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Notes from Last Night: “How to Navigate the London Startup Scene” w/ Devin Hunt

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Devin Hunt, founder of Lyst, partner at Founder Centric, and one of our raved-about Startup MBA instructors, joined us last night to walk us through the London startup scene and help us navigate it.

Here are some rapid-fire notes from last night, brought to you by one of our loyal volunteers Kat.

Interested in raising investment for your startup?

Some great resources:

  1. Check out angel list. See the investors profiles, what they invest in etc.
  2. Seed VC’s:
    • Passion Capital – Have co-working space, give you offices as part of you investment. Invested in GoCardless.
    • Connect Ventures – Invested in City Mapper, great example of consumer tech that they invest in.
    • Playfair
    • Seed VC’s aren’t like traditional VC’s. They’re happy to be approached, cold called, have conversations. Will look at the idea, the team and what could come. They look for early stage.
  3. Series A/B multi mill rounds:
    • Index Ventures (consumer internet stuff, dropbox)
    • Balderton Capital (similar but also have bio tech arm)
    • dfgespirit & Accel (more old school, wide portfolio, just high growth. Pretty approachable too but looking for serious companies wanting serious growth.)
  4. If have an agency or consultancy based start-up idea, look to things like Start-Up Loans. The EU have a lot of money available for creative and social businesses. VC’s won’t invest in this kind of stuff, so these grants are the best option. Also check out: Grant Tree, Capital Enterprise.

What about Crowdfunding?

This method let’s you fund an idea – e.g.burger bear crowdfunded via Kickstarter, pre-sold  enough burgers so they could afford to open a burger van.

Other resources:

  1. Bamlondon.blogspot.co.uk – spreadsheet of investors
  2. f6s – Facebook of accelerator programmes – promote cohorts, tell when they fund, co working spaces deals
  3. Capitalist – does the grants
  4. The Funded – imbd of investors.

Looking for a co-working space for your startup?

It sucks working out of your living room, the same sofa everyday. They did it for 3 months and it sucked. So many amazing places to co-work in London – cafes, co-working venues, other offices, can meet greet, get some work done. Top few:

  1. Google Campus – everyone working on own venture in café section below. Free to enter, can stay all day, they expect you to, just buy a coffee maybe and you won’t get bugged. Techhub on the floor above, get a desk. Like a vertically integrated start-up stack
  2. Rain-making loft – by tower bridge, run by startup bootcamp, EC2 capital – angel investor actually in building
  3. Warner yard
  4. Bathtub2Boardroom (where The Escape School is!)
  5. Others: Gocowo.com, roundabout.io (networking & co-working)

What meetups & events should I attend in London?

  1. HN London – hacker news London, largest hacker news meet ups in the world. 300/400 meetup, boys academy, few 50 min talks. Markettng tech talks all the way to hardcore computer science, after often pizza, beer socialising.
  2. Lean startup London, smaller, craft of building businesses
  3. 3beards event – London run, silicon drinkabout, digital sizzle (bi annual cookout), don’t pitch me bro (product development events), chew the fat (interviews with entrepreneurs around London)
  4. Google campus, some run by google, some just by people hiring the space. All on their events calendar.

Looking for skills/resources/tools to build your startup?

  • UCL institute of making.
  • Universities don’t mind if you just call them up and ask to use their stuff. Warner yard has hacker spaces too
  • Education – British Library (centre for entrepreneurship). Go there for market research. It’s free and they’ll help you out. “They’ve literally got nothing also to do there!”
  • The Escape School!
  • General Assembly – design and programming tech.
  • Makers Academy – if really want to learn how to code properly and become a junior developer by the end.

How can you find a job with a Startup?

  • 900 active startups in zones 1 & 2. “Everyone is hiring right now.”
  • Silicon milkroundabout – largest startup job fair in Europe.
  • 3beards have jobs board too.

Q&As from last night

1. How do you know when you need to stop bootstrapping and start asking for money?

When you have more demand for your work than you can supply. Crazy idea that looks good on paper – essentially lots of ways out there to get free money, grants & crowdfunding.

2. London is one of the few cities with this breadth of stuff. But how do you go from idea to start building and some money in your pocket?

3. Crowdfunding – How do you protect your idea?

Short answer is that you don’t. You’ll be surprised how often things already exist. It may be be worth getting some money going before crowdfunding. Or just don’t worry about it. Speak to a lawyer. But know that it’s really hard to get a patent.

For example: Snaack, constructive toy – spent 6 months trying to patent. Devin convinced them in two weeks to Kickstarter. Now Snaack can manufacture it since he has the money. And if people are copying, he’s way ahead of them — he’s shipping, making content. So it’s more important to get it out there than make sure your idea is safe.

“Get your idea on the market as soon as possible because until you do, you won’t know if its good.”

4. Is it better to startup in the US or UK?

London’s more of an international city, more well-rounded economy. Not just tech, but also food, finance & creative.
But it’s slightly harder to raise money. Not big enough if you’re trying to get really big.

May be a different culture that fits better. Devin thinks London better to live in than San Fran — a personal choice.

5. What’s the most common startup exit – absorbed by a bigger org?

Acquisition is common in consumer tech space. Yet some focus on what they do well and build an industry out of that (example: blue berry).

Some do start to be acquired. Sometimes they build tools specifically for the company they want to acquire them. And some IPO.

Regarding exit… it comes down to whether you’re trying to build a lifestyle business or a high growth business. Both are good companies to build, so it just depends what you want from your company. Do you want to run your company sipping cocktails on a beach? Or be the next Steve Jobs? Both can make you happy in different ways.

6. How feasible is to start a company while maintaining your job?

Lots of people do this, although it comes with a poor social life. But it is a smart way to do it.

Look at your resources. If you can maintain salary and bootstrap at the same time — brilliant! And you can learn more about what you want to create while still at your job. There’s a lot you can do in a couple of hours – pitch deck, market research, etc.

8. What if you have no background in startups/tech?

With Lyst, Devin saw an opportunity in a space he wasn’t familiar in, and had to learn quickly, trial, and dive into the space. The benefit to being an outsider is that you can see tensions and opportunities that insiders may not notice. Most people starting these companies don’t have the specific industry background — Hailo did, but Uber didn’t. They just understood the value of logistics.

Part of being an entrepreneur is being student. Starting something is really hard by yourself. You could learn all of those skills alone — but it could be smarter if you joined another company first and learnt from their mistakes.

Leverage your networks – send email to people you know, say “I am available to work!” Start slinging emails to all your contacts — “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

This guest post was brought to you by Kat. You can follow her on twitter (@KatAlexPas).