Startup weekend Derby – it’s coming!

So you’ve come across this event called Startup Weekend but aren’t entirely sure what it is. This is the post for you!

What is a Startup Weekend ?

A Startup Weekend is a get together of people who want to work together and build something. They may have an idea, a dream or just a desire to help build something new. Over the weekend ideas are pitched, selected, validated, prototyped and presented. All with the help of each other and some battle hardened industry experts acting as mentors for the weekend. Finally on Sunday evening people present their business to a panel of Judges, a winner is selected and everyone celebrates to a great weekend.

Does it have to be an online business ?

NO! Lots of people do online sites etc but teams work on physical products such as food and drinks or even services. I’ve even seen a cheap water filtration system for the 3rd world being built as a social enterprise business.

Sounds interesting right! So how does the weekend actually work?

Friday: Everyone gets together for some food and networking. A wise entrepreneur will tell a tales of toil and plight that ends in ultimate triumph. This leads onto a fun idea pitching warm up that prepares people for the main event the “Pitchfire”. If you have an idea this is your chance to pitch the room and hopefully get selected to form a team. You only 60 seconds per pitch so keep it concise and let people know what you need help with.

Once everyone who wants to pitch has had their 60 seconds worth its time to network, talk and cast votes on your favourite ideas. Then the topmost ideas get to form teams where ideally you want a selection of skills such as a designer, developer, marketer to help bring the idea to life. Even if you idea did not get through you can still form a team if you can get at least three people to agree to join forces.

With a team formed its time to go home and try and calm your over excited brain down and to try and coax it to sleep ready for Saturday.

Team forming, can I go with a pre existing team? Yes, you can but the rule is you must not have worked on the idea before. Most people go as an individual though or with friends but without a set idea.

Saturday : You have and idea and a team now what. The mantra for the weekend is ”No talk, all action” so its time to get out and validate your idea. Although you do need to talk we want to make sure your idea solves a problem that people have, so you need to know what problem is that your idea solves. Who is it that experiences this problem and where would you come across them on the weekend? Its time to get out and speak to the public about the problem NOT the solution. Note down the stories and then get back together as a team to share your research.

Do people have this problem your idea solves? If not maybe the research highlights something similar that you can “PIVOT” too? If they do its time to start doing some prototyping, research on possible rivals, research, etc.

Sunday : Time to carry on where you left off, if you have some product prototypes show them off. If you have no prototypes now is the time to build them. Try and find some people from your target market again and get some feedback. Would people actually hand over some hard earned cash for this? You get some google Adwords credits and a free domain in your pack for the weekend, use them to create a marketing site and see what kind of engagement you get.

Remember you have a presentation looming at the end of the day so you also need to start laying down some slides about the problem, your solution, the market research and how the business would work.

Try and rehearse your presentation and get some feedback before you do it for real.

Sunday evening : time for everyone to get together and marvel at what each other has achieved. Each team puts on a short presentation followed by a Q&A session with the judges. After every teams presented, the judges go off to confer and you get to eat and wait. The winners are announced and its time to relax, chat and celebrate an amazing weekend with your new friends.

Did I mention that Derby is having its first ever startup weekend this March ? We have an awesome team of mentors and judges lined up, so get involved!

http://www.up.co/communities/uk/derby/startup-weekend/9962

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Social media isn’t really a job

I’m just going to go out there and say it…..social media is NOT a job, its not even something you should be spending your valuable time on.

Oh and I hear you:

  • “But Sean – what do you know!”
  • “You ran an agency that had social media as a paid service”
  • “My marketing agency/PR person say XYZ”
  • “You clearly haven’t seen the ROI””Why do you use social media at all if your time is so valuable?”
  • “Its part of our marketing / PR strategy / content play {insert BS marketing buzzwords}”

And thats great folks – but the fact of the matter is – social media, which we pretty much called Web 2.0 some 5+ years ago, and before that we just called it ‘the web’ or ‘the internet’ is just that – its just the internet, nothing has really changed.

Or the best one ‘we generated over £150k for our clients in the last 3 years through social media’…..its bullsh*t…no you haven’t….your ‘clients’ made a conscious decision with or without your help to put marketing spending or ‘time’ as we can also refer to it – into an app/website and look for sales leads.

