Tag Archive | biz

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.

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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.

Startup Weekend: What to Expect?

The Startup Weekend Series: This entry is part of a series of blog posts about attending a startup weekend event. These posts will help those people who have never attended a weekend hackathon or those wishing to maximise their experiences.

First Day

Don’t forget a firm handshake and eye contact…

Image Credit: Career Girl Network

Prior Perpetration Prevent Poor Performance

A while ago we asked you what to expect from a startup weekend. We shared the below useful articles on startups weekends, pitching advice, and podcast on what to expect.

1. Startup Weekend FAQ – A set of helpful question and answers.
2. Pitching advice for Startup Weekend – Simple and effective tips for preparing your pitch.
3. Podcast with the CEO of Startup Weekend – An insight of the Startup Weekend events and organisation.

54 Hours Case Study

However if you need a little more information, Howard Kingston describes his 54 hours during a Startup Weeked held in London. In his Huffington Post article he shares his experiences when “300 ambitious entrepreneurs get into a room and have 54 hours to launch a business”.

It is a great case study on the weekend, and you can easily gain an appreciation for the 54 hours. Also, check out Youtube for video footage of past weekends.

Top Tips

What are the key learnings? Be prepared, be selective, be different, be available and add value.

1) Be Prepared

Understand the schedule.
Determine what you can offer your team.
Do some homework.
Be prepared to network, deliver a pitch, contribute to a team and stay up late!

2) Be Selective

From day one, try and focus on a single idea or product.
Join a team made up individuals you believe you can learn.

3) Be Different

Stand out with your idea or offering.
Normally the exciting ideas get the most attraction during the weekend.
Boring or safe options usually don’t attract the excitement.

4) Be Available

Be flexible, be available, be able to contribute.
Make sure you can help your team on the weekend.
Avoid disappearing to other events.
Commit to the full 54 hours.

5) Be Valuable

Even if you’re not a programmer, read up on methodologies and validation processes.
Check out some marketing tutorials.
Create the twitter account and facebook pages. Build the vibe around the venue with posters and handouts.

Inspiration

Good luck with your weekend. If you need some inspiration, just check out links below. Both offer some great inspiration. Remember you don’t need to create a new idea. Sometimes the best ideas are already out there – they just need someone to execute them.

+ Ideas Watch – A website for entreprenuers looking to share and develop ideas. Thousands of ideas available for discussion.
+ Flippa – Websites and applications ready for sale. Gain an insight into the website marketplace.

Got something to share? Drop us a line using the social media links below!

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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.

Startup Funding: I’m 15 With An Amazing Product Idea

quora_question_answer_funding_startups

Hi, I’m 15 With An Amazing Product Idea

Recently on Quora a bright eyed kid asked for some advice.

Like most youngsters they had come up with a great product idea. A simple idea that could solve a common problem. They asked:

“Q. I’m a 15 year old with an amazing product idea. Should I ask for funding?”

“I feel like I have a stellar idea that everyone will benefit from, but I don’t have a lot of the skills needed to make the software. Should I go to a local firm and pitch my idea so I can receive support and/or hire a contractor or two to help me write the code, or am I being too ambitious?”

We are not given too much more information but on the surface this looks admirable. You have to admire the kid’s ambition. Certainly easy money may be available, especially to motivated young people. However it all feels too soon to be knocking up investors for cash.

We suggest: “Build it first, then ask for money.”

Build It First, Then Ask For Money

We think the key here is to build evidence demonstrating the idea is actually a good one. Good in the sense it is commercially viable to put money into. Or simply will this product idea create value.

Start by validating your idea. Ask family, friends, teachers, acquaintances and potential customers if they would buy or use the product.

Then look at building a prototype or minimum viable product. First prove to yourself that the product is worth pursuing. Then worry about funding.

No one is going to throw money at you until you can demonstrate – i) you have taken time and effort to think about the idea; ii) you have gone out and validated the idea; and iii) you have drawn out a plan for getting the idea to market.

They may however throw some money at you when you’ve proved you are truly interested in taking the concept forward. And don’t forget, those friends and family you speak to early on, may well offer to help out – with money or their time!

