The Hitchhiker's Guide: how to start from ground zero and be a successful startup in Tech City, London, UK

The Secret Guide: how to start from ground zero and be a successful startup in Tech City

 

Appsjunction.net brings to you this awesome guide which can help you start from ground Zero as a novice in London Tech City, and become a seasoned & successful entrepreneur in the town.

Caution 1: Entrepreneurship is injurious to a normal 9-5 routine (aka dead) life. It sparks passion "to do something new or better" in its victims and makes them feel alive again!

Caution 2: Information in here could make you lose sleep & some casual friends as well, which is normal collateral damage on the path of success, but we do sincerely hope you will arrive there smiling and will find a satisfaction for your Passion for Startups, which will compensate more than enough for the small sacrifices on the path. 

Caution 3: to be very practical, the following program of "ground zero to riches!", for an above average person, would be at least 12-16 months long. So if you, have a demanding GF/BF, or expecting baby or marriage or expecting any major life event during that time, think twice, because all that distraction will hamper your plan to be successful-at-it a lot. The path of entrepreneurship needs lots of dedication, hardwork and working till late in nights!

Following are the questions, the author have faced repeatedly, from serious & promising Entrepreneurs (not wannabes) - hope these insights help you on your path from Ground Zero to Riches, while making something useful for audience, and they turn out a confidence boost for you! :)

Before reading any further, lets do a sanity check:

(The check itself and answers provided immediately after the check, are up for debate but we feel that answers are pretty useful and fairly correct at the moment)

  1. how important is creativity (as in business ideas solving a problem for masses/, not in painting)
  2. How important is sound belief in their success?
  3. how important is having a really good previous knowledge about something which can become a new good business? or an appealing improvement on existing business model?
  4. What is more important between the two; passion & hard-work?
  5. the eternal conflict for a bit mature mind people (mid-life crisis or not): to chase dreams OR to stick to a sensible OR a sort-of "complete" married life, with spouse and kids to tend to?
  6. How soon I want success => most people don't bother about its answer, until they get tired. :) But you really need to be really sure about that and how long "duration" makes you loose interest in it? for example you or other person jumped into a startup, where crew is doing fine for a reason of novelty and later loose their momentum and passion. Just like justice, Success delayed is success denied!

FAQ 1: What are the must ingredients for a person to be successful in Startup ecosystem, in order of importance?

  1. Passion
  2. Talent aka intelligence (not to be mistaken with intellect or IQ, consider it more like +ve form of street-smartness)
  3. Hard work (Seriously guys, there is no replacement of this and passion, everything else you can work on, but these two, are the must-have ingeredients)
  4. Connections (moving upwards in society or environment you grew up in, as you may call it)
  5. Luck or Destiny (OK! some may find this one difficult to agree with, then please ignore it)

A debate for some other day, but factors above are really in order of their importance in the eyes of the author of this guide.

FAQ 2: Where do I start if I just woke up today with an idea and feel that I can be an entrepreneur?

  1. if you have talent aka intelligence + conviction then you would find resources like this article via Google search or by following the right people on twitter/LinkedIn.
  2. Everytime you come across some useful information, you would start taking or making notes in a paper based diary but ideally in some kind of note taking software like Google keep, docs or Evernote. In worst lethargic case, take notes in notepad app on PC/Mac and keep them on free in Google/Sky drive. 
  3. Hard work - has no substitute like passion. But passion drives hardwork. And passion also means that you will leave the comfort zone of life, to fight your way in and climb your way up to the stardom in Entrepreneur ecosystem. Unfortunately it also means leaving some "pulling you down" connections behind and embracing "pushing you up" connections more. 
  4. You may or may not have the right Connections  but this guide will take care of both scenarios.
  5. Luck or Destiny (Sorry! We can't do anything about it but please ignore it at the moment for the sake of moving forward with the task on hand with "optimism")

FAQ 3: Can you save me some time by listing some good resources to read like a crash course? 

hell yeah, why not? you just sounded so intelligent and up to the task. And inspired us to deliver :)

