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Launching a new platform

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Article provided by Emma Sayle, Founder and CEO Killing Kittens, Safedate and Sistr

The very essence of our online lives – from social media to personal banking- has been built on successful tech platforms, yet so many platforms struggle to deliver on their investment, with an estimated 50 per cent of all UK start-ups failing. 

As women still only represent a significant minority of these start-ups – not to mention only a third of all entrepreneurs in the UK – launching a new tech platform as a woman can be an even greater challenge.

Researching, planning and timing are the cornerstones of a successful launch. First, you need to push aside assumptions and perceptions about what you think your users want and find out exactly what the need is, who is going to use it and why users would want to engage with it.  Take a step back and make sure you have allowed for enough time to research and understand your target audience. It is all too easy to trip up on preconceived ideas that have been badly tested, if at all. Consider that you will feasibly have more than one audience for any given function, and not all users will access the platform in the same way. Ensure that you have considered how your platform will appeal to different user groups.

One of the biggest failures people make when launching tech platforms is not giving enough time to this crucial research stage, as they are often caught up in the pressure and excitement to get the platform up and running.  When we decided to build our Sistr networking platform for women to connect to other women in business, we already knew we had a loyal customer base of clients who recognised that we were 100 per cent committed to female empowerment.  However, we still invested in an initial soft-launch to check our proposition with a smaller group of users. By choosing a niche area like this – in our case it was a group of loyal customers - you can retain a much stronger sense of control instead of trying to launch too broadly in an effort to capture every type of audience.  This is where thinking smaller can really pay off in the first stages of going to launch; you have to be absolutely clear about who you want to attract to the site.

Businesses are only going to know what their audience really wants if they have invested time talking to them in the first place.  Allow plenty of time to really engage in some serious networking to find out what it is that interests them and where that gap between wanting it and having it lies.  We spent over six months talking to our audience but it was worth every minute of the investment because we had 700 members signed up within two weeks of the soft launch.

The importance of this open communication is just as vital after the launch as it is beforehand.  Customer feedback will be the DNA of your platform as you move forward, helping to keep it as user-friendly as possible and with relevant content and easy functionality. We have now surveyed our initial members to find out what they think of the Sistr site and the type of content and services they would like to see in the future.

It is this feedback loop that will ensure the continued relevance of the site to our users. The reciprocal nature of our networking platform meant we not only had to attract women to the site who wanted mentoring and support, we also had to ensure that women offering advice and mentoring ( all for free)  saw the value in giving up their time to others. Getting this balance right between user and provider is another critical success factor for a platform’s longevity.

Not everyone competing in the tech industry is from a traditional tech background and women more than men have long been unrepresented in this area.  My own background was very much off-line, having originally developed Killing Kittens as an events business, so launching into the highly competitive sex-tech industry was a huge learning curve for me. But for every woman who is out there trying to do it, there is a woman somewhere who has already stepped in those shoes and knows exactly what you are going through.

Much more still needs to be done to attract and encourage more women in enterprise whether it is setting up their own businesses or having the confidence to launch a platform.  Things are slowly starting to move in the right direction, thanks in large part to the wealth of knowledge and experience that female networking groups can offer their peers, something which I am extremely passionate about as an integral part in helping women achieve greater representation in business.

This type of supportive infrastructure means greater access than ever before to experts who can help support women with all elements of their business proposition; from helping them develop and perfect their business pitch to putting them in touch with a variety of investors and different funding options. Evidence has shown that a supportive network and peer support have been proven to positively influence the success of new businesses; hopefully as we move forward with greater representation in the tech sector, many of those businesses will start to be female-led.

Emma Sayle featuredAbout the author

Emma is the Founder of Sistr, a platform that enables professional businesswomen to network, offer advice and mentor each other.

Find out more at sistrapp.com. You can also sponsor Emma and the rest of the Sisterhood for their Channel Swim.


