Posts tagged startup.

Seed funding in the UK

Ever been the one person in a group of people you didn’t know? Standing there, everyone around you deep in conversation. You’ve been there before. You know the rules. Get eye contact. Smile. Step in boldly. Excuse yourself. Embrace the awkward moment, it will pass. Soon you’ll become one of them. 

Writing this I realise I spend much of my life doing this (not literally standing on my own in crowded rooms). And I’m there again. Well almost. 

I’m just outside. Through the next door there’s a room full of entrepreneurs and investors. Some of them have come from Twitter. Most from AngelList. Others from various startup incubators. 

You read the rules before you went in. You know how to play the game.

TO ENTER

1. You are doing something exceptional. Check. 

2. You can prove it’s working. Check. 

3. You have a strong, ideally proven, management team. Check. 

4. You can demonstrate an investment will deliver a serious return. Check. 

TO SPEAK WITH SOMEONE IN THIS ROOM

1. Research who you want to speak with. Check. 

2. Connect with them on social media. Check. 

3. Engage with them on social media. Ish. 

4. Ask a friend/contact for an introduction. Fail. 

Recently I realised I don’t know anyone in the room. Not one. 

At first I wasn’t quite sure how my black book that’s taken 10 years of hard graft to build, had no value. I’ve built and ran a multi million pound digital business. I’ve a pile of entrepreneurial accolades. But seemingly everyone I want to talk to is in Palo Alto. Or at least in the States. 

I appreciate the UK is getting more of an appetite for digital entrepreneurship (see my comments in the Guardian last week) but we’re still markedly behind the US. My sister lives in San Fran and so I spend a fair amount of time out there (but normally in the guise of being Uncle Matt). I appreciate being away from home always gives a different perspective, but everything out there feels so different. There’s a passion and excitement for startups you don’t get in the UK. People actively celebrate the entrepreneur. In the UK we’re still at that ‘I think he’s struggling to find a real job’ stage. 

And whilst the UK startup scene is building and I applaud that, it’s very much in its infancy. Accordingly the investment scene meets the wider market - angel investors are popping up everywhere and as you’d expect there are plenty of VCs starting to look at this space. But if you’re looking to raise £250-£500k it’s not so easy. There’s a serious lack of seed investors currently in the UK. Or I’ve certainly not found them yet.  

So what to do? How do you get an invite to the party and then how do you make sure you know someone in it before entering? 

Think it ‘s time for me to jump on a flight and get myself in that room. 

Or alternately I might just use this blog post as my excuse to get in touch with US investors directly. Be warned. 

Tune in at 2pm EST to http://live.foxnews.com/

I’ll be chatting to the US about www.myLovelyParent.com. Genius. 

12 hours til launch. Hopefully.

[THIS WAS WRITTEN OVER THE 25/26th OCTOBER]

I’m still not too sure the reasons why I’m documenting this. I think to voice the difficulties and experiences people go through when starting something up: for those who have also been through it to feel the pain, for those who think setting up online businesses is an easy journey. 

I start this a broken chap. I’ve been working 6-7 days a week, 15-20 hours a day for the past few months, the past few days of which will little sleep. I’ve just headed back from a London meeting to our Gloucester offices. The intention is to put our new business myLovelyParent live tomorrow, Friday. 

We’ve contacted over 5,000 journalists around the world with Friday 26th October as our launch date. 


Thursday 25th October
14.24 

Thought it’d be interesting to document the 12 or so hours before launch. Hopefully something we look back on with fond memories. I’m imagining a few hours ahead of laughter, hard work, anxious moments and plenty of break throughs. 

14.26
It’s laughter. Matt B (there are two Matts) made a reasonably funny joke. We’re confident launch is still on. Both broken from a few very long months. Working through the final list of changes. Then live. Gulp. 

14.55
All started well. We’re half way down the first page. There are quite a few pages. The first round of coffee has been drunk. Almost. It’s feeling just a little bit fun at the moment. It’ll pick up I”m sure. 

15.28
Going good. 

15.59
Just off blower to the Guardian in the States. Article being run online tomorrow and hopefully in UK print on Saturday. 

16.57
Moving all the legals on to the site and linking up the documents. Important but not particularly interesting. General vibe is positive. Paracetamol kicking in. Seems to counter balance the coffee. 

