What kills a startup?

he title is a bit of a misnomer, it should be ‘what enables a startup to survive’ but it came from an article I was sent today titled ’18 mistakes that kill startups’ to comment on. Got me thinking. What does kill a startup? And most importantly, what enables survival?

  • Dan
  • Business, Entrepreneurship, Startupbusiness, startup
  • Business, Startup
  • 10, October

18 mistakes startups makeThe title is a bit of a misnomer, it should be ‘what enables a startup to survive’ but it came from an article I was sent today titled ’18 mistakes that kill startups’ to comment on. Got me thinking.

What does kill a startup? And most importantly, what enables survival?

I get why this list was made, and agree with all 18 to some degree but it’s not a checklist to work with. It’s simply not that simple.

Mark Cuban (Allegedly. I say allegedly because some of it doesn’t fly for me either and he’s a seriously smart dude) published this list too:

Mark Cubans Rules For Startups

(I take issue with 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9 just for the record. They all need serious amounts of thought in context. Again, this isn’t just a checklist to work with.)

You can slice and dice it however you want to but if you look at what really makes a startup fly it’s ‘magic’ – based in the intangibles of timing and luck. Here lies the fairy dust that enables greatness once you have the fundamentals sorted obviously. Yes you can have a great idea, great team, great tech, cash in the bank but if that last bit of magic doesn’t come together then you can whistle Dixie as it just ain’t gonna happen for you.

So what can you do?

There is one thing you can do.

Be positive and present. Energetically switched on. Be it everywhere you go. Live it. Radiate it.

Hire smart people who get this, empower and inspire them to live it with you. This is the core of the magic. Of course it can’t change bad timing/ideas/cash flow etc! BUT it will energise your team to see problems in new ways, and it will change your luck.

What did the geeks ever do for us?

s I was writing this post I couldn’t get John Cleese’s voice out of my head. What did the Romans ever do for us anyway? :) But in all seriousness – What’s left for digital to do? I read on TechCrunch today about the latest batch from 500 Startups being fouttered and feckered into the world.

  • Dan
  • Geeks inherit the earth, Startupsbusiness
  • Business
  • 08, August

As I was writing this post I couldn’t get John Cleese’s voice out of my head. What did the Romans ever do for us anyway? :)

But in all seriousness – What’s left for digital to do?

I read on TechCrunch today about the latest batch from 500 Startups being fouttered and feckered into the world. Do we need any more tech startups? Really? 

According to the GEM Annual Report, 100 million new business are started globally every year. That’s 11,000 an hour, 3 every second. In the US alone, around $50bn is invested annually and it’s slim pickings as 90% of these investments fail.

This live infographic from Gasoline put’s it all into perspective:

With this historic volume of activity, what’s left to disrupt?

I think of it this way. Digital became useful in the mid-late 90s I would argue, as the internet, personal computers and cell phones became prevalent and started to do what they said on the tin. That’s not all that long ago. Keep in mind that the iPhone was only birthed in 2007. 

In the early days it was all about content. i.e. having a PC, or a piece of tech kit that kind of did something. Anything was a bonus between BSOD. In more recent times we’ve flipped to a super exciting juncture where there is a product or platform for everything and anything we need. As testament look at platform connectors like IFTTT or Zapier where you can make any string of apps connect and do whatever you want.

Nowadays digital is all about context, where it fits and what do you want it to do. As you’ll already know, in business this is simply a case of enabling the making or saving of cash.

So I ask again, what’s left to do? What’s the problem?

You are. You and the slow moving business and sector you work in. The ‘stuff’ is already here in spades, ready and chomping at the bit – and will only get smarter. How you apply it contextually in your business. Well, that’s up to you, and by the way – you still have lots to do :)

The tech needs to find its feet too, early options often not being the overall winners – Google was the 15th search engine. Do you know how many taxi apps there were before Uber? I stopped counting at 60.

We’ve only just touched the sides in recruitment, energy, real estate, education, politics (why are we still voting on paper?!) and more. The inertia in most systems is huge, but it WILL be broken down as people start to ‘get it’. And the pace will accelerate.

