Archives for category: presentations

Lean has served the startup world well and is still applicable to 90% of technology startups. It was designed for high growth, low capital intensive startups as defined by the likes of Steve Blank. It has never been for everyone but I find that it is often ignored through laziness or in some cases pure arrogance.

I would now argue that lean will also be adapted over time. In the case of really simple startups, I would suggest we will see a kind of leaner than lean approach, where the tech has zero cost (wix etc.) and it is quicker to simply build a product to test both problem/solution and product/market simultaneously.

The second area is highly complex products. As we move towards more impactful use of tech building an MVP will not always be possible. This could include hardware, chips, drones, blockchain etc. For the time being I will still relate all startups to the lean stages but with an open-mind in the above situations.

Blog by Paul Dowling – Co-Founder of Dreamstake  the world’s first tech startup platform to match founders with the most appropriate investors using a unique startup rating system. This allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support when most needed. Startup founders can create profiles on the platform and get direct introductions to investors. We are constantly looking for great early stage tech startups. Investors please contact [email protected]

We have also recently launched an exclusive tech angel investment club in partnership with The Hoxton. HoxTech Angels will run invitation only angel investment evenings every month.

 

There is nothing very novel about claiming that we are currently in a startup bubble. For sure, the most likely cause for the bubble bursting in the UK is a knock-on consequence of it happening in the US.  The same thing happened with the last dot.com bubble in 2001. However, has the UK Government created unique circumstances with their current strategy towards investors and startups? And should The Government be doing more to avoid a similar disaster?

The SEIS scheme has been very useful in stimulating investment in early stage startups. There can be little criticism of a scheme that offsets some of the considerable risk taken by individual investors. However, as usual, the accountants have found ways to use the tax break in ways in which it wasn’t intended. In my opinion, most SEIS funds are a bad thing. They attract investors who are only interested in the tax breaks and have little interest in the underlying success of the startups. These funds have to make a lot of investments within each tax year to fulfil their commitment to their investors. They make high charges on both the investors and often on the startups themselves. This means that they can only attract founders who are desperate. Any investment vehicle where the tax breaks are more important than the underlying fundamentals can only be a bad thing. The availability of capital for low grade startups is inflating valuations and undermining the market.

The second questionable trend is the emergence of equity crowdfunding as a mainstream activity in the UK.  The US Government has quite rightly been cautious in allowing this form of crowdfunding. The availability of capital from crowdfunding is increasing the valuations on sub-prime startups, which is the recipe for a bubble. Crowdfunding attracts startups that would not normally be able to secure angel investment. The terms on these platforms are more hostile to investors which is a deterrent to more experienced angels. Less experienced investors are unlikely to fully understand the importance of diversifying risk across multiple startups and are less likely to carry out thorough due diligence.

The two trends, noted above, both lead to a greater availability of dumb money into a poorer pool of businesses. The Government should clamp down on SEIS funds and make sure that equity crowdfunding is very closely regulated. They should also do more to encourage more conventional forms of startups investment.

Blog by Paul Dowling – Co-Founder of Dreamstake  the world’s first tech startup platform to match founders with the most appropriate investors using a unique startup rating system. This allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support when most needed. Startup founders can create profiles on the platform and get direct introductions to investors. We are constantly looking for great early stage tech startups. Investors please contact [email protected]

We have also recently launched an exclusive tech angel investment club in partnership with The Hoxton. HoxTech Angels will run invitation only angel investment evenings every last Monday of the month.

