Tag Archive | 2012

Two Year Anniversary – Stop Crying

New Years 2014 Fire Works

The Spark n Launch Team celebrate with some backyard fireworks…

According to WordPress we just celebrated our two year anniversary – two years since we registered this account. Since our first blog post we have published over 100 articles and written another 100 draft posts. The site attracts traffic from around the world and continues to increase it’s readership. Thanks to all our loyal followers!

Unfortunately most of the traffic is spam bots, and the quality & frequency of our posts has diminished. Nevertheless we will try and keep up the web presence. If you’re interested in guest blogging or want some links shared, get in touch. Drop us a comment and share some love!

For those looking for some inspiration, check out some of our published posts below. Got a favourite post – tweet it!

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In The Beginning:
Hello world! *
Starting a Blog – Don’t expect any Shakespeare
Working for the “Man” (Draft)

WordPress Links:
About
Social
Glossary *****
Tools
Table of Content (TOC) *****

Startups – Lists:
The Top 100 UK Startups (2010)
The Top 100 UK Startups Revealed (2012) *****
The Top 100 UK Startups Revealed (25-50) *****

Startups – People:
Fabrice Grinda – Musings of a Serial Entrepreneur
Jason Calacanis talks to Alex Tew of Calm.com
The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Startups – Stories:
Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories *****
14 Year Old Girl: "Stop making excuses, make something awesome”
Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus *****
Samsung's Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
Lessons Learned – Be Your Own Boss *****

Startups – Lean:
The History of Lean Startup by Steve Blank *****
Startup Is Not The Same As A New Start Business
Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in One Day
The Apprentice – Lean Startup Builds Minimum Viable Product in Two Days?
Building Your Minimum ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP)

Startups – Weekends:
Startup Weekend: What to expect? How to prepare?
Startup Weekend: What to Expect?
Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0) *****
Startup Weekend: Lessons Learned in 54 Hours (Day 1) (Draft)
Startup Weekend: Lessons Learned in 54 Hours (Day 2) (Draft)
Startup Weekend: Lessons Learned in 54 Hours (Day 3) (Draft)

Entrepreneur:
The Year of The Entrepreneur – It’s YOU again

Business Ideas / Business Planning:
How to go from Idea Guy to Execution Guy? ****
Evaluate Your Business Idea – Evaluating your spark
Business Plans – "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail" (includes business plan template)
Starting Up – 9 Business Selection Criteria
Another Way To Plan – The Business Model v Business Plan *****
Step 1 – Where to Begin
How To Get Traction? Or Why Is My Startup Broken? *****
Thinking of Starting a Startup? 8 Sentiments To Think About ****

Customer Development:
Ghetto Testing the Viability of an Idea
A Smart Bear – Jason Cohen on Startups *****

People / Management:
Why Being a Deal Maker Matters To Your Team

Social Media / Blogging:
Twitter – Tweeting to your #audience
The Problem with Twitter – Social Disconnection by Stealth ****
Blogging: How Do You Promote Your Blog Posts? *****
Blogging: How To Get New Traffic To Old Blog Posts? *****
Blogging: Is Blogging Dead?

Social Media – Experiments:
Project Trout – Social Media Experiment #1
Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update
Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #2
Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3
Technorati – Does the verification process work?
Technorati – Does the verification process work? (Yes it does!)
Social Media Experiment – Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook
Social Media Experiment – How we made it onto the BBC!

Brand / Marketing:
Picking a name – The importance of brand
Affiliate Marketing 101
Lessons Learned From 10,000 Page Views ****
Online Advertising Experiment with Google AdWords
Happy V Day – Seasonal Opportunities
The Zoo Project – A Fantastic Marketing Opportunity
Product Functionality Often Trumps Beauty

Traffic / SEO:
How do you get on the Frontpage of Hacker News? (4 Links in 1 Day) ****
Lessons Learned From A Hacker News Traffic Spike ****

Design:
Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) – Ugly Websites That Went Viral ****

Toolkit:
Helpful Startup Tools for Entrepreneurs – Q&As
Helpful Startup Tools for Entrepreneurs
Creating Your Very Best Startup Business Logo ****
Podcasts – Hearing and Learning From Others
Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening
Weekly Digest #1 – How We Stumbled Upon Top Biz Resources
Weekly Digest #2 – More Golden Resources for Startup Entreprenuers
New Startup Lingo – More Buzzwords
The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #2
The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo
The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
Need Startup Advice? – Just Ask Online

Funding:
Crowdsurfing: Alternatives to Kickstarter
Kickstarter: Ouya raises $1million in 8 hours and 22 minutes ***
Ouya Breaks Crowdfunding Record – Exceeds Target By Millions
Startup Funding: I’m 15 With An Amazing Product Idea
Kickstarter Crowdfunding Now Available In Europe
Raising Money (Draft)
Working Full Time and Bootstrapping Your Business Startup (Draft)

Web:
Web Stats – Who is top of the league table? ***

Rants / Musings:
Why is everything broken? (Draft)
Getting Real – It’s a project, not a startup (Draft)
Web Two is awesome – Web 2.0 changes our surfing experience
The Public Image of Business People (Footballers versus Bankers)
To Code or Not To Code

