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Building a successful tech startup is extremely hard.  There are millions of apps out there and even if you have an amazing product it is hard to get discovered. The secret is; use your unfair advantage!

Unfair advantages come in many forms. You may have a particular skill such as being the world expert in image recognition. This skill will allow you to come up with something unique and will make it extremely hard for others to copy.  Or you may have a massive following as a fashion blogger or have some unique contacts in your chosen industry. For example, celebrity endorsement can be the fast way to success.  Imagine having a pop -star pushing your music app or an ‘A’ lister pushing your film app. These contacts are worth their weight in gold.  Without them you will simply get lost in the noise.

Another type of unfair advantage is having done it before. Second time entrepreneurs have a great advantage. They know the ropes and find it easier to get investment.

Unfair advantages are often called USP’s or Unique Selling Points. I would go as far as saying that if you don’t have a USP don’t start in the first place. Creating a successful business is largely about exploiting our unfair advantages to tackle a problem or create an opportunity. However, if we search hard enough we will often find an unfair advantage that we can use to get our idea out there.

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.

acccYou may have noticed the subtly changing UX of the Dreamstake platform. This is because we are re-positioning our offer to address some of the funding issues facing startups in Europe.

Early stage tech startups are increasingly following a specific path to get to market. This normally involves following at least some aspects of the lean startup methodology. Many startup founders start by building a prototype (MVP) and strive to achieve product/market fit before seeking investment and scaling on a global basis.

It has long been recognised that simple VC type funds are inadequate in supporting very early stage startups because they are unable to provide enough support.  Various incubator and accelerator models emerged to try to address this issue.  Incubators evolved through academic and governmental institutions and provide workspace, professional support and access to seed funding. Unfortunately, they have mostly underperformed because there has been a lack of incentive to be ruthless in moving failing ventures up or out.

Accelerators are normally privately funded and take a more performance oriented view. Most are roughly based on the Y-Combinator model which has been highly successful in creating some great success stories. However, Y-combinator has very special advantages associated with their Silicon Valley location, which cannot be simply replicated elsewhere. Many pale imitations have been cloned.

Dreamstake recognises that the internet has the potential to revolutionise early stage funding in much the way it has other industries.  An online accelerator solution offers many advantages;

  • More scaleable – Most physical incubators/accelerators are based on small cohorts that are limited in the numbers they can accommodate. They are also based in fixed locations. An on-line solution has no such limitations.
  • More time sensitive – Physical incubators/accelerators work on a set timescale. This may not coincide with the readiness of the startup.
  • More effective- An on-line accelerator such as Dreamstake incorporates a rating algorithm which allows the tracking of startups throughout the process.  This makes investment decisions easier and more reliable.

The Dreamstake on-line accelerator is the first of it’s kind and has been evolving for the past couple of years. Next January we will enter a new phase as we build new funding options into the business model. We believe that we have a unique solution for European tech startups that will bring higher levels of support and greater access to funding than previous solutions.

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.

 

Haven’t we all been to a startup networking event and met someone who tells you that their ‘great’ idea is going to change the world? You stand and listen to their ambitious claims for a few minutes to realise that they haven’t even done their homework. The idea isn’t new or it simply won’t work. Soon, it transpires that they have done no market research yet still expect to find a co-founder.
Surely these guys are just deluding themselves and not only are they wasting their own time, but also everyone else’s. Here are a few ways to spot the ‘dreamers’:
‘I have a unique idea’ – Let’s face it, there are 7 billion people on our planet. It is highly unlikely that any idea is unique. If you look at the stats, many of the most successful startups did not have unique propositions. It’s the implementing of the idea what matters.
 ’I have 8 other great ideas’ – A variation of the above. Steer clear. It is difficult enough to make one idea happen. More than one spells lack of focus and not 100% passion.
‘Where are the beers?’ – Beware of ‘entrepreneurs’ who only attend networking events for free booze. They are free-loaders not entrepreneurs. It’s the content of the event, that should attract real entrepreneurs, not free beers.
‘I can’t tell you anything’ – We are in ‘stealth mode’. This generally means they haven’t worked out what they are doing and are too embarrassed to admit it.
 ’My website is under construction’ – It’s fine to have a landing page for a couple of months. But it’s not okay to have a site under construction for 6 months. How difficult is it to build a website these days?
 ’I have a fixie bike’ – Having a fixie bike, a cool beard or moustache may make you a hipster but it doesn’t make you a startup founder. There are quite a lot of these species roaming the streets of Shoreditch. Good to hangout with. Bad to invest in.
 ’I only need £1M’ – Asking for unrealistic amounts of money at an early stage is a sign of naivety and sends out warning signs. Look for entrepreneurs who look for funding that is appropriate to what they need to get them to the next stage.
 ’I have been working for IBM’ – …for 20 years. Working for a corporate company, however innovative, is not entrepreneurial. Being a rebel in a corporate world is still not being entrepreneurial. It is just being rebellious. Working for a bank is definitely not being entrepreneurial, however much you embrace innovation.
 ’My mum told me it would work’ – The best validation for an idea is proof that someone will buy it. This can be achieved by creating an MVP. Then you can prove to your mum and everyone else that you have something tangible and worth investing in.