  1. read all you can find interesting at following resources
    1. http://www.businesszone.co.uk/ - good useful articles to help you with day to day running of startup when you are not dozing off in dreamland
    2. http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/ - lots of FAQs already answered there and a good resource of Q&A from peers
    3. http://www.f6s.com/ - a very good site to connect with Startup ecosystem across Europe
    4. http://www.dreamstake.net/ - community of startups in UK
    5. http://www.smallbusiness.co.uk/starting-a-business/success-stories/ 
    6. http://startups.co.uk/success-stories/ 
    7. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11629784 - BBC's startup stories section
    8. This list is ever growing, we will add more resources in next edition of this article

FAQ 4: Okay! I have read online enough I think and I am ready to take the next step? What to do next with my tech startup idea?

hell yeah, we like your spirit! but if you have spent anywhere less than 1 month ( 4 - 6 hrs/week day) to absorb atleast 70% of what we want YOU to absorb from above resources, then please give yourself some more time. There is no short-cut to learning & absorbing. This guide will deal mainly with app startups, since more than 50% of tech startups these days are app startups or mobile is more than 50% centre stage at their roadmap. Having said that, the learnings here are equally useful for you, if you have a web based or other digital startup. 

You have two options from now onwards:

First is, if you want to speed things up and see the outcome to your startup adventure sooner & also if you get lucky (you see, the destiny element kicks in anyway) then, try getting into one of the top accelerators programme listed here http://appsjunction.net/popular-guides/59-hall-of-fame-some-of-the-best-incubators-and-accelerators-in-london-uk.html . They don't only groom you for the serious business stuff which awaits you when you walk out of dreamland and are actually running day to day operations of a startup business, but they are also the best connectors to the angels/VCs who can provide investment. Consider them as the best "screening + scrutinising + connector"  launchpad for your startup! They will get you there, where the most important thing is your skills to convince the investors, about investing in your business because you are already a hand picked one by those accelerators. :).   We are going to write a guide soon about making your best preparations for accelerator selection. By all means you should consider them as your best seed stage investor.

  1. Option 1: You were selected by an Accelerator:  in that case, they will take care of you like a brother from another mother :) still,  just read what comes next as another chapter in grooming but your success now doesn't depend on it. :)
  2. Option 2: Either you didn't want to go the accelerator path (and loose some equity) or you are confident and groomed enough that you think You can make it eventually anyway. So, You are on that path of carving your own destiny with a little more of perseverance, hardwork and will power. But what matters most is the "genius inside" :). So here is the game plan, you need to read some more stuff and take some steps to prep your idea for execution and then actually execute it to MVP level in a "lean startup" (read the book with this title) mode in next FAQ section
    1. http://www.slideshare.net/phoenixgmn/phoenixgmn-how-to-go-about-an-app-idea-guide- as the name says, its a practical guide about how to go about an app idea. Must read if you are a beginner entrepreneur and new to building and launching apps
    2. May be this one will have a bit more information: http://www.slideshare.net/phoenixgmn/phoenixgmn-all-about-apps-idea-to-launch 
    3. http://www.slideshare.net/phoenixgmn/phoenixgmn-funding-for-app-entrepreneurs-practical-advice - Must read if you want to Pitch as a Mature App Entrepreneur to audiences after the launch of your MVP or startup product/service.
    4. Read about App Promotion, Press releases, Explainer videos. Viral Videos, Social media marketing and what not (an informative article to be inserted here soon), to prepare yourself to promote your App/product, after it is launched.  Read anything from Google searches that can help you prepare for the digital marketing world as you would need those skills badly after launch.
    5. We will soon add here a link to an awesome guide we are currently preparing - "How to promote your app on low budget?".  Keep checking this space as we hope to add it here by Jul 2014.

FAQ 5: Okay! its execution time now. What do I do now?