 

laserStartup founders are like elite athletes. They drive hard to acheive high performance or they don’t make the grade. We all know that the chances of survival for an early stage tech startup are extremely slim. The only way to improve the odds is to focus 100% on doing the right things. You need to do more than just read The Lean Startup. You can apply similar principles to every aspect of the business. We have helped over 500 startups over the past 3 years and have found that the following tips can make the difference between failure and success;

  • Do you have what it takes? - Are you the type of person who can focus 100% on one thing? Are you able to work 70 hour weeks for months on end. Great founders do not have to be academically accomplished. They do need to be able follow a vision with single minded passion and execute their ideas effectively. Founders should look very carefully at themselves and decide if this is what they want. Remember there is no safety net and no opportunity to take your foot off the gas.
  • Take on focused people - It’s no good being the only one in the team that is prepared to work. Find people who are equally committed and will share in the pain. Look for people who are better than you and who can complement your skills. There is no room for ego’s, either theirs or yours. The team needs to focus on getting the job done in the most effective way possible. Look for good product, UX and technical people who will keep the startup on course and make sure that their rewards are aligned to achieving a successful outcome.
  • Follow the right advice - Accurate and focused advice is like gold-dust but it is often extremely hard to access. Poor advice is worse than no advice at all. Start by accessing reputable online sources such as Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Paul Graham and David Rose. Don’t spend too much time on conceptual works like Crossing the Chasm. Remember this is all about focusing on practical solutions. Look for advisors with deep sector or technical knowledge but watch out for ‘consultants’ who may not be up-to-date with current business models or technology. Be very hard on potential advisors, even if they come through a programme such as an accelerator. Who you listen too is extremely important. It’s always a good idea to engage with people who have been there and done it before.
  • Keep the product simple – Products are becoming simpler. Uber, Airbnb and snapchat are all single function tools designed to solve easily identifiable problems. The Lean Startup helps here. Make sure you are solving a real issue that other people agree is a problem and will pay to solve. Obsess on this and validate rigorously with an MVP until you have a business model that works. If you can’t find one, fail fast and go back to the drawing board. Don’t pump capital into an idea that hasn’t been thoroughly tested.
  • Practice lean funding – Narrow down your routes to funding. Most founders spend months talking to investors who are never going to invest. Understand who is right for the stage you are at and has the right sector focus. Make sure you are talking to real investors and not consultants. Check that angels are currently investing and not invested out.

So do a startup effectively is all about keeping it as simple as possible. Strip down everything to the raw essentials and focus on these at all times. Avoid scope-creep where nice-to-have functions take over from the core propositions. Don’t engage in protracted partnership discussions during the early phases and be generally cautious  about offering meetings unless they get you closer to achieving your immediate goals. It’s easy to be be flattered into taking a meeting but it often takes your eye off the ball. Maintaining laser sharp focus for you and your team will greatly improve your chances of startup success.

Blog by Paul Dowling – Co-Founder of Dreamstake  the world’s first tech startup platform to match founders with the most appropriate investors using a unique startup rating system. This allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support when most needed. Startup founders can create profiles on the platform and get direct introductions to investors. We are constantly looking for great early stage tech startups. Investors please contact [email protected]

We have also recently launched an exclusive tech angel investment club in partnership with The Hoxton. HoxTech Angels will run invitation only angel investment evenings every last Monday of the month.

 

 

 

Angel investment is the biggest source of early stage capital for early stage tech startups.  Angels are generally high net worth individuals who want to put a proportion of their wealth into funding entrepreneurial businesses. They have a number of motivations including financial, intellectual stimulus and entertainment. It is crucial to understand how to interact with this important group. Following these tips will improve your chance of receiving the investment you seek and closing your funding round as rapidly as possible;

Make sure you are investment ready – It is now rarely possible to obtain investment for idea. Investors have a choice. They would rather reduce their risk by investing in a strong team than simply a good concept. Make sure that you can prove product/market fit before approaching angels.

Have a great investor pack – The central document is the pitch deck. This needs to clearly convey the proposition. Investors receive large number of pitch decks every week. Only the very best will stand out and get their attention. Make sure that the key points are covered in the most concise way possible. Dave McClure of 500 Startups has produced a good template deck to use as a guide. You will also need a one or two page executive summary. This can be sent in an email to stimulate initial interest.

Be realistic about valuation – Angels will see it as a sign of naivety if you seriously over-value your startup. The valuation of startups prior to revenue generation is tricky but you can look at how other companies are valued at a similar stage and use this as a guide. You should be able to back up your valuation with data.