Sukhi Jutla

Learning from my mistakes | Sukhi Jutla

Sukhi Jutla

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I have won a number of awards (such as the WeAreTheCity Rising Star Award).

Some might think that awards like these come from always doing the right thing at the right time. But I believe that awards like these are awarded to those who do more than just get things right. They are given to those who make many mistakes and experience any setbacks but still find a way to push forward.

Just ten years ago, I was working in the corporate world; I ticked all the right boxes and was doing all the things I felt I was supposed to be doing but felt miserable inside. I have now reinvented myself as the entrepreneur I feel I was born to be. I am now the co-founder and COO of MarketOrders. Whilst it has been a lifechanging experience, my journey was peppered with numerous mistakes I made.

Mistake one: Not believing I could be an entrepreneur because I wasn’t like Richard Branson

I learnt to understand that entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Each entrepreneurial experience is molded by individual personalities; not all of us are extroverts, and that’s fine. Find your key strengths and play to them, as this is exactly what Branson does and why he does it so well. Be authentic to yourself. I have recently published a book, ‘Escape The Cubicle: Quit The Job You Hate, Create A Life You Love’, which offers advice on how people can identify and work with their key strengths.

Mistake two: Not trusting my intuition

There was a significant learning curve whilst changing my mindset from being a corporate employee to an enterprising entrepreneur, and often times I felt out of depth. In the early days of being an entrepreneur, I often prioritised the opinions of others rather than trusting myself. However, I found that each time mistakes were made, it was almost always because I had ignored my initial instincts. Developing self-confidence has taught me how important it is to be aligned with your decision that you are making, as opposed to years of experience. Have courage and confidence in your own choices.

Mistake three: Being my own worst critic

Not all decisions will lead to the outcome you desire. As an entrepreneur, bad decisions cost you time and money which are two key resources that come in short supply to a start-up. The desire to make the right decision is, therefore, even higher. However, sometimes no matter how much you listen to your instinct or take precautions to mitigate the risks, things might not turn out the way you expect them to. I have taught myself to let go and not give myself such a hard time when things go wrong. Accept it, move on and learn from the experience, whether it is good or bad. Don't let any experience go to waste.

Mistake four: Not saying ‘no’ enough

In the early days of MarketOrders, I wore myself out. I saw myself attending every workshop, taking every meeting or call and taking in every bit of information possible. In hindsight, I can see why I did this; I was afraid that I would miss out on the next big deal, or information that would be vital to the business. I almost ended up accepting funding from a Venture Capitalist because I thought it would make the business look bad to turn down money that MarketOrders so desperately needed. Now, I know that it is essential to learn to say no, so that you are able to say yes to the things that really matter. Looking back on my journey, turning down the £250,000 from a VC was the best move I could have made. Saying no to ‘bad’ money, has lead me to our Crowdfunding campaign which is now live and doing well. The whole process of crowdfunding has taught me so much, and I am so much more grateful for the outcome.

Mistake five: Taking things too seriously

Owning a startup comes with a lot of responsibility. You are accountable for others’ careers, their livelihoods and wellbeing. As a founder, you are required to be a number of different roles at the start; you are the legal team, marketing team and finance team, and it can get overwhelming. In the early days, this often caused me to burn out.

If I could go back, I would advise myself to enjoy the journey and the process. It’s important to acknowledge that it can be very difficult to accomplish great success, but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Remember to give yourself a break, savour every achievement whether it is big or small, and enjoy the journey.

About Sukhi Jutla

Sukhi Jutla is an award-winning entrepreneur and author of three books. She is the co-founder of MarketOrders, an online B2B platform for the gold and diamond jewellery industry. She is a leading international speaker, influencer and thought leader in tech and a qualified IBM Blockchain Foundation Developer. She is recognized by a number of industry awards including the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, Management Todays ’35 Women Under 35′ and named a Top 100 European Digital Pioneer by The Financial Times and Google. In April 2018 Sukhi made global headlines when she became the World’s First #1 Bestselling ‘Blockchain’ Author.