Messages:
100 Posts – Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Be the First to Like Us on Facebook
Who Are We? About Us Page Updated in FAQ Format
Project Mackerel – Calling all Beta Testers
Project Mackerel – Calling all Beta Testers (Follow Up)
Blog Milestone – Lessons Learned From 50 Blog Posts
New Month, New Look – What Do You Think?
Blog Milestone – 30th Post – What it means? (Mostly nothing)
Project Mackerel – Please Sir… Complete our quick survey?
Upcoming Posts – Please Vote
Project Mackerel – Sneek Peek of Prototype

Weird / Unclassified:
It’s a numbers game – 11/11/11 @ 11:11:11
Happy New Years – Bring on 2012!
Random Generated Startup – Life gets easier (again)
Get hired with the help of your friend, Mark Zuckerberg?
The London Olympics 2012 (In Infographics)
Technology – Is a black pixel on or off? ****
Leap Year – 3 interesting facts about 29 February
April Fools Day – Some of Our Favourites
Friday 13th – 3 interesting facts
How the $16bn Facebook IPO looks like in cash (Image) **

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

The Top 100 UK Startups Revealed (25-50)

In 2012 we captured a list of the top 100 startups, curated by startups.co.uk. At the time we didn’t published this post. However looking at the list today, it is interesting to see how the sites have progressed (or disappeared).

In 2012 we posted the top 100 startups.

Startups.co.uk revealed their top 100 startups of 2012. The list demonstrates “the most exciting, creative and disruptive new businesses in the UK today”.

According to the site:

“Launched in 2008, the Startups 100 was the first and bar-setting countdown of the top 100 start-ups in the country. It’s now our flagship feature, published every two years (you can check out our 2010 Startups 100 list here) and previous winners have gone on to phenomenal successes.

Huddle, Shortlist Media, Naked Wines, Wonga and Zoopla are just a few of our alumni, and we have equally high hopes for the companies on our latest list.”

Congratulations to all those that were named. This is a tremendous showcase of British business talent and innovation. The list of alumni members proves that this year’s businesses have a real chance of extending their start-up success.

You can view the full list here or check out the 25 to 50 below.

If you made the list or are a new startup, please get in touch! We would love to learn more and even run a feature on your business.

Startups 20 to 50 (of 100):

26. 3 Blonde Bears – The fast-growth brand making personalised homeware, toys and gifts – all in the UK. (Read More)
27. Secret Escapes – A members-only flash sales travel site, offering big discounts on luxury holidays and hotels. (Read More)
28. Funding Circle – The fast-growing peer-to-peer lender, enabling entrepreneurs to bypass the banks. (Read More)
29. WhipCar – The world’s largest peer-to-peer car club, creating a community culture in car-sharing. (Read More)
30. Duedil – Providing free information on companies and directors, helping users vet potential business partners. (Read More)
31. EDITD – The scientific, sartorial start-up keeping retailers informed on fashion hits and misses. (Read More)
32. Bubbleology – A quirky chain of London cafes, bringing Brits a taste of tapioca-based, Taiwanese tea. (Read More)
33. Smarkets – The low-cost betting exchange empowering users to participate in (and profit from) politics and sport. (Read More)
34. Fantasy Shopper – Social gaming meets e-commerce, to create a fast-growth fan base of Facebook shopaholics. (Read More)
35. Peppersmith – The charismatic confectionery brand shaking up the mint market with every little box. (Read More)
36. Casabu – The fast-growth flash sales site for mums – forecasting a seven-figure turnover in its first year. (Read More)
37. 99p Shopper – The first comparison engine for the wholesale sector, helping small firms get the best deal. (Read More)
38. Artfinder – The innovative online resource bring artwork to the digital generation. (Read More)
39. FusePump – Data feed management that simplifies affiliate marketing. (Read More)
40. GoCardless – An innovative, low-cost way for small businesses to accept direct payments. (Read More)
41. Floxx Media Group – The company that evolved from student ‘flirting’ site FitFinder to become a grown-up web and app development firm. (Read More)
42. Blue Dot – A new digital currency used to reward, recognise and incentivise people who do good. (Read More)
43. MBA & Company – The marketplace helping companies outsource research projects, to the top 1% of freelance talent worldwide. (Read More)
44. Gloople – A multi-channel e-commerce platform, enabling small firms to take advantage of social commerce. (Read More)
45. Coco di Mama – The restaurant bringing authentic Italian cuisine to busy City workers. (Read More)
46. Escapethecity – A website that helps professionals to find exciting new opportunities – leaving unfulfilling, corporate roles behind. (Read More)
47. PayAsUGym.com – A business allowing gym users to use gyms in a way that suits their lifestyle. (Read More)
48. Veritas Language Group – A Swansea-based translation firm working to remove the language barrier between companies and their international customers and colleagues. (Read More)
49. BagThat – A new take on the online deals model, allowing users to collaborate to drive prices down. (Read More)
50. Pockit – The pioneering pre-paid card which helps purse-pinched consumers save and manage money. (Read More)

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Your Holiday is Now Over

head_in_hands_disappointment_sadness

Your Holiday is Now Over

You spent the last couple of weeks frolicking in joy and laziness. You got into a habit of waking up after midday. Well sadly the holiday is officially over. For most, you are forced to resume your daily commute to your office cubicle. You can now begin the 365 day countdown to the next summer holiday break.

