Startup Tips from BizSpark Summit 2010

We were at the Microsoft London office yesterday for the 2010 BizSpark summit – BizSpark being Microsoft’s startup accelerator programme.

Keynote speakers were Loic Le Meur, founder of Seesmic, and Alistair Mitchell, CEO of Huddle. (Loic was there with his camera, and if you look carefully at the pictures, you can find both Linda and I on this picture from his blog)

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Startup Tips

There were some key themes in the keynotes from those who had been there and done that…

  • Explain your idea succinctly. If you can’t explain the problem you are trying to solve and the solution in a couple of sentences, it’s too complicated. Go back to Start and try again.
  • Focus on execution. If you have a good idea it’s probably already been built, or already being built. Everyone is potentially your competitor. Just execute better than anyone else.
  • Get something out there early and iterate. Get a user base of 50 or so users, ask them how to improve.
  • Get user feedback (use GetSatisfaction or UserVoice) and keep improving.
  • Be Agile: If your business model isn’t working be prepared to change on the fly to one that is. Loic explained how Seesmic bought the Twhirl Twitter client in an attempt to drive traffic to the Seesmic video sharing website. When Seesmic usage stalled at about 100,000 users, but Twhirl usage continued to grow, they decided to do an about face and refocus the business on social media apps.
  • Don’t take Angel investment: at least not from professional angel investors. They want too much of your business and place too many constraints on an early stage startup. Instead self-fund as much as you can and if you need more cash look to friends and family.
  • Company valuation: Your company valuation is about 8x the funding you think you require! We’re talking VC funding here, not Angel. Reasoning: Work out the funding you want, then double it to account for unknowns and give you a buffer. VC will typically want about 25% of the equity, so multiply by 4 to get company valuation Winking smile

Did I miss anything? Any other key tips to share?