This will ultimately popularise involvement in startups and change the way in which they are launched.

Platforms such as Dreamstake recognise that funding is not the only challenge faced by early stage founders. In  the new scenario where the cost of technology is less of an issue and capital is more freely available, education and support will move up the agenda.  Dreamstake address this by connecting founders through the platform to learning, support and potential team members.

Dreamstake www.dreamstake.com is Europe’s fastest growing platform for early stage internet startups. Our objective is to help build robust new businesses by providing access to knowledge, resources and funding. We run weekly Dreamstake Academy workshops as well as larger networking events at Google Campus. We also provide Startup Loans and access to angel investment.

We are keen to help European startups to get noticed by potential users, investors and the press.  We help by offering guest slots at our ‘startup stories’ events and welcome suggestions for guest blogs. Our unique rating system allows others to track progress of startups as they emerge.

Launching a tech startup for the first time is a daunting undertaking.  There is so much to learn! However, it is a well trodden path and the knowledge and processes are out there to guide the new founder.  Here are just five of the ways to fast-track to a successful launch;

  1. Startup Academies- There are many academies for startups, mainly in the main startup hotspots. Some of them make a modest charge, others like Dreamstake Academy, are free to attend. It is a great way to learn the ropes from experts in subjects like Product Development, Business Modelling, Business Plans, Legals and Accounting.
  2. Forums – Share a question on a forum and you will find that other entrepreneurs will be happy to share their experience with you.
  3. Mentors and investors – They say that if you want investment, ask for advice. If you want advice ask for investment! I wouldn’t advise the later but investors and mentors are a great source of advice and early discussions with them can build relationships that later bring funding.
  4. Libraries – The larger business libraries are often the best centralised resource for market research.  The British Library – Business and IP Centre provides a great free service to entrepreneurs
  5. Other founders – There is nothing better than talking to someone who has been there and done it before. It is extremely useful to study the successes and failures of other internet entrepreneurs. It is especially useful to learn from mistakes. Attend events such as Startup Stories to hear of experiences first-hand.

Remember that doing a startup is a journey with a series of logical steps and the critical success factors are well defined.  They can therefore be learned. Too many startup founders try to re-invent the wheel rather than focus on launching their own venture using tried and tested methodologies. Don’t be afraid to ask, there are always others willing to offer advice.

Dreamstake www.dreamstake.com is Europe’s fastest growing platform for early stage internet startups. Our objective is to help build robust new businesses by providing access to knowledge, resources and funding. We run weekly Dreamstake Academy workshops as well as larger networking events at Google Campus. We also provide Startup Loans and access to angel investment.

We are keen to help European startups to get noticed by potential users, investors and the press.  We help by offering guest slots at our ‘startup stories’ events and welcome suggestions for guest blogs. Our unique rating system allows others to track progress of startups as they emerge.

 

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7 Simple Components to help ensure a Successful Email Newsletter Campaign

Email newsletters offer one of the highest returns on investment in online marketing, second only to search marketing. But like everything else, it only works when you do it right.

Assuming you have interested subscribers (never buy a subscriber list!); the following are the key parts of an email newsletter that should greatly improve your email newsletters:

1. Subject line
This is your very first point of contact with your potential customer. Use this to tempt the reader to open the mail. I always add the company name to every subject line to build trust over time. Readers learn that if the mail is from one of my companies then there will be something inside they will enjoy or find interesting.

2. Preview
This text will appear in the preview pane of the email client when it arrives to the inbox. It should add to the subject line and provide more reasons to open the newsletter.

3. Main offer
A clear offer with a strong call to action. A reader should be in no doubt what to do next and why. Fancy fonts will need to be images so make sure you have text and links that work when images are turned off.

4. Sell stuff.
Don’t forget your ultimate goal of any newsletter campaign is to sell your products or service so make sure you have images of products, links etc. that make the reader visit your website or e-commerce store.

5. Being useful
Subscribers would get turned off pretty fast if every mail was about you and your company. Always add content that will be of use to a subscriber. It increases the chance of them opening again next month. Remember that as well as getting a person to read this months newsletter, you also want them to look forward to next months newsletter!

6. Expand the conversation
People love sharing good links and information online. With an army of subscribers loving your updates, make it easy for them to tell others and chat back to you – Ensure you have Twitter & Facebook links within your newsletter and also the option to ‘Tell a Friend’. Make it easy for them to share any offers or discounts that your newsletter may include!