On the Plus Side

The good news is that you can get back to pursuing your dreams. New years is often the time for reflection and goal setting. January is time to start pursuing your new year’s resolutions. Those goals we set ourself that are often forgotten by January 31st.

Goal Setting

Let’s make 2013 different! Let’s write down some goals/resolutions and aim to fulfil them. Let’s prove those sceptics wrong and show them that new year’s resolutions can be met and even exceeded.

Step 1

According to the experts, you should try the following:

+ Decide what you want.
+ Start small, but keep walking.
+ Be positive when stating your goals.
+ Don’t underestimate yourself.
+ Write it down.
+ Affirm it.
+ Stop procrastinating.
+ Habituate yourself to liking the challenges.
+ Review your progress.

The focus is setting realistic and positive goals that you can monitor. Writing them down and sticking them on your wall can be a massive motivator. It can also prompt visitors to press you on your progress.

Our Goals

In 2013:

+ We want to write better posts by being better story tellers.
+ We want to build more things by stop making excuses for not building things.
+ We want to learn more from others by talking more to others.

What are your goals?

Drop us a line, leave is a comment. Share the love. Good luck in 2013!

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Happy New Years – 2012/2013

new years 2012 new years 2013 timezones gmt

Happy New Years!

Dear Readers,

Happy new year and wishing you all the best in 2013. It’s been a tremendous year and look forward to the year ahead.

Thanks to all that have visited our blog and made valuable contributions.

Regards,

Spark N Launch

New Year Facts and Trivia

+ January 1 will start first on some of the islands in the Pacific Ocean. First up is Kiritimati, Christmas Island and Kiribati.
+ Last in to celebrate is American Samoa, Niue and the United States Minor Outlying Islands.
+ 2013 (MMXIII) will be a common year starting on a Tuesday.
+ It will also be the first year to be denoted by four different digits in 26 years (since 1987).
+ Hebrew calendar 5773–5774

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You might also enjoy:
+ Happy New Years – Bring on 2012!
+ April Fools Day – Some of Our Favourites
+ Friday 13th – 3 interesting facts
+ It’s a numbers game – 11/11/11 @ 11:11:11

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Why Why Why Why Why – The Five Whys?

why why why why why five whys

Overview

We just finished listening to Mark Graban’s interview with Lean Startup author Eris Ries. The two talk about Taiichi Ohno’s influence on their lean methodologies.

Taiichi Ohno is considered to be the father of the Toyota Production System, which later became Lean Manufacturing. His written experiences at Toyota heavily influenced the manufacturing industries across the globe.

The two agree that Ohno’s books may lack the western style instruction many readers seek out however do praise the author on his alternative approach to manufacturing and it’s powerful application across all industries.

What stood out from the interview was Eric’s impressions of Ohno’s approach to root cause analysis – the five whys. The approach is a simplistic but powerful method of solving problems. Let us take a look…

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The “5 Whys” Problem Solving Approach

Essentially the five whys ask why until the cause of the problem is identified. This leads to the ultimate question – How do we fix this problem once and for all? You can keep asking why until you drive out all issues.

Here is an example (Wikipedia):

The Problem: The vehicle will not start.

First Why? Why? – The battery is dead.
Second Why? Why? – The alternator is not functioning.
Third Why? Why? – The alternator belt has broken.
Fourth Why? Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced.
Fifth Why? Why? – The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule.
Sixth Why? Why? – Replacement parts are not available because of the extreme age of the vehicle.

Often we overlook the cause of problems; or shy away from asking the simple questions. Sometimes going back to basics can solve the most complex questions.

Did this help? Let us know.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Top 100 UK Startups (2010)
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Top Startup Podcasts – Learning From Listening
+ Helpful Startup Tools For Entrepreneurs

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Product Functionality Often Trumps Beauty

Four Marketing Ps Product Place Promotion Price

tl;dr Reddit built a platform that met the needs of visitors it attracted. By having a functional website that appeals to a wide community, appearance was not as important as maintaining it’s client base. When building a product remember – product, price, place and promotion.

Why Product Functionality Often Trumps Beauty?

Recently someone asked Why is reddit so famous despite such a boring interface?

Google, Craigslist, Facebook, Wikipedia, Amazon, Quora and Reddit. All these popular companies began their lives with basic, simple, boring and sometimes plain ugly websites. Many still retain the boring interfaces but maintain a user base of millions of users.

These sites provide functionality that fulfils the desires of it’s users, with or without beautiful front end experiences. When designing your new product or minimum viable product, consider the core functionality instead of getting stuck of the appearance. Your fancy looking product is useless if it cannot actually do anything.

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When planning your product, consider the following:

+ Good functionality typically wins over beautiful design.

Google started as a great search engine with a simplistic user interface. It didn’t need to be beautiful to bring back accurate search results.
Craigslist looks ugly but delivers a service to it’s customers. After all how beautiful does a classified adverts site have to look?