Closing Point

The one benefit of being young is that many adults are likely to give you a moment of their time. Therefore if you can put together a strong plan and proposal – the money, or at least the good (free) advice will follow.

If your 15 with an amazing idea. Drop us a line. We’d love to hear your story.

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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.

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.”

()

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?

.

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.

(!)

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

.

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.

Lessons Learned From 10,000 Page Views

tl;dr We looked back on our last 10,000 page views. We found: 1) Traffic spikes help, 2) Being unloved hurts, 3) Google search Rocks, 4) Social media sux, 5) Google images draws in questionable traffic, 6) Low click rates hurt, 7) Spam is out of control, 8) More bots than humans visit the site.

Introduction

There is the old adage of the past best is the best predictor of future. Some say we just have to look back in the past to forecast our likely future. With this in mind we decided to look back on our last 10,000 blog views (page views). Hopefully the future is going to be brighter than the past…

We took figures from our standard WordPress Dashboard. The numbers represent the count of “views” and are not unique. In most cases we have only provided a cut of the top figures rather than the full list (due to the very long tail of results).

Lessons Learned

The results are hardly impressive or surprising.

1. Traffic Spikes Help

The odd news spike from news aggregator sites managed to haul in a large amount of short term activity. Activity quickly diminished but spikes did keep post links alive in social media sites (eg Twitter, Facebook) and news readers (eg Google Reader).

2. Being Unloved Hurts

Articles that never had the fortune of gaining large attention remain unloved.

3. Google Search Rocks

While many preach the power of social media, the bulk of referral traffic has come from Google. Yahoo and Bing are well behind.

4. Social Media Sux

Our experience with social media is extremely poor. Hardly any activity turns into visits. A Facebook Like, a Twitter Tweet and Google +1 are meaningless in converting into visits.

5. The Power of (Google) Images

Oddly Google Images yield the bulk of Google traffic (636 of 921 Google Search Engine views). It is questionable the value of this traffic.

6. Low Click Rate

It is rare that a visitor clicks on any/many links. We are not worried about external links however concerned about the low internal click rate. We added a standard footer to all our posts a few months ago that has made some improvement.

7. Spam Is Out of Control

Traffic is on the decline but spam is out of control (increasing from 7 to 777 per month).

8. Too Many Spam Bots

The large amount of spam may well be automated (ie sent by a bot) rather than by a human.

Summary

It feels as web traffic is much like catching waves in the ocean. Catch a good wave and you can ride it into shore. Catch no wave and you’re left floundering with the (spam) sharks.

The numbers are posted below. Get in touch if you have anything to add.

Happy swimming!

The Numbers

Top 10 Posts

The following summarises the top 10 posts by number of post views.

Views / Post
3402 Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
1404 Home page / Archives
1314 How do you get on the Frontpage of Hacker News?
285 Glossary
240 Learning From Other Startups
234 KISS – Ugly Websites That Went Viral
212 The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #2
205 The Apprentice – Lean Startup Builds MVP?
204 The London Olympics 2012 (In Infographics)
190 How To Get Traction? Or Why Is My Startup Broken?

Comments:
– One Hacker News submission sent 2,958 visitors to our blog in one single day (Described here).

Top 10 Referrers

The following summarises the top 10 referrers by number of post views.

Views / Referrer
2988 Hacker News
921 Search Engines
462 hackful.com
358 Twitter
342 Google Reader
179 StumbleUpon
126 quora.com
101 Facebook
93 bbc.co.uk
63 WordPress Dashboard

(Note: Added 146 to hacker news for HN aggregators)

Comments:
– Community sites have helped draw majority of traffic.
– Popular posts often get captured by Google Reader and Twitter, growing interest for a short term period then quickly dying off.

Top 5 Search Engines

The following summarises the top 5 referrer search engines by number of post views.

Views / Search Engine
921 Google Search
636 Google Image Search
11 Ask.com
7 Bing
4 Yahoo Search

Comments:
– Large amount of traffic from image search. Bulk with Google.
– Using Adwords and Facebook however minimal spend.
– WordPress Dashboard may be self clicks.