Hell yeah, that's a spirit to admire. We assume that by growing to this level of self-groomed entrepreneurial stage, you have absorbed all the knowledge shared with you above. I won't lie to you and won't even be poetic about it, if you have really read the stuff shared with you so far and then reading the following section, you have won 50% of the battle already. :) Next section after this is showcasing what you have achieved/implemented already and fighting for the coveted prize among the best of passionate people like you. 

  1. first you need to find devs & co-founder, if you don't already have one. Also try for a good, reputed mentor with connections if you can find one. You may need to offer some equity - 5-8% to serous mentors but make sure you background check their portfolio & reputation first.
    1. Please note, an app developer is not a co-founder. Any good app will need a iOS/Android/WinPhone Programmer, a PHP web services programmer, a DB/SQL expert guy. A developer/programmer is not a co-founder usually in the mature sense of the word. A co-founder is usually a marketing & sales savvy guy who is well experienced in business matters and comes with good connections. You can always hire freelancers to program your MVP App (between 2K-5K) as you can find hundreds or thousands of them at platforms like elance.com, freelancers.com and Appsjunction.net. Same goes with UX designers. You can get awesome UX designed by freelancers for just £300-400, hence it doesn't make business sense to look for a co-founder in a UX designer.
    2. to find the right team, attend good meetups in town like 5-6 top meetups. If you are in London and you are an App Entrepreneur then the best meetups to make connections would be AppsJunction-Where-Startups-Meet-Developers , minibarsilicondrinkabout.com/london & many more listed here campuslondon.com/events/calendar.
    3. You can also try the http://techcitynews.com/directory/tech-city-tours/ to get to know the power centres in tech city London and also make some useful connections.  For all your tech city directory & info lookup needs the best portal would be http://techcitynews.com/
    4. Once you have found the right partners and/or mentors make sure you have agreements well negotiated and in place to share the equity of your to-be-registered company. Always make sure that everyone involved is clear about their time, money and hardwork commitments in the ongoing operations of your startup.
    5. Once you have found and formed a team of cofounders, UX & App Dev freelancers etc, its time now to execute the idea.
  2. execute your startup idea by following simple steps below.
    1. Register a company in UK
      1. You need to finalise a name of your startup, secure a domain name first (website name) via providers like (godaddy.com, 1and1) and then follow the next step.
      2. You can register via company house directly or via company formation agents (better choice and electronic) like companiesmadesimple.com.
      3. Make sure you have assigned the right no. of shares to all cofounders. To keep it simple you can register a company with 100 ordinary shares and allocate the shares to you and other co-founders/mentors. Make sure anyone who has got 10%+ shares will be needed to be IDed by the Bank to open business account.
      4. You will also need a cheap virtual address to be used as registered address for your company so your home address don't become a public record on company house website. You can try following sites for that http://www.britishmonomarks.co.uk/, http://www.registeredaddress.co.uk/ (10% discount code: 125313) http://www.londonpresence.com/ 
      5. You will need a business account now. Try metro bank, Barclays and HSBC which are more tech startups friendly banks.
      6. If your startup is going to accept payments from customers via App then may need to register with payment service providers like paypal, sagepay etc
      7. You will also need to register with App Stores like Apple App Store (itunes), Google Play and Windows Phone App Store to be able to upload your apps there. These are all time consuming processes and can take weeks. So better start them sooner than later.
      8. You will ideally try to find a space in some incubator area as that kind of environment provides help from community and connections. If you can't then work from home or from the cafeterias of popular incubators which are free to visit.
      9. You will probably need a contact no. for your business website - try getting a free 0844 number from a reliable service provider. e.g. 08direct.co.uk etc and redirect that to your Landline no. at home.  If you are mostly out and about then, get a VOIP UK landline number from skype or vonage and redirect your 0844 number to that. 
      10. you will need a cheap accountant, business cards, expense tracker apps, book keeping apps, a good spec laptop/macbook, a good spec smartphone, facebook pages, twitter & linkedin accounts for your company/business.
    2. company/business all setup? now work on your idea day in day out.
      1. Make wireframes,
      2. write proper requirements specs,
      3. analyse about the core features of your app/product and prioritise them for phase 1
      4. make a rough calculation of ROI rating of every feature and prioritise less complex features with bigger ROI rating first for phase 1
      5. When all requirement docs ready, get quotes from freelance UX designers & developers at http://appsjunction.net or elance.com, freelancer.com etc
      6. Once you have the rough idea that how much its going to cost, then you and co-founders pool their funds to develop it or get some funds from running a crowd funding campaign at http://appsjunction.net
      7. You can also try some pitching and seed funding events where a startup can get up to 5k-15K of funding. But don't rely on them and don't delay your execution anymore.
      8. Make sure you have analysed your funding needs properly. Always keep budget for app launch sites, explainer videos, app promotions, small budget advertisements, marketing and post launch recurring costs e.g. web services and DB hosting costs, however small they may be.
      9. Once you have the right funds with you to commence the app idea, hire UX designers and App Developers to commence its execution. Guide: How to find a good iPhone or Android or WinPhone App Developer
      10. While the development of version 1 is going on, make sure one of the co-founders is spreading the word about it, attending events and collecting early feedback on the features and functionalities of app and what other things you should add in there like analytics, rich push notifications, tap-for-tap ad networks' SDKs. Best event  to get that kind of knowledge would be AppsJunction-Where-Startups-Meet-Developers .
      11. You should also setup a simple 1-2 page mobile responsive app launch sites using cheap wordpress themes from http://themeforest.com or popular services like https://www.strikingly.com/ . Start becoming active in the right groups on linkedin, join the right forums on web, get active on twitter, follow the right people and keep your facebook page active to acquire some fan audience who would love to see your app launched and downloaded into their smartphones.
      12. use the time to make right connections & read about app promotion.  Polish up your online marketing skills as you will be going to need that a lot post launch.
  3. Near the launch - activities
    1. gain initial momentum on your app by connecting with early adopters as beta testers. Send them the app using app/software like testflight. Incorporate their valuable feedback in APP.
    2. gain initial traction and proof of adoption and growth
  4. At Launch - all co-founders should now kiss each other and party :)
  5. Post launch activities 
    1. Keep a keen eye on app store reviews to collect feedback for version 1.1 which most apps need to put out there as version 1 will always have big issues for masses and masses will tell you the features they find missing and would love to find them in the app.
    2. prepare this feedback into requirement specs and merge it with your previous version 1.1 spec.
    3. Spend your days and evenings and nights in promoting the app. Learn & execute app promotion strategies - PPT you know

