I'm Vicky Brock, Entrepreneur Agony Aunt and 5 time startup founder. Each week a high profile guest and I dive into your startup challenges. Telling like it is, because there are no mistakes someone else hasn't made first
What startup founders can learn from Silicon Valley with Chris Neumann
Silicon Valley entrepreneur and angel investor, Chris Neumann, shares his insights on what founders need to know about raising VC investment, and why equity investment is not right for every startup.
Chris joined Vicky Brock in Edinburgh while on a whistle-stop tour of the UK, where he was giving a series of fireside chats with Barclays Eagle Labs, to help early stage founders separate fact from fiction when it comes to Silicon Valley myths and the reality of startup fundraising.
A short and sweet episode, as Chris had less than 30 minutes before he was due on stage, he makes the critical point that VC money comes with very specific expectations around growth, and that founders pursuing that path - especially those in small countries or regions - need to broaden their perspective and map their development and progress to a suitably ambition baseline:
"Founders who want to go down the path of creating a globally changing company, it is important to get outside your own country fast. Most founders think of being the best, most successful company in their country. Silicon Valley founders think about winning the world."
How to find your startup problem worth solving - new TEDX talk from Vicky Brock
It was fantastically energising to give a talk at TEDx Glasgow Caledonian University yesterday about how I found my purpose again when I found my next startup problem worth solving.
"I’m back with Vistalworks, doing the doing of entrepreneurship, because I have found my next problem worth solving. I have found the people I want to solve it with. And I know how we will recognise when we are making a sufficiently meaningful difference."
Running at 15 minutes, I have shared the talk on the podcast because I think it is relevant. The normal episode type will resume next week.
In this talk I share the 6 questions I ask myself to get from idea to startup, and the quick, cheap validation process I use to de-risk business ideas before I jump in. I bust some common startup myths and talk frankly about how the actual experience of failing, of losing the company I had worked so hard for, was nowhere near as toxic to my mental and physical health as the fear that it might happen.
The script for the talk, first given at TEDx Glasgow Caledonian University, October 12 2019 is at my Entrepreneur Agony Aunt blog - the video will be added to the same page once available.
Equity crowdfunding: a startup founder shares details of his crowdfund investment process
Startup founder Sam Pettipher of Ebar joins Vicky Brock to explore the details of his recent equity crowdfund investment and shares his advice for other early stage founders planning a raise.
Joining the podcast just six weeks after his crowd fund campaign beat its target by £100k, injecting a transformational amount of cash into EBar Initiatives, a start-up with a mission to change the way the world is served its beer, Sam shares the learnings, execution process, and highs and lows of his successful crowdfund.
He explains how much planning time is required before the fundraising campaign even begins, and the ongoing time commitment required to market the campaign and respond to questions from potential investors. He details how much money founders already need to have committed by investors before the fund-raise goes live on the crowdfunding platform. And he talks about those heart-stopping moments when the investment moved backwards, away from its target, then picked up last minute momentum to beat its target by £100k.
Sam and Vicky contrast bootstrapping, angel investment and equity crowdfunding as options for startups to consider, and find that despite its many upsides, running a successful crowdfund takes time, planning and effort and is certainly not a "quick fix" route to investment.
Creating a successful startup culture
Danae Shell and Vicky Brock discuss startup culture, why startup founders have to take responsibility for deliberately creating the culture in their business, and how building balanced, consistent teams can enable startups to thrive in an uncertain, complex environment. Danae explains why setting context is a far more useful employee skill to seek than vision-setting, and why there'll be no room for rockstars or genius a***holes in her new startup.
We cover commercial validation and product market fit and why this time round neither of us will be raising angel or VC investment for our new startups until we're certain that we have it:
"One of the key lessons I have learned so far is... for the love of God do not take scale up money until you are ready to actually scale, and you know in your bones that you are actually ready to scale. Because as soon as that scale up pressure comes, if you are still trying to iterate through anything that comes before scaling, you are just creating an ulcer or worse."
Danae Shell, is a veteran startup employee about to become a founder for the first time. A native Tennessean, she is a programmer-turned-marketer who has been part of the Scottish tech scene for 15 years, working at scale-ups Barrie & Hibbert and FreeAgent before their successful exits. Most recently was Chief Marketing Officer at Care Sourcer, scaling their marketing strategy and teams.
In this episode we discuss the lessons we have both learned across multiple tech startups, and what we will and won't be doing in our latest ventures as a result. We dive into the ways we'll be flexible, keep costs to a minimum, create a very deliberate startup culture, and build teams of consistent "doers" in order to get something in front of users as quickly as possible.
The blog post mentioned is the episode is: "Startup founders. You don't need adult supervision"
Finding talent and hiring interns for your startup
It’s been a while! I have been busy getting Vistalworks - my startup number 5 - off the ground and I know you know how all consuming that job is. But we’re 9 months in, the first version of the technology is live, I have an amazing team - and you’re questions keep coming (as do mine!) So it felt like the right time to record another 10 Entrepreneur Agony Aunt episodes, the first of 2019, starting with this one.
Building successful teams, and attracting, rewarding and retaining talent is the most requested topic on this podcast - even more so than funding - and in this episode we explore hiring interns and your first junior staff.
My guest is Joy Lewis, CEO of Adopt An Intern. AAI has just placed their 1500th candidate into paid work and in Scotland is the go-to choice for startups making their first hires. Supporting startups and socially-driven organisations to find the right candidates is in their DNA - I use them for my junior hires and I can’t recommend them and the talent they have helped us find highly enough.
Joy Lewis founded Adopt An Intern in 2009 and ran it as a programme within the Centre for Scottish Public Policy until 2012 when she it spun out to become a not-for-profit company. Since then AAI has widened their message of inclusive employment beyond internships to permanent positions and various social impact projects, including breaking down barriers for disabled graduates, women returners and Scotland’s growing minority ethnic population, promoting equality of opportunity in the UK job market.
In the episode we discuss:
- How to think about and prepare for your first hires
- What a good brief of candidate requirements looks like
- Why pay matters and what fair looks like in a cash strapped startup
- What does diversity and equality of opportunity mean, how do you create it, and why does diversity matter so much in a startup?
- Interviewing inexperienced staff, when you’re not necessarily that experienced yourself
- What next once you've found your intern/hire if you've never managed people before
- Tips to help more experienced founders build productive teams
Do Less, Tell More. Advice to my 22 year old self
There isn't time to do everything and hard work alone is no guarantee of success, so how do you make sure that the efforts you do make have the most impact on your career and personal and professional visibility?
Work smarter not harder, learn fast not perfectly, don't wait for permission and when you fail - as you will - fail fabulously. Just part of the advice to my 22 year old self, after a colourful career as a CEO, entrepreneur and child chimney sweep. (You need to view the slides for that joke to make sense!)
This was recorded at Edinburgh University Business School as part of my talk to #IWScot and #BCSWomen on 30th May 2019.
I am deep in startup CEO mode right now, with my new company Vistalworks. But I do intend to resume the interview format episodes as soon as my schedule allows!
My go to for high growth strategies. Thanks Vicky for your brilliance
This is how it really is!
I survived my first startup for 6 years and now on my second. This is the only podcast I have heard in 7 years of me building startups, investing as a VC in them and teaching masters students that really resonates with how it is. Looking forward to listening to many more.