MarketOrders is an online marketplace helping independent retail jewellers to source the products they need faster, cheaper and direct from suppliers. Find out more at https://www.marketorders.net/

Connect with Sukhi

LinkedIn: Sukhi Jutla / MarketOrders

Facebook: MarketOrders Official

Twitter: @SukhiJutla / @Market_Orders

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/market_orders/?hl=en

Instagram: Market_Orders

Book: Escape The Cubicle

Website: https://www.marketorders.net/


tech accelerator, team meeting featured

Power to founders: why we need to define a new age of accelerators

tech accelerator, team meeting

Article provided by Katie Mills, co-founder and director, StateZero Labs

It goes without saying: starting and growing your own company is no walk in the park.

That’s why, for ambitious founders, joining an accelerator can be an attractive proposition, providing an antidote to what is often perceived as a lonely journey. Add in the well-advertised bonuses of access to capital, connections and mentoring, and accelerators have quickly become the go-to choice for early-stage companies. With cohort acceptance rates often lower than 1.5 per cent, it’s actually easier to get into Harvard.

But it comes at a cost. On average, accelerators require startups to give up between six and 12 per cent equity, often before founders have had a chance to build any momentum. Considering the expectation of scale, growth, and well, acceleration, it’s unsurprising many startups don’t make it much further than their ‘graduation’.

We can agree, that everyday pressures are taking their toll on founders, not only physically, but also mentally. According to a joint study by BGF Ventures and Streetbees, founders are susceptible to a range of health problems as a result of the demanding startup lifestyle. Over 25 per cent of founders work more than 60 hours a week. KPMG’s 2018 report found similar problems with work/life balance, stating 58 per cent of founders ‘relax’ for less than one hour a day.

At StateZero, we think it’s time for accelerators to step up and rethink what support for growth really looks like - collectively we can change this.

Holistic approach to wellness and mental well-being

In such a fast-paced environment, where speed is often synonymous with success, a huge amount of pressure exists on founders to deliver. However, while burnout is a very real threat, most are reluctant to admit when they are struggling - and this is a culture that needs to change.

How? Well a stigma only exists if a subject is avoided. Creating a safe space for discussion, where founders can share their journey and discuss lows, as well as highs, will pave the way to a healthier mindset.

A holistic approach involves physical, as well as mental wellbeing, so prioritising rest and encouraging movement is also crucial. And as startups often expand beyond a two person team, it becomes even more important to demonstrate from the top the importance of wellness for entire teams. We urge founders to lead by example; culture is an output, not an input, and it’s this that can lead to healthy transparency and happiness in teams.

Levelling the playing field of equity/valuation

In the current system, valuing a business at X amount early on, automatically sets expectations on that business. That doesn't take into consideration the unique nature of the startup and the unique challenges that they may face. And here lies the problem, because startups are just that – unique. What if, and this might sound rather unconventional, accelerators refused to take equity for their seed funding upfront? By urging founders to give up less of their own equity until they have achieved product market fit, we’re planting the seed for mutual trust and respect by also offering a diverse range of new key players to take a seat at the table.

Diversity and inclusion within accelerators: let’s talk about culture

It’s a known fact that diversity improves performance. In the UK, with every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rises by 3.5 per cent. Similarly, according to McKinsey, startups in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above the industry average. If accelerators can implement and develop strategies around diversity and more importantly inclusion, then it will improve their ability to attract startups with more diverse teams.

And this focus on inclusion must start at the top. A 2016 JP Morgan report suggests that accelerators with more diverse management teams attract more diverse founders. With a focus on your internal culture, hiring strategies and inclusion at the centre of the business, more founders from diverse backgrounds will be empowered to apply.

It is time to challenge existing startup accelerators and shift the focus to place people at the centre of the conversation. More emphasis needs to be put on programmes that promote mental and physical well-being alongside traditional business metrics, putting equal importance on both. We should be investing in training on how to spot a founder in need, and start spearheading an open and inclusive attitude to diversity. Above all, the startup sector needs to ditch the culture of ‘growth at any cost’, because the costs can be pricey.

