Create a start up, not a f@*k up

There is a glitch in the startup matrix and we have been looking for it for some time. It’s been right there, poking us on a daily basis, but in another reality simply mocking our attempts to break through the wormhole to see exactly what it was…and now we’ve seen it.

Our great city of London is a wash with tech and business talent. It amazes me on a daily basis just how much is going on, how little of it I get (have time) to see and how far back my seat seems to be from the stage…because I’m simply too busy to have queued up early for a ticket. Yes mate actually busy, too busy to even respond to the whatsapp group no matter how often I see ‘he says he’s too busy…cockhead‘ pop up on my busy mans Apple Watch. As great as it all looks from up here in tier 3, work comes first and that, after all, is what this is all about.

So what is it we’ve finally discovered? Well it seems complex but it’s so simple, it’s difficult but it’s common sense, it’s small but it’s huge, all at the same time.

Startup advice. They need right the advice at the right time… 

‘Has he actually just written that? What a T**t’ I really did. Simple isn’t it. If you own a startup you know it, if you work with startups you almost certainly know it whilst in the trenches on a daily basis fighting for the success of every client business as if it were your own – but as an agency, how often do you find yourself saying ‘why are they doing that?’

Startup advice for the CEO of a new exciting business can come in many forms. Friends and family, an Uber driver, ex-colleagues, the Cambridge grad you met at a meetup, current staff, hired (or met to get free ideas) agencies or even brilliant, priceless contacts like the CTO of a ftse 500. Help, startup advice, support and guidance, on tap for some, non existent to others, but my point here is, having all of the above or none of the above, can leave you in the same position, or worse, a worse position.

How is that possible?

Well firstly, what any of us should do in such a situation is take guidance from those best placed to provide the right information for the expertise that your require, at the right time. That’s a given. We can all agree on that, right? We don’t tell our black cabbie who has ‘the knowledge’ where to turn to get from Clapham Common to the Strand or tell the Michelin starred Chef how to butter our bread, it just makes no sense, they’re there to help, provide a service, an expert, qualified service.

It comes down to trust. Startups simply need to trust.

As the owner of a digital marketing agency it may seem that I am simply discussing a topic that benefits me, but this is not the case.

In 2013 I started out to create an automotive startup called 3Dom Wraps and I know all too well how hard life becomes once you start out on this journey, often alone. Looking back now I am able to identify the advice that I took that I could have gone without, the advice I mistakenly should have taken but didn’t and the advice that has helped through to the present day. Not only have I personally learnt from this process, but we as a marketing agency have developed our services to support clients in similar positions who can benefit from our in house experiences. So what are the pieces of advice that I look back on?

  1. Platform/CMS – this is a big one, but one that didn’t raise it’s head for some time. We chose the wrong content management system. Not due to technological restrictions or our lead dev being wrong in the reasons for choosing it, on the contrary, but due to available resources and available future resources further down the line. Built on Umbraco, development was quick enough to get us online within a few months with just one developer but as we required growth with dwindling financial resources, I soon found myself with a problem – I didn’t have the funds to grow the development team due to the very high cost of skilled .net developers in London. This stunted our growth and eventually saw our lead developer move on. Before we new it, we’d made the expensive decision to re-develop. The first installment of our site took us to the forefront of the international car wrapping industry, but we stalled at a point where we should have been pushing on to our next stage. It’s a lesson that goes beyond just choosing a platform and CMS that is capable of creating the business you require, it goes deep into understanding the tech industry, the available talent around you and the investment required to get the right team on board through to launch and beyond.
  2. Build for growth – although I had developed a strong SEO strategy early on in the development process of the site, I completely misjudged the content requirements to achieve the goals I was targeting. Understanding the market potential, competitors and our target audience was all well and good, but being able to create substantial, high quality and regular content in order to dominate online visibility – well it soon became extremely difficult whilst trying to grow the business. Had I personally taken on some very valuable advice that was given to me before we built the site, our budget and time would have far easier to manage. As a result I bought in the Searched current Head of Digital Barrie Adams to support our digital growth and we haven’t looked back since.
  3. Don’t inflate the team or technology – so so important and some amazing advice from my investors. It’s amazing how quickly your budget can dwindle if you are yet to hit significant revenue streams or are just starting out. This advice kept the startup alive and we provide the same advice to clients on a regular basis as a trusted and experienced digital marketing team.
    1. If you are not yet securing regular revenue, only increase your team when it is essential that you do. Get by for as long as possible before taking the leap to hiring additional staff.
    2. Don’t develop technology that will not directly increase revenue or grow the business into more sales. We all like the sound of a ‘mobile app’ but this is often the last thing a web business needs prior to securing sustainable online sales. Question yourself, how better could this investment be used at this stage of our project. We have seen startups very recently make the wrong decisions with technology at a large cost to both themselves and their investors.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of product admin – If your startup relys on a digital platform, something like a Saas product or a marketplace, consider the complexities of managing users, data, support and development. Your internal backend is as valuable as the customer facing product as without it, you will be running your business blind. Many new startups overlook this when creating their products and often end up with a costly additional project once they realise. Ensure this is part of your product specification, understand the additional costs early on and plan for it from the off.

When can startup advice not be trusted?

This is obviously not easy to pinpoint or spot, especially as nearly all advice is given with the best intentions, so essentially it comes down to you. Often it takes some careful consideration from the startup and some common sense but most of all, it is understanding exactly how your business will work, how your business will grow and what are your main sources of revenue. If you as a brand understand those with unwavering certainty, then you will be safe in your decision making when seeking advice for each area of the business where you are looking for expertise.

Startup advice is vital. Advice that can be trusted. Advice from the right people, at the right time.