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Startup Diaries Week #1: Orientation

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Startup Diaries Week #1: Orientation

This is an honest, open and personal account of my time on the 14 week Ignite Accelerator, cohort #8 at TechHub in London, UK.

I’ll be writing a warts ’n’ all account of my personal journey, that of my co-founder Adam and the effects of such an intense accelerator programme on both us as people, and the business.

I’ll be chronicling this every Tuesday as part of my regular Tuesday blogging schedule.

I’m going to keep a nicely structured format to these posts so that you can chart the journey with Adam and I, and so that you can draw your own conclusions from my experience on the startup accelerator and so that somewhere, you may take a nugget of information that will radically help you in your business.

If you’re not familiar with Ignite itself or even with the concept of a startup accelerator here’s a little primer on both:

Starting next week I’m going to be using the following structure for these posts:

  1. The story so far (picking up from last week)
  2. Challenges this week
  3. Real life: how the co-founders are doing
  4. Lessons learned this week

This week is a little different. This week is really a little back story.

I’m not usually a nervous person. I’ll happily speak in front of an audience; happily deliver a training session to a group of people and happily walk into a room full of strangers and become part of that group.

But this is different. In November 2015, I made the decision to take at least 3 months out from HACKSAW™ and to put that time into a new startup opportunity that had presented itself to us.

At this point, I’ve co-founded and built two profitable companies so in theory, this should’ve been no different. But here’s the kicker: in order to focus on this startup I had to leave the family that we’ve created at HACKSAW™ and more importantly, leave my actual family and my amazing wife to move to London for 5 days per week, so that I can take part in the Ignite programme.

Making the move to London on Saturday 9th January, Adam and I spent a fantastic weekend with our wives in the capital before arriving at TechHub, London for the first day on Monday 11th.

This is where my nerves began to really come out to play, and I didn’t even realise it until afterwards. Suddenly I was right back to being filled with imposter syndrome:

“Everyone here will know so much more than me, be so much smarter than me and just be BETTER than me.”

I thought I’d gotten over that a long time ago but my first HOUR on the accelerator proved that wasn’t the case, at least certainly not when placed in a room full of extremely bright founders and surrounded by extremely impressive mentors.

Being angel funded, that latter point is something that despite my imposter syndrome, I was really looking forward to digging into and early during the first week I realised that the imposter syndrome I’d been feeling was actually mis-placed. Without realising it, I found myself relishing the chance to have deep, focussed and meaningful conversations with mentors who had actually been involved in so many tech based startups before – it was a challenge, yet the kind of challenge that leaves you feeling fulfilled, inspired and motivated whilst also exhausted.

It’s like your first day back in the gym after a year off – you know it’s SO very good for you, and you can’t wait for the next time – but “right now I just need a minute”.

There are a few lessons that I learned during this first week that I want to share with you, purely so that if you’re considering a startup accelerator yourself you can begin to gauge where my mind is as at week one.

Key takeaways from this first week of orientation:

  • Affirmation that “startup” is not simply something that means the same as “starting a business”. It’s a mindset, comes with its own methodology and requires much traditional thinking to be either left at the door or bent to your will in order to keep up with the pace of this brave new world.
  • Legals don't need to be boring – take what you need from them and understand that you can’t know everything, it’s what the experts are for.
  • Being thrown into a melting pot with 24 other bright, talented founders is the finest way to gain feedback, motivate yourself and make things happen more effectively and more quickly than you ever thought possible.
  • Focussed, MANDATORY mentorship from people who have succeeded in the startup world is more valuable than any other way of spending your “study” time.
  • Being part of a community of success, which the passionate team at Ignite have so obviously created, gives you the confidence to ask the questions that you wouldn’t usually ask; to take the stark and sometimes hard feedback in a positive sense and channel that into real life action.
  • Get it fucking rolled out.

I’m leaving you there today. This is a much shorter than normal post, but it’s intended to set the scene – next week, we’ll get into the meat as we embark on our first “real” week of accelerator life.

Don’t forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel.

About the author, Mark

Mark Asquith is a serial entrepreneur who has built globally successful design, marketing, software and digital businesses since he quit his real job in 2005.

A passionate podcaster, global keynote speaker and helpful bloke, Mark is the co-founder of Podcast Websites and the creator of Excellence Expected. He has a terribly embarrassing beard.

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