Forget 3D printing, VR or Drones – that’s just smutty PR. The real action will happen behind the scenes. Tech is not a ‘thing’ anymore – it’s an enabler of things. How your kids are schooled, how you manage your energy needs, or do business. The phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ no longer applies. It’s now time for the business people who need that app to get on the bus.

So, c‘mon in, the CPU cooling fluid is warm…

Has Tech Topped Out?

What else do you need your smartphone to do? Do you reaaaally need it to be faster, bigger or thinner? Probably not in real money (Unless you’re still holding one of these). I would like to be so bold to suggest that tech has topped out. There is nothing left to do.

What else do you need your smartphone to do? Do you reaaaally need it to be faster, bigger or thinner? Probably not in real money (Unless you’re still holding one of these).

I would like to be so bold to suggest that tech has topped out. There is nothing left to do. We already have it all.

“There is no more evolution. Only revolution.”

So let’s just pack up and sell our tech shares? Well of course not, but something will have to chasmically shift to make me buy the next iPhone, laptop or tablet. And a change in form factor is not going to rub and tug either. Let’s look at the flounderings of the big guys:

Google Glass was an epic turd from the off. Guys – Even though your brand is powerful enough to maintain primary colours and Times New Roman, you still don’t have enough clout to make me wear those. Did you play with a set? Truly terrible user experience. Like an 80s kaleidoscope. #Nope

iWatchI’m not sure Apple have nutted the iWatch either. It just doesn’t look very… Apple. Does it? I’m hoping better in the flesh. But why would I give up my Rolex to look even more like a tech douche? Probably just for sports. #Nope

So what about Facebook’s purchase – Oculus Rift? It’s a great foray into the virtual realm. Quite amazing as far as the reports go but why? Why do I need or want them?

I get that with all these technologies it’s about thinning, paring back, applying the tech in new ways but I just can’t see this base of development in this form factor making any difference? Am I missing something?

TeslaCars. Oh Em Gee. Ok so Tesla is cooking. The cars look amazing (Well most of them do). But this isn’t new. There is no new tech in them. Just a cute application of the old, barring the battery technology. But who wants to talk about that?! All we care about is that they last forever and cost 40p, with zero environmental impact. #YesPlease

3D Printing

The biggest white elephant of our recent tech news driven times. No-one has yet been able to explain to me where the raw materials, designs and finishing skills come from or how they’re managed and applied. Maybe we could 3D print those too. #Nope

So where will the revolution come from?

I have no idea. Let’s hope it’s Quantum based. In the form of a human transporter – Afternoon Tea in Sydney anyone?

What Makes You Impressive

  • Dan
  • Impressive People, People Skillsbusiness
  • Business
  • 03, March

What do you think makes somebody impressive? What are the stand out characteristics that lift wow people out of the crowd?

Is it IQ? Size of their bank account? How many businesses they’ve set up?

Of course this question needs context, but I was wondering if there are common traits – beyond the obvious financial or commercial successes and explore if there are any objective truths in what makes us mere mortals an impressive bunch. I think there are.

Here’s my list. Let me know if I’ve over cooked anything, or forgotten some. I have a sinking feeling that this may just be a personal list, but I’m sure you’ll let me know ;)

Cha-Ching – of course money is important – it gives us options, but we’re not just in this for the cash anymore. If you ask any Y Gen’er their top reasons for working at a company, cash comes way down the list. Bankers earn lots of money, own beautiful houses and drive supercars/supermodels – but is that impressive? I don’t think so. The City holds many of the least impressive people I’ve ever met. It’s what you do with money that can make a super impression.

Being Better Than Before – Those that are able to transcend their genes impress me. I’ve met some amazingly talented individuals who come from horrendous backgrounds but consciously don’t pay forwards the crap they were dealt by their parents. Parents are there to f*ck you up, it’s part of their remit, but those who can live beyond their genetic propensity really stand out to me.

Ze Discipline – The starters who finish. Those who will not procrastinate. This is a true gem of a quality. Not a strength of mine much of the time which p*sses me off, but I’m learning from a master-doer self made billionaire friend who has been to many places and bought many t-shirts. Which brings me to…

Forest Gump Focus – If you can micro-focus on your top priorities in a Forest Gump 10000 hour ping-pong hectic manner then quids in for you. Tell me how… what… where… oooh… SQUIRREL.

