Calling for a little bit of honesty between fellow founders since starting and scaling is tough enough

Growing a start-up is tough enough so let’s keep it real with fellow founders

Reflections from a crazy quarter of major events for a mad-tech scale-up on #FounderWellbeing

It’s been a bumper quarter, with our little brand being part of three of the biggest marketing events in the annual calendar — Ad Week in April (London), Global Festival of Media in May (Rome) and Cannes Innovation coming up in June. The later being a welcome surprise after Openr was announced as the winner of the Cannes Lion Innovation Start-up competition.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why young, high growth marketing-tech start-ups (or scale ups —perhaps the better term, but not yet widely used) want to be part of these events. Across the three, we’ve been partner, speaker, winner, or a combination of the three, but even as an attendee the opportunities to meet senior-level decision-makers from brands or agencies is vast and varied. At the end of the day, scaling means meeting more potential customers, and these events put you right there in the forefront.

The introverts among us always need to find a few moments to recharge

As founders at these events it’s our job to reach out, engage and pique interest in the hope that these new contacts might convert for our respective businesses. This comes more naturally for some than others. The introverts amongst us (myself included) always need to find a few moments to recharge in a corner after a few hours ‘at work’; whilst you’ll more often find the natural extroverts finding respite with a beer and a crowd. Interestingly, I don’t think either leaning favours a particular outcome, but my observation — from Rome in particular — is how valuable it is to have fellow founders around to seek a moment with.

You might expect since we’re all fighting for the attention of the same crowd at these events there might be a sense of competition. Fortunately this is not the case. We’ve all got different offerings, and in my view, we get more from building relationships with each other than treating each other like competition, and in Rome I was really struck by how this seemed to be the common opinion. This means a real camaraderie builds — but this camaraderie went beyond sharing a beer and a laugh. What really stood out was the honesty that flowed amongst this group for the benefit of us all.

You’re in the same size boat, attempting to charter the same tumultuous seas

In start-up world (in London at least) there are a lot of masks. Painted on smiles and broad shoulders put on to project a ‘we’re doing great’ impression. We all do it. We all have to do it. Without projecting a strong proposition, a good story and a bright future, investors, teams and customers would never engage. But I ask — why do we do it with each other? When you first meet someone sure, you don’t necessarily know who you’re meeting, but once you’ve established you’re in the same size boat, attempting to charter the same tumultuous seas, let’s cast those masks aside and share with open honesty.

For the first time in a long time, I saw this openness in Rome and it was really refreshing. Not just amongst the core group of founders that I already knew, but with the wider group too. I admit, I am biased, I hate small talk so the energy I expend on networking with potential customers means I’m spent when it comes to fellow founders. I just want a frank, honest chat with those I can trust. But it’s not just me, there seems to be a growing core group of founders emerging in London with can be open and supportive.

We can all collectively gain

The scale-up road is paved with pot-holes which makes progress for us all tough at times. By sharing in an open and honest way; by not boasting our successes for one-up-manship; by not exaggerating where we are; and by asking for advice and help when we need it. We can all collectively gain. When one day you’re down you can guarantee someone else will be having an OK day and be able to offer advice to get you back on an even keel. When they’re down you can do the same. That’s what this kind of rapport rewards.

One thing is for sure, to make this really happen there needs to be an understanding that what is shared is shared privately — under some sort of Chatham House rule if you will. Because once the trust is broken this whole ecosystem will fall apart. But what a positive ecosystem it would be if we managed it. So thank you fellow founders (you know who you are) for transcending the standard start-up status-quo and attacking that event like a team; for telling it like it is amongst trusted peers; and for lending an ear when needed. Let’s continue in London where we left off in Rome.


Postscript — June 2018

Entrepreneurship is one hell of a rollercoaster filled with exhilarating highs and anxiety-inducing lows. The fellow founders that inspired this article two years ago made surviving and thriving actually possible, but far too many still navigate that same journey feeling alone. It does not result in optimum performance for ourselves or our businesses. I believe we can do better. We can be better. And it all starts together.

We can all use the power of peers to unlock potential in our start-up eco-system. If you believe that we should do more to support our Founder-Wellbeing then please like and share this post. There are so many ways to do this and your voice matters so share any thoughts or ideas in Comments below or message me directly over .

Thank you for reading. Let’s change our world.


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Entrepreneur | Marketer | Occasional investor. Passionate, straight-talking startup advisor. Entrepreneurial Marketing Teaching Fellow @UCL. #FounderWellbeing

Entrepreneur | Marketer | Occasional investor. Passionate, straight-talking startup advisor. Entrepreneurial Marketing Teaching Fellow @UCL. #FounderWellbeing