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Bang on early start-up advice from Henry – Spoonfed & Bullseye Hub

The purpose of this post is to say a huge thank to you Henry from Spoonfed and Bullseye Hub for a really fantastic talk and Q&A at last night’s Esc Wednesday.

He gave some fantastic advice about starting up: product/market fit, business models, non-technical founders, advisors, teams, pivoting. The works.

Our Esc Wednesdays take place at the Adam Street Club – a home and support network for entrepreneurs and business-people.

Here is a quick summary of the best nuggets from my perspective. What have I missed? Please add what you learnt in the comments. Who else would you like to hear from at an Esc Wed?

Advice

In the early stages of your start-up your main decisions are likely to be hunch driven. Further down the line they will (and should) become data driven.

First and foremost, be incredibly focused on delivering product/market fit by working in a close relationship with your customers.

But always have a business model from the outset (for example, we’ll start charging at xyz points), even if you have to pivot in the process.

That said, be prepared for the way you make money to change as you grow. Be flexible on this front. Pivot!

You need millions of monthly users to make real money from traditional digital advertising. Don’t bank on this as your business model.

Share your idea. Get input. Unless you have a world-beating patent – talk about it. Obviously be careful with how early-stage you are and who you are talking to.

Try and have a ‘lean’ approach to getting your first product / version to market. Get it in front of potential customers with as little capital expenditure as possible.

Don’t speak ‘start-up’? Lean?! 1) Use open source software. 2) Agile development environment (test & tweak lots). 3) Customer driven dev (launch fast & iterate).

If you can prove demand, qualify the idea, and even get some early revenues then you’re in a much better position to raise money if that’s what you’re after.

Bootstrapping vs Investment debate. Depends on your business: some can’t get started without £££ and some you can get post-revenue & profitable by yourself.

Spreading the word for B2C start-ups (Spoonfed in Henry’s case) – organic search via Google is really strong for them.

Also important for spreading the word: social networking and building viral mechanisms into your product (check out Quora’s invite a friend).

Spreading the word for B2B start-ups (Bullseye Hub in Henry’s case) – inbound content marketing (teach your prospects), SEM, SEO, cold calling, free trials.

To assess your product/market fit… go to 10 big potential clients, tell them that you’re building relevant/useful, offer them a free trial in exchange for feedback.

Advisors: Find people who are passionate about what you’re doing and ask them for help. Informally at first. Go to DrinkTank, OpenSoho etc.

If you’re non-technical (you don’t write code/engineer stuff, etc) Henry strongly recommended finding a technical co-founder.

Where do you find programmers? Go to every grad fair / computer science department. There will be young coders and some will be entrepreneurial.

Have a co-founder of any sort: share the stress, pressure, and challenges. Evolve ideas together. As well as enjoying the victories and high-fives too!

During really early stages how can you motivate your first team members (the vision, equity, work for free to get a beta version)… how persuasive are you?!

Always be hiring. Once you’re growing, the quality of your team is paramount. Get to know the potential hire, go for a beer and see if they fit your culture.

The work space has a huge impact on productivity. Spoonfed found that putting the sales guys in a separate room to the coders had huge results.

Read. Everything. Anything relevant. (from Rob: we’ll shortly be doing a blog post on every site we read and every book we’ve read for start-ups).

Top recommendations from last night: Mark Suster, Eric Ries, Steve Blank. Who do you read who is good? Please add any good links below…

Other stuff…

As I mentioned last night, if you didn’t speak to someone last night who you wanted to just comment below and we’ll try and put you in touch. You can also use our Connections section to post up shout-outs.

Our next Esc Wednesday is with Tom Vernon, founder of Right to Dream, on May 11th. All our events are listed on this tab.

If you want to grab your ticket when they are announced, subscribe to the blog in your RSS or go to our main site and make sure you’re getting our Monday newsletter.

Have a great Easter break and thanks for helping to make last night such a good event.

  • http://www.doristime.com Pollyanne

    Brilliant Advice, honest and totally inspiring.

    If anyone does want to get in contact with me about running an area of Hooley Time – Active Events for Social People (new website launching on the 5th May!) in London or other parts of the UK, drop me an e mail at pa@doristime.com.
    This is a part time opportunity which would take up approximately 1 day a week with time out for nights out, weekends away and holidays.

    PA

  • http://www.thegreatdateguide.com Mary

    Hi Everyone,

    I just wanted to say thanks to the Escape the City team and to Henry for such an inspirational evening – it definitely gave me lots to think about!

    I set up and run a website called http://www.thegreatdateguide.com (a site designed to take the hassle out of organising a date in London) and I’d love to get any feedback from people on the website, and also any great tips on how to publicise a website on a shoe string!

    Thanks!

    Mary

  • Pingback: Be clear about the difference between business ideas versus business models « The Nurture Network