Being Self Made – Anyone who, without excuses, changed their’s and the lives of those around them – Wowsers. It doesn’t have to equal massive financial success although it often does. You self made, self contained units. I salute you.

Down But Not Out – In business it’s very easy to be beaten down, especially if you’re a sensitive soul like me. The imposter syndrome is rife in the entrepreneurial world and it carries through all aspects of our lives (I break that down into 7 sections: Health, wealth, love, family, work, friendships and energy). Get knocked over, stand up and push on through. Superstars feel the fear and do it anyway.

The Authentics – I work with a difficult man, who shall remain nameless Duncan, who carries a very intense and sometimes dark energy. However, he is honourable, honest and authentic, often to a fault. It doesn’t matter what you are, as long as you’re comfortable & authentic with go juice and candour. He has these assets in spades. Respect.

Hyper Aware – I’m always a little taken back by those who understand energy and how it works within relationships. These people don’t label it but they will discuss openly. A state of mental awareness and connectivity is a very attractive thing, across all aspects of our lives. They see people!

Comfortable In Your Own Skin – You may have millions of friends or not. Come from a large family or not. There is something special about those that can be thrown into any situation with any group of people and just work the room. Brilliant.

Forgivers, Lovers & Those Who Look For The Best In Others – I’ve bundled these together as they are a bit soft and squishy for LinkedIn, but impressive all the same I reckon.

Being Present – The final one on my list is something I learned from an old boss 20 years ago. He had a sticker on his PC monitor that said ‘Be Present’ – I asked him about it and he said that as a leader he needs to ensure he’s in the room, with total focus, eye contact and offering it all up. So – Be. Present.

BUT. Never forget. However impressive someone is – Everybody poops…

1 Simple Step To Save The NHS

  • Dan
  • NHS, Policybusiness
  • Business
  • 03, March

Charge for all NHS services, at the point of delivery.

There I said it (*Ducks thrown rotten veg)

I have a very sick Mum, she’s been ill for many years and it’s somewhat of a medical miracle she’s still here at all. One thing for sure is that she’s only still with us thanks to the NHS.

However, it’s crumbling, inefficient, inconsistent and currently costs us £2.2bn per week, which is unsustainable at current tax income. Looking at existing trends and projected budgets we’ll be £30bn in the hole within 5 years.

The problem is simple in essence – there are too many of us, we’re lazy, stupid, getting too fat and living too long.

There are more subtle issues that also evoke incredibly emotional responses but need to be considered. One to note is that around 80% of NHS resources are taken up by only 20% of us. A large proportion of these patients don’t actually need medical attention – They are bored, lonely, depressed or simply prefer to be institutionalised, when able to wangle a hospital bed (Of course I’m not including those that need serious psychological help). In the 25 years or so that I’ve watched my Mum pass through most hospitals in the south of England I’ve met a variety of these kinds of patients. It’s incredibly sad to see but this is not what the NHS was designed to do, and it cannot cope.

The irony here is that the Welfare State, designed to support and promote the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens is in part feeding the very problem that it is trying to resolve by allowing us to be feckless and lazy.

There has to be a better way to look after the genuine weaker members of our society in a smarter and more sustainable way?

I think there are many things we can do better by educating, removing politicisation of the issue (& STOP voting in those who promise us the most for the least!), increase transparent direct taxes, energise entrepreneurial economies and so much more – All huge topics. BUT, before we do anything we need some real world weights and measures in place by using the notional value of cash –

We need to charge an income related fee at point of service.

This already exists within the health system, most famously in dentistry. In principle the system works so let’s learn from it, develop it and apply it universally.

My personal, mostly unpopular opinion, is that you can not have public service systems that sit completely outside of ‘money’ systems. They create division and derision. Yes we must collectively subsidise and support those in need but we are not evolved enough as a species to engage with a full Star Trek style socialist agenda yet. We are greedy, lazy and stupid at worst so income support, unemployment benefit, the NHS and all other institutions that place citizens completely outside of a circular financial systems are primed for failure. Let’s stop seeing money as evil, keep it circulating, and use it for what is was designed to do.