Top 10 Countries

The following summarises the top 10 visitor countries by number of post views.

Views / Country
4308 United States
1572 United Kingdom
464 Canada
377 India
299 Germany
254 Australia
163 France
151 Brazil
131 Netherlands
118 Sweden

Comments:
– In total there have been visitors from over 106 countries.

Top Search Terms

The following summarises the top search terms by number of post views.

– startup glossary, startup dictionary, buzzwords, biz buzzwords
– minimum viable product, mvp, pivot
– business guru, business gurus, biz advice, startup advice, how to launch
– new startups, top uk startups, top 100 startups, best startups
– hackers, hacker news
– startup podcasts, startup tools
– startup funding, business finance, crowdfunding

Comments:
– Hundreds of variations however mainly focused on “startups” and “business”.

Top 10 Clicks

The following summarises the top 10 visitor clicks by number of post views.

Clicks / URL
167 quora.com
87 Hacker News
85 kickstarter.com
82 startups.co.uk
70 sparknlaunch.files.wordpress.com
39 techzinglive.com
26 bbc.co.uk
25 Twitter
23 Reddit

Internal:
67 sparknlaunch.files.wordpress.com/ (Images)
3 sparknlaunch.files.wordpress.com/ (Files)

Comments:
– Very low internal click rate.
– Bulk of clicks appear to be on images. May suggest users behaviour or other sites recycling images.
– Poor reflection on the ability of site to retain visitors.

Top Comments

The following summarises the number of comments.

Comments / Category
1590 spam
396 ham
2 missed spam
4 false positives
95 Comments

Comments:
– Spam is the unwanted commercial comments.
– Ham are legitimate comments.
– The high amount of spam comments hints that bulk of visitors to the blog are just spammers or spammer bots.

Comments Per Month

The following summarises the number of spam comments by month.

Comments / Month
7 Feb
36 Mar
101 Apr
172 May
160 Jun
541 Jul
777 Aug

Comments:
– Strangely traffic has gone down but spam comments have gone up.
– February caught 7 comments versus 777 in August!

Image Credit: VistaPrint

.

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.

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.

.

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

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.

How To Get Traction? Or Why Is My Startup Broken?

The Mystery of Achieving Exponential Growth

tl;dr This post looks at how startups gain their initial traction. By studying previous successful startups (like Quora, Mint, Airbnb, Twitter, Facebook, Groupon) we realise that clever mass marketing techniques; and targeting niche markets are the real reason many grew so quickly. Going viral is harder than it looks.

The Problem With Your Startup

You’ve thought of the great idea, conducted various forms of customer validation, recruited your technical co-founder, pivoted twice and finally launched your Minimal Viable Product (MVP). Awesome! You are on the verge of making the headlines and dollars. You and your co-founder stare at the web analytics screen waiting for lift off… Something must be broken. You check your Internet connection and click refresh. You ask yourselves why no one is visiting your site? Why is no one buying our product?

The common question of gaining initiation traction is challenging one. Challenging because it fundamentally questions your business model. Going live or launching is the ultimate validation test. Did we build the right thing? Does anyone want our product?

Marketers are quick to advise you to “improve your SEO”, “interact on key social media” or “buy adwords”. Consultants will tell you to “revisit your business model” or “redraw your lean canvas”. While you appreciate their helpfulness, this advice doesn’t always translate to your business case or doesn’t actually work in reality.

How To Get Traction?

When in doubt, look back in time. While not the most reliable tool (history), it may well help you make your next intelligent step forward. Or it just proves that the big names of today faced a similar uphill battle.

Quora has endless questions on gaining traction. Enough to justify the section titled: How Did X Get Traction? Here is a selection of some of our favourite initial traction startup stories.

1. How did Quora get its initial traction?

Adam D’Angelo (Quora Founder) puts it simply: “We invited our friends, and some of them invited their friends, etc.” However this was back in 2010 and the site has evolved dramatically since then. A common thread for many startups is encouraging content creation. Sites that can encourage users to create content retains existing users and attracts new users.