I hope this will help you spot the ‘true’ entrepreneurs and you can use this as a guide to ‘sift out’ the sensible ones from the dreamers. These are people with a good idea, a plan of action and hopefully some traction. Generally, these are also serious folks who have already accepted that they will need to take risks to pursue their passion.
We love ‘real’ entrepreneurs and are always on the lookout for the very best!

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.

Despite the wealth of avenues towards achieving success, the failure rate for tech startups is still far too high. There have been many attempts at tackling this challenge: accelerators, incubators and academies all provide support and are emerging in most developed economies.

However, what elements of support do startups really need?

  1. Knowledge – How does the founder tap into the existing knowledge base?  Learning can either be delivered en-mass or individually. It must be appropriate to the challenges that the startup is facing and provided at the right time. Generic information on legal and accounting issues is useful.  However, founders also need startup specific information on process (often lean).  This can range from developing a business model through to PR and marketing. This knowledge should be delivered by individuals who really understand tech startups.
  2. Connections – Startup founders can gain a lot from being connected with the right people. This can be team members, experts or investors.
  3. Goal setting- Momentum is important. It is vital to get to market quickly and get feedback from consumers. Delay costs money and risks the competition stealing an advantage. A good mentor can set deadlines and make sure they are kept too.
  4. Funding – Searching for funding is an incredibly time consuming activity. It is vital that the startup is ready for investment before starting the search for appropriate sources. Individuals with previous experience of successfully obtaining funding for a startup can really add value by helping to judge whether the startup is ready and who to approach. The angel investor community is very opaque and difficult to understand.  Investors need to be attracted either one-to-one or through closed events.
  5. Exposure – Startups need to be discovered.  In Silicon Valley the tech press does a great job of promoting the latest hot startup.  In the rest of the world, startups get a poor deal from the press. Startups can be exposed at events and on platforms.

Accelerating the success of startups depends on efficiently delivering initiatives that address the above points. It is an intense process which requires openness and dedication from all those involved.

The founder has to have confidence in the advice he is receiving and act on it in a timely way.

Advisors need in-depth knowledge of the challenge being faced and should avoid advising when they don’t understand the issues being faced. Poor advise does more harm than good.

If you are thinking about doing a startup think carefully about how you can get support.  It will increase your chance of success and avoid costly mistakes.

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 investor 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.

 

 

 

I have been working with entrepreneurs for a few years now and was wondering how to spot the winners. Investors put a lot of emphasis on the quality of the founder team. This is backed up by research that suggests that team quality is the single most important factor for startup success. I believe that behind every great startup team is an individual with the drive and vision to lead it to success.

So who are those crazy people who will change the world we live in?  Are they really different from everyone else?  Do you have what it takes to join them?  Do you want to know who to back with your investment?

I have noticed that entrepreneurs have special qualitities. These qualities explain why they are successful and make it easier to spot the winners. They are:

  1. Highly focused – Top startup founders are obsessed with achieving milestones. They are not interested in spending months defining strategy and would rather get on with execution.
  2. Inspirational – Good entrepreneurs have a clear vision of where they are heading and are good at conveying this to their team and advisers.
  3. Risk taking – It is impossible to launch a startup without taking a risk. The average person is unwilling to risk everything to achieve a dream. Entrepreneurs are people who will risk everything to do what they believe in.
  4. Optimistic – you will rarely meet a pessimistic entrepreneur.  They believe in their ideas and will defend them against people who don’t necessarily agree with them.
  5. Energetic – Buildng a startup is exhausting.  17 hour days, no weekends or holidays.  Work/life balance goes out of the window. Entrepreneurs have to be fit and healthy and have a massive appetite for work. This really is not an option. With only a 2 out 10 chance of success, taking the foot off the pedal spells failure.
  6. Resilient – Every entrepreneur will face doubt on a daily basis.  Other people will challenge their sanity and find numerous reasons why their ideas will fail. However, it is important to keep going and not lose sight of the  original vision.
  7. Creative – Being a entrepreneur is like being an artist.  Entrepreneurs are always looking for new ways to solve problems or even finding new problems to solve. They have the vision to challenge conventional thinking and disrupt current business models.
  8. Crazy – It definitely helps to be slightly crazy!  Why else would anyone pursue incredible dreams with little chance of success, whilst everyone else is coasting through a career at a bank or legal firm.  Entrepreneurs are usually people who have other options in life but chose to follow their heart because they want to make an impact.

So don’t be too influenced by what you see on TV. Entrepreneurs are not chancers who are simply good at sales and marketing. It is all about hard work and a strong desire to achieve fulfillment whilst doing something worthwhile in life. Most people are not cut out for this.  However, if you are, it is the most satisfying way to earn a living. Don’t embark on an entrepreneurial career until you know you are ready but when you are, give it everything you have got.

