It’s been a rollercoaster ride since I founded Huddle back in 2006 with Andy Mcloughlin. In just over six years we’ve grown from a bedroom start-up to a 200 strong business with offices in London, San Francisco, New York and (soon to be opened) Washington DC. There have been many ups and downs, especially as a business starts to take off; you can go from feeling on top of the world one minute to bottom of the heap, the next.
It can be daunting starting a new business on your own, especially in London. Although we’re seeing a great amount of money being pumped into Silicon Roundabout by the Government, what we really need is time invested into the community by other start-ups who have made it. So in the spirit of sharing advice, I’ve put together the top ten most useful tips for any budding entrepreneurs out there.
1. Make sure your idea is solid
Your product or service must have intrinsic value; it needs to fulfill a need. You need to do a detailed market analysis, see what is out there and make sure there really is a market for your idea. Ideally find someone from a non-competing business to mentor you; it’s essential that you get some objective advice.
2. Think about your model carefully
Firstly figure out who your actual buyer is, what their motivations are and how you will reach them. You need to figure out what problem you are solving and how to articulate it. You want to think about the business model at the same time as the product, so you can ensure they complement each other, whether its user or subscription based. etc.
3. Don’t compromise on your vision
You know what you want your product or service to look like, whilst it’s important to take advice on board from trusted advisors; don’t dilute your vision too much, just to please someone else.
4. Talk to your customers
People that are customers already can provide valuable feedback from their tried and tested experience. This will give you an excellent case study for future prospects as well; having a customer willing to speak on your behalf is a very powerful marketing tool and provides others with the much needed “comfort factor” when they’re looking to invest in your product
5. Start with a bang
First impressions can only be made once so don’t undersell your product. Don’t be afraid to invest in your launch, as it will be money well spent. Take a lead from other successful launches and use social media to create a buzz.
6. Into the Dragons Den
When you’re looking for investment be mindful of how much your business is worth. Don’t let people walk all over you or you’ll set a precedent for the future and people will continue to take advantage of you. But don’t be afraid to give away a chunk of your business (25-25%) to get it off the ground, it is possible to do big deals early on. But do set a deadline to give yourself a goal to work towards.
7. Go big or go home
Don’t set yourself up to fail; if you aren’t convinced you will succeed, no one else will be either. So reach for the skies and make sure you reach your potential. Numbers mean nothing, all that matters is competitive tension, your team and traction in the market.
8. Getting funding is a job in itself
Raising cash from investors can be full time job and takes months. Make sure you keep your eye on the ball when it comes to your day job and use external resources to give you the boost in support you need. Sf.com took $100m to figure it out and keep in mind that Europe has a much smaller venture capitalist community. So ask for double the money you think you need now and never refuse money when it’s available.
9. Surround yourself with a talented team
You may know about marketing or finance and even have some experience but you may not be an expert and you certainly can’t cover every base in your company at once. Your network of contacts is a valuable resource for setting up a business from looking to expand your team to getting feedback on your product or service.
10. Don’t stop believing
It may sound a bit cheesy but keep faith in your business. Unfortunately many start-ups go out of business in the first year but once you’ve survived that, the only way is up. Don’t lose heart if you feel things are taking too long and everything’s costing more than you thought it would. That’s normal; just keep your eyes on the prize. It won’t be an easy ride but no pain, no gain!