Research your potential angels – You can find a lot of information online on platforms such as linkedin. The objective is to determine whether you are dealing with a genuine angel or a consultant. Once you are sure you have a real angel you will need to check that they are currently active, what they invest in and how much they generally invest. It is often a good idea to ask these questions directly. Most genuine angels will be happy to answer with relatively detailed answers.

Let everyone know that you are fundraising – Get the word out that you are fundraising. Word of mouth is very powerful. Although it is important to let people know that you looking for funding, don’t bombard everyone with pitch decks or exec summaries. Save these for the angels that you know will be interested in your specific proposition.

Understand how angels work – Most angels invest in groups and put relatively small amounts of investment into a large number of opportunities. Although you might be lucky and get a single angel to invest the full amount, this is extremely rare. It is therefore important to tap into existing networks of angels who will trust each others judgement in backing your startup.

Find a lead angel – It is very important to find an angel who will lead your funding round. This angel will help set the term-sheet and will take some of the burden of dealing with multiple investors. Pick someone who brings credibility with their reputation in your sector. They will also often bring an established network of contacts, including co-investors and potential clients

Use multiple channels - Explore all the obvious channels. These can include angel networks, funding platforms and successful entrepreneurs who have sold businesses in your sector.

Get referred – It is often easier to approach a potential angel through a trusted third party than directly. Angels are often sitting on a large pile of business plans and look to third parties to filter the best deals for them.

Ask for advice - It is a truism that; ‘ask for investment and you will get advice and if you ask for advice you will get investment’. The indirect approach is often more engaging and will usually deliver better results. Follow this approach with potential investors who you have met at networking events or with cold emails.

Remember that angels are just normal people. They come in all shapes and sizes and from a very wide range of backgrounds. Try to find out what really excites them. Many are ex-entrepreneurs who what to stay connected with the latest innovations and enjoy the thrill of investing with friends and colleagues. You will greatly increase your chance of getting investment by understanding their drivers and adjusting your approach accordingly.

Blog by Paul Dowling – Co-Founder of Dreamstake  the world’s first tech startup platform to match founders with the most appropriate investors using a unique startup rating system. This allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support when most needed. Startup founders can create profiles on the platform and get direct introductions to investors. We are constantly looking for great early stage tech startups. Investors please contact [email protected]

We have also recently launched an exclusive tech angel investment club in partnership with The Hoxton. HoxTech Angels will run invitation only angel investment evenings every last Monday of the month.

 

 

 

Video is a great way to showcase a product or service and to create a visually stimulating overview of the benefits your startup is trying to sell. We are all used to video based content being a linear experience focusing on presentation rather than personalisation. I’m a filmmaker by trade and interested in the versatility of moving images. 

With increasing popularity of a new involvement driven film genre known through the work of Digital Media Company Interlude, producers are looking for new ways of curating content. This has opened exciting opportunities for customer engagement and introduces consumers to ‘A New World of Storytelling’, as phrased on the Interlude home gage.

Dive into the world of interactive storytelling by switching between a shopping TV presenter and a random guy on the bus signing Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ http://video.bobdylan.com/ or choose your favourite L’Oreal hair style http://www.lorealparisusa.com/en/Beauty-Library/Tools/Choose-Your-Style.aspx

Keep it Brief, Clear and Relevant 

Video is clearly moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach. So, why force a potential customer to watch a 3 to 5 minute video about your company’s entire product range? I presume that you would gain more user insight by knowing what product or service your customers are most interested? 

A New ‘Pirate Metrics’ to Measure the Success of your Products

I’m the founder of two startups, which both explore innovation around video production and delivery. My latest business idea is a video-authoring environment that enables to easily create interactive, user driven product videos with embedded analytics. Based on the assumption that businesses do not just want to find out how many people have watched their website video, we propose a meaningful metrics around video for measuring user engagement.

