Tech Startup survey in the Economist

The Economist magazine issue of 18 January 2014 has a good review of the tech startup scene. Go get a copy, or read the online version. There are useful info graphics and articles on why this is a good time to launch your startup, and overviews of incubators, investors, and the business eco-systems that sustain startups. It was very focused on the big places for the most part, with a few mentions of smaller startups coming for smaller scenes.

Scottish Startup Christmas Party

The main emphasis of the survey of articles is that this time is different from the bubble of 1999/2000 because you there is a better eco-system of tools and support for startups. This means the threshold for entry is lower and with the many APIs as well as cloud computing platforms available, it is easier to launch your idea. This is no guarantee of success, but it is easier to try and make it work.

A growing part of that ecosystem to sustain tech startups in Scotland can be found at the Scottish Entrepreneurial Support Network, an online tool to explore the different nodes of support in Scotland. You’ll find about incubators, finance, education, and networking events and other types of resources you can use.

The article supports what we’re doing in that we are there to help provide support in a safe environment with our programme. According to the survey article, 90% of startups fail. We aim to help you be successful by looking for validated ideas until you find one that works for you and your team and then pursue that further and launch the idea. During this time we’re there to support you, and if you end up staying in and around Aberdeen after you graduate, then you will have the community around you still too with our growing Aberdeen tech scene.

Build a happy startup

We’ve been thinking a lot about startups lately and how you pull the ideas for a business model together in a simple format that says what’s important in to interested people. We’ve had long hard looks at both the Happy Startup Canvas and the Lean Canvas as both of these looked like what we’ll need to use. The HSC would provide the ‘why’ and the key problems being solved along with potential solutions, the key ‘story’ and ‘values’ of the business, while the LC would focus on the hard to replicate unique proposition being offered by the business.

the happy startup canvas

We also like how the HSC starts with how the employees are treated along with the idea that if you treat yourself and the staff as well as you do your customers, then the rest will fall into place. This is what Deming argues in his work. Few firms seem to follow this, but it makes good sense, and seems to work for the small businesses we know more closely too.

The HSC is a nice way to bring together a number of  ideas in a one-page summary. You can use Simon Sinek’s ideas to formulate your ‘why’ and you can use the elevator pitch game to craft your ‘story’, and then polish it with ideas  from the Heath brothers’ Made to Stick book. All of this helps you to build the idea and work on validating your assumptions in a fast and furious manner so that you build a sustainable business.

In addition, we can also add Umair Haque’s ideas from his Betterness book. In there he suggests that as business has changed since the financial crisis, and we need to focus on ‘betterness instead of business’ in order to increase the Common Wealth, we should focus the following: First, ‘ambition’ of what our business aims to do for its customers. This answer why are we here? Why does our organisation exist? This maps to Sinek’s why too. Second, ‘intention’ of how we’ll help customers improve their lives. This answers the ‘what are we here to do on a daily basis? How will we make our customers more capable in their daily lives? This is ‘constraints’, of what your business will never do. What’s a step too far for you? What are your limits, and how will these help make your customer’s lives better? Fourth, what ‘imperatives’ do you have as universal rules to live by for your business? How can you translate this into something your customers will benefit from?  All together these turn the business into ‘how we benefit’ into a firm that works with others to lift everyone up and build a better society and through that gain a profit. This follows in the footsteps of Apple, Whole Foods and others.

This will work once we have an idea of what to do after we’ve gone through an ideation session to generate some possible business ideas.

Are you a Coder or Developer?

When we learn to code we do so for different reasons. Those presumably change some over time as we learn more about development work and develop our own coding skills. If you’re wanting to be someone who codes and is also an entrepreneur; someone who can also spin out an idea into a business, then you want to end up as a developer according to Scott Hanselman, who looked at the ‘why’ you want to learn to code side of the issue.

For Hanselman identified some crucial aspects about ‘why’ you want to code, which could help or hinder your entreprenurial ideas. He noted that there is the important ‘talk to humans’ aspect, which some people don’ t like to do. This is the classic image of the person in the basement coding away on their own. However, if you want to spin out your idea into a business, then you really do need to talk to people.

You need to be able to listen and learn, while also talking when required with you colleagues, or potential customers and investors. You can’t sit at home, even if you’re building a web app. You still need to talk to others about your idea and how you can best realise the idea. Also, at some point you’ll want to get another person or two on your team as well. This could be graphic artists, or business minded folks. You’ll need to speak to them. So, the long and short of it is that you need to become comfortable speaking to people. Everything works better that way.

Mentors Wanted

We are looking for mentors to help each team with their business idea. We believe that mentors will help student teams in a number of ways. First, they’ll help evaluate what the team is doing and how it is doing this with regular monthly meetings. These sessions are an opportunity for the team to explain the business idea to a supportive person, who can evaluate their processes to validate their business idea and what they are doing. Second, the mentor will be able to offer suggestions about who they should speak to, and what they should be considering doing to validate their business assumptions. Mentors are people who know people and can offer introductions and understanding of different businesses so have useful knowledge to help our teams.

mentors wanted
Third, the mentor will be there to offer wisdom based on their own experience. Our mentors will be business owners and entrepreneurs from a variety of relevant backgrounds. Mentors will have lots of experience following similar paths growing their businesses to those our students will also need to travel, and the mentors will be there to help them along the way and watch the business idea grow together.

If this sounds like you, and you believe in helping others get their business started, then this is your chance to help. All we ask is a meeting a month at your convenience, plus the chance to participate in a few other event during the year as and when you can. If you would like to be a mentor on the programme, or just want to know more, then please email us at to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.