17.09
It’s amazing how it all stitches together. Beautiful. Months of long days. Sacrifice, pressure, hope…all coming together. 

17.32
Needing to pull some copy together for 3 alert emails we still had as lorem ipsum. Good to spot these things before launch. Needing to get hold of a partner charity to make sure they’re happy with their content on the website. Something we promised. Realising normal people may go home at 17.30. 

17.49
New email copy written. 

17.50
Realise my emails are threaded with words spelt in UK English, not American English. Been trying to avoid these words as much as possible. Time for a rewrite. Tough when one of the key pieces of functionality is around the word ‘favourite’. 

18.05
Dark outside. Having not been to sleep from yesterday it’s feeling like a very long day already. Strange how awake I a considering. Ironic there’s a typo in the preceding sentence! Might just leave it. 

18.07
Realise it took me two minutes to write that previous update. Thinking I might actually be slowing down. Pretty arctic outside (gotta love the UK). Maybe time for a stroll outside. Also just realised surely Twitter should be the right place for these updates? 

18.17
Looking amazing. 

18.26
A sudden raft of people signing up for an invite. Am assuming some press has just gone live somewhere or a positive tweet. Want to do a quick check but deep in code. Well, I’m not. I’m watching over other people who are deep in code. 

18.39
Broken tired. 

18.44
Suddenly it’s all feeling quite possible. 

18.53
Phone call back from partner charity. Send a demo link. Her version of Firefox won’t let her in to the site. Problem. She’s downloading Chrome in the meantime but something we need to sort. Back to browser testing we go….

18.57
Firefox 4 is used by 1.9% of the world’s internet population. 

19.18
A text from an incredible person who gave so much time to help work on the site: 

'Looks bloody good!! So happy to be involved, even if in a tiny way. Massive congratulations xxx'

Beautiful. Thanks Kate. Needing the support at the moment.

19.26
Tomorrow. Wow. 

19.31
Hungry. Time for food.

21.00
Food. Am sure for not all that time. And lots more sign ups. And emails of good luck and support. Very cute. Love how engaged people are with this idea. Very cute. 

21.15
Suddenly really excited. 

21.41
Good times. 

21.41
I keep writing the same word. 

22.05
Image problem. Confident it will be sorted. Please hold caller. 

22.06
Hold

22.12
Johnny Nash, I can see clearly now being played. Perfect. 

22.33
A turn for the worse. A slight error in IE. 

22.39
Resolved. Oh something else was resolved. That’s good though. 

22.53
Feels like there’s lots to do suddenly. Stepping back am sure it’s just because we’re closing in the list. Headphones on time. 

23.10
Coffee number many. Water. Headphones. One page of list down. 

23.15
Time to open the window. Arctic outside. Hoping it staves off the need for sleep. Got that strange feeling that you only get driving along the motorway late at night, desperate to cling on to consciousness until the next service station….

23.37
A message from Matt B: Dear IE we don’t like you. 

23.38
Recommend does not have 3 m’s. 

23.51
My list is done. The other Matt’s isn’t. Time to pull together some copy to send over to all the people who have signed up for an invitation. It’ll be a proud (and somewhat daunting moment) sending that one. 

23.55
It works. Genius. 

Friday 26th October - DAY OF LAUNCH

00.07
Funnily enough Bond is out today. But that’s not what I was going to write. 

What I was going to say is, it doesn’t work. Well, some complex it’s-never-really-going-to-happen-but-it-might-do-one-day thing isn’t working. We’d better try and fix it. 

00.25
Just wrote the launch email. Alright, maybe I did shed a tear. Tired and very proud. Okay going to stop typing for a bit. It’s emotional : )

00.27
Found an inch worth of coffee in my mug. It’s cold but it’s coffee. That’s a good thing. 

00.39
Tired. Am also smiling. 

Always funny when this kind of thing builds up. Soon - although no real idea of how soon is soon anymore - we’ll send an email to thousands of people and say ‘ta da, the website is live’. Most of these people will be in bed. Or busy. And then we’ll go to bed. And what we’ll wake up to is very few new sign ups, a load of emails identifying bugs and another long day of work. But at least it will be live. And that is very exciting. 