Our aim as business owners is to deepen the relationship with our customers and to make sure they return. The answer is easy! Interactive video provides opportunities for social media referrals and can encourage instant reaction. Rather than separating the action from the context, the call to react could be embedded in the story by asking the viewer to buy an item now, to watch a scene that provides more information or to view a related product. 

Storytelling Marketing and Context Based E-commerce

This introduces a new way of visual storytelling marketing and context-based e-commerce. Why not ask your customers to vote for their favourite colour or version of your product? Why not test a new product line through a video story? Or ask your users to send videos of themselves using your product? An interactive authoring tool would enable you to easily use crowd-sourced footage to provide another viewpoint, which audiences could switch to. 

Help us now to get a better understanding of how startups use product videos by completing our brief survey and get the opportunity to win a free interactive pilot video.  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PHN6MSN. We will select 3 participants, for which we will produce a short interactive product video. 

 

Post by Melanie Moeller – Founder of Sophrosyne Productions and Digital Media, a startup that develops cutting edge solutions that combine film and technology to create new media formats. [email protected]

Besides her background in media production, Melanie also has experience working in software development (BBC News and BBC IPLayer) and has been involved with teaching and training for more than 6 years. She regularly runs workshops, facilitates creative sessions and gives guest lectures at universities in the UK and abroad.

 

Tech startups definitely need high levels of support in the early days.  At the very least they must have a place to work, some good advice from experienced mentors and access to capital. However, this presents a conundrum that many have tried to solve in the past. How do you help promising startups before they start generating revenues to pay the bills?  VCs have often been portrayed as the villains of the piece. However, the good ones make their terms clear and have been behind the success of many great startups. They are a highly valuable part of the startup eco-system.

Here are some less obvious sharks;

- ‘Startup friendly’ workspaces – It is highly valuable for startups to co-work. This enables them to share ideas and resources. However, it pays to remember that property people will squeeze the greatest possible revenue from every square foot of of office space. Most co-working spaces in London are unsuitable for pre-funded startups. Check the small print as they either offer relatively high desk rental or unrealistic fair usage rules. It may be far more practical to camp out in the office of a more mature startup.

- Consultants dressed up as investors – Check on who is offering you advice at networking events. If they claim to be an investor ask how much they are able to invest and give examples of past investments. If they offer a coffee to discuss your startup, check their linkedin profile before agreeing, otherwise you will find that they will next ask for fees.

- Unsuitable Accelerator Programs - Y-combinator and Techstars have both had a positive impact on the startup scene. In the right circumstances accelerators can still be useful. However, look carefully at their terms and success record and choose one that has successfully secured high levels of funding for their cohorts.

- Tech conferences – The big tech conferences are aimed at corporate folk with plenty of cash to pay the entry fee. They try to lure startups with the promise that they will meet investors. If you can afford $2000 to watch Mark Zuckerberg then go ahead but if you expect to meet investors for your early stage startup, think again.

- PR agencies - These are rarely a good idea for startups before they are ready to scale and have significant investment. Agencies will not link their fees to performance. Paying a monthly retainer with little chance of success is a bad idea.

There are a lot of well-meaning supporters in the startup eco-system but do remember that everyone has their own motive for helping. The good guys will defer their fees until the startup starts to achieve success or even provide sponsorship. Make use of free resources and bootstrap like crazy until you are sure you are ready to scale.

Blog by Paul Dowling – Co-Founder of Dreamstake  an online tech startup platform that matches founders with the most appropriate investors. The unique startup rating system allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support when it will make the most impact.

 

 

Over the last 10 years some great minds have turned their attention to the challenge of how to create tech startups in a repeatable way. Many of these have looked towards Silicon Valley for answers. Paul Graham and others in SV came up with the accelerator model which has now spread across the globe. The success of Y-combinator has lead to the proliferation of European accelerators based on the same model, but failing to deliver comparable results as in Silicon Valley.

I believe there are several issues with the current accelerator model:

- Do accelerators recruit enough quality startups into cohorts?

