Seedcamp applications open

By | Seedcamp | 2 Comments

Applications for this year’s Seedcamp are open, and close on August 10th – apply here. For those that don’t know Seedcamp is similar to Y-Combinator – lots of promising young startups apply for the opportunity to receive help from a great bunch of mentors and to get startup funding.

Last year proved really worthwhile for most of the applicants, including those who didn’t make it down to the final six that got funded, and it was a big success for those that did.

Read more about it on Saul Klein’s blog. Saul provided the inspiration and driving force that made Seedcamp a reality last summer.

Seedcamp download – some good advice on how to think about product

By | Consumer Internet, Entrepreneurs, Seedcamp | No Comments

The following post has been sitting in draft form since Seedcamp week in early September.  I have tried to pick out the key insights from a couple of panels/presentations where people discussed product – they were mostly thinking about consumer internet.

These points are in no particular order.

  1. If you are building something you would use yourself you have a greater chance of success.  This is an oft talked about point, but one which really came home to me when I heard Michael Birch describe how he started Bebo.
  2. Use your own product – obsessively.  Also known as ‘dogfooding’ (i.e. eat you own…..).  That is how you will iron out all the quirks and get to the best user experience.  One CEO described how his team hates it when he goes to conferences because they know that he will use his downtime there to obsessively test their site.  They are big on this idea at Google.
  3. Find the ‘nub’ of your product and only build stuff that fits with that.  You should be able to capture the ‘nub’ in a single sentence.  If you find yourself wanting to build stuff that doesn’t fit with the nub then it is probably time to re-examine it….
  4. Don’t forget the customer – an old chestnut, but easily done
  5. Iterate obsessively – all the successful internet entrepreneurs I know are big on this point.  Continuously try new things on your site and see how they impact your key metrics.  Keep the good, throw out the bad and then try the next thing.  Over and over again.  The best way to do this is to set up your site so you can A-B test – i.e. let 5% of the traffic see the new feature and then move it to the main site only if it works.
  6. Know what you aren’t doing – this is the key to all strategy, and something that people often find hard to grasp, in my experience anyway.
  7. Lot’s of startup success comes from random groups of people unexpectedly getting hold of a product and running with it.  Be live to that possibility and nurture it if it starts to happen.  This happened at Skype where the countries which took off were not the ones they expected.
  8. Understand the metrics for your site, look for the bottlenecks (or key drop off points) and work on them – even if they are the most difficult, or even seemingly outside your control.  If you have a major drop off point on your customer conversion path all the tweaking in the world elsewhere won’t make much difference until you fix the big one.
  9. You need to start with vision and passion but at some point switch to data driven analysis of customer and traffic data.  Judging the point at which to switch is tricky.

Great quote from Debatewise about Seedcamp

By | Entrepreneurs, Seedcamp, Venture Capital | No Comments

David Crane of Debatewise wrote a great post about what he got out of Seedcamp over on the Seedcamp blog.  It is full of juicy goodness and great to read that David (and others) got a lot out of Seedcamp week.  The whole post is worth a read but I wanted to pick out one passage:

The very act of applying [to Seedcamp] was useful because you can’t answer 32 probing questions in a concise and compelling way without thinking very carefully about your business and how you intend to carry through your plans.

The same is true when you write a business plan.  It can be a time consuming exercise but the very act of being explicit about your beliefs and assumptions will improve the quality of thought behind them and will help you iterate the areas where your plan can be improved.

In fact for these reasons Zeus, one of my portfolio companies, is going through the discipline of writing a business plan at the moment, even though we are not fundraising.

Listen to the voices in your head

By | Entrepreneurs, Seedcamp, Venture Capital | 7 Comments

There was a great panel at Seedcamp this morning where Niklas Zennstrom, Marc Samwer, Charlie Muihead, Toby Rowland and Richard Moross shared their experiences as entrepreneurs with the assembled crowd.

Lots of good stuff was said, but one thing stood out for me. Moderator Danny Rimer asked the panel to describe their biggest mistakes. Both Niklas and Toby said essentially the same thing, which was:

If you’ve got a little voice at the back of your head questioning whether something will work make sure you listen to it

The mistakes they went on to describe were different, but the point was the same. It is easy to get excited about how great something will be if it works out – be that a new hire, business idea, partnership deal or really just about anything – but if you have a nagging doubt that it might not work then you should give that doubt full consideration. There might just be something in it.

I have suffered from this – a good portionof the things that haven’t worked out for me investment wise has been for reasons I had an inkling of before I invested. That is a mistake I have been determined not to make again for some time now.

This is an easy trap for anyone to fall into, but for entrepreneurs who are optimistic by nature it is particularly easy. That optimism is important (maybe even essential) – it gives great entrepreneurs the passion and dedication to pursue their ideas before anyone else sees the sense in them – but it pays to listen to the little voices.

UPDATE:  The first couple of comments to this post have led me to this clarification.  Emphatically I do not mean that entrepreneurs should stop taking risks.  There will always be doubts and often (most of the time?) the right thing to do will be to push on regardless.  The situation I’m talking about is the subset of occasions when you kind of know that the nagging doubt in question might be a showstopper but you avoid bringing it properly to front of mind and dealing with it head on.

Seedcamp – judges day

By | Entrepreneurs, Equity gap, Seedcamp, Venice Project | 8 Comments

If you follow the Seedcamp Blog you will know that applications to participate in startup-school-cum-incubator-cum-fund’ Seedcamp closed twelve days ago and yesterday was Judges Day where the 268 applications was whittled down to the 20 that will be invited to Seedcamp week.

The number of great companies was awesome to see.  By definition they were all early stage, but there were a lot of really high potential businesses amongst the 268 (which came from 40 countries by the way).
One of the reasons I have gotten involved with Seedcamp is to do my bit to help the London/European startup ecosystem to develop.  What I saw yesterday tells me we are already in pretty good shape.  Of course there is more to do, and I would encourage everyone to chit in, but it was great to see such a high quality set of companies.

I am really looking forward to Seedcamp week.  With this level of company everyone should get a lot out of it, mentors and companies alike.

Seedcamp – give your startup a boost

By | Entrepreneurs, Seedcamp, Venture Capital | No Comments

Seedcamp logo

Seedcamp follows hot on the heels of OpenCoffee as an initiative from Saul Klein to help develop the startup ecosystem here in Europe.

From the Seedcamp website:

Seedcamp is where Europe’s top young founders can come together in one place.

From securing funding to developing the right network, young entrepreneurs in Europe face challenges in building globally competitive technology businesses. Through the provision of seed capital and a world class network of mentors, we want to provide a catalyst for Europe’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

We welcome Europe’s brightest and most ambitious young entrepreneurs to take part in Seedcamp.

If you have a true startup this is a great way to access some of the resources you will need to achieve success.  It works as a competition though – so only the fittest will be survived.

For thos of you familiar with Y Combinator – Seedcamp will be a European equivalent.