+ Ugly can triumph beauty.

Web marketers have seen ugly banner adverts attaining higher conversion rates than more colourful and attractive adverts. Humans are sometimes drawn to ugly and boring. Sometimes ugly websites can go viral.

+ Marketing comes down to four p’s. You need to think about all four.

Often ugly sites have an intelligence and powerful marketing campaign and/or are incredible flexible. PlentyOfFish spent money on advertising to attract visitors and constantly improved functionality to meet customer needs.

Note: If you particular niche or competitive advantage is design, then obviously beauty plays a part. For the rest of us, look at providing your prospective customers with something functional.

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You might also enjoy:
+ Our Table of Contents
+ Blogging: How Do You Promote Your Blog Posts?
+ Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) – Ugly Websites That Went Viral
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

How to go from Idea Guy to Execution Guy?

Startup Business Idea Execution

Great Expecations

You are always thinking up great ideas. Good, bad the ugly. Your bedside notebook is full of brilliant ideas to turn you into the next business billionare. One problem, you never execute any of these ideas.

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The Idea Guy

A recent question to Quora asked: How do I go from being an idea/vision guy to an idea and execution guy?

It strikes at the very problem many entreprenuers face. How do we get started? How do we take these ideas and make them real? Execution (good or bad) seperates the men from the boys…

Start Executing

Want to go from day dreamer to execution guru. Here are some steps. Be warned you may actually execute something!

1) Open your idea notebook – If you have one, open it to page 1. If you don’t have one, you ask yourself ig you really are the “ideas” guy.

Inc.com writes: “Get them out of your head and onto paper. Having all of this brilliance trapped in your brain is exhausting – it wants out!”

2) Choose an idea – Pick the easiet and smallest idea you have. Pick one.

3) Execute – That’s right. Give yourself one month to execute that idea.

Add a reminder in your calendar, stick a post-it on your front door. For the next 30/31 days you need to deliver.

4) Complete – If you executed the idea, congrate yourself and pick the next idea to execute. If you failed, keep going until the idea is executed.

5) Practice – Practice makes perfect. Keep refining your execution skills and proving to yourself and others you have atarck record of delivering.

Did these steps help? Did you execute? Let us know.

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Blogging: How To Get New Traffic To Old Blog Posts?

How To Get New Traffic To Old Blog Posts

Blog Promotion

A recent Quora question asked How do you promote old blog posts?

Often a new post gains a high spike in interest when first posted. This is commonly due to promotion on social media and general timeliness of the content. After time, this attention drops off. Good posts should not be forgotten and can still be used to drive traffic.

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Old But Not Forgotten

The following 10 tips may help you attract attention to your older blog posts.

1) Remember the footer: Add a footer on all new posts to older (relevant) posts. The “You might also enjoy reading this” WordPress widget can do this automatically.

2) Add links: Add a menu bar or column that includes links to older/archived articles. This includes using sitemaps, archives and tag clouds.

3) Use categories: Ensure posts have tags and categories.

4) References: Reference older posts in new posts. For example: Back in 2010 I wrote about XYZ…

5) Create a series: Many older posts can easily gel together with newer ones.

6) Updates: Add updates to older posts. A simple “Updated (Date)” with a couple of words at the top of an older post may bring attract visitors.

7) Advertise: Share older post links on other social media site you use. In forums and community sites members may ask for advice that your older blog posts can answer.

8) Avoid Repetition: Avoid reposting older posts verbatim. This may damage your search engine rankings.

9) Analytics: Study your analytics. Discover how your visitors land on your blog and exploit these “doorways”. Remember that not all visitors will first land on your index/front page.

10) Other mediums: Utilise other communication methods to promote older posts. If you have a regular email newsletter, consider adding links to older posts in these messages.

Did these work for you? Have you got some suggestions? Leave us a comment!

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You might also enjoy:
+ Our Table of Contents
+ Blogging: How Do You Promote Your Blog Posts?
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Kickstarter Crowdfunding Now Available in Europe

Crowdfunding UK

On 31 October 2012 Kickstarter launched it’s operations in the UK. There are already more than 1,500 applications kicking about.

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website for creative projects. Kickstarter has funded a diverse mixture of arts projects including indie films, music, stage shows and comics to journalism, video games and food-related projects. Individuals “back” projects in exchange for a tangible reward or one-of-a-kind experience.

The platform has helped many US based projects get off the ground. In the past, several technology based projects were well over subscribed, raising millions of dollars from backers. This spurred Kickstarter to clamp down on the rules to avoid pitches misleading users with false claims. Nevertheless, the platform remains a powerful and exciting method of funding.

Is it worth it?

Kickstarter will charge a 5% fee to successfully funded projects and no fee to unsuccessfully funded projects in the UK. Payment processing fees are:

+ Pledges of £10 or greater are charged 3% + £0.20
+ Pledges less than £10 are charged a discounted micropledge fee of 5% + £0.05
+ If a project is not successfully funded, there are no fees.

These charges are pretty good considering the wide reach of the platform and access to funding many projects wouldn’t normally have.

