Posts Tagged ‘Silicon Valley’

Me & Silicon Valley comes to Cambridge

November 24, 2010

Last week I attended  Silicon Valley comes to Cambridge (SVC2C). The event brings together Silicon Valley, UK/European entrepreneurs and Cambridge University students to meet, lean and collaborate. I sat in on many of the talks over the three-day Cambridge conference. It was a very informative and enjoyable event with some great networking. My highlights were objectively knowing ‘When is it right to abandon your startup efforts’ panel, remembering your grand Vision after The ‘Keynote Speeches’ and meeting other founders at the Company Showcase.

 

 

Gut feel plus test and measure

The Panel described as ‘When is it right to abandon your current Effort? What scorecard should you use and how should you track progress? Monitoring, measuring and monitising…’ – this caught my eye because its one of the most difficult challenges for startup founders – Knowing when to quit!

Reid Hoffmann,  co-founder of LinkedIn and SVC2C co-chair, reminded us of the need to ‘Fail fast’. That way founders have time to start over again. However the challenge is we fall in Love and become obsessed with our startup. It becomes part of us.

Julie Hanna, Kiva Chair, talked about the need to be simultaneously both passionate and dispassionately objective. Use data to guide you. Of course this is difficult in the very early days with only limited data and a concept. At the beginning ‘Think it through crisply’ Reid said. Jose Ferreira, ‘iterate what you are doing right and wrong everyday’. Ultimately you’re trying to find a value proposition that is saving more money than you are charging. Only then are you onto a winner!

Make a difference

Each of the panelist in The ‘Keynote Speeches’ talked about where they saw their companies successful innovations making a difference in the future.  Mark Littlewood gives a full writeup of all the Keynote talks here. This got me thinking about my own startup and the Vision Simon, my co-founder, and I had when we first started Aware Monitoring. It’s so easy in a busy startup to loose sight of the ‘Wood, because of the trees’.

All the panelist had grand visions of helping to solve educational, health and green energy challenges.  It’s so important to bring real value to others and the world with your startup efforts. Even it they are small! Solve real problems your customers have, bring true value and they will love you for it!

People make a startup

I met some old friends (Martin and Richard from Psonar, Andrew Walkingshaw from Timetric) and new ones (John Snyder from Grapeshot, Adam Kingdon from i2O Water)  at the Saturday morning Company Showcase. It’s aways very helpful to share ideas, challenges and experiences with other startup/company founders. Even in these days of Social Networking, face-to-face networking is as important as it’s always been, thus Silicon Valley comes to Cambridge. Also, well done to Groupspaces for winning the SVC2C competition.

 

When summing up the event Reid said something that stuck in my mind, ‘A startup is like jumping off a cliff and assembling the airplane on the way down!’. It’s so true – you have to build your product quickly under pressures before the startup crashes and burns. It’s definitely a rush!!

SVC2C is an excellent event for learning and sharing ideas.  Sherry Coutu, Reid Hoffmann and all the other organisers did a wonderful job of bringing people together.

Starting-up: Community not just location

May 19, 2010

There’s no doubt that location is an extremely important factor for startups. But what if you’re not based in one of the great startup tech hubs e.g. Silicon Valley or Boston – do you move to one or make the most of where you are? The benefit of any location is the local supporting community and locality of your target customers. To be a success focus on the nearest and best resources to your location.This even applies being in the greatest startup hubs. There are no guarantees of success!!

Paul Graham said, when referring to great startup locations:

“…that’s where the experts are. Standards are higher; people are more sympathetic to what you’re doing; the kind of people you want to hire want to live there; supporting industries are there; the people you run into in chance meetings are in the same business.”

No matter where your startup is, you  are competing on a global playing field. Your product has to be world-class to survive! This means startups can start anywhere, if you are committed to competing with the best. However startups aren’t easy and they need lots of friendly help and support. This can be derived from a good location, strong local support and a willingness to travel.

Two friends of mine – Adam Bird (CTO, co-founder of Esendex) & Andy McLoughlin (Strategy Director, co-founder of Huddle) recently packed their bags for Silicon Valley. Their two successful companies are proof that tech companies can make it outside the valley. But why are they heading for the USA? The US is a very big market and customers there expect a local presents, preferably a founder and The Valley is the centre of tech in the US. Esendex and Huddle made the most of their local community eco-system and local customers before branching out to the States.

At this years SXSW Ross Kimbarovsky and Mike Samson, the founders of crowdSPRING based in Chicago said if you want to succeed as a startup outside the existing ecosystems in Silicon Valley, etc., then you have to invest in your local ecosystem.” Both Adam and Andy have made significant efforts and impact on their local communities. Andy/Ali setup DrinkTank and Adam started Nott Tuesday. They were focused on their local startup eco-system. These guys have also been very supportive to other startups, like ours.