00.41
Matt B is swearing. And not in a good way. He’s wrestling with a great big php bear. 

01.05
Fix one thing something else breaks. Ouch. Back to testing. 

01.13 
Having a serious case of multiple personality disorder. Pretending to be lots of different people during testing can be a tricky thing. At the moment I’m my mum, granddad, myself and my own child. I didn’t even know I had a kid. I’m also lots of other people. 

01.39
Off to bed. 

Pah. Not really. Loads to do. Working through a big chewy problem which somehow makes someone’s image revert back to a holding ‘avatar’. Not a very good user experience. Working through the code. Might have cracked it.

01.47 
Disaster averted. Back to testing : )

01.47
Realsiing coming straight from London meetings back to the office wearing semi-skinny jeans doesn’t make a comfortable outfit for all night working. Last night was just pants and t-shirt. Not sure Matt B would be as keen on that look. 

01.54
Good news is coming thick and fast. 

02.00
It’s 2am. That is all. 

02.46
Not sure if this is a very interesting journal. Maybe more exposure that startups are full of long, hard nights and that when you put a product live they’re rarely in a state of perfection. We’re getting there. This will be good. It will be good. Repeat after…zzzz…

02.56
This is hard work. Fact. 

03.04
I remember I was sitting in my hotel room yesterday in London at the very same time. I’m 35 and feeling my age. 

03.07
Currently wondering how my optician would think about me wearing my 12 hour contact lenses since 4.30am on Wednesday morning. Probably not best pleased. 

03.14
I wish I learnt to code when I was younger. Actually at any point. I think I might still learn. Even just the basics. 

03.21
Really tired now. Funny how a lack of sleep can change perspective. Needing to step back from the hard graft to remember just how amazing what we’re doing is. Actually even writing this has given me a new surge of love for myLovelyParent. 

03.45
Really feeling it now. Thoughts are we said a Friday launch, right? A couple of hours sleep and then push it live? Don’t want to sound defeatist but last few days catching up on me pretty heavily. 

04.06
Decided sleep. Test. Fresh pair of eyes. Live. 

Well that’s the plan. And it sounds like a better one than trying to smash it out currently. Just going to miss some of the morning PR traffic. 

04.13
One of the front end guys who was helping earlier on and then disappeared on us has just woken up. Fell asleep on the sofa. Genius. It’s a weird world of 24 hour working going on.

04.18
Couple hours sleep and then back on it. Night for now. 

Going to be a beautiful Friday. 

06.45
Breakfast chatting through a plan for the day.

07.02
Oh hello. Looks like we’re back in the office. Feeling really positive. Funny what a couple of hours can do. Plus a cup of tea of course. 

08.11
Time flies. It’s light again outside. 

08.28
Looking good. Few minor things.

09.05
Could someone slow the clock down please? Just been brought another cup of tea. Result. 

09.20
I just got. Not sure what I was about to write. 

10.49
Forget normal life is going on around us. Chatting with lawyer to sort few contracts out before launch. Ouch another few thousand. Gotta love them lawyers. 

11.43
4% of battery. Does that mean I can go home please? 

11.44
I don’t want to go home really. Just got an email from a journo I met up with yesterday. Amazing article: 

http://www.westlondonmum.co.uk/do-mylovelyparent-com/

12.10
Cold coffee. It’s working beautifully. Who doubted it wouldn’t’?  

12.16
We both agree we’re ready. In a very British way we turned to each other, shook hands firmly and turned back to our laptops. That’s enough celebration. Time to go live and deal with the fallout of typos, bugs and other new launch lovelies. 

12.20
I’m not sure if I’ve done anything in the last 4 minutes. It’s a pretty monumental step but as always one which at first often means much more to you that others! It’ll be a slow burn but soon this will gain the momentum of a…well, something or other. The brain isn’t working like it used to. Now to find the launch email I wrote last night. 

13.13 
Hmm not sure that’s going to bring us luck. 13.13. Quick note to say Matt B  is feeling nervously excited. I’m just excited. Not sure where the nervous bit comes. Possibly because he’s been here and done that. I’ve the luxury of blissful naivety. It’s a truly great thing. 

13.25
We’re live. We’re now not live. Tumblr’s down. Classic. We link out to it for our blog. 

13.55
Looks like I’m on the site, behind a quick password screen we’ve knocked up. Using it. Working it. Erm, not working it like that. More testing it. 