Katie MillsAbout the author

Katie Mills is the co-founder and director of StateZero Labs, the world's first solution-led Blockchain Lab for startups. Bridging the gap between humanity and tech, StateZero Labs is a community focused accelerator; a mindset, a space, a platform and an ecosystem that gives everybody a fair shot at their moonshot. Interested in only blockchain enterprise ideas, its mission is to find, fund and further the potential of outstanding founders encouraging them to attack the world’s most challenging problems and exciting opportunities through advanced technology for practical use cases.


Tara Reddy featured

Augmented reality entrepreneur on a mission to redress the gender imbalance in the tech sector

Tara Reddy

‘I get a little bit tired of awareness. I want to see action, to empower us to have the same options that men in tech have had for a long time’

Switching career from successful vet to co-founder of an augmented reality (AR) tech start-up is unconventional to say the least.

But the more you discover about Tara Reddy, CEO of LoveShark, the less surprising it is.

After a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery at Edinburgh University, Reddy headed for New Zealand and established a service specifically for exotic pets, the first in the country’s capital. “I often like things that are quite contrarian, that other people don’t like,” she says.  “I saw an opportunity in a niche area that was really underserved.”

Six years later, she was heading back to the UK to do an MBA at London Business School, which she finished in 2106, and the next stage of her career. “I always had that real need to innovate, to take risks, to be excited about something and then move as fast as you can to seize the opportunity. I wanted to know what else I could do.

READ TARA'S FULL STORY


Tech Nation

Tech Nation

Tech Nation empower ambitious tech entrepreneurs to grow faster through growth programmes, digital entrepreneurship skills, a visa scheme for exceptional talent, and by championing the UK’s digital sector through data, stories and media campaigns.

About Tech Nation

We believe the UK is the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business

If you’re an ambitious tech entrepreneur, then we’ve supported thousands of people like you through all stages of business with our activities as Tech City UK and Tech North.

Our story began in Shoreditch in 2011, launched by the then Prime Minister David Cameron, to support the East London tech cluster known as London Tech City — or Silicon Roundabout. Since then we’ve been on a journey, spreading our activities to cover other parts of the UK, and have set up Tech North to run programmes across the North of England. Last November, Prime Minister Theresa May and the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the launch of Tech Nation, consolidating Tech City UK and Tech North’s impact.

Now as Tech Nation, we’re expanding our network of growth programmes, events, skills and data resources to reach all corners and clusters of the UK.

What we do continues to be shaped by your voices. We just finished a listening tour to meet representatives from the UK’s vibrant tech landscape and understand how best to shape our national network to meet your challenges.

FIND OUT MORE


Techstars

Techstars

Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed.

Through the Techstars Worldwide Entrepreneur Network, founders and their teams connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporate partners who will help their companies grow.

Techstars operates four divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships, and the Techstars Venture Capital Fund.

Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Program supercharges success and Techstars Startup Programs inspire, educate and connect entrepreneurs.

Techstars Venture Capital Fund invests in the most innovative and disruptive Techstars companies to fuel their success. Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships helps brands create world-changing products and services. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 1,000 companies with a market cap of $8.1 billion.

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StartUpBootcamp

StartupBootcamp

StartupBootcamp are a global family of industry-focused programs.

They support early-stage tech founders to rapidly scale their companies by providing direct access to an international network of the most relevant mentors, partners, and investors in their industry.

As each program focuses on an industry, they are able to provide an unmatched level of support to the startups selected into their programs.

StartupBootcamp were founded in 2010 in Copenhagen with a core mission of supporting the world’s best entrepreneurs through all stages of their growth.

With deep European roots, soon other entrepreneurs joined the Startupbootcamp movement to expand our mission across Europe, Asia and Americas. They now have more industry-focused accelerator programs than any other organisation.

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