The cohort system seems to work against accelerators.  Recent programmes have struggled to find enough quality startups at the right stage in their development. Startups can only be accelerated effectively between the stages of problem/solution and product/market fit. Beyond this they have developed their ideas too far to help.

- Do accelerators really deliver results?

Most accelerator programmes focus on their ability to deliver quality mentoring. However, there simply are not enough experienced mentors out there. We cannot hope to emulate The Valley with its large number of internet millionaires from earlier IPO’s .  Instead our accelerator programmes fall back on bankers and other professionals who have never been involved in tech startups before. This does more harm than good.

- Why are they going niche?

Okay, to solve these problems why not go niche? Let’s all jump on the same bandwagon! Aren’t FinTech accelerators an oxymoron? They are heavily sponsored by banks and other financial institutions who can’t fail to negatively influence outcomes. Can an accelerator run by Barclays Bank really create startups capable of disrupting the banking industry?

- Whats the real value?

The reducing cost of tech has made it much easier for startups to get to product/market fit without involvement in a programme. There is also far greater access to early stage capital from other sources. Startups with strong propositions and good teams are sending out the wrong signals by signing up for second rate accelerators.  They are also throwing away equity for little or no return.

The availability of a early stage capital through accelerators, crowd-funding and the startup loans scheme is causing a problem further downstream. These initiatives are stimulating the formation of startups that can’t hope to attract later-stage investment.

- So what is the answer?

The startup market has changed. Quality startups need linking with smart investors very early on. Luckily internet platforms are able to do this.  Dreamstake in Europe and Angellist in the US are a good way to get investment from quality sources and ensure continuity. Startups benefit from a light touch. This means offering the appropriate level of funding and support exactly when it is required, on an ongoing basis.  Accelerators are unable to do this. Platforms such as Dreamstake can!

Blog by Paul Dowling – Co-Founder of Dreamstake  an online network, that provides end-to-end support for entrepreneurs wishing to get a tech startup funded in the shortest possible time. The startup rating system allows entrepreneurs and investors to monitor startup progress and inject capital and support at the appropriate time.

 

I attended the recent Product Camp #PCampLDN. As well as being impressed with the great ‘unconference’ format I was struck by the growing importance of product management for early stage startups. It appears that tech startups continue to get simpler. Many offer single functionality addressing one particular business need in an elegant and simple way. Snapchat, Tinder, Uber, TaskRabbit, Hailo and YPlan are all examples of propositions that offer the consumer a very simple UX.

We will also see the enterprise software market transformed by the emergence of disruptive startups with very simple UX/UI.  In fact, in many cases the UX will be the USP for these products. Enterprise employees are becoming accustomed to using elegant consumer apps. and will demand the same in the workplace.

All this means that the product manager, who ensures that technology, UX and business needs are aligned, will become a far more important part of the startup team. The challenge is that early stage startups have to chose between a product manager and a CTO, which is a difficult choice.

In the early days of the startup a compromise has to be made which will probably mean that the product management function has to be split between the CEO and the CTO, with additional support from UX/UI designers in the team. However, it is surely important to bring in dedicated product management stills as early in the process as possible. This will largely be down to budget.

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.

 

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.

We were recently asked to reiterate what Dreamstake was all about. The answer is really quite simple: we want to see Europe create more great tech startups. So here is a reminder about what we truly care about:

  1. We want to support startups with big plans. This means those with scalable business models, those who can disrupt industries in order to make positive changes to the world we live in.
  2. We care about the engineers, because we believe that they are crucial to building innovative businesses. We prefer teams which appreciate the importance of technology.
  3. We support all the change that is happening in the seed funding world. We are advocates of crowd funding and other funding platforms, particularly those which bring about greater access to capital in a responsible way.
  4. We want to make it attractive for investors to invest in early-stage tech startups. We do this by rating all startups on the platform and by providing ongoing support to all of those who already receive funding through our processes.
  5. We believe that European startups aren’t being served well by the current media channels. There are too many rip-off conferences and negative press. We want to provide alternative ways for startups to get the word out, by providing free demo days and social media coverage.

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.