13.55
Just had the very real realisation that my job is about to change significantly. Very soon I will be promoted to approver extraordinaire and chief trouble shooter. 

14.19
Almost. Rodriquez is keeping us company. There’s a build up of coffee cups next to me.]

14.56
Tumblr is still down. Rubbish. We’re hosting our blog on it and link to it from the homepage. Bastards. 

16.29
Can’t believe it. There’s a real twist of irony launching a startup which connects to one of the 50 most highly trafficked sites in the world. And it’s them that’s down. As we’re pulling in feeds from the blog on to the homepage we’ve made the decision to delay the launch. Until Tumblr is back up and stable. Brutal call to have to make after slogging so hard for nearly 3 days. 

16.31
Sitting on Gloucester train station platform. Train home to Bristol. Then hourly checking in on Tumblr. 

16.43
Amazing piece in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/oct/26/my-lovely-parent-online-dating?newsfeed=true

19.03
We is launched. Emails to all the sign ups has now gone out. 

22.38
We’ve had our first completed profile. And lots and lots of kids signing their parents up. So seriously gorgeous. Loving this whole thing. Now for the important stuff. Bed. Night, we’ve launched the business and are up and running. Now the hard work begins…

xx

Proud feeling seeing myLovelyParent as Guardian’s top internet story. Even better knowing we’ve just reached our first 100 parents. 

An idea is worth nothing

An idea is worth nothing. Unless it’s brought to life. 

People have great ideas every day. Rarely those ideas are brought to life and when they are, most fail. 

But some succeed. 

They succeed because they positively change our lives; because they adapt; because they evolve.

On Friday myLovelyParent will take its first step into the public eye. A business which has stolen my heart. A brand I hope will change the lives of millions of people. 

Good luck myLovelyParent. I will be with you every step of the way. 

What I do during my days…


You know you’re doing the right thing when you get a message like this: 


This is such a lovely idea :) I’m going to tell my daughter about your site and her boyfriend who has a lovely singe mum too! Who knows where this adventure could take us!


Beautiful. Thank you. 

#work  #startup  

A month to launch. Lessons learnt.

  1. Talented people are hard to find but so worth waiting for.
  2. Believe in yourself and in what you’re doing. Not only does it make it a whole load easier but seriously good fun.
  3. Go out for that run. It’ll be good for you and the business.
  4. Startups are a 7-day a week love affair (which also burn a serious hole in your pocket).
  5. The more you want to keep costs down, the more hats you’re going to need to pick up.
  6. Grow vegetables. It keeps you grounded. 
  7. Surround yourself with people who will happily tell you when something is bad. And don’t forget to say thank you.
  8. Good coffee = good work. Bad coffee will distract you.
  9. Trust your instincts. Then test your instincts. Be prepared to be proved wrong.

Finally, as I’m writing this from a beach in Greece…. 

10. Holidays are good. We should all take more of them. 

Bristol

The birthplace of Wallace. And Gromit.

The home of Carol Vorderman – possibly the most cleverest mathematician on late afternoon television.

The home of organic, sustainability and cycling. Probably.

Where Isambard Kingdom Brunel invented the beard.

And now the registered office of the newly incorporated myLovelyParent.

My first speaker slot as myLovelyParent. Genius. 

mylovelyparent:

Been invited to speak at the iDate 2012 conference in Köln. 

myLovelyParent’s first speaker slot. Looks like we’re amongst esteemed company. 

Surround yourself by far more talented people than yourself and beautiful things will happen.

If any of you guys have a single mum or dad you must check this out. 

Shout if any of you guys are up for testing a prototype of the site. 

x

mylovelyparent:

This is our new video. Please like it, love it, reblog it. 

The wall of www.myLovelyParent.com joy #startup #paperprototype (Taken with Instagram)

Thoughts please.

So me and my bro have set up www.MarryMyMumOff.com - a dating site for single mums/dads where we - the kids - write or create a video endorsement for our parent. Simples.

At the moment we’re working with designers and technical peeps who are developing the site for us…which means we’re also at a good point to get any thoughts that you have. We would love to hear from you so please, please mail me with any you have.

Also if you’d be up for being a ‘case study’ let me know as we’re getting a whole heap of interest from the UK press.

Thanks guys. Big Tumblr love.