Three Lessons for Early Stage Startups

Wednesday19th July 17:00–18:00 Startup Leadership Program (SLP) presented a webinar with Mohit Midha and Joseph Knowles. Mohit is an SLP fellow and CEO and co-Founder of Mangahigh. Joe is a seasoned investor at the influential fund Smedvig Capital. Both are well plugged into the UK startup scene and shared their thoughts on the early days of getting a #startup running and funded as well as thoughts on what make a great entrepreneur. Here’s a summary of the webinar.

Top 3 Lessons for Startups

  1. Have a genuinely innovative product: Building a genuinely innovative product can not only get you the early customers, but also the interest from potential investors. Soon after launching our unique math games, we got a call from one of the partners at Learn Capital (US) saying, “We are loving the games you’ve built, when can we meet?”. Learn was in the US, and Mangahigh was in the UK. However, the distance didn’t matter. Learn became one of the early investors in Mangahigh, and helped shaped its future. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, make sure you build a kick-ass product that gets noticed.
  2. Your future is completely dependent on the quality of the people you hire in the early days: in the early days, you don’t have a product, you don’t have traction and often you don’t have much funding, and yet your success depends on putting together a solid founding team. This is where entrepreneurs have to be good at exploiting their connections, smooth at using their charm, and fantastic at selling their dream. Lucky for Mangahigh, one of the co-Founders Toby Rowland had co-Founded a unicorn before (King.com) and brought with him a wealth of deep connections and a lot of credibility. However, each member of the founding team must be willing to wear multiple hats and do what it takes to get the job done. It is critical to hire people with growth mindsets, and you assess that not by reading the CV top to bottom, but by understanding their motivations and passions.
  3. Get media attention and share your vision. In the case of Mangahigh, coverage in the Financial Times captured the imagination of an organisation that ended up becoming one of its largest customers. This opened up further funding opportunities. So one has to always be thinking about the balance between execution and PR. There is no point in building a kick-ass product if the world does not hear about it.

How to get funding?

  1. From angel investors and VCs
  2. Through trade shows ( e.g. being at BETT for EdTech product)
  3. Through events and conferences
  4. Through media attention
  5. From customers without having to give away equity
  6. Through product sales or subscriptions
  7. Get lucky — serendipity and network plays a part as well

So what does a firm like Smedvig Capital look for? “Founders with a great balance of passion for a long term vision and product evolution but a very thoughtful near term strategy and clear articulation of the delineation between the two. This is a key attribute I look for as one of the key pitfalls for entrepreneurs is trying to take on too much and lacking focus”

“Energy, enthusiasm, of the Founders which had meant they achieved a huge amount in relatively little time with modest funding.”

How to pitch?

  1. Be likeable — compelling founder with energy and enthusiasm
  2. Clear vision — sell the idea and concept before giving unit economics and metrics
  3. Be a good storyteller — enroll people in an engaging story about the problem & solution
  4. Use video — show emotional impact through case studies of customers
  5. Be clear — about what problem you are solving and why it matters
  6. Show a demo — a demo is ‘worth a thousand words’. Seeing is believing.
  7. Share traction — metrics to show progress and revenue growth

“Great product demos and / or customer testimonial videos are very powerful. But there is no substitute for a compelling founder.” — Joe Knowles, Smedvig Capital

Are you a compelling founder? Are you are looking to build your startup? Do you want to join this global network of entrepreneurs, experts and investors? All you have to do is apply online for Manchester or London programme.

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