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An Introduction to Building A Startup

On Tuesday we held our first startup course at the Hub Westminster – over 40 attendees, 8 modules, tons of mini Mars bars, and lots of inspiring ideas about effective startup development. How did it go? Rob and I usually base our assessment of the day on attendee feedback…

“This was a really engaging, intellectually stimulating day! Probably one of the best “holidays” I’ve taken from work.”

“Just emailing to say thank you very much for yesterday. I found it really useful and feel like I can progress better with my idea because of it.”

“Personally – I am very glad I attended. I think surrounding yourself
with like-minded people is the way forward and I plan on going to as
many similar events as possible.”

“Covered all the bases in one day. I expect I’ll be referring back to what I took away for months, if not years to come.”

“A great day. Just hanging out with you guys makes things feel possible.”

“The best step to escape starts here! Go beyond the fear…”

“An excellent introduction in the basics of how to start your own business and effectively escape.”

“A great opportunity to keep the momentum going as I prepare for my escape and make it irreversible – in a positive way!”

We also got some constructive feedback around how we can improve the next session (on March 9thtickets still available): mainly, ‘streaming’ people more effectively so that they’re matched with people at a similar stage, making the room warmer (!) and including more detailed exercises (I’m taking all of this into consideration as I brief the speakers for the next session).

The slides are available here: http://www.slideshare.net/escapeco/startup-101final-16692195

As for what people learned – here’s an excerpt from one attendee’s notes. (You can also view the full prep book here.)

#1 Idea Generation (Adele)

  • Why pursue this idea? Clearly elicit what your motivations are before embarking. Vulnerability = crucial.
  • Read: Daring Greatly, The Lean Startup, Getting to Plan B.
  • ‘MVP’ is your minimum viable product: this is the first step.
  • Launchrock – allows you to setup a 1-page website to gauge interest before committing.
  • Google Analytics – allows you to assess views/statistics etc.

#2 Funding (Paul Grant)

  • Bootstrap before searching for angel funding – Paul runs the Funding Game workshop.
  • Key question to ask customers: “Why did you buy from us?”

#3 21st Century Marketing (Rob)

  • Vanity v. informative/practical metrics (more on vanity metrics here).
  • Really good brands willingly/knowingly exclude X customer segment.
  • Resources: Tribes book, Gary Vaynerchuck YouTube.
  • Funnels: v effective tools of analysing your business.
  • Startup metrics for Pirates
  • Viral coefficient allows you to measure virality

Ruta40 – Argentinian wine (Christian Rothhardt)

  • Build a Competitor Matrix as market research on any idea: spend 1 week doing market research, google, news, web. Within 1 week you will have a matrix of every competitor, similar business.

#4 Sales (Alex)

  • Pitch benefits, not features.
  • Find out where your customers hang out – trade fairs, small business community networks, etc. Become part of their conversations.
  • “Luck surface area” = the more you do, the luckier you become.
  • Resources: Drupal

#5 Balderton Capital (Harry)

  • Ideally: they like to invest in “disruptive” companies that are non-consensus, where business has a chance of building a moat around themselves.
  • When do you go to VC? When you actually need financial support. Usually to scale up, go international or for credibility.
  • What VC looks at in entrepreneur/idea/business: Are they exciting/exceptional people? Ahead of the pack? Does the prospect of getting involved excite them?
  • Resources: Y Combinator, seed accelerators

#6 Technology (New Bamboo)

  • DO NOT BUILD IT YOURSELF – you are founder/CEO, focus on that.
  • Early on maximize off the shelf solutions early on: WordPress, Trello, Wix, Moonfruit, shopify, hotglue.
  • Once you have tested your idea and used the basic platforms to gauge whether it is a viable idea/had some feedback suggesting it is worth pursuing, then look at external development.

#7 Songkick (David Anderson)

  • Career paralysis is like unripe avocadoes: middle-class problem
  • Hire your users: startup employees have be intrinsically motivated as early-stage startups often can’t compete for top performers through offering high salary.
  • Produce unique content

#8 Law

  • Incorporate your business as early as possible.
  • Set out a shareholders agreement straight away
  • Resources: BBAA website, Legal 365

#9 Accounting/Crunch

  • Crunch – the future of SME accounting. Prescription based service £60/mth, effectively stop accounting.