Getting Started

A great place to start is the Kickstarter website. Kickstarter offers plenty of advice and guidance on their website.

The Income Diary has published the Ultimate Guide: How to Make a Successful Kickstarter Campaign. Some key tips are:

+ First determine if your project is eligible for Kickstarter
+ Begin early
+ Check out past and present projects to get an idea for style and content
+ Use an eye catching project image and project title
+ Choose your funding goal
+ Set a project deadline
+ Select your campaign rewards for backers
+ Make a personalised and effective project video and description
+ Make regular updates
+ Prepare for launch

Kickstarter UK has opened the door for creative and existing projects to get off the ground. Good luck to those new applicants. Who will be the first to raise over £1 million?

Alternatives to Kickstarter UK

Not eligible for Kickstarter or looking for other similar platforms. Check out the following links:

+ We Did This – The UK’s leading arts crowdfunding platform, dedicated to making great fan-funded art happen.
+ Seedrs – Seedrs makes investing in startups simple and rewarding.
+ We Fund – The first crowd-funding platform to emerge in the UK, focusing on creativity in all forms. They help people find (paying) audiences for their work.
+ Crowd Funder – Fund and follow creative projects and inspirational ideas.
+ Sponsume – Small stakes in big ideas.
+ Please Fund Us – Crowdfunding creativity.
+ Crowd Cube – Raise business finance through the world’s first equity crowdfunding platform.

No more excuses. There are now many ways to raise cash for your next project or startup.

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You might also enjoy:
+ Kickstarter: Ouya raises $1million in 8 hours and 22 minutes
+ Ouya Breaks Crowdfunding Record – Exceeds Target By Millions
+ Startup Weekend: What to expect? How to prepare?
+ Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Building Your Minimum ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP)

Building Your Minimum ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP)

The concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has grown in popularity, mostly due to Eric Ries’ Lean Startup methodologies. Ries writes:

“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

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How much or how little is “minimum”?

There is some contention on how much or how little constitutes “minimum”. Too much and you risk investing too much time and effort in building an obsolete product. Too little and you cannot conclusively gather meaningful results.

The right place is probably half-way in the middle. Your minimum product should allow the maximum amount of learning, with the least amount of effort. Balance the costs and benefits.

Building your “mini” MVP

The common flaw of the average entrepreneur is having too many ideas and not being able to execute all or any of these concepts. We were thinking that entrepreneurs should utilise the most painless and quick mechanisms for testing ideas.

Two well known stories come to mind:

1) GroupOn – While the founders spent time with various customer development experiments, it was two cheap and dirty methods that tested their ideas. The first was a simple blog (ThePoint) that attracted like minded people to create promotional campaigns. The second was offering pizza coupons posted on an apartment building communal bulletin board.

2) Drop Box – A short video showing the problem, product and solution gained mass interest. The interest justified investing the time and effort to build the product.

Two quick and extremely simple techniques to get an idea to the market.

Closing

Lean startup and the minimum viable product concepts encourage entrepreneurs to not waste time building products customers do not want. Existing startups have shown that a minimum viable product can be as simple as a landing page. Therefore anyone should be able to quickly and easily build a mini MVP to validate their ideas (no matter how basic). What are you waiting for?

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You might also enjoy:
+ Our Table of Contents
+ Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in One Day
+ The Apprentice – Lean Startup Builds Minimum Viable Product in Two Days?
+ How To Get Traction? Or Why Is My Startup Broken?
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Blogging: How Do You Promote Your Blog Posts?

Blog Promotion

Recently on Quora we read the questions: How do you promote your blog posts? and What are the best ways to increase traffic to a Personal Blog? We thought we would share our own experiences and respond.

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The Response

Being relatively new to the “blogosphere” we are no experts on the best methods of promotion. In fact, through our very own experimentation[2] we are still struggling with effectively executing these techniques.

Firstly, we do not believe that quantity is necessary strongly correlated to quality. We think that marketing your blog can almost take too much time away from the actual writing. So it is a personal choice on how much time you devote to writing and promotion.

Nevertheless we have read plenty of articles and hope the below can help others.

In summary you need to spend an extensive amount of time across many methods to successfully promote your blog. Often the popular blogs of today spent months/years trickling along with little to no followers; or they had luck by picking a subject matter that went viral.

(A) Tips & Tricks:

+ All of the below: You will need to put the majority or all of the below to achieve saturation point.

+ Niche: Start small and pick a small niche target market. Become the expert. It may also limit the number of competitors (noise) you need to compete with.

+ Social Media: The vast majority of experienced bloggers will say use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc to share your posts. However this takes time and effort to build up a significant or valuable following. It takes time to maintain your presence across these sites.

+ Blog Directories: Add your blog to directory sites.

+ Feeds: Utilise RSS feeds. RSS readers remaining a popular method of readers keeping track of news from various sources.

+ Forums/Communities: Participate in online communities relevant to your blog. Again, beware this take time.

+ Tools: Use tools like IFTTT (If This Then That) to automate your messaging. For example, whenever you post a blog on WordPress, IFTTT can spread the word through all your other social channels automatically! Read the blog platform’s user manual – WordPress has some great advice on spreading the word.