I can’t think of a better way to start. Can you?

Recruiting Coders – Out-house, In-house, Sh*t-house

I read a comment this morning on Twitter that said something like – ‘Does your job involve digital? If not, it soon will’.

I’m not sure that’s totally true, should you be milking cows, or painting the Mona Lisa, but it did remind me how we haven’t yet touched the sides of how important tech is to our world.

Right now. To me. Finding the right digital soul in the form of a Ruby on Rails CTO slash Senior Developer is more important than eating or sleeping. I’m even holding off toilet trips.

Many of you may be in the same boat, looking for a great developer for your startup, project or business, so I thought I would do a quick thought grab of the good, bad and ugly when it comes to hiring and managing the right dev resource, whether that’s in-house, outsourced, or a blend:

* There’s coders and there be coders – the great ones are in HUGE demand. If you’re project is boring. Find deep pockets. Most devs I’ve met are inspired and motivated by so much more than just the dollar.

* Buy cheap, buy twice. It truly is that brutally simple.

* Don’t forget the hybrid – Building your team within an outsourced dev team is an option for many. Just make sure the commercials and culturals are totally aligned. Check in often. Relationships change.

* You don’t need your programmers in the office all the time BUT I don’t care what anyone says – you WILL need to see the whites of each other’s eyes regularly. Fully outsourced solutions are not viable without super clean, clear channels of communication. That means you there, them here, lot’s of video conferencing, lots of cake, lots of love.

* Don’t get too hung up on language sets. Your fave platforms are all based on different ones. We sometimes get hooked on HTML5 this, Python that, PHP the other. Yes they each have pros and cons and most devs have their faves, but find the right person first.

* You may have to poach. If so, look at the products you love. Find them via the forums, meetups, Github, even their designer buddies on Behance or Dribbble etc. and reach out.

* Recruiters. You don’t like them, they don’t like themselves either much of the time, but the great ones can find great people really quickly. I normally do the friends, family, poach route first. Before acquiescing to the cheque book.

* Do more than JUST ask for a CV and covering letter. Get creative. Post in code, set a task, pre-qualify the dross before it hits your inbox.

* When you do get to interview – do 3 things – measure the practical, cultural and commercial. Hire slowly, fire fast.

* Don’t be a sh*t customer. You know what I mean. And you’ll know when you are.

 Keep me posted ;)

The Collective Noun For Geeks Is?

  • Dan
  • Collective Noun For Geeksbusiness
  • Business
  • 08, August

A murder of crows, a murmuration of starlings and everyone knows a cluster of diamonds. But what is the collective noun for geeks?

As CEO at Rewired State. We hack data held in large organisations and develop apps to help  solve real world business problems, quickly – Rapid prototyping of software is our key speciality.

Borg of Geeks 2Today we’re working with Asda, hacking together apps that will help them engage with their customers in new or smarter ways. We have 20 devs in one room and it made me think what to call the group so I asked on social media.

Here are the results. Some are a little mean or rude, others are pure genius!

A…

01000111 01100101 01100101 01101011 (Geek in binary)

#

Algorithm

Array

Awkward

Base

Beard

Binary

Boffin

Borg

Brainz

Cloud

Cluster

Code

Collection (zzz)

Computation

Cutlery (WTF)

Database

Enthusiasm

Farm

Gaggle

Geek

Geekoid

Geekdom

Git

GNU

Google

Googol

Hackathon

Incubator

Infinite Loop

Introversion

Iteration

Masturbation (err)

Matrix

Motherboard

Nerd Herd

Odour (?!)

Pedant

Playground

Precision

Protocol

Reboot

Repository

Router

Spectacle

Stack

String

Synapse

Tardis

Tedium

Tragedy

Turing

Virginity (mean)

Wedgie

Well

Thanks to all who played. Awe sum.

… Check out  if you want to see what’s cooking at the Asda hack.

So. The adventure begins… #DansGrand

  • Dan
  • #DansGrand, Adventure, Life Changebusiness
  • Business
  • 07, July

I recently landed back in the UK looking for something to do, having been in Cape Town for 4 years. I offered a grand (£s not Rand ;) to anyone who would open their black book, reconnect me with the London business/tech scene, and help me find my next adventure. I imaginatively titled the project #DansGrand (All very self indulgent, yes).