FAQ 6: Okay! its funding time now. What do I do now?

 Hell yeah, time to open a champagne!  You now feel all mentally ready to face off with potential investors. 

  1. Now you need to attend meetups to find investors or message your linkedin contacts to intro you for this purpose.
    1. Attend meetups around legal advice, funding advice, SEIS etc
    2. read material around investment advice
    3. link to top incubators/accelerators in UK
    4. Link to VS/Angels List
    5. why not try crowd funding if it suits you.  link to appsjunction.net/crowd funding faq
    6. attend L3 meetups where you can talk about your product and convince people to refer/recommend you to investors

FAQ 7: Okay! I have got funded? what to do now?

Wohoooo!, time to open a tab at a bar :) haha !  need we tell you anything now?  if you have got funded by proper angels/VCs/grants then we assume you won't need the advice written next, however, to complete this article, its hugely important to tell you what lies on your table the next morning from 6am after you last night "got funded" party! :)

focus on making it atleast a 10X bigger valuation company, than what your seed funders invested in...

  1. focus on expansion, scalability
  2. focus on marketing , sales and growth of revenue - Growth Hacking
  3. focus on trying to be the leader in your domain, if not try to be more innovative than the leader, find your niche
  4. focus on exit
  5. reach next levels of funding and make good profits for early stage funders
  6. Expand Expand Expand and Exit unless you feel like a Google/facebook founder :)

Good Luck Tiger!  If you have it in you, Your "WILL" will find its WAY Anyway!

Here is a one-liner to motivate you: "I persist, luck doesn't, Its loss!" :)

last updated: 17/06/2014

 

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