Archive | August 2012

Startup Weekend: How to prepare? (Day 0)

A couple of months ago we asked you “what to expect?” and “how to prepare” for a startup weekend. Several readers replied and we are pleased to start sharing their responses. This is the second instalment of the startup weekend series (#1).

These posts can help others maximise the ultimate experience of building a early startup within a condensed period of time (while having fun!). The content may apply to any other accelerator weekend or hackathon.

Here are some tips for before the event:

1. Get Registered

The frequency of events is on the rise. However the popular events sell out quickly. Make sure you set a reminder and register early. If you miss out – join the waiting list or beg. If you cannot attend as a participant, maybe you can help out as a volunteer or mentor; or watch the final presentations.

2. Check the Schedule

Get hold of an agenda from the event or previous events. The typical format maybe:

Friday – Networking, ice-breaker, pitch idea, vote for top idea, form teams.
Saturday – Plan, design, discuss. Start building.
Sunday – Finalise product/prototype and presentation. Pitch to the judges. Prize giving.

3. Who are you?

The weekend has a strong dependency on you and your abilities. You don’t need to be a guru but you should be clear on where and how you can help (technically and interpersonally). Think about your strengths and don’t limit yourself. You may not know how to code, but you may be great at motivating the team or using Google. Every bit of enthusiasm and positive thinking helps during the 54 hours.

4. What do you want to learn?

Be clear on what you want to learn from the weekend. Look out for opportunities to gain that new skill. You will be exposed to a diverse range of experts and people working in the field. Utilise the chance to ask these guys some tough questions.

5. Networking

The event brings together a pool of talented and driven individuals just like you. A startup weekend gives you an opportunity to meet and impress like-minded people.

Get some business cards (name, phone number, email and twitter handle are sufficient). Check out the social media sites. Start speaking to those attending before the day and stay in touch.

6. Homework

Startup experts like Blank, Ries and Osterwalder have developed frameworks to plan and implement your idea or concept. Check out some startup methodologies and be prepared to draw on this knowledge.

The key things to know are how to generate an idea, evaluate an idea and perform some kind of customer validation. The Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas and Jason Cohen’s articles on customer Validation.

7. Pitching – Part 1

This deserves a separate post. It can be nerve racking but ultimately prepares your for future pitches and gives you some control over the weekend (if you attract enough votes).

At some events half the room will pitch. The most business viable proposals are often forgotten. Designers and developers are keen to work on interesting and creative projects. Pitch something that will gain the interest of a team, rather than funding. Concepts that will utilise popular technology are always popular.

i) First, brainstorm your ideas down on a piece a paper by considering the following:

– Problems – What things do I see everyday that I want to fix?
– Pain Points – What really annoys me? What is totally inefficient?
– Random – Whatever else is on your mind?

Add:
– Customer – Who is your target market?
– USP – What is your unique selling point/proposition (USP)?

An example of a simple template – Four boxes for each idea (Problem, Segment, Pros, Cons).

ii) Second, pick you favourites and attempt to apply a solution. Think about how the prototype will look and what elements it will incorporate:

– Web based application,
– Mobile based application,
– Social networking site,
– Location based,
– Game based.

You will dive deeper into the product once you form a team.

iii) Thirdly, combine these thoughts and pick the best one or two.

Discuss these ideas with your friends, family and/or colleagues.

8. Pitching – Part 2

Now you have your idea(s), it’s time to build the pitch. Commonly you only have a minute to sell yourself and idea. Split your 60 seconds into these sections:

– Who are you? (5-10s)
– What’s the problem? (10-15s)
– What’s the proposed solution? (10-15s)
– Who are you looking for? (5-10s)

Remember to smile and be enthusiastic. Keep cool and don’t forget your in a friendly and open forum. You are not the only one a little nervous. Standing out will help people remember you. Silly hats or body paint may help.

At the end of all the pitches you should be given an opportunity to summarise the pitch on a piece of paper. Make sure it stands out and simply explains the main elements of your idea. Finally the audience will vote.

You may need to hustle people to get their votes or combine with others to gain enough votes.

Don’t get upset if you don’t get enough votes. Join a team where you can show off your skills and learn new things. After all, the weekend is all about learning and networking. The idea is not as important as the process.

9. Pack Your Bag

Pack a pen, paper, iPad, laptop, business cards, sleeping bag, enthusiasm… Get ready for an exciting 54 hours.

10. Resources

If you need more information, checkout the organisers website and social media pages (including YouTube). The below links may help as well.

Startup Weekend FAQ – A set of helpful question and answers.
Pitching advice for Startup Weekend – Simple and effective tips for preparing your pitch.
Podcast with the CEO of Startup Weekend – An insight of the Startup Weekend events and organisation.
More Startup Articles – Read more of our posts on startups.

Good luck and drop us a line. We would love to hear from you.

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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.

Helpful Startup Tools for Entrepreneurs – Q&As

In early August we published a post titled “Helpful Startup Tools for Entrepreneurs“. It announced our new repository of online startup tools for entrepreneurs.

Today we have added 10 top question/answer websites. We are big fans of online expert sites. These platforms allow you to gain access to industry experts.

Want to ask Eric Ries a question on Lean Startup? Check out Sprouter. Want to ask Drew Houston about how he started to Dropbox? Check our Quora.