Here is an update, with some key lessons that you may want to apply or share. I also need your help to do something with the money. No one claimed the £1000.

By The Numbers

I took 100+ calls and emails, 19 meetings, which turned into 12 business opportunities of which there are 4 on the table, with 1 signed.

The Now

The reason I’m writing this post now is because after a busy month of getting stuck right back in on short term stuff – delivering digital workshops, consultancy and coaching sessions for Prelude, Limelight, Theatretrain and Investment Quorum, I’ve signed my first long term agreement.

A Personal Side

The back story to the last 6 months has been err… challenging. I won’t go into detail here, this post is self indulgent enough, so I’ll simply write off 2014 as a ‘beautiful lesson’. Heartbreakingly my relationship took the strain and has sadly broken down but apart from that the general upshot is positive – I’m a Londoner again, if near Borough Market give me a knock. Mum is still in hospital after 4 months BUT is stable and will hopefully be in recovery soon. I’m getting healthier in prep for my new challenges post the booze and fast food fuelled early dark times of hospital visits. On and up.

So. The Grand…

I’d like to do something with it. Not give it to charity, or a social enterprise as I don’t believe in them. However, I would like to do something good with it, maybe within the entrepreneurship for young people space? Know any young businesses or organisations that encourage entrepreneurship and need some cash? or any other ideas connecting business and young people? Help!

Key Lessons

This entire period has paradoxically been one of reflection and action. I’ve learned so much. Maybe some of it can help you or yours?

Douche or dude? – When you put yourself out there, in any context, some people will think you’re a douche and others a dude. Ultimately it’s tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper, so crack on regardless.

You get to find out what you do and who you are – Perception is reality and sometimes it doesn’t even matter what you think. Only what ‘they’ think. Thanks to feedback I’m now able to define what my value proposition is – I was told that I help businesses break through energy blocked stages. e.g. get out of startup, activate new sales channels, create succession.

Stand out – When making major changes in your life – Do something, anything, to stand out from the crowd for 2 reasons – 1. It creates conversation and 2. It will fuel your mojo to get through what will inevitably be challenging times. Keep in mind – the reason any journey goes quicker the second time is because your brain cuts out what it has experienced before. Any new journey is tiring and energy draining. You will need constant good juice to keep you going.

Relationships mean everything – My goodness I’ve learned so much about personal and business relationships this year. Trust your gut, and balance it with head and heart. Stay connected with people who you love for all the right reasons, as well as all of their wrong reasons. Hollywood teaches us to embrace the Vaseline lensed stuff but generally ignores the poop. So nurture those with your kind of mental too. You only truly know someone when their shit is blocking the filter and if you can both live with that, the rest is gravy. Authentic connections are the ones that pay dividends in your work and personal life.

Give and take – Be clear, concise and document what you want, and what you can offer – Add positioning, guide with context, and definitively detail any content that needs to be paid forwards.

Be nice – And if you can’t be nice, be authentic. People gravitate to both. I’m not nice. Those who know me well would never describe me as ‘nice’. However, I am fiercely loyal, dedicated, open and passionate. Being as authentic as feedback will allow me to be :)

Square hole, round plug – Not every opportunity or person will work out. And that’s ok.

Focus and prioritise – Not things I find easy when brain is in butterfly catching mode. BUT needs must, so switch on that part of your brain when required.

Ask for help – People genuinely want to help. Often it will come from random people or situations and serendipity will play it’s part, like it did with Emma and myself. Ask (smarter & trusted) friends for feedback on any comms transmitted outside of your known network (You’re much more likely to be dude than douche when you do. Eh 7s? – THANK YOU!)

Embrace the awesomeness of the Universe – It truly is awesome. It does give you what you need, just put yourself out there. You might not like all of what comes back! But it all helps.

Things take time – Everything you need to do. Will. Take. Time.

Money – It isn’t an incentive for everyone, but money is energy and in this instance it was a conversation starter. So either way, a win win.

Life moves crazy quickly – Grab it, fuck it, spank it, don’t over think it, do it – and most importantly CHERISH IT (When you can do all that, tell me how.)

