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This American Life Alumni Launches Startup

hear startup audio podcast alex blumberg

This American Life Alumni Launches Startup

Podcast listeners have been treated recently to a smorgasbord of high quality audio delicacies. National Public Radio (formerly National Public Radio) has continued to produce super impressive audio offerings. Serial has just ended a speculator series, a spin off from This American Life.

Popular podcasts are no longer just two guys chatting in their basements on cheap headsets. The production benchmark has been raised. Major broadcasters are getting in on the act discovering that the world of podcast are filled with loyal audiences.

Planet Startup

So we were obviously excited to hear that Alex Blumberg from This American Life, Planet Money and other well known titles has jumped ship to start making his very own podcast network. His creation Gimlet Media strives to create the next network of high quality audio podcasts.

We know that the market wants to hear podcasts (shown by the popularity of Serial); and we know that these listeners don’t mind hearing from advertisers. A match made in heaven?

Blumberg’s first offering is ‘Startup’ that follows his journey from paid employee at NPR to startup entrepreneur. He shares his pain, nerves, anxiety and worries of starting his own business. We hear him pitching his idea to investors. We hear him hiring people. We hear him dealing with a minor social media disaster. Read a more in depth review here from The Guardian.

It’s definitely worth checking out (links below). They have just released another new series called ‘Reply All’ that tells great stories about the Internet.

What about us?

It is entertaining listening to hear from others trying to make the next big thing. However how much empathy can we have for Gimlet? With the breadth of experience and contacts how big was the leap from employee to employer? The one thing clear is that Blumberg and co have taken a leap and it seems to be paying off (so far). Let’s hope we can all find our feet so easily…

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Links:

+ Startup – Startup is a show about startups.
+ Reply All – Reply All is a show about the internet.

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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.

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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.

Analysis – Kickstarter Crowdfunding Now Available in Europe

Good News for Crowd Funding and Startup Financing

In November 2012 we published an article titled “Kickstarter Crowdfunding Now Available in Europe“. The post described Kickstarter, the well known crowd funding platform, entering the UK market.

In October 2012 Kickstarter opened it’s doors to projects in the UK. This was a remarkable event as at the time, as crowd funding was just coming into the forefront for entrepreneurs to gain financing (in the shadows of a depressed economy). This was fantastic news Kickstarter is available to projects in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Something Strange

The strange part was that this one post has attracted the highest volume of traffic, almost 5,000 views since it was published. And we don’t know why?!

The bulk of site visitors are from the US, then way back are UK visitors.

On keywords, it does seem that the combination of “kickstarter” and “europe” are popular:

kickstarter europe (434)
kickstarter in europe (53)
kickstarter for europe (5)
european kickstarter (15)
kickstarter from europe (13)
kick starter europe (12)
kickstarter europe alternative (12)

One thought may be that very few articles write about Kickstarter in Europe. Rather they write about “Kickstarter in the UK”. Hence our post has scored a high Google page rank and we can maintain this traffic (for now).

SEO

We guess we will leave this for the SEO experts to analyse. For now, thanks for visiting our site!

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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.

Crowdsurfing: Alternatives to Kickstarter

kickstarter_crowdfunding_financing

tl;dr Crowdsurfing platform Kickstarter successfully launched in the UK in late 2012. Similar platforms continue to appear. We list some of alternatives to Kickstarter.

Kickstarted

In November 2012 we wrote that Kickstarter had landed in Europe by extending it’s operations to the UK. In the first month jsut over £2million was pledged and over 400 projects launched. Super activity for the well known crowdfunding platform and a strong signal for the appetite outside of the US.

With crowdfunding proving such a hot bed for creativity and successful backing, copycats are always going to follow. Today we look at some competitors in the market.

Alternatives to Kickstarter UK

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

+ ArtistShare – ArtistShare is a platform that connects creative artists with fans in order to share the creative process and fund the creation of new artistic works.
+ ArtistShare – Fundable is a crowdfunding platform that offers both rewards-based and equity-based campaigns for small businesses.
+ 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.

Do you have any further suggestions or experience with any of the above? Drop us a line.

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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.

Twitter Introduces Vine – Post 6 Second Videos Online

twitter_vine_6_six_second_video_tweet

In 6 seconds…

Twitter introduces 6-second video tweets. Will audiences tune in or out? What scandals will it create? And will it generate revenue? Read more below…

Tweets

In 2006 Twitter introduced the world to an online social networking service that enabled its users to send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters. They introduced a web based platform for broadcasting short messages. It came at a time when mobile phones were becoming smart and people were already hooked on text messaging and instant chat. Now Twitter have 500 million registered users, generating over 340 million tweets daily and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day.

Veets?

This month they introduced Vine, available via iTunes in app format. Vine allows users to tweet 6-second video.

According to iTunes:
“Vine is the best way to see and share life in motion. Create short, beautiful, looping videos in a simple and fun way for your friends and family to see.”

Will users be attracted to such short video? Will users be able to cope with streams of video tweets? Will this be information overload?

Danger

To the creative this may be another avenue to showcase their talents. However as we have seen with Twitter, being able to broadcast a message or photo to millions in an instance is a recipe for disaster.

Revenue

Since inception pundits have been trying to determine how Twitter can monetise it’s data. Will video shorts open the gateway for paid video advertising?

It feels as if Twitter is looking to extends it’s capability from plain text and photos into video. Facebook and YouTube have shown the benefit in these mediums. Smartphones already offer the technology. However will users buy into such short film? Only time will tell.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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