Here are the 10 new entires into the startup tools repository:

1. Quora – Using the search functionality you can easily find experts and answers relevant to your industry.

2. Askolo – A small scale question and answer website, however has a diverse membership base of startup entrepreneurs. Offers an opportunity to get in touch with like minded people.

3. Stack Exchange– It originated from helping programmers solve coding problems. It is now an ever growing pure question and answer site.

4. OnStartups – Part of the StackExchange network. This section deals specifically with entrepreneur and startup based questions.

5. Sporuter – A rich community of startup experts. Includes answers from Eric Ries, Brad Feld, Tony Conrad, Dan Martell, Mark Suster, Hiten Shah, Micah Baldwin, Aaron Patzer, Daniel Burka, Joe Stump, Ash Maurya.

6. LinkedIn – Best known for being a social network for professional connections, LinkedIn offers several forums for connecting with experts in your field.

7. Reddit – The social news website has slowly been adding subsections (“subreddits”). This has helped in finding useful users and threads to follow.

8. Hacker News – Affiliated with the YCombinator accelerator foudned by Paul Graham. The site is primarily a news aggregation site for startup and technology related articles. However submissions prefixed with “Ask HN” or “Show HN” can quickly gain useful feedback and interest.

9. Twitter – Search and find experts to follow and ask questions. Your submissions are limited to 140 characters but can start informative interactions.

10. Google – It is very likely your question has already been asked (and answered). Searching for “How do I…” may yield some quick answers.

Want more top tools? Visit our Helpful Startup Tools For Entrepreneurs section.

Have a site to add? Drop us a line in the comments section or over .

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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.

Creating Your Very Best Startup Business Logo

Startups.co.uk have published a really helpful article getting your logo professionally designed. Your logo will be the face of your company and therefore has importantn consequences to how customers respond.

1. Know the name of your company – Does the name reflect what you do?

2. Style of your business logo – Font based, representative or abstract? Will your logo instantly communicate what you do?

3. The message behind your business logo – What is your unique selling point (USP)?

4. Make a business logo fit for purpose – Where will you use your logo? Websites, instantiation, business cards?

5. Research your designer – Check out their previous work and customer testimonials. Avoid picking on price alone.

99Designs who provide an online market place for designers offer similar logo designing tips and advice.

1. Picture the name – Use images to convey your product or service.

2. Get quirky – Select something different to stand out from the crowd and be memorable.

3. Create a superhero logo – Common themes help customers associate and remember your logo.

4. Twitterize it – The 99Designs article suggests using Twitter as your inspiration. However they better suggestion would be considering how your logo will transcend mediums. How will your logo look in Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and other social media platforms?

5. Make it 3D – These logo require are more complex to create however add a level of expertise and professionalism. Good examples are Xerox and even Llyoyds Bank.

We hope these tips help. Leave a comment and share a link to your startup logo.

Image Credit: FieldID

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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.

Get hired with the help of your friend, Mark Zuckerberg?

tl;dr Adzuna, a search engine for classified ads encourages users to share adverts via social media. In this instance, the prompt features a friendly photo of Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder).

Get hired with the help of your friend?

Adzuna, the British startup that “aims to become the leading search engine for classified ads, globally” continues to shine. They recently featured on Startups.co.uk’s top 100 startups of 2012; and raised £800k via seed and venture round funding. Congrats Adzuna!

The site smartly and easily aggregates jobs, car and property adverts. Like most sites, they encourage you to connect your experience to popular social media platforms (LinkedIn and Facebook). However it still came as a shock as we discovered a stock photo featuring the blue eyed magnum steel stare of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. We couldn’t resist sharing the image (above). “Get hired with the help of your friend”.

We hope Mark can help out?

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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

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.

Ouya Breaks Crowdfunding Record – Exceeds Target By Millions

crowd funding kickstarter startup financing

Update: Ouya raised $8,596,475 from 63,416 backers!

tl;dr Video project breaks funding record on crowdfunding site. Raises over $8 million, well over their goal of $950,000. What does this mean for the future of startup funding?

Breaking Crowdfunding Records

In July we wrote about a video project breaking funding records on crowdfunding site, Kickstarter.

A month ago Ouya listed on Kickstarter and within 8 hours achieved a million dollars of funding. In 24 hours they had reached $2.5 million. Their listing closes Thursday and they currently sit on just over $7 million. An amazing achievement considering their original funding goal was only $950,000. So either they underestimated their project or backers have overestimated the value. Either way this is a truly impressive result.

As we write 54,528 backers have pledged $7,262,319 to help Ouya. While this won’t break the record set by Pebble Watch earlier in the year (they raised $10 million) it continues to show the effectiveness of financing projects via this mechanism of funding. A couple of years ago it is unlikely such projects would have seen light of day.

Congratulations to Ouya and all their backers. We hope this can realise all the objectives set out in their pledge.

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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.

Helpful Startup Tools for Entrepreneurs

Today we have added a new section to the Spark n Launch blog titled ‘Top Startup Tools‘.

The page contains lists of helpful startup tools for entrepreneurs. We will continue to add to this page as we find more and more great online resources. Currently we are adding to the below categories. Have we missed something? Drop us a line with your own favourite entrepreneur tools.

Top Startup Podcasts
Top Startup Coding Resources
Top Startup Q&As
Top Startup Business Planning Tools
Top Startup Blogs

Also, don’t forget our Startups Buzzwords Glossary (or Startups Dictionary), an explanation of some of those frequently heard startup buzzwords.

Peace out!

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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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

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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