Thank you to everyone has been a part of this amazing journey. This was not where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to be doing but when life throws turds, make manure, and watch the roses grow.

Mucho x

Special thanks to Robyn, Tiff, Roc, Oli, Tom, Karl, Suse, Em MQ, Em M, Vandy, Syd, Duncan C, Julian, Ross, Lee, Lizzie, Daren, YoYo, Kaila, Dan B, Charlie, John D, James B, Darren, Jerry, Armine, Kit, Phil J, Nick, Emmanuel, Mutaz, Guy, Alex W, Andy, Phil W, Baz, Judith, Richard, Derek, Linda, Morgaine, Jim, James M, Simon C, Gi, Chris S, Fred, Caspar, Anna D, Anna T, Andrew L, the 49rs and Scott… Who have I missed, eish.

I need your help – The next adventure is…

  • Dan
  • #DansGrand, The next adventure!business
  • Business
  • 06, June

milton_berleChatting with a friend in Cape Town, talking about moving back to London next month and what to do with myself work wise. I need a new challenge and I’m sure I’m good for something!

We figured with the internet bringing people closer together, I could maybe incentivise my wider network to help me find the right business opportunity by applying the 6 degrees rule (Which is probably more like 3 degrees now thanks to social media!) with a little cash, love, lunch (Delete as you fancy).

It’s a very self indulgent ask this but if you don’t ask you don’t get! So what the hell. Here goes:

I will fly anywhere in the world, take you for lunch and give you/a friend/an organisation of your choice £1000 in return for an introduction. That’s all. Easy huh?

What am I looking for exactly?

A project or business that needs someone like me, where I can add real value. I’m a Commercial Director slash Business Dev person specialising in digital.

What can I do and why should you connect me!?

For the past 20 years I have helped organisations large and small use technology to make or save money, engage audiences, think differently and sell. More recently I’ve owned or managed businesses that do the same, so I have a generalist background in business and digital. My core skill set – energising teams – strategic thinking around product, positioning, messaging – activating routes to market. (more here and on LinkedIn if you have time)

What kind of business/project?

To give you some context, the business will probably look/feel something like one of these:

1. A small digital product business that wants accelerated growth to the next level. Taking their £300k TO business to £5m over the next 5 years. (Or a marketing/PR/comms firm that has a spin-off idea and wants to do the same.)

2. A mid-size or corporate that wants to be more innovative, perhaps setting up an incubation/innovation program that feeds digital product back into the core business channel – so retaining staff, diversifying offering, making cool product.

3. A fund that wants to invest in smarter tech businesses. I’ll help find and tidy the best ones.

Where

London based.

Money and time

Full time project based, or as an employee of the business. It would be great if earnings covered London expenses but must be aligned with what the business can afford (£4k-8k/mth I would think suits this kind of role). I’ll make my money on the upside when the business/project is successful. I may invest, but assume not initially. Happy with targets, risk reward etc.

The softer squishier stuff

I’m moving back to London to manage my Old Dear’s health care plan and also because my girlfriend wants to get back into acting. Where better to be on stage than London! On the work side, I’ve been exceptionally lucky and privileged to have worked with some amazing people, in various businesses, across different sectors. The one stand out element for me has been that I prefer values driven businesses. e.g. No suits, open, authentic, flat structure, with ALL of us in it to win it. I want to be part of a hungry and passionate team that are building cool shit to make money, make a difference AND have fun.

So. The £1000.

When an agreement has been made, whoever made the first link connection (by any means) will receive the £1000 within 7 days (I may need some time to arrange flights to Cambodia ;).

As someone smarter than me once said – Change is inevitable, progress is optional…

Many thanks in advance.

#DansGrand

Each Country’s Most Valuable Exports

I’ve always enjoyed this joke at work –

“What’s the largest export of Brazil”, you ask.

They say “Coffee isn’t it?”.

…and you say “Yes please”.

Ba doom toosh. A little juvenile but always makes me smile.

However, just came across this published in Time online from GlobalPost, which actually shows the largest exports from each country across the world. Fascinating stuff. And oh. It’s not coffee…

africa asia1 europe middle-east-central-asia north-america south-american