Validate your startup idea by asking for money

I’ve just been asked for advice from someone in Norfolk who’s into 3D printing who wants to startup their own business. This was my reply, Noah Kagan / App Sumo style, it’s valid for any niche:

Hi X

What I’d recommend is:

1) Identify what niche would have a need for your 3D prints – what is the problem you are solving for them?

2) Come up with a list of 10 companies or potential individual customers you think would be interested in buying a service or 3D product from you

3) Reach out to them via email / social channels and say that you are doing discounted 3D models for just £X to the first 5 people who are interested.

4) Ask for payment to your paypal address

This way you get paying customers and the money up front before you do the work

From there build a one page website advertising your products and then drive traffic to it through search engines and social platforms such as Facebook.

Basically research who your customers are, what problem do they currently have / what needs are not being met, reach out to them and ask for money!

As soon as you sell anything it’s a business.

Go for it.



Norwich’s first startup pitch night – money up for grabs!

SyncNorwich are holding their inaugural SyncConf ‘one day agile and tech’ event on the 15th of February and if that wasn’t enough to put Norwich on the UK map for startups they are donating the profits from the event at a live pitch event to the most promising Norwich startup.

Startups interested in getting their hands on this seed funding (likely between £5k and £10k) need to create their own 3 minute video response to the Youtube video (embedded below but you will need to click through) which describes the criteria and application process.

In short we’re looking for teams of  2+ peeps (no one-person outfits) who have a software based startup with at least one user / customer – that is there is a built product that someone is using / paying for. We don’t want to just invest in an idea as everyone has those and they have no value unless you execute on them.

More details for cut off date and when / where this Dragon’s Den style event will be will follow. Keep watