Archives for the month of: September, 2013

People generally like success. But it would be fair to say there are a lot of time-wasters out there who like to ride it on the back of someone else. I am pretty sure that on your journey to building a successful startup, you have encountered a few of these hot air blowers with no real fire. Let me show you a few scenarios in how to suss out these ‘baddies’ and how to spot them from a mile away.

They PRETEND to be an Investor.
These ‘wannabe dragons’ are often failures in denial. They approach you at a networking event with an ambiguous business card, claiming to be an investor. When you ask for funding their answer is ‘you are not investment ready and could do with their help’. They kindly offer to help in return for regular payments. But they turn out to have no money and fail to make a successful introduction. They lose you time, money and help you gain nothing other than one BIG disappointment.

They don’t have RELEVANT experience.
They ran a cardboard box business about 20 years ago. They maybe even worked for the Government as a Business Link advisor. Do not fall for this. You need a TECH STARTUP FOUNDER who has been there and done it before. Even a failed tech founder is of more help than a successful business man from a non-related sector.

They won’t share the RISK with you.
Getting paid is their priority over your business moving forward. They want you to pay them £1000 per month whether they deliver what they promised or not. A good mentor will have confidence and determination that they will help you to succeed. They should be prepared to help you in return for a stake in your success. This can take the form of a % of funding or even a small equity stake in your business.

They are OUT of touch.
They are not on Facebook or Twitter. They don’t use any apps. They stare at you blankly as if you are talking in another language. You need people who understand technology and the market, not dreamers full of smoke.

So keep your wits about you, plug in your AAA (Alert Awareness Antennas) and listen to your gut with good advice in your pockets. A bad mentor is worse than having none at all because they steer you in the wrong direction and even cost you money.
LEARN the skill of spotting such characters and KNOW how to stay clear from them. This will protect your business and lead you to a proper investor who is serious about your startup. Then you can start sharing your success with someone worthy who actually drives you forward!

Dreamstake provides end-to-end support for entrepreneurs wishing to get a startup funded in the shortest possible time. The startup rating system allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor progress. Dreamstake Academy provides guidance on how to create a successful startup. Dreamstake will link startups with suitable mentors and professional advisors.

Startups that have successfully achieved an acceptable rating will be given the opportunity to feature at monthly demo days and investor pitching events.

Pitching is a core skill that needs to be mastered by any entrepreneur. It demonstrates a clear vision and an understanding of how a business will succeed. You need to convey your idea in the most clear and concise way. From many years of experience, I would like to highlight 6 mistakes to avoid:

  •  Death by powerpoint: You will find that rattling through several slides is actually irritating to the listener. Presentations should cover the main points in as few of them as possible. Don’t defeat your own purpose by an overload! Work on an investment deck until it is word perfect. Focus on the story-board before filling in the body with supporting images and diagrams. Make sure it really gets the message across.
  • Over-complex idea: It should be possible to explain your idea to someone who knows very little about the subject. If you can’t describe the main proposition in a sentence or two then it is probably too complicated!
  • No market data: Be prepared to back up your claims with facts and figures. Investors are not there to hear a sales pitch and will see through you immediately. If you believe there is a massive market, give some figures to substantiate it. Be ready to be challenged and wrap yourself up in a safety net of strong answers.
  • Lack of financials: Trust me, you won’t get away without providing the headline financial data. It may be a guess, but you are in a better position to estimate this guess than anyone else. Back up your guesses with how you arrived at the stated figures or any assumptions you have made. Don’t pluck numbers out of the sky, be sensible – you know this already!
  • Poor delivery: Many great ideas will go nowhere because of a poorly delivered pitch. A pitch has to confidently convey what the listener needs to know. The idea, the market, the return on investment, how much investment is needed in return for how much equity. Practice your pitch at home and in front of an audience. Hone it until it is absolutely perfect. If you don’t feel confident, pay for some training. It is better than wasting months on unsuccessful investor meetings and clipping your own wings.
  • Don’t forget the team: Investors are really interested in you and your team. They want to know that their money is in safe hands. They can’t realistically judge your idea but they can see that you are capable and have the experience to see the idea through. It will give your potential investor confidence if they see you have trust from others. Highlight why they should back your team.

You might find yourself pitching both formally and informally to investors, customers and potential employees. These rules cover most types of pitching. Therefore getting the pitch perfect will improve your chance of securing investment, clients and attracting the best staff.

Dreamstake provides end-to-end support for entrepreneurs wishing to get a startup funded in the shortest possible time. The startup rating system allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor progress. Dreamstake Academy provides guidance on how to create a successful startup. Dreamstake will link startups with suitable mentors and professional advisors.Startups that have successfully achieved an acceptable rating will be given the opportunity to feature at monthly demo days and investor pitching events.

 

In designing the Dreamstake on-line accelerator we gave a lot of thought to how best deliver value to the startups on the platform. Although founders usually put funding top of their agenda, no-one will fund a startup that they don’t believe in.

The sad fact is that tech startups normally fail.  This is a hard to stomach but it is impossible to deny. Whilst, I would be the last person to discourage anyone from following their startup dream, I would prefer to challenge them harshly than let them create yet another failure. Tough love comes in many forms but it often starts with a question from the founder of a ‘hot’ new startup. ‘What do you think of my idea?’.  The worst thing to do at this point is to get too over-enthusiastic. This doesn’t help anyone. There are a whole lot of questions that will help shape the eventual offer and make sure the founder keeps on track;

  1. How are you going to make money?
  2. What problem are you solving?
  3. Do you have a team capable of delivering it?
  4. Is the market large enough?
  5. What have you done about it so far?
  6. What will you do next?
  7. Has anyone signed up?
  8. Isn’t someone already doing that?
  9. What’s different about your offer?
  10. Why are you the best person to deliver this?