Does that mean at the previous agency I ran where we sold social media as a service between £600 and £6000 a month was wrong of us? Not at all, just as all the other ‘agencies’ will tell you they delivered ROI, so did we. But ROI isn’t the point because no one is calculating that properly at all (trust me – paying your social media agency £500 a month and generating £2000 a month ‘direct’ isn’t ROI).

We had a small social media team at the previous agency – that turned over more money than any dedicated social media company in the local area – because we didn’t just teach businesses how to fish, we did the fishing for them with a temporary licence.

One thing is to teach someone they must do A, B & C on twitter to land business (chances are you won’t by the way) – its 100x more effective to become a part of the clients organisation and act on their behalf – fully integrated with who they are and how they operate. Driving £10k a month of sales through Facebook that can be tracked, reported and then guess what – allowing the client company to bring that fully in house rather than paying you a sum each month to keep that water flowing.

Right now there are too many 18-25yr old ‘digital marketing experts’ who have less than 2 years of experience, because having a Facebook and instagram account does not qualify you as an expert. Too many people writing short form blog posts (~300/400 words) because they read an article from 2015 about how Google loves fresh, short content or they took a course 4 years ago in ‘SEO’ which tells them they should do ‘keyword research’. The world loves a shortcut and too many businesses are relying on these ‘kids’ to make returns they just cannot do.

Unless you have relevant industry experience, time actually doing the work, learning the craft – you cannot pass yourself off as any form of expert. Remember that whole 10,000 hour thing – some of these ‘experts’ haven’t even done 10,000 hours of work in their ‘careers’ yet, not even adding up the hours spent flipping burgers at Mcdonalds before they started their ‘guru’ level of digital marketing 3 months ago!

Social media is NOT a job, social media is just another word we use now for ‘the internet’, your 20k tweets, 400 instagram posts and 6 years of Facebook counts for NOTHING. A real business has a real plan, which involves sales and marketing – ‘twitter’ and the other ‘social’ sites – are just pools of attention, ‘eyeballs’ as we used to refer to them – where your potential customers are spending their time.

Market to those attention pools – but you would be amazed what you can achieve by not paying £25k a year for a ‘social media expert’ or a ‘expert 20yr old digital marketing exec’ – but instead by applying 20% of your marketing budget (cash+time) to these pools and making them work for you, not costing your business every month in time and marketing spend.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but over ten years in agency world tells me that there are a lot of businesses out there who are on a regular basis paying for an unnecessary service, wasting away valuable funds that their businesses could re-invest elsewhere for a far better return.

 

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World Mental Health Day (Entrepreneur Edition)

“I’m Fine”…….How many times have you heard that said?

Above: Commonly referred to as the black cloud or the monster in your head…

You can read about it online, you can listen to the radio or watch the TV and hear about ‘depression’ or ‘bi-polar’ and many other of the types of mental health problems that are discussed albeit still very much away from mainstream medias attention.

But what does it actually mean…

It means that for men in England and Wales aged 20-49 – suicide is the most common cause of death at present. Of course suicide is not a mental health problem per se – it is very commonly linked to mental distress however.

It’s always best to speak about what you know about…for me thats entrepreneurship and depression. Both of which have been the leading factors of my life story for as long as I can remember.

Entrepreneurs, those ‘crazy’ individuals who go all out in an effort to create and build something spectacular, to change the way we do things, bring something new to market or disrupt existing sectors are of the most common sufferers of mental health issues.

Starting a successful business is not something you just do, its something that you livebreathe and becomes your entire existence…there isn’t a 9-5 element to entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur tends to merge their own self worth and existence with that of their business and personal goals until there are no blurred lines – until work/life balance no longer exists.

Work/Life balance is bullshit.

Entrepreneurship in essence is an obsession. It stems from control over your destiny, the direction and details to grow and innovate…all at the hands of the entrepreneur. Add to the mix 3, 10, 50, 400, 3000 employees who’s livelihood is also in your hands – the pressure mounts up even further. Investor money burning every month, further pressure. Your friends don’t understand? Your wife leaves? The deal fell through? Cash in the bank burning too quickly? No one to talk to?….thats right, no one to talk to….because who else could possibly understand? 

