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Startup Diaries Week #3: The Calm Before the Storm?

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Startup Diaries Week #3: The Calm Before the Storm?

Wondering what this is all about?

The Story So Far

Have you ever had that feeling about going back to the gym after a little time off?

What about the feeling after your first session back?

You know the one: that mixture of being absolutely worn out yet simultaneously pumped and feeling great about accomplishing something you hadn’t last week.

Week three of Ignite has been very much like that.

It’s been a busy week, which is fantastic, and it has been a week of real clarity in the startup. We spent much of it researching deeper into the problems that the industry faces and feel much more confident that the initial idea that we had is not only valid, but really very powerful.

The thing with that is that realisation is that you have to be careful.

You have to make sure that you don’t get sucked into the compliments and the “validation”. It’s about remaining purely objective and sure, getting a little excited, but not letting yourself run away with so many ideas that you don’t know how to start.

Because after all, that is what this is all about: starting.

In fact, the desire to start and really just get “out there” (that's a really intangible and broad term, I know) can be so strong that whilst maintaining that enthusiasm, you also have make sure not to simply put anything out there.

Thankfully, this week has really been about nailing down some core brand values for the business, and actually for Adam and I as individuals.

What do we want from life as people? How does that play into the type of business we want to build here? What kind of culture do we want to create? How do we want to change our customers’ lives? Why should theygive a shit?

Being a business that needs to recruit both consumers and businesses, effectively a B2C and a B2B business at this stage, the brand discussions have been challenging, powerful and fruitful.

Whilst those discussions aren’t done (will they ever be?), we had a superb session this week with brand master Gabe Cahane who really helped us clarify a few things even further, thus allowing us to really think as individual co-founders about the business that we want to build.

Running alongside that, we worked with Mixcloud’s Mat Clayton on data driven product development (see “Lessons Learned This Week”) which was a really well pitched complimentary session to the brand session with Gabe.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “brand and data driven product development are hardly bed fellows”. And you know, you’re right.

But surprisingly one does greatly inform the other. Particularly when you decide what to measure in your business.

Without a clear purpose running through your brand, it’s impossible to understand the metrics that really matter.

More on that later.

Riding the Crest

We’ve had a couple of nice wins this week too. Now, I’m sure that we’ll monumentally fuck up here at times, so reporting these wins almost feels like I’m making a rod for my own back and that this is the calm before the storm, but who cares – I’m here to tell you the truth.

We found ourselves what appears to be a fantastic industry veteran ally who has been crying out for what we’re doing for years.

More than that, he’s well connected to people who all believe the same.

Having met our new contact, it certainly feels like we have some commonalities in our approach and if things pan out as we hope, I’ll give you more pertinent details. Park that one up for now, stick it on the “must come back to that” shelf.

Challenges This Week

Let’s talk pace for a second. We want to move fast, so do our investors and so we all should – I’ve talked about pace before in startup land and it’s something that can startle you if you aren’t prepared for it.

We want to get rolled out, get into customers’ hands and get our feet on the ground.

Yet, as I mentioned above, because we need to recruit B2B partners, we have a huge education process to go through after we have finished our own research and that is a real challenge.

Balancing the B2B process in what is traditionally a slow-to-change industry with the rapid pace needed to test test test test test all of our assumptions here in startupville is beginning to pose a challenge, that’s for sure.

But hey, we aren’t complaining because that’s a nice problem to have isn’t it. The people we are recruiting are doing due diligence and, with those people representing our brand across the UK, I’m very happy that they are.

Much better than the other way around, you’ll agree.

Real Life: How the Co-Founders Are Doing

My legs constantly ache.

If it’s not running its stairs. So. Many. Stairs.

But I feel great for it, nice and alert and ready to tackle every day with the maximum focus and energy. I know that Adam feels the same way too.

One of the surprising by-products of living in Central London and working 1.5 miles away is that it forces you to also just walk to work – it’s just so much quicker than anything else in the city over that distance.

With that in mind, I’m finding that I get some unexpected time to focus on whatever my mind needs to solve both before I get to where I need to be, and on the way back too.

There’s also this feeling of “home” to the city now. Of course, it’s not home – that’s where family is – but it’s now familiar; we aren’t strangers in this town (I miss Richie Sambora) and we are both more relaxed in that environment.

This is leading to more exploration, more network building and more connecting with people and that can only be a great thing.

Given the social nature and that collaborative focus on the accelerator programme, we are really enjoying making the most of our time to build new and real friendships, business relationships and help whoever we can around us.

I said it last year when I was at NMX & Podcast Movement, and I’ll say it again: these are my people.

Lessons Learned This Week

  1. Don’t follow the advice of every single mentor. Some of them are wrong. Some of them are right. All of them have a valuable opinion. Aggregate it all, spot trends and test the insides out of those trends, then decide what to take on board and what to disregard.
  2. Find the one single KPI that matters to your business. Find just that ONE and stick to measuring that. All of the metrics that funnel into making that will follow suit, but find the single most valuable measurement and build a culture around that.
  3. In terms of knowledge, take what you need when you need it. Use it when you need it and file the rest somewhere else, ready for when you do need it, otherwise you’re just going to become overwhelmed.

I can see there are tough days ahead, and I can see that the mountain that faces us is in plain view now.

I also know that with one step after the other, it can be climbed and so far life on the accelerator has given us the rope that will ensure we don’t fall too far when we do fall.

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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