2. How did Mint get initial traction?

Mint insiders go into detail of how they built their user base. Apart from having a great brand that solved a real problem, they leveraged a strong PR and marketing strategy that reaped high quality traffic.

A sweet domain name also helps, but usually comes at a price. Mint supposedly paid $2 million for the four letter address.

3. How did Airbnb get initial traction?

Solve a problem with a crazy idea. In 2007 San Francisco hotels were booked out. The buddying entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to rent out their floor space by throwing an “air” mattress. The concept blew up.

Dave Gooden suggests a rather more sinister approach to gaining traction. He describes a sophisticated mailing campaign via Craiglist.

4. How did LinkedIn get its initial traction?

Lee Hower (LinkedIn Founding Team) boasts impressive growth in users. Within 12 months they claimed 500,000 users!

We are doubtful of good luck and timing however… some claim the uniqueness of their product at that time explained the success.

Others suggest clever news article placements in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine helped gain attention.

5. How did plentyoffish get its initial traction?

A decade ago dating websites became the ultimate place to find your next partner. Many competitors appeared but Plenty of Fish remained in top spot.

The reason behind this success is likely to be Markus Frind’s (founder) smart approach to SEO and Google AdSense. His blog post describes the sites exponential growth.

6. How did Facebook gain its initial traction?

We’ve all followed the news stories and seen the film (“The Social Network“). Was it really down to the determination of one computer programming genius?

The early traction appears to have come collecting e-mail addresses of schools and students. The Facebook leveraged the network effect of well connected groups to gain traction.

They offered an attractive option for networks of schools and students to stay connected. As these networks already existed, they simply moved this targeted niche from older and isolated networks to the newer platform.

7. How did StumbleUpon gain its initial traction?

According to Brad O’Neill (First Angel Investor and Advisor) Stumbleupon was one of the very first add-ons to the Firefox browser. This early relationship helped Stumbleupon grow a significant userbase, as the functionality was integrated into their browsing.

Stumbleupon was one of five or six product ideas the original founders had considered.

8. How did Twitter get initial traction?

The tipping point for Twitter appears to be its showcase at the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. Twitter displayed festival goers messages on large screens around the event.

However before this time, it is likely that the early adopters and a large network of bloggers did their part to spread the word.

9. How did Foursquare get initial traction?

One view is that a launch at 2009 South by Southwest (SXSW) kicked off their growth. Another view is that a city-by-city approach expanded as new users were added. By pushing growth in cities, a combination of city level growth and national growth promoted adoption.

However was it their prior experience with location based technology that triggered their real growth? Dennis Crowley (Founder) several years earlier had developed and sold a similar concept to Google (now Google Latitude).

10. How did Groupon get initial traction?

Groupon began life as the ThePoint, a community campaign site. It was only several iterations later that a simple experiment for pizza coupons on a WordPress blog validated their coupon based model. Or was it?

Andrew Chen suggests a more sinister strategy of realising a “temporary arbitrage in buying tons of demographically targeted ad inventory”. Groupon essentially leveraged a low cost of customer acquisition by buying up massive subscriber lists and then targeting them with marketing messages. The cost of acquisition quickly rose but by then Groupon had a large enough pool of customers.

Conclusions

It appears plenty of mystery exists around gaining early traction. However based on the above analysis, these top tips may help you gain your early traction:

+ Encourage content creation
+ Get a sweet four letter domain name
+ Build a sophisticated mailing campaign
+ Get published in a newspaper article read by your target market
+ Get the most out of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
+ Utilise the network effect
+ Be the first and be integrated into a daily tool (eg be that button on the top of every web browser)
+ Use early adopters and bloggers to promote your brand
+ Leverage prior experience (and networks)
+ Find a low cost of customer acquisition before others do

If you wish to share your own experiences drop us a line or leave a comment or join the Hacker News discussion.

Image Credit: Let A Thousand Nations

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You might also enjoy:
+ Need Startup Advice? – Just Ask Online
+ 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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