I’ve just come back from being interviewed at an Innovation Warehouse meeting room by London OpenCoffee advice-meister Iqbal Gandham and ex-ZDNetter Andrew Swinton. Basically, they wanted to video my take on topics such as SEIS and startup funding, to act as a kind of antidote to the unwarranted ra-ra positivity that all too often fills the UK tech startup press.
It was a lot of fun to do, and I hope it does rapidly emerge onto the web in some form or other. Oh, and if you’re asking, I’m not bald, I get my hair cut that way.
Anyway, the big themes that emerged were:-
- For a ‘typical’ UK tech startup, the basic cost of getting funded – in terms of research, travel, lunches, networking, pay-to-prepare, pay-to-prepare, pay-to-succeed, legals, etc - as of 2012 is surely not far off £25K. Are you surprised? Appalled? Both?
- Worse still, the basic cost of not getting funded isn’t far off £15K, never mind the opportunity cost of that 9+ months of work you’ll never recoup. So… why not take your £15K – £25K and go out and do actual business with it instead?
- Look, presentations aren’t sexy. Pitch decks aren’t sexy. Elevator pitches aren’t sexy. The only sexy thing is having customers.
- Use your ingenuity and persistence to build up a real business, one brick at a time, where each brick is a customer.
- Being an entrepreneur is 90% sales, 10% everything else. Tech entrepreneurs use phrases like “virality” to kid themselves the proportions might be the other way round, but they’re simply not – and they never have been.
- So, unless you can actually demonstrate – to yourself, never mind to anyone else! – that you can sell stuff in the real world to real people, you’re basically a nontrepreneur. Yes, it’s a nasty, horrible word, for sure - but if thinking about it helps you to get real, then it’s also a bl*%dy great word.
- In a nutshell, work out what you’re selling, physically go out and meet people who want that kind of thing, and sell to them.
- Stop kidding yourself that tech trickery alone will be sufficient to get you to a huge market, it won’t.
- Forget about emulating Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, and eBay - if their ‘secret recipe’ for success could be bottled, we’d all be drinking the stuff. But there is no secret, so it can’t, so we’re not. So get over it!
Probably not what you wanted to hear, but there you go, it is what it is! Live long and prosper!