International Startup Community Values

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.

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How to get the most out of Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend Auckland is a full weekend event in which small teams come together and build an entire startup before pitching to a panel of investors and judges on Sunday evening. The teams don’t necessarily stay together after the weekend and usually the main benefit is the learning and the experience gained rather than any particular startup that gets built. The exercise of identifying a market problem, creating a solution and then packaging it all up into a website, mobile app and investment pitch is an adrenaline fuelled roller coaster.

Startup Weekend Logo
It’s amazing what you can get done with a highly motivated team in a short period of time and many successful companies have come out of startup weeekends around the world. But more important is that lessons that individual participants have taken back to their own startups or corporate jobs to make these organisations more flexible, agile and customer centred.

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Growth Hacking in New Zealand

Growth hacking is the application of the mindsets and tools of a computer hacker to the challenge of growing a company. Basically, growth hacking is what happens when software developers try to do marketing. The essence of the growth hacking mindset is the scientific method and an iterative rapid prototyping approach to marketing. This type of marketing can be faster, cheaper and more effective than traditional marketing so growth hacking is becoming popular in many industries.

New Zealand has normally been pretty slow to adopt global trends in sales, marketing and design. As far as I can tell, there are still only a small number of New Zealand companies such as Vend, TradeMe and 90 Seconds TV that are applying growth hacking techniques to rapidly expand their businesses. I’m hoping to find more people doing growth hacking in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand to swap stories and share lessons learned.
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Ethnography unpacked with Nick Bowmast

Nick Bowmast is a design researcher from New Zealand. He worked in London for over a decade and now splits his time between NZ and the UK. I wasn’t quite sure what a “design researcher” does, so Nick pointed me to a blog post about his tools of the trade. It’s a fun way to understand how a design researcher spends their time and the type of work that Nick does with clients.

Nick Bowmast
Nick Bowmast is a design researcher based in New Zealand and the UK.

I like understanding someone’s craft by looking at their tools. I’ve always found that reading about a professional’s equipment is a surprisingly good way to understand what they do. Most strategists are voyeurs of human behaviour. Maybe like a design researcher in a suit…

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Startup investing through a managed fund

Lance Wiggs is raising a fund to invest in high-growth tech startups. He’s ex McKinsey and has been working on the Better By Design programme for a few years so he’s a super smart guy. I’m excited about his journey but he’s made some mistakes along the way that we can all learn from. There are lessons in this story for all of us who are involved in capital raising for early stage companies.

Lance Wiggs
Lance Wiggs is an consultant & investor who is raising a fund to invest in high-growth startups.

It’s useful to compare a few of the new ways that early stage investing is happening around the world. Angel syndicates, follow funds and accelerator funds are some of the most interesting ways of investing in startups today. They all put a layer between you and the startup that you’re investing in. But for lots of investors that’s a good thing.

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Pirates of East London

New ideas happen when old ideas collide. But if you’ve ever been to a networking event then you might have noticed that birds of a feather generally flock together.

Get shit done
At the convergence of design, business and technology is where sh+t gets done.

While sitting in an East London cafe, Biotech consultant Tim McCready, entrepreneur Klaus Bravenboer and I bemoaned that business culture in the UK had turned out to be no further ahead in terms of innovation, collaboration and access to capital than our native New Zealand. And in some areas such as Angel Capital and start-up incubators, New Zealand was actually ahead of the UK.

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In search of the New New Zealand Man

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we curate our identities with brands. Menswear is a particularly interesting area of branding because so many men want to entirely avoid the issue of dressing, yet it conveys so much to others and to ourselves. The worst challenge for most modern men is Causal Fridays. As my dear friend Brian Richards says, men are left in limbo on Fridays, unsure of how to dress when deprived of both their jeans and their suit. Although personally, I’ve found that a smart velvet sports coat can cover a multitude of sins.

Murrary Crane Little Brother Social Media
Crane Brothers founder, Murray Crane at Notes Cafe in London.

There is a lot that we can learn from the designers and entrepreneurs who have managed to capture the zeitgeist of menswear while strongly conveying their own take on what is means to be a man. To build a menswear business requires an interesting blend of confidence and inquisitiveness.

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The business of merino wool

In 1994 a high country sheep farmer pushed a merino wool singlet across the table to a young Jeremy Moon in a cafe in Wellington. From a distance, it looked like any other woolen underlayer, but when you picked it up, it didn’t itch like normal wool. Jeremy immediately saw the potential of this under appreciated fabric. By getting the best out of the product, hustling hard and getting the best out of his various advisors, Jeremy has since managed to grow that singlet into a multi-million dollar lifestyle and sportswear brand.

Shawn merino sheep icebreaker design
What can you learn about word of mouth marketing from a sheep?

In 2005, I had just finished watching Jane Fulton Suri from Ideo at the Better by Design conference and a marketing manager from ANZ Bank handed me a corporate sponsored Icebreaker top. It was a small piece of conference swag that changed my life. I had heard of Icebreaker merino before, but I had dismissed it as just another itchy woollen jumper. How wrong was I?

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