In 2013 Mark Suster a leading VC investor and Clayton Christensen a leading business author sat down at Startup Grind to talk about disruptive innovation and startup investment. Their conversation touched briefly on the subject of equity crowdfunding. Both Mark and Clayton are extremely cynical about equity crowdfunding. Some of their concerns are sensible questions about an emerging industry. But what they were secretly doing was arguing for the old model. I’m a big fan of Mark’s blog and Clayton’s books but they’re wrong about the disruptive potential of equity crowdfunding.
VC investor Mark Suster and business author Clayton Chistensen at Startup Grind.
By betting against against equity crowdfunding, Mark Suster is betting against the internet. I believe the internet will do the same thing to early stage finance that it does to all industries. Namely, make them more competitive, connected and democratic.
I’ve worked in venture capital, management consulting and design thinking. But nothing prepared me for the intensity of working inside a startup. Since joining Seedrs in January I’ve been consumed with the task of making Seedrs the best place in the world for startups and investors to find each other. I’ve been lucky to have gradually absorbed the startup mindset over several years of working in startup incubators and accelerators. This mindset has allowed me to cope with the intensity of startup life. But the mindset needs to be learned.
Start with why is a great introduction to how the startup mindset works in marketing.
Some of the things that you need to succeed in a startup are techniques and information, but the bedrock is the “startup mindset”. This mindset takes time to acquire. I enjoy a good TED talk or conference video. But spending a several hours listening to an audiobook written and read by someone who lives the mindset is one of the best ways you can start to think like a startup person.
These days I get a lot more requests for coffee. My policy in the past was always to say yes to meeting new people. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about why having coffee with 50 people could change your life. I pride myself on connecting with a random assortment of interesting people across all sorts of industries. I guess you could say that I’m a pretty friendly guy.
It’s worth getting your online presence in order before you reach out to someone asking for a coffee.
Recently I’ve started to notice correlations between whether a coffee meeting is useful and some common factors (that are obvious before we sit down). So I’m starting to filter my inbound coffee requests a little bit more than I used to. I still love meeting new people, but these days a coffee catch-up has to be short, sharp and effective.
Seedrs provides a tool that startups can use to raise capital from their friends, family, customers and the crowd. This process is often called “equity crowdfunding” because it’s like Kiva or Kickstarter, except that the investors get equity in the company instead of a product or a loan. In January 2014, I joined Seedrs as part of the marketing team.
The Seedrs team have been featured in Wired, TechCrunch, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.
At the end of last year, Seedrs raised 2.58 million pounds from over 900 investors using their own platform. That means that in my new marketing role, I now have over 900 bosses. I feel very accountable for the success and growth of the business. In this blog post, I want to share two main things about my new role, the expanded view of marketing that we’re taking at Seedrs, and the way that we’re incorporating lean manufacturing habits and processes into our team culture.
Having coffee with fifty people is a great way to get input for a new project, startup or career move. I first wrote about the fifty coffees idea in Inc Magazine and it was based on an insight from Silicon Valley investor Mark Suster. Personally, I’m a bit shy so meeting fifty new strangers was a great project for me.
I had coffee with 50 strategists and leaders working in design, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Last year, I wanted to immerse myself in London’s design and innovation scene so I had coffee with fifty people working in the industry. I learned a lot from their advice and even more from the questions that they asked me. I asked them about the future of innovation, design thinking and how different companies are adapting to social media. It was also a good excuse to check out some new cafes for my coffee blog the Coffee Hunter.
This year, instead of setting goals, I’m going to try creating systems. I’ve been reading a great new book by Scott Adams that dives into the psychology of why New Year’s resolutions and personal development goals don’t work. The book is called ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life‘ and it’s so good that instead of reviewing it, I’ve reprinted an excerpt so that you can hear directly from Scott. I’ve pieced together this except myself using a few of my favourite chapters. The excerpt is just a sample of the key ideas and you really should buy the book.
Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert and an insightful observer of human psychology.
Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, one of the most popular and widely distributed comic strips of the past quarter century. He has been a full-time cartoonist since 1995, after sixteen years as a technology worker for companies like Crocker National Bank and Pacific Bell. His many bestsellers include The Dilbert Principle and Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook. Enter Scott Adams…
This year I had coffee with fifty strategists working in innovation, design, public relations and advertising. My work this year focused on technology startups and research for my book on B2B social media, so the coffees were a great way for me to keep my eye on agency land. All that caffeine also helped me to spot four new services that I think clients will be asking their agencies for in 2014.
To spot these agency trends I had coffee with fifty strategists from London, New York and New Zealand.
Clients will still want campaigns made, websites built and apps created but these services are becoming increasingly commoditised. Some agencies will focus on making things faster and cheaper but the best agencies will make money helping clients build their own capability.
I hate seeing good products that aren’t succeeding because they aren’t being noticed. I love working with people who have a great product but aren’t so great at communicating. I have done some of my best work with software developers, engineers, and scientists. These people are great at thinking (and building) but not so great at articulating their product to customers and investors. I’ve gradually become one of the go-to people in the London tech scene for how to market very complex technology products like big data, commercialisation of military technology, financial services and enterprise technology systems.
Equity crowdfunding is a new way of raising capital for startups. Kickstarter has proven a successful model for crowdfunding an idea (by pre-selling the product). Equity crowdfunding takes this further by allowing the crowd to buy shares in the company itself. The volume of alternative finance for startups, entrepreneurship and innovation is growing rapidly.
During the HackHumanity hackathon I realised that startups need help with equity crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is a delicate balance of describing the product, the team, the business and the investment opportunity. Each of these need to be communicated in a clear, compelling and persuasive way. Often the teams with the best technical skill are not the best communicators.
Dr Brennan is a co-author of the leading textbook on business to business marketing.
I wrote ‘Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies’ primarily about B2B companies because they have unique challenges in managing their reputations online and reaching business customers. Dr Ross Brennan was kind enough to write a foreword to the book which has now been included in the latest edition. I’ve also reproduced it here as a guest blog post. Enter Dr Ross Brennan…
If you were the CEO of a large company, who would you turn to for help to recapture your lost mojo? How would you create, test and build new products? Big companies have been steadily getting worse at innovation, whereas startups have begun to eat the world. Small companies can move fast, take risks and attract talent.
Startups an bring together designers (like Jon Gold, pictured) and developers in much more creative and agile ways. (Photo: Paul Clarke and Makeshift)
The brightest minds of the next generation are spending their weekends building software in hackathons, quitting their jobs to build interesting startups and being investing in by incubators and accelerators. It’s a brave new world, but large companies are still looking for ways to become more agile.
A new trend is emerging where hot studios (that combine design, business and technology skills) are building startups from scratch for large companies. This new approach is reviving the patronage model from Renaissance Florence.
A value proposition is where your company’s product offer intersects with your customer’s desires. It’s the magic fit between what you make and why people buy it. Your value proposition is the crunch point between business strategy and brand strategy.
The value proposition canvas includes elements from behavioural psychology and design thinking.
When you’re starting a new project or a new company you need quick and dirty tools to help you focus on executing things faster and better. Good strategy tools exist only to help you focus on getting the right things done. The value proposition canvas is a simple tool that quickly gets you to the ‘minimum viable clarity’ required to start building and testing.
Management consulting firms want to move into creative thinking and creative agencies want to move into management consulting. It seems that everyone wants to swim upstream to the boardroom and consult on innovation, customer experience, social media, and business design. The widely held theory is that there are good margins in this type of work (and it’s sexy as hell). More importantly, the high-end strategy work can feed into the multi-million dollar implementation projects that feed the biggest global agencies
Management Consultants and Advertising Agencies are both fighting to move into Digital Innovation Consulting.
Over the years, I’ve worked in several of the grey areas between management consulting, design thinking and public relations so I’ve seen some of these industry changes first hand. The toughest part of my career has always been finding the chink in a client’s armour that lets us get close enough to the boardroom to ask the tough questions. It almost doesn’t matter what the starting point is if your goal is to get to the deeper issues. Even so, it’s hard for clients to know who to turn to these days for advice on big problems.