+ SEO: Use your blog content to naturally appear in search results. Avoid paying anyone for this service. This can be achieved by simply being smart about your existing content. This is free.

+ Paid Advertising: This costs money but does work (at a premium). Pay for relevant visitors to your page and not likes or spam. Google Adwords and Facebook frequently hand out free credit to experiment with their tools.

+ Analytics: Use analytics to work out where your traffic is coming from. Know your conversion rates. You are trying to make the most of those visitors who actually visit and stay on your site for more than 2 seconds.

+ Mailing lists: Good old fashioned email is still massively powerful in pulling in traffic.

+ Brand: Be sure to include your blog URL in all your messaging (email, social media, business cards).

+ Networking and Guest Blogging: Speak to other bloggers and people in your ecosystem. Share content and favours for mutually beneficial results.

+ Diversification: Capture your audio through alternative mediums. Think books, videos, podcasts…

+ Time and Perseverance: It will take time for any of these methods to grow. Not all will work, at least not in isolation.

+ Bend the Rules: Leveraged paid advertising, mass marketing (spam) and/or guerilla marketing to build early traffic.

+ Offline: Get out the building. Attend conferences, meet people face-to-face. Often people read a blog because they discovered them in the flesh.

+ Good Writing: Writing and sharing personal and real experiences is always popular.

+ Ignore Frequency: We don’t believe posting regularly is important. Many of the good blogs we find are from discovering brilliant articles published years ago.

(B) Learn From Others:

The guys at SEOmoz write a terrific blog on SEO and other web marketing techniques.

One suggested 22 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic. They are summarised here but I recommend visiting the site and picking one or two to start implementing:

#1 – Target Your Content to an Audience Likely to Share
#2 – Participate in the Communities Where Your Audience Already Gathers
#3 – Make Your Blog’s Content SEO-Friendly
#4 – Use Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to Share Your Posts & Find New Connections
#5 – Install Analytics and Pay Attention to the Results
#6 – Add Graphics, Photos and Illustrations (with link-back licensing)
#7 – Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts
#8 – Frequently Reference Your Own Posts and Those of Others
#9 – Participate in Social Sharing Communities Like Reddit + StumbleUpon
#10 – Guest Blog (and Accept the Guest Posts of Others)
#11 – Incorporate Great Design Into Your Site
#12 – Interact on Other Blogs’ Comments
#13 – Participate in Q+A Sites
#14 – Enable Subscriptions via Feed + Email (and track them!)
#16 – Use Your Email Connections (and Signature) to Promote Your Blog
#17 – Survey Your Readers
#18 – Add Value to a Popular Conversation
#19 – Aggregate the Best of Your Niche
#20 – Connect Your Web Profiles and Content to Your Blog
#21 – Uncover the Links of Your Fellow Bloggers (and Nab ‘em!)
#22 – Be Consistent and Don’t Give Up

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You might also enjoy:
+ Our Table of Contents
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

The Problem with Twitter – Social Disconnection by Stealth

tl;dr Twenty new Twitter followers in a week but a fall in our net position. Should social media sites allow users to end connections by stealth? Is Twitter the new watering hole for scammers and opportunists?

Introduction

Before we begin, we need to make it clear we like Twitter. It has created a simple tool to connect millions of people. It has built a diverse network that has changed the way many of us communicate and opened up new possibilities for others. Various recent uprisings around the world have demonstrated the strength of mass electronic communication.

However one of our biggest gripes with Twitter is the following functionality, or more so the unfollowing functionality. We frequently receive follow email notifications telling us we have gained new followers. This is great however in the past few months we have lost our trust in these notifications.

This week we received approximately 20 new follower notifications. Awesome, new followers to interact with. In reality our net position fell. Many of these followers are no longer following us. Twitter is not alone here.

Why? What is going on here? Is being unable to break a social media connection by stealth a good thing?

Reasons for Breaking Up (Intentional or Unintentional)

Not all break ups may be intentional. However it feels like too many are trying to lure us in for a unbalanced relationship.

+ Spammers: Social media sites have been plagued by spam and dummy accounts looking to leverage large networks of followers. Twitter appears to be more aggressively pursuing such accounts and deactivating accounts as they appear. Therefore many new followers are likely very soon to become dormant.

+ Tools: With the increase of social media options, various tools have been made available to manage your accounts. Algorithms help you follow and unfollow other users, tailoring your network to your interests. The problem is that a button click may radically modify your network. In one click you start following 100 people, then in the next click you have mistakenly unfollowed the same 100 users.

+ Ratio: The desire may be for users looking to achieve the perfect ratio of “followers to followings”. They use a false connection request to lure in new followers, while unscrupulously maintaining a low following figure. This may have financial value for those looking to sell such accounts.

+ Mistake: Twitter makes it remarkably easy to follow/unfollow users (in error). It is not always clear that a single click on the “follow” button results in a follow.

+ Bugs: Users have reported problems with Twitter removing followers with their authorisation. Legitimate connections are being mysteriously broken.