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 investor 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.

 

As the founder of an early stage tech startup you will be searching for funding from a relatively small pool of investors. It is therefore crucial to prepare well and make the best of any opportunity. Here are a few common sense tips to improve the chance of successfully obtaining funding from angels:

  1. Understand their investment criteria – Investors are not a homogeneous group.  They have diverse interests. Only a tiny minority will be interested in tech startups and even these will often have additional investment criteria. Many will only invest in specific sub-sectors such as mobile, B2B or consumer internet. They may also only provide funding within certain tightly defined investment bands. It is important to understand all this before approaching angels. Otherwise, you will be wasting their time and yours.
  2. Remember angels are spoiled for choice – Imagine the investor that you are trying to meet,  has already got a big pile of business plans on his desk. Make sure that your business plan is concise, well written and addresses all major questions.
  3. Make sure you are ready – These days investors expect you to have tested your proposition before seeking investment. This means creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and demonstrating that people are prepared to pay for the service on offer. This is called, achieving Product/Market fit.
  4. Get an Introduction – Investors like to obtain introductions from trusted third parties. This saves them time as it avoids the need to go through masses of business plans from unknown sources.
  5. Learn how to pitch – It doesn’t matter how good your startup is, if you can’t communicate it in a clear way. This means delivering a great pitch that clearly addresses all likely questions about team, proposition, market, financials and investment requirements. It is also essential to rehearse your pitch and make sure any technology that you are going to use is working correctly.

Remember, that angels are simply people with money to invest.  They are taking a high risk with their own cash. Anything you can do to reduce this risk and demonstrate your credibility will increase your chance of success. Make sure you research each angel well and understand what they are looking for. Clearly demonstrate that you understand their requirements and address any likely concerns through a clearly communicated business plan or pitch. These steps will reduce the time it takes to get the funds you are looking for and allow you to get on with running your business.

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 investor 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.

moneyMost early stage tech startups require seed funding at some point. This usually takes the form of angel investment or crowdfunding. Either of these two options will take considerable time and effort to achieve a successful conclusion. This presents a risk as the founding team can easily lose focus. Dreamstake provide funding support throughout the entire funding process:

Preparation – Startups need to reach a certain level of maturity before seeking investment. Dreamstake Academy provides the basic knowledge required to launch a successful tech business. The syllabus covers business modelling, business planning, product development, legal and commercial and a range of other topics.

  1. Loans – Some businesses will require a small injection of capital to build a prototype or produce marketing material. Dreamstake can provide Government backed Startup Loans.
  2. Communications – Many funding rounds fail because startup team is unable to communicate their proposition. Dreamstake provides pitch training and a platform to showcase each new venture.
  3. Mentoring – It is essential to find mentors that clearly understand the tech startup process and can add value with specific domain experience. It is also useful for the founding team to be able to tap into deal making skills.
  4. Connecting with investors – The whole tech funding scene is very opaque. There are investors who do not wish to be identified and advisors who will pretend to have money to win clients. Dreamstake is building a database of ‘real’ investors and provide them with validated opportunities. We are able to introduce startup founders to investors one-to-one or at monthly funding forums.
  5. Tracking progress – The Dreamstake platform automatically tracks startup progress with a unique rating algorithm.  This helps identify what has to be done to prepare the business for funding and flags when investment ready.

Raising funding is a complicated and time consuming activity. Accelerators and incubators have proliferated but are highly selective and expect founder and team to give up their day job. Dreamstake democratizes the process by providing a platform to a broader audience and nurturing on a larger scale. We believe this approach to be unique and welcome new members to give it a try.

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 investor 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.

Over the last year in the UK new funding options have emerged. The Startup Loan scheme provides loans of up to £10K to individuals based in England. However, there have been questions about how suitable loans are for early stage businesses.

Loans have to be offered responsibly because unlike grants or angel investment they have to be paid back whether or not the startup succeeds. The key steps to avoid problems are:

  1. Quality over quantity – Providers should avoid being driven by targets. Marketing the scheme should be handled in an intelligent way, hence over-aggressive marketing must be avoided at all costs. Hyping the scheme and dealing with applications en-mass is dangerous.
  2. Understand startups -All applicants should be vetted one-to-one by individuals who have the knowledge to make professional judgements about the business plan and the individual. Responsible decisions should be based on the validity of the idea and the individual’s ability to repay the loan.
  3. Link loans to outcomes – Loans should be linked to achieving specific milestones. A £10K loan will often be enough for a prototype to be built that is necessary to achieve revenues or attract follow-on investment.
  4. Provide professional backup – Early stage businesses have a very high failure rate. A strong platform should be provided to give continuous support throughout the early stages of the new venture.

In summary, Startup Loans are a viable option for early stage businesses.  However, applicants should go into the scheme with both eyes open and the intention to make repayments on time. Providers should act responsibly and avoid hyping the scheme and should always put the interests of the individual first.

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 investor 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.