Why are 1 in 3 entrepreneurs suffering with depression?

Simple – its expectations. From others and most importantly from their self. Because of course….you’re not where you thought you would be by now are you?

I started on my entrepreneurial path very young – several little ventures along the way until starting my previous company over ten years ago most effective weight loss supplement. Which grew and grew, made more and more money, both the business and I were one and the same. To those ends we made a lot of enemies (people hate to see you succeed), we did incredible things in the community and for charities, we seen and heard at every event and publication. For ten years the business ran successfully – but depression rode along with me EVERY DAY. That black cloud that follows you around no matter what you do, “smile for the camera” – great another piece in the paper meanwhile in the back of your mind depression keeps chewing away or the million other times of the day when you just want to lock yourself away and escape. Best sales month every? Who cares….Landed a fantastic project with a new client? Great, but it wasn’t big enough….Hired 2 new staff to boost development…yes but X Y and Z.

Eventually I found my ‘divider’ – the piece I needed to separate life and work….when I found out I was to become a father. That gave me what I needed to step down, walk away and breath for the first time in over a decade. Get away from expectations and the 120mph life.

The cost of entrepreneurship is high, when we see so many of our brightest entrepreneurs committing suicide (Jody Sherman, Ovik Banerjee, Matt Berman, Aaron Schwartz and so many more) you have to step back and take stock as to why this is happening and what we can do to help.

World Mental Health Day & What you can do

It began in 1992 as an initiative by the World Federation for Mental Health – a global organisation who every year with a different theme aim to bring attention and awareness to mental health issues around the globe.

As to what you can do…that varies on an individual basis….but most importantly….speak to someone….anyone.

Find a way of dividing your time between work and life….a hobby….thats what they used to tell me…find a hobby to distract you. Easier said than done when you are obsessed with work. But find something that can ease the pain.

Take care of your mental state, your body and your family – every piece is crucial, look up Brad Feld – a well known VC who suffers with depression who talks openly about it, or Jerry Colonna – the entrepreneurs ‘therapist’ that suffers and helps those who suffer get through the hard times.

Drop me a message, an email a tweet, whatever…entrepreneurship is hard.

Read more here about World Mental Health day and how you can support: http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/09/world-mental-health-day-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-important-6181925/

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Don’t take advice from me about cars

I know nothing about cars, for many years I’ve been happy with the fact my cars always had a start button. Press the button – engine starts and off we go and until my new car turned up (which I love) – I was doing a thousand miles a week on the road in a nice black BMW, up and down the country seeing clients every day of the week have a peek at this web-site.

You might think that stacking up 50k of miles a year would give me some insight into how these wonderful machines work – but no, not a clue.

To that extent – if I ever offer advice about cars – other than ‘that one looks nice’ – DON’T LISTEN TO ME – I can’t give you much solid advice. The same principal should apply therefore to numerous outlets – my lawyer who really doesn’t understand much about how the internals of a complex piece of software shouldn’t tell me about how I should refactor that bit of code I’ve been working on.

Yet time after time – we see people taking advice from someone who has little to no experience in a subject matter – its infuriating because this is how problems mount up. I recently spoke with a friend who attended an event on how to market your business more effectively on social media. The only problem was the one doing the preaching wasn’t a social media ‘guru’ (more on that another day!) but instead was an ex-accountant who auto-tweets and cross posts all their content from various news stories without any context at all.

Don’t get me wrong – fantastic to see there be 20+ people in the room all paying £100 to be there because Joe down the street said he had a great time in the seminar learning how to tweet more often (and hey it gets retweeted by Sarah the auto retweet stripper account who just wants to meet you as she is single and in your local area!)

If the person on that webinar, that stage, that ebook, whatever it maybe – hasn’t actually accomplished what it is you are there to learn – then why bother?

It is because most of us want to believe in ‘the secret’, there must be a formula, a method, a step by step plan to: build our businesses, increase profits, get more users, be a better leader, gain more followers, etc.

The real secret, is there is no shortcut, there is no ‘follow this ten step plan to success’ – its about hard work, dedication, some degree of luck (although thats not the right word really), timing and DOING THE WORK.

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