When you work in a startup, the wider community of other people who are also working in startups is incredibly important because you need a peer group to hang out with. Lawyers like to hang out with lawyers, doctors like to hang out with other doctors and people who work in tech startups like to hang out and swap war stories.
“Are you a Java developer?” The man in a suit at my first startup event in London asked me briskly. “Because I’m looking for a Java developer.” I stumbled and stuttered a little because we hadn’t even finished exchanging pleasantries. He sensed that I wasn’t what he was looking for and turned his back on me sharply to disappear into the throng. I had only just arrived in London and I was used to the casual, and friendly way that people networked after-hours over a beer in New Zealand.
The London tech scene was a shock to the system for me because the city is much larger and people are much more focused on their own personal business objectives. But after a while, I began to find my tribe. It took several months of coffees, meetups and missed connections, but eventually the fabric of the London startup ecosystem started to make sense for me. By the time I left London in 2014 I was sad to leave behind so many good friends and a wide network of people that I knew and admired.
I joined the SeedInvest team in New York just over a year ago. SeedInvest is an equity crowdfunding platform focused on angel investing and venture capital for technology companies.
When I first moved to the USA I looked at the West Coast online investing platforms like Fundersclub, Wefunder and AngelList. In the end, I chose to join SeedInvest because (like Seedrs whet I worked in the UK) they had focused on building a business that takes early-stage investing seriously and treats equity crowdfunding like a smaller version of high-end investment banking rather than a form of charity or gambling.
I recently joined the SeedInvest team in New York. SeedInvest is a leading equity crowdfunding platform that is streamlining the startup investing process so that new types of investors can invest directly in early stage companies. I’m responsible for digital marketing and helping startups promote their campaigns to investors. It’s been a big couple of months for me, so I thought I’d take a moment to update you on what I’ve been up to.
1. I’ve moved to New York
New York has always been a centre of financial innovation and the earliest venture capital investors almost all started out in New York before moving to Silicon Valley. I’ve always wanted to live in New York. In late 2014 I won the green card lottery and we have now relocated permanently to the USA. So far, we’ve been using AirBnB to experiment with different neighbourhoods and have fallen in love with Tribeca, Nolita and Brooklyn Heights.
New York has a great environment to build a startup. The city is alive 24 hours a day and there is a great mix of design, business and technical skills. I love the intense energy and the mix of cultures from all over the world.
2. I’m still working with startups
As soon as I knew that we were moving to the states, I started researching the emerging American equity crowdfunding platforms. I’ve long believed that democratising the financing of small businesses will be one of the greatest shifts in the structure of capitalism since the advent of the public stock markets. Allowing new entrepreneurs and new investors to find each other will create new companies, new jobs and new opportunities. I loved being part of investment platform Seedrs in the UK and with recent changes in US securities laws, the timing was perfect to transfer these skills to the USA.
To aryrow a business you need a steady stream of customers and investors because cash-flow is the lifeblood of an enterprise. Yet lots of people around the world still feel uncomfortable with business development, marketing and pitching to investors.
In Silicon Valley there is a saying that the perfect combination of skills for a startup is a developer, a designer and a hustler. Often under appreciated, the hustler is responsible for ensuring that the business has a steady and increasing cashflow. The role of the hustler could be taken by someone with training in marketing, sales or finance. The art of the hustle is really just a combination of clear communication and hard work.
New York and London have a lot in common when it comes to finance, fashion and technology startups. The startup cultures in both cities are focussed on building real businesses not just the latest flashy social mobile apps.
Recently I’ve been in New York checking out the startup scene with VentureOut New York and UKTI. Keith Moses from UKTI and Brian Frumberg from VentureOutNY were our hosts. It was a great trip with an exciting group of startups. We had a full programme of events, meetings and visits. We kept a frenzied pace and I learnt a lot about the startup culture in New York.
As part of our work for the Innovation Warehouse, I’m travelling to New York with a cohort of startups from London. UKTI have helped pull together a group of exciting new businesses from London’s Tech City to take to New York for a modern version of a trade mission. The startups are going to pitch for investment and meet new customers.
VentureOutNY is run by Brian Frumberg (and team) to promote New York as a first port of call for overseas startups expanding into the USA and raising capital from American investors. Over the course of the year, they have had events welcoming startups from all over the world and they have dedicated events coming up for startups from Brazil and Portugal.
I specialise in social media for brands and business, but Gary Vaynerchuk is the master of social media for individual entrepreneurs. He started as a baseball card collector and grew a multi million dollar wine business.
Gary’s presentation in 2008 at Web Expo 2.0 was a turning point in the discussion of social media in business. There are lots of other people who can give you advice about ‘how’ to use social media, but no one but Gary can tell you so forcefully ‘why’ to use social media.