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Cartwheeling at the NEST

The Nest is an annual start up conference held by Toucan and Time Inc. This year I was invited to speak alongside my mentor Fiona Dent, MD of Time UK.

Over the last 8 months Fiona has provided continual inspiration and guidance. Fiona stressed the importance of understanding who your target client is.

Only with a detailed profile on the client can you build an effective marketing and communication strategy to reach and convert them.

Together we worked on consumer profiling and testing our assumptions about agent through a google Adwords campaign and direct market research, going in and speaking to agents.

One of Fiona’s largest influences has been about taking responsibility for every area of the business. Particularly getting more involved in the underlying technology that powers our software.

With a great deal of prodding from Fiona I’ve become immersed in the process of development and I’ve learned about the technology stack (the selection of tools and languages that have been used to build and maintain the software).

This is particularly important if we plan to sell the business to another technology company, as incompatible technology stacks could derail an acquisition deal!

It's also important in being able to build a team of developers, which is vital as our core product is code...

There were a number of excellent speakers through out the day and I particularly enjoyed hearing from Tim Jackson, who runs Lean VC.

Tim gave insight into what he looks for in founders and businesses before investing.

He stated that most important of all is 'Founder Optimism', while founders need to have some tethers to earth and reality, the need irrational optimism to drive them forward through the challenges of running a start up company.

Tim went on to discuss the important of companies acting like scientific experiments, all assumptions being validated through tests and performance of every aspect of the company being monitored through key metrics. While Tim didn’t have time to go into his metrics in detail here is a link to a great metrics video by Dave McClure from 500 start ups.

HALEP is an acronym that Tim has for his ideal companies:

  • HUNGRY, they will stop at nothing to accomplish their objectives.

  • ATTRACTING, people want to be involved in what they are doing, be that as investors or to join their team.

  • LEAN, they need to do a lot with a little.

  • ENTERPRISING, Tim defined this as always looking for hacks and shortcuts, what unconventional tricks can they use to get ahead…

  • PROFIT, unlike many silicon valley VC’s who want to invest in massive growth and are worried about monetising as a second thought Tim is interested in commercialisation right from the start.

There were also enlightening presentations from Envestors, an investment syndicate made up of 2.5k members who on average invest £40,000 per deal and QVentures a competitor syndicate who’s angels on average invest £150,000 and there is a minimum investment amount of £25,000 per angel.

Over all a very fun and educational event, I look forward to attending next year!


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