+ Dislike: Obviously there will be cases where a user genuinely ends the relationship by intentionally unfollowing a user.

The combination of the above may be enough to explain the current high churn of new followers. Spammers have always remained in front of the curve. E-mail has got smarter and applications like Twitter are the next watering hole for ‘fake viagra peddlers’ and ‘Nigerian money scammers’.

Unfollowing in Stealth

The majority of social media sites alert you to when someone wants to make a new connection. However very few (if any) send you a notification of when that connection ends. This seems in contrast to the “making of a new connection” where there is complete transparency.

The current process:

1. Mike logs into account
2. Mike identifies Peter to connect with
3. Mike send a new connection request
3a. Sometimes Peter may need to authorise connection request
3b. Peter authorises connection
4. Mike notified of new connection
5. Mike breaks connection
6. No notification sent to Peter
7. Peter doesn’t know connection broken

Benefits of Stealth

It seems odd that the making of a connection are so open, however the closing of a connection are almost secret. What is the benefit to the network?

The clearest benefit seems to avoid social awkwardness for users. Generalising, the majority of humans wish to avoid conflict and by allowing discreet disconnection all parties can continue participating without the awkwardness. At least, until disconnected party realises they have been dumped.

From one angle it seems unreasonable to expect parties to authorise the break of the relationship. This may inadvertently increase the psychological barrier for creating new connections and reducing the effectiveness of the network. In contrast, many people are quick to rush into things even when implications are high (e.g. financial contracts with penalties for exiting). Attaching penalties on exit may not discourage users forming new connections.

Would building a social network based on full transparency mean a better community? Would penalising breaking connections be effective?

No Conclusions

There are various third party applications online to track your followers and unfollowers. It remains unknown if Twitter and others will enable this functionality within their own environments. For now we just need to accept that it is a better user experience to know about new connections…

Image Credit: Pluggio

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Thinking of Starting a Startup? 8 Sentiments To Think About

Startups for the Rest of Us

Mike Taber and Rob Walling record an awesome regular podcast called “Startups for the Rest of Us“. It’s aimed at helping developers, designers and entrepreneurs launch their startup product. They have just hit their 100th episode and you can check out older recordings or episode transcripts on their website.

In episode 98 they share “eight sentiments that do not bode well for your startup”.

The Eight Sentiments

1. “This product idea is awesome. Now off to the basement to build it; see you in 6 months!”

2. “I haven’t even finished the features I want to build yet and potential customers are already asking me to build X.” Translation: “I’m sticking to my product idea no matter what my potential customers tell me.”

3. “I’m halfway done with this idea… but that shiny new one over there seems so much better.”

4. “I plan to quite my job 60 days after I launch.”

5. “It would take me as much time to explain this task to someone else, so I’ll just do it myself.”

6. “I don’t want to bother with all that click through and conversion rate nonsense…I’ll just build a great product.” Translation: “Build a better mousetrap is not a good strategy”

7. “My idea is pretty hard to explain, do you have 20 minutes to spare?”

8. “I don’t want to talk publicly about my idea because someone might steal it.”

Summary

These are excellent points. The message is do not keep your idea a secret. Speak to people, especially customers and listen and apply their feedback. You need to be able to articulate your idea clearly and be open to suggestions. Do not build and ship in isolation!

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Lessons Learned – Be Your Own Boss

Be Your Own Boss

The new entrepreneur TV series “Be Your Own Boss” started a couple of weeks ago on the BBC. This is an extension to the BBC’s portfolio of pop-business productions that includes Dragons Den and The Apprentice.

These shows are definitely pitched at the mainstream and simplify aspects of starting a business. The X-Factor style delivery can easily be criticised. Nevertheless Be Your Own Boss proves to offer some real nuggets to aspiring entrepreneurs. It preaches the freedom and satisfaction that can come from building your own business. Noble aspirations in times the current climate of high unemployment and declining opportunities for young people.

Innocent Drinks

The show follows Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed and his search for bright minds with great ideas to invest in. Richard’s own story is inspiring.

From Wikipedia:

+ Innocent was founded by three graduates – Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright.
+ In 1998, after spending six months working on smoothie recipes and £500 on fruit, the trio sold their drinks from a stall at a music festival in London.
+ People were asked to put their empty bottles in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ bin depending on whether they thought the three should quit their jobs to make smoothies. At the end of the festival the ‘YES’ bin was full, with only three cups in the ‘NO’ bin, so they went to their work the next day and resigned.
+ Had a lucky break when Maurice Pinto, a wealthy American businessman decided to invest £250,000.
+ In total, it took fifteen months from the initial idea to taking the product to market.
+ In 2009 the company sold a small stake of between 10 and 20% to The Coca-Cola Company, with the three founders retaining all operational control for £30 million.
+ In 2010 Coca-Cola increased its stake in the company to 58% from 18% for about £65 million.
+ The three founders continue to retain full operational control.

Lessons from the Boss

Richard is brutally honest to hopeful candidates and rightly so. How can people seriously ask to use someone’s money to “conduct market research” or “advertise”?

In a way he is the typical angel investor seeking to reapply their recipe of success to others. Richard is constantly talking about the virtues of aiming big and getting into supermarkets; and knocking on doors of retailers to know if the product has any demand.

