Last night 60 Escape the City members came together for an Escape School event at Bathtub 2 Boardroom in Bank, London, to hear Matt Lane talk his experiences leaving the world of corporate marketing, IT and telecoms for his own startup – Beerbods.
Beerbods is a craft beer subscription service and community. They send their subscribers 12 beers in the post every 12 weeks and charge them £36.
Matt spent the first 18 months of his startup juggling first a full-time job, then a part-time job, then consulting gigs in order to pay the bills whilst getting the business off the ground. He then broke the world record for the fastest ever (equity) crowdfunding success, raising £151,490 in 36 hours on Crowdcube.
His talk last night was fantastic: honest and passionate. It was particularly great to hear from someone who is in the process of building their business. Matt made no claim to be an expert – but wow did he have some great thoughts and insights to share with us.
Advice from the trenches – my notes
1. When casting around for a business idea Matt asked himself a couple of questions: 1) What am I passionate enough about to want to do it really really well? 2) What is my big idea?
2. At the Do Lectures in Wales he subsequently discovered that it was more about a culmination of small ideas than one big thunderbolt moment.
3. He then wrote a really long list of all the things he figured he would have to do to get his business off the ground (see image). After writing it he felt even more depressed than when he first started – crazy amount to do!
4. He subsequently realised that the only really important thing was to do #7 – Find Customers! He chucked up a landing page and began talking about the business as if it already existed.
5. People loved it and began signing up. He still didn’t have beer, a warehouse, or a way to take payment. But he had customers – the most important piece of the puzzle.
6. Matt wasn’t prepared to leave his job before he knew that he had a proper business model on his hands. He set a target of 500 paying subscribers to prove the concept.
7. He staggered his way out of his job through firstly building the business on evenings and weekends, then going part-time at work, then doing consulting gigs.
8. He is still nowhere near the salary he was on and he told us how tough it is not having a lot of money and trying to start a business.
9. He talked about love. He said that no sane person starts a business. You have to love it – your product and your customers – because it’s that hard, you need that passion to keep you going.
10. He shared this quote with us: “anchor your brand in customers’ lives, and then experiment” by David Mogensen, Head of Brand Engagement for YouTube
11. He shared another quote – “usage is like oxygen for ideas” – an idea which BeerBods has certainly excelled at implementing from day one.
12. He talked about how much amazing help he has had from people around him – developers, friends, free business consulting from Warwick University, the local council, etc
13. He encouraged us to go and speak to 5 small business founders who we admire and learn as much as we can.
14. He talked about how bootstrapping forces you to get creative with your marketing and means that having a brand that people tell their friends about is crucial.
15. He recommended these books: “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, “The Republic of Tea” by Mel Ziegler, “Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery” by Steve Hindy, “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, and “Let my people go surfing” by Yvon Chouinard.
What did you take away from the event? Do share your main thoughts in the comments.
What do you still want to know? Ask Matt or the Esc team any follow-up questions in the comments.
Do your ideas justice, execute well, be authentic
The two big things I got from Matt excellent talk were:
Firstly, that there is no easy way to building a business. There is no secret toolkit that successful entrepreneurs have learnt and you haven’t. Anyone whose life, job or business you admire or envy has got to where they are by consistently facing down worry, uncertainty and fear. They’ve made personal sacrifices, professional sacrifices and financial sacrifices. I suppose this is why Matt said that “no sane person does this”. The only secret is that you have to work really really hard to make it work. And, you’re only going to have the fire in your stomach to do that if you genuinely care about what you’re building.
And secondly, although we think that business-building is all about learning new skills, the how-to’s, and figuring out all the nuts and bolts – by far the main thing that we need is the courage to take the first step and then keep taking steps in pursuit of our vision. This is extremely hard because of a) The Fear and b) the little voice in your head that tells you you’re mad, tells you you’re going to fail, tells you that responsible adults stay in safe jobs (even if they don’t like them) and earn comfortable salaries.
Ultimately what I took from the talk was that yes, there are lots of real-world skills that we all need to learn about building a business – but, ultimately, we can figure them out. The thing that we really need is confidence and a big enough dose of bloody-minded determination for us to listen to that other voice in our heads – the one that won’t stop telling you that you can achieve more with your life – and make brave and entrepreneurial decisions.
Big cheer for Matt. Excellent talk. He left us with this awesome clip from Paul Smith (who I now remember that I know who he is!).
Check out BeerBods and – if, like the Esc team, you like what you see – get involved with a craft beer subscription!
[Check out our upcoming events here: http://www.theescapeschool.eventbrite.co.uk/]
What is Escape the City all about then?
Frustrated by climbing the corporate ladder, we decided to build a community to help people build meaningful careers doing work that matters – to them and to the world. We help talented people find fulfilling work by making big career changes, building businesses, & going on big adventures. We’d love you to come with us on this journey.
How do you get involved?
1. Job Seeker? Create an Escape Profile to get matched to exciting jobs.
2. Aspiring Career Changer / Entrepreneur? If you’re in London, come and see us at The Escape School.