Danae Shell and Vicky Brock discuss startup culture, why startup founders have to take responsibility for deliberately creating the culture in their business, and how building balanced, consistent teams can enable startups to thrive in an uncertain, complex environment. Danae explains why setting context is a far more useful employee skill to seek than vision-setting, and why there'll be no room for rockstars or genius a***holes in her new startup.
We cover commercial validation and product market fit and why this time round neither of us will be raising angel or VC investment for our new startups until we're certain that we have it:
"One of the key lessons I have learned so far is... for the love of God do not take scale up money until you are ready to actually scale, and you know in your bones that you are actually ready to scale. Because as soon as that scale up pressure comes, if you are still trying to iterate through anything that comes before scaling, you are just creating an ulcer or worse."
Danae Shell, is a veteran startup employee about to become a founder for the first time. A native Tennessean, she is a programmer-turned-marketer who has been part of the Scottish tech scene for 15 years, working at scale-ups Barrie & Hibbert and FreeAgent before their successful exits. Most recently was Chief Marketing Officer at Care Sourcer, scaling their marketing strategy and teams.
In this episode we discuss the lessons we have both learned across multiple tech startups, and what we will and won't be doing in our latest ventures as a result. We dive into the ways we'll be flexible, keep costs to a minimum, create a very deliberate startup culture, and build teams of consistent "doers" in order to get something in front of users as quickly as possible.
The blog post mentioned is the episode is: "Startup founders. You don't need adult supervision"
Recorded in front of a live audience of Scottish business owners, Vicky Brock is interviewed by journalist David Ferguson about how and why - after the lowest point of her business career - she is now back with startup number five.
Vicky shares her process on how to start and grow a business, what she has learned across her very different companies and the 9 reasons she has discovered for why your startup may not be growing like you planned.
She explains why the first idea you have almost certainly is not the one that will become your business, why she prefers pain to delight and how her latest startup will achieve more in four months than her previous company achieved in 18 months. Because while it is relatively easy to create a product, and even fairly easy to build a product people will by once, it is actually very, very difficult to create something people will buy again and again. But that is what you need to achieve if you are going to build a business.
"I'm pleased I'm back here doing it all over again - I tried to start a bit too fast last time and we skipped over some important early steps in really finding product and solution fit. I'm not going to make that same mistake again. My whole team are focused on doing the on-paper work that means we test and validate our assumptions up front. And because we're starting in response to very specific challenges laid down by our initial paying customers, I'm starting my this new business with my customer as a full-time lodger, which is great!"
Alison Grieve, founder and CEO of G-Hold - a multi-purpose ergonomic handhold that can be placed onto any type of tablet or reader - sells her product worldwide through partners like Microsoft Surface, Amazon, Apple and Home Shopping Network. Having successfully cracked delivering sales volume, unit profitability, international IP protection, managing a complex export business and moving back to onshore manufacturing, she joins me to advise a founder looking for advice on how to internationalise their startup business and sales channels.
How do you attract talent to your startup when resources are limited? Kirsty Mackenzie, founder, award-winning entrepreneur and recruitment specialist, explains how to find, reward and retain employees in your startup. She explains how to build your very first team, what to do if you get it wrong, why you need to think very carefully about company values and the skills you need before you hire and the different things to think about once your business grows.
As businesses grow, they hit key inflection points that mean the old tactics don't work anymore. The interplay of people, structures and process have to be updated as a startup develops and so you have to change how you and your people operate within your company. Mark gives very practical advice on how to recognize and survive these inflection points that increase frustration and reduce productivity. He explains how devolving decision making, growing your own people, encouraging them to look outside for inspiration and setting an expectation of world-class excellence maximizes the chances of surviving the organizational challenges that come with growth.
Taking a more thoughtful approach to understanding market focus was a major learning for Wendy Lea, when as an experienced CEO of a very hot, very high growth VC backed freemium software startup, her urgency to execute led to mistakes that she now recognizes were avoidable. Answering a question posed by a student startup, she references Steve Blank as someone she learns from every single time they meet and shares her thoughts on why a customer development playbook is a necessary reality check to all the BS talked around product-market fit.
Having delivered business solutions in 30 countries, Wendy brings a worldly point of view to digital innovation and her entrepreneurial pursuits - she's currently CEO of Cintrifuse and on the Board of Techstars. In 2012 and 2013, she was recognized as a Women of Influence in Silicon Valley and in San Francisco.
The how, why and what you need to know about flexible and remote working with Dana Denis Smith. After realising her first business could not scale, Dana founded Obelisk Support to keep City lawyers, especially mothers, working flexibly around their personal commitments and to provide clients with quality legal support solution onshore. She now manages 1500 remote working lawyers, with over 1 million hours of capacity, and was named by The Times as one of UK's Top 50 Employers for Women and Outstanding Innovator by Legal Week for getting alternate ways of working accepted. "I don't care to be a sexy business owner, I want a sustainable business for the long-term".
Back by popular demand, Mark Logan joins me to talk about why founders block their company's success if they don't learn how to manage their idea flow and communication processes. We explore how product market fit is necessary, but not sufficient, the MVP trap, how to surface bad news internally and why so many startups are in the process of failing slowly. Mark is former Skyscanner COO and IOD Director of the Year.
How do you iterate your way to product market fit without scaring your investors? And what are the best practices as your company grows to multiple locations, or your team is spread across several sites? Tom Adeyoola, CEO and Founder of fashion technology company Metail, has grown his startup to over 100 people, raised $20million in strategic investment and had offices in both London and Cambridge from day one. He joins Vicky Brock to share the very deliberate people management processes he has evolved to develop his teams and combat any feeling of us and them. He also talks about how Metail looked beyond domestic markets and use the concept of 10x improvements to ensure that the products they bring to market are positioned in a way that will deliver sufficiently disruptive change.
Serial entrepreneur Dennis Mortensen talks about how hyperfocus, urgency, radical transparency and a single KPI have become part of his process for building successful startups at scale. CEO of x.ai, whose AI personal assistants are changing the way meetings are scheduled, Dennis advises a founder looking to inject more pace into their startup team.