Tag Archive | business

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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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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Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Lessons Learned – Be Your Own Boss

Be Your Own Boss

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

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

Innocent Drinks

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

From Wikipedia:

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

Lessons from the Boss

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

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

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

The key points that stand out:

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

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

Stay Tuned

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

Some of the Ventures so far (more here):

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

Image Credit: BBC

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

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

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Online Advertising Experiment with Google AdWords

google adwords online advertising chart results seo

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

The Experiment

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

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

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

The Evolution of Online Advertising

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Adverts and Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

The History of Lean Startup by Steve Blank

lean startup customer development steve blak feedback loop

tl;dr Steve Blank tells the story how lack of startup framework led him to design customer development, and his pupil Eric Ries went on to build Lean Startup. The Lean Launchpad classes offer entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn how to apply customer development and lean startup concepts to testing and building their business ideas.

The History of Lean Startup

Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur who now spends his time teaching entrepreneurship to students. His early writings on customer development (The Four Steps to the Epiphany) have evolved into the Lean Launchpad. The Lean Launchpad provides entrepenuers with an online, interactive envrionment to learn all that is needed to understand and apply the lean startup methodologies.

In Blank’s most recent blog post he reiterates his discovery and journey.

The Journey

Blank tells the story how lack of startup framework led him to design customer development, and his pupil Eric Ries went on to build lean startup. They found that the traditional business tools did not apply to startups.

+ Startups are different – Ten years ago he started thinking about why startups are different from existing companies. He questioned: Are business plans suitable for startups? Is execution all that matters?

+ Business models first, business plans later – Blank thought that startups needed business models before business plans. This lead him to come up with “customer development” – the formal methodology to search for a business model.

+ Business models before execution – He believed that Customer Development needed traditional product management. This process is documented in Blank’s book, Four Steps to the Epiphany.

+ Lean Startup and Eric Ries – In 2003 Blank was approached to teach a class in Customer Development at Haas Business School. He insisted that Eric Ries be in the class. (Blank had an investment in Ries’s IMVU business.) Ries argued that the traditional product management and waterfall development should be replaced by agile development. This approach was named “Lean Startup”.

+ Standardising the Business Model – Until now the structure of the business model remained vague. However Alexander Osterwalder wrote Business Model Generation that allowed entrepreneurs to build an operating plan around their search for a business. The business model canvas simplified the planning process and pressed entrepreneurs for real answers to tough questions.

+ Testing the theory – The startup methodology remained scientific theory until the National Science Foundation approached Blank to teach the concepts to a group of scientists. They wanted to apply the theory to commercialising their basic research. This triggered the rollout of the Lean Launchpad course. Now real entrepreneurs are applying the theory to real startup scenarios.

Conclusion

Blank has turned building a startup into a science. His publications and theories have encouraged many entrepreneurs to think more about their business before leaping into the abyss. While some may argue entrepreneurship is not a science that can be taught, the Lean Launchpad provides an intelligent framework for those looking for some direction and stability in their search for the next big business.

Links:
+ Startup Is Not The Same As A New Start Business
+ Extracts from The Four Steps to the Epiphany (pdf)

Image Credit: The Lean Startup

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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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