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The Startup Spirit

Posted on Apr 04, 2012 by  | 0 Comments

By Dug Campbell

Welcome to the new Startup blog from MBM - thanks for dropping by!

Over the next few months, myself and other members of the team will be using this blog to set out our thoughts and observations as we work with the entrepreneurial community in the UK and further afield. We’ll post about common issues encountered by high-growth technology startups, how to deal with some of the common legal issues and pitfalls faced by so many high growth companies in the early stages and initiatives to support entrepreneurial growth in this country as it fights to claw its way back from recession. We’ll also be reporting back from various events with the intention of promoting an ongoing discussion amongst the startup community. As you’d expect, it’s not intended to be a one-way process. So if you’ve got anything to say, please do get in touch and leave a comment, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.

Before I went on a tour of the building, Shanna Tellerman shared some valuable tips on the lessons learned throughout the life of her Wild Pockets startup. Interestingly, she studied under the famous Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University before starting her first company which successfully exited to Autodesk. Shanna’s take on entrepreneurship is that mistakes are inevitable in startup life - but that's a good thing as that’s exactly where you learn some of the most valuable lessons. As Einstein said, "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new".

When building teams, she pointed out that ‘more’ doesn't always equal ‘faster’ – above an optimum level, which varies from business to business, adding employees as a small business is not going to automatically translate into leaps in productivity. Skills are key and during the lonely rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship, identifying where the skills gaps are and how they can be filled is critical for success. Ultimately, it all comes down to the people so approach all potential hires with the view that you are looking to build a team that you would quite happily work with forever.

Shanna also shared a useful example of how to apply the Customer Development methodology of Valley legend Steve Blank in practice – focusing on getting in front of the people who you believe are going to be your customers as early as possible and getting them to validate your efforts. So, with the example of a business being built around a new app, why spend the time and money on actually building it and waiting until two months down the line to have that discussion? Just take your PowerPoint presentation out to the people that you think are potential customers on week 1 and find out definitively if your assumptions have even a passing resemblance to reality.

Build fast and iterate. Dream big but start out small and local. And Shanna’s view on co-founders? You don’t qualify unless your wage depends on it – and that means full-time.

Some common themes but some valuable tips and great to see many familiar faces at TechCube last night. If you have any comments, either on the potential for the incubator or the tips above, feel free to share them below.

@dugcampbell

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