Just because you are located in a startup hub like Silicon Valley or Boston it does not mean your startup will be successful. What really matters is attitude, just look at Skype from Luxembourg,  MySQL from Helsinki and Bebo from London. Startups have to make things happen wherever they are and they need to help create a support network around them – this is what really matters.

I’m calling a ‘time of opportunity’ for London/UK internet startup industry

July 15, 2009

I’m getting very bored of being told we’re no good at Tech startup’s in the UK. I’ve calmed down since reading Paul Carr’s I’m calling a ‘time of death’ for London’s internet startup industry” Guardian article, so this post won’t be a rant.  Admittedly Paul’s post is amusing , however he paints a very negative and bleak picture. If Paul is to be believed there’s no future for London/UK Internet startups. However, I believe there is hope and the UK Tech startup industry has great strengths.

Paul’s a journalist who once lived in London and is now housed in Silicon Valley. He believes The London internet industry is increasingly, and terminally, screwed”. If Paul is to be believed shouldn’t we just give up! Why bother if  there’s no hope. While we are here lets cancel the 2012 London Olympics because the Beijing games were exceptional. There’s no way London could be the same. Just as we’re not Beijing, we are not Silicon Valley.

beijing_olympic_opening_ceremony_drummers

The Awesome Beijing Olympic opening ceremony drummers!! (Image source)

The investment funds sloshing around The Valley are huge compared to UK/European funds. The VC’s and Angel’s in the UK/Europe also tend to be much more risk adverse. Although these factors are changing  in the US with the credit bubble bursting. The UK’s limitations doesn’t mean we can’t produce a wonderful Olympics or make world class profitable web apps, we can. Huddle is a great example. Their ranked as one of the globe’s top 50 startups. Bebo is an excellent example of a very healthy trade sale. Sage a global leader was once a UK startup. The list of great UK startup goes on. Mike Butcher of Techcrunch Europe did a splendid job of correcting Paul on London’s startup profitability.

I and  many others agree that the Web 2.0 bubble is coming to an end. But the end is not death, it’s change. The Internet continues to deconstruct entire industries: advertising, music, newspapers etc. This change brings new potential innovation opportunities for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. The Tech community has always been about and embraced radical change.  We are more adept at change than many other industries including Paul Carr’s Newspaper sector which Mike Butcher also pointed out.

The underlying Internet market continues to grow strongly. Ecommerce sales growth remains healthy even in the recession and the use of web applications are forecast to increase massively. The future of software is going to come from Internet based SaaS services and Open source. Again we have world leaders in the opensource sector with UK companies like Canonical and Alfresco. As entrepreneurs shouldn’t we take advantage of change to bring new opportunities. Or as Paul suggests should we give up hope and all the strengths that we have in the UK.

Geek n’ Rolla: Community, community, community

April 24, 2009

Mike Butcher of TechCrunch UK set a brisk pace at this weeks inaugural Geek n’ Rolla in London. The one day conference was packed with top Tech UK speakers including Inma Martinez, Andy McLoughlin and William Reeve. The Rock n’ Rolla gangsta theme was celebrating the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit. After all there are  very similar traits between entrepreneurs and criminals. They are both highly inventive, enterprising and resourceful. I and others felt the event created a real sense of community (a law abiding one that is).

rocknrolla-movie1

The event was supporting and building the UK Tech startup community for startups like ours (Aware Monitoring). Lashings of helpful and informative advice was given out throughout the day from: Andy McLouglin on building a strong team; bootstrapping from William Reeve; Lesley Eccles on launching big in the USA; and working with VC’s /Angels from Fred Destin / Nick HalsteadDaniel Tenner has a write-up of the talks in more detail. Some of the advice from the panel judging the 10 startup pitches at the event was brutally honest. I was really impressed with the standard of pitch. They were all very professional. Not a stutter or ummm amongst them. My money’s on the Booking Bug or Swiffen startups.

The networking was cosy with 250 people in a small space but it worked. I felt a real sense of community from the startups at the event and applaud Ian Hogarth for setting up community resources like startuptools. Mike Butcher did a really good job bringing everyone together. Well done, Arrington (Mike’s boss) would be proud ;). And I applaud any one who helps bring the UK Tech community together including the DrinkTank, OpenSoho and the Nott Tuesday organisers.

palo-alto

The Americans really get their Tech community efforts right in The Valley. Yes, I know the UK doesn’t have the funding or the close ties with Tech focused Universities like in The Valley but that’s the point. Guy Richie can make hit films and we can make hit apps. People keep reminding me the odds are against our website monitoring startup succeeding as we are located in the wrong city and the wrong county i.e. as a Tech startup we should be in London, UK or better still in the USA. I say that doesn’t mean we won’t succeed! Loads of great Tech startups and businesses have come out of the UK including Last FM, BeboMessageLabs, Sage, etc.

I think the UK Tech scene is going from strength to strength. The community brings so many benefits: Sharing of ideas; sharing of problems; sharing of resources; sharing positivity and sharing ambition. After all, together we are stronger :)


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