He also dismisses some ideas he is not passionate about. Rightly so given it will be his time and money he is investing. However occasionally he seems a little too quick to dismiss a pitch. Maybe some of the detail is lost in the editing.

The key points that stand out:

+ Validate your idea and product immediately. Determine if a market and demand exist.
+ Speak to people and potential customers.
+ Forget social media. You need to knock on doors and speak to people.
+ Get orders. The ultimate sign of a good idea is selling (even it is pre-selling before the product is available).
+ Be serious and take advise. Don’t expect investment if you’re closed or not at the right stage for investment.
+ Know your strategy.

There are many more, but the message of getting outside the building and conducting customer development is clear.

Stay Tuned

The series is entertaining and even features the occasional cameo from business legend Richard Branson. So far Richard Reed (not Branson) has invested in a couple of clever ideas. Let’s see if they reap him as much reward as Innocent.

Some of the Ventures so far (more here):

Week 1: Mango Bikes
Week 2: Twists Pasta Bar
Week 3: MixPixie

Image Credit: BBC

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Online Advertising Experiment with Google AdWords

google adwords online advertising chart results seo

tl;dr By using a Google AdWords credit voucher we learned an obvious lesson – buying traffic is expensive and Internet marketing (web marketing) is a science. Paid adverts can help compliment an existing organic/SEO strategy.

The Experiment

In March 2012 Google kindly provided us with a credit voucher to test out Google Adwords. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out online advertising and potentially pull in some traffic to our blog (all for free!).

We spent £24.53 in 89 days to get 290 clicks (0.17%) and 166,800 impressions. However recent tweaking has yielded us 166 clicks (CTR 0.42%) in 13 days off £2.79 of spend.

If you are interested in traffic, you may want to read our 10,000 page view article.

The Evolution of Online Advertising

The web has radically evolved in the past decade. Web advertising has moved from irrelevant blinking banner adverts to well targeted text and multimedia adverts. Spam and advert blockers have made it harder for unsolicited or unscrupulous messages to reach us. Nevertheless the end user experience is still flooded by advertisers screaming for our attention. Getting the right message, to the right people is even tougher.

Google AdWords have developed a sophisticated advertising suite to tailor your adverts to the right keywords searches, websites and demographics. The available analytics is useful in identifying what works and what doesn’t.

Lessons Learned

Using a minimal daily budget (<$£0.50) we created and road tested 6 adverts. In summary we learned:

+ The number and type of keywords counts – Our early adverts were associated to less than 20 keywords. Once we increased the list to 100+ we noticed an instant increase in clicks and impressions.

+ The right type of traffic is important – Add keywords but ensure they are relevant to your site otherwise you risk bringing in the wrong visitors.

+ Our keywords – There is no clear winner when it comes the keywords we used. The following keywords sit at the top with a long tail for the remainder of keywords. (Group A = 5 clicks) home business, home business opportunities, business opportunities; (Group B = 20 clicks) start your own business, start a business, build a business (Group C = 67 clicks) startup, startups.

+ Paid advertising is expensive – Google AdWords is expensive and better alternative may exist. You may consider advertising in a industry/niche newsletter or online magazine rather than spending money on Google.

+ Paid traffic can help support your organic page rankings – Page ranking on Google can be ‘make or break’. Therefore paid traffic may help secure or boost your page ranking on Google.

+ Paid traffic can help with your sales funnel (if you have one) – If you are selling something, paying x for a visitor may well be worth the spend. You just need to make sure you can convert many of the visitors and you have some mechanisms to track conversions.

The Adverts and Results

Between March and September we set up a campaign with 6 adverts:

Ad Group #1:
Lean Startup Tips
Winning new business ideas!
Launch with success.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 89
Clicks: 38
Impressions: 81,902
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.05%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.18
Cost: £7.02
Average Position: 3.8

Ad Group #2:
Entrepreneur Startup Blog
Lessons in business startup.
Turn a business idea into reality.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 89
Clicks: 7
Impressions: 22,666
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.03%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.19
Cost: £1.35
Average Position: 3.8

Ad Group #3:
Business / Tech Startups
News and stories on startups.
Ideas for business startups.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 89
Clicks: 1
Impressions: 481
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.21%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.22
Cost: £0.22
Average Position: 5.7

Ad Group #4:
Want Startup Success?
Interested in lean startup, models?
We share our experiences.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 77
Clicks: 77
Impressions: 21,637
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.36%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.17
Cost: £12.80
Average Position: 5.5

**** Ad Group #5: ****
Want Business Success?
Winning new business ideas!
Launch with success.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 13
Clicks: 166
Impressions: 39,946
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.42%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.02
Cost: £2.79
Average Position: 2.4

Ad Group #6:
Startup Success Stories?
Learn from the best startups.
Tools podcasts videos ebooks.
sparknlaunch.wordpress.com

Days active: 89
Clicks: 1
Impressions: 179
Click Through Rate (CTR): 0.56%
Average Cost Per Click (CPC): £0.35
Cost: £0.35
Average Position: 6.5

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

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