These will all seem very harsh questions. However, they should be asked at every opportunity. They rarely do harm. Any founder who gives up without putting a robust argument is probably not cut out to be an entrepreneur. If they can’t answer all the questions they need to go away and figure it out.

Dreamstake provides end-to-end support for entrepreneurs wishing to get a startup funded in the shortest possible time. The startup rating system allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor progress. Dreamstake Academy provides guidance on how to create a successful startup. Dreamstake will link startups with suitable mentors and professional advisors.

Startups that have successfully achieved an acceptable rating will be given the opportunity to feature at monthly demo days and investor pitching events.

Is there really a typical day in startup land? I don’t think so! However, my days fall into a kind of pattern and I thought I would share with you all, what I am up to.

I get up at about 6.30am and make my way to Shoreditch.  If I get there early I will pop into Ozone for a coffee. I then make my way to Google Campus.  I try to get to Campus every morning because I want to meet up with startup founders in the cafe/co-working space. We also run more events at Campus than almost anyone else, so it is good to support them in any way we can.

Meetings with founders will normally involve a mix of mentoring and connecting. I will try to advise on topics within my own area of expertise and connect with others where I don’t know the answers. We run Dreamstake Academy on Monday evenings.  Here we provide opportunity to learn how to successfully launch a startup from the experts and it’s all free!

Between meetings, I will usually be checking the Dreamstake platform . I like to greet new members and review their startup profiles. This way i keep an eye on what’s hot.

I may find some time to do some event organisation.  This usually involves finding speakers or securing sponsorship.  I will liaise with Marina, our CMO, who posts the events and promotes them through social media. I will also touch base with our CTO, Ralph, to iron out any bugs or enhance the platform with new mods.

In the afternoon my attention may turn to our investment strategy. As an on-line accelerator we want to get the best startups on our platform funded. After they have been through Dreamstake Academy we will offer an opportunity to showcase their products at Google Campus.  We run events such as Friday Funding Forum with this objective.

There is still a shortage of seed capital available to UK startups.  There is a lot of hype about how schemes such as EIS and SEIS have made it more attractive to invest. However, many ‘tech’ investors are invested out at present. I am therefore spending a lot of time opening up new sources of angel investment.  We will be working closely with one or more associated funds to ensure that there will be funding available in future.

In the evening, I will often be either be running one of our own events or attending someone else’s.  If not I will catching up with my team.  On rare occasions I get home before 11pm and have time to go for a swim.

Dreamstake provides end-to-end support for entrepreneurs wishing to get a startup funded in the shortest possible time. The startup rating system allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor progress. Dreamstake Academy provides guidance on how to create a successful startup. Dreamstake will link startups with suitable mentors and professional advisors.

Startups that have successfully achieved an acceptable rating will be given the opportunity to feature at monthly demo days and investor pitching events.

Having just returned from  San Francisco I thought it a good time to take another look at the London tech startup scene and explores how it compares to Silicon Valley. In the past, I have noticed that any attempt to compare the two clusters results in a barrage of cries proclaiming ‘we shouldn’t be like Silicon Valley, we are different!’.

I have an alternative view. I believe we should take what works best in The Valley, play to our strengths and look to plug any gaps. I have written several recent blogs about why London ‘should’ be a great place to set up a startup. The Government has done a lot to make it highly attractive to set up here. It is time for startup founders to stop blaming the startup environment and look to themselves for the answers.  I would point to a number of soft issues that are holding us back;

  • Lack of ambition – We still suffer from a cultural problem with success. In Silicon Valley it is acceptable to aim high and let everyone know about it. Unless we raise our aspirations we will not create global businesses.
  • Poor work ethic – The London startup scene went to sleep this summer. Even during the other seasons there is a reluctance to give 100% . I guess this goes hand-in-hand with a view that success will be hard to find. There are still too many individuals playing at being startup founders, doing the rounds of networking events and never getting down to it.
  • Muddling through – This is a very English thing. If something can be done on the cheap, then we do it. However, There is a recognition in Silicon Valley that there is a right way to launch a startup. It involves following the best processes, employing the top people and consulting experts when needed. London startups are held back by a lack of professionalism.
  • Reluctance to take responsibility – London startup founders often blame the eco-system for lack of success. It is still difficult to get funding. However, professionally launched startups with good people and a sound business ideas will still find investment.

I am looking forward to the time when startup founders wake up to the fact that we can create great Silicon Valley type startups and that the future is in their own hands. Any new changes from the Government will only make an incremental difference. Recent initiatives such as Startup Loans, Growth Accelerator and Startup Vouchers are clutching at straws and have limited applicability to tech startups.

Therefore, if you have a great idea for a startup, show some self belief and invest in it. This means investing 100% of your own time, taking on the best team and doing things properly.

As always Dreamstake is committed to helping startup founders to help themselves.  We encourage ambition and professionalism through our academy and will introduce the best startups to investors. The summer is over and it is time to get down to creating some great success stories.

Dreamstake provides end-to-end support for entrepreneurs wishing to get a startup funded in the shortest possible time. The startup rating system allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor progress. Dreamstake Academy provides guidance on how to create a successful startup. Dreamstake will link startups with suitable mentors and professional advisors.

Startups that have successfully achieved an acceptable rating will be given the opportunity to feature at monthly demo days and investor pitching events.