7. Unsubscribe & Reminder
Let your reader know how they signed up to the newsletter and how they can un-subscribe. You might loose the odd subscriber but you need to ensure that they are able to un-subscribe to it.

That’s all! If you start applying these points to your email marketing campaigns you will see your open and click through rates start to rise.

About Toddle.com
Toddle.com is an award winning international email marketing agency that gives small business and non technical people the ability to create professional and simple email newsletter templates. Toddle has worked with many international companies such as Diageo, Riverdance and Harvard University.

In this era when startup founders are encouraged to fail fast, what is the role of startup learning?  I would argue that it is more important than ever to focus on execution. To do this effectively knowledge is key. Founders now have less time to learn the ropes. The average cycle to launch a startup is 4-6 months. During this period new founders are on a steep learning curve.  The answer is short pragmatic workshops focusing on the essentials and giving insights into the various stages of the startup process. The key areas that need coverage are;

- Business models and business planning

- Setting the company up, from a legal and accountancy perspective

- Execution including project management and product development.

These topics are best broken down to a series of approximately 10 ‘startup essential’ modules.

In summary, investment in startup learning gives new founders a head-start and helps avoid costly mistakes.  It is likely to improve the chance of success in a tough environment and will make the resulting startups more attractive to investors, team members and future customers.

Dreamstake www.dreamstake.com is Europe’s fastest growing platform for early stage internet startups. Our objective is to help build robust new businesses by providing access to knowledge, resources and funding. We run weekly Dreamstake Academy workshops as well as larger networking events at Google Campus. We also provide Startup Loans and access to angel investment.

We are keen to help European startups to get noticed by potential users, investors and the press.  We help by offering guest slots at our ‘startup stories’ events and welcome suggestions for guest blogs. Our unique rating system allows others to track progress of startups as they emerge.

 

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The London tech startup scene has changed a lot over the past couple of years.  The various parts of the eco-system have come together to create an environment that encourages founders to launch their startups in the UK.  However, the market is still very immature and there is a lot more to be done before we see a pipeline of truly great startup success stories.

In previous blogs I have covered the positive steps that the Government has taken to stimulate the market; SEIS, startup loans, entrepreneurs visa, patent box etc.  We are also early leaders in the democratisation of capital through various crowd-funding and platform initiatives. There is a lot to be optimistic about.

The debate has moved on and I would highlight a few areas that now need addressing;

  1. Stimulate more grass-roots activity – Entrepreneurialism is a numbers game.  The secret of Silicon Valley is the pure volume of founders, investors and mentors. The government needs to look at the education system and address the way it focuses on turning out bankers and corporate professionals rather than startup founders.
  2. Startup entrepreneurs need to rise to the challenge – Many of the traditional excuses for poor performance have been removed. Founders need to get serious and pay attention to creating startups that address real problems. They need to obsess around ‘product’ and proving product/market fit before seeking investment.
  3. Startups need to take centre-stage – In the absence of strong startups the other players in the eco-system have grabbed the limelight.  Government (TCIO), the tech press, conferences, accelerators and workspace providers have all played a role in creating a vibrant startup scene. However, this has highlighted a vacuum which needs to be filled by some ‘real’ startup activity. The eco-system players need to step back and showcase startups. The tech press is particularly poor in Europe. In Silicon Valley startups are ‘made’ by a constant stream of positive press coverage. In Europe, the press is much more circumspect.

In summary, we need to encourage a greater number of participants to launch and build startups, with more robust propositions and greater support from the rest of the eco-system. We need to remember that there is no startup scene without real startup stories. Success will breed success and young people will be encouraged to pursue an entrepreneurial career if they see others succeed. Let’s be more positive about the talent emerging from tech city and ensure it gets the recognition it deserves.

Dreamstake www.dreamstake.com is Europe’s fastest growing platform for early stage internet startups. Our objective is to help build robust new businesses by providing access to knowledge, resources and funding. We run weekly Dreamstake Academy workshops as well as larger networking events at Google Campus. We also provide Startup Loans and access to angel investment.

We are keen to help European startups to get noticed by potential users, investors and the press.  We help by offering guest slots at our ‘startup stories’ events and welcome suggestions for guest blogs. Our unique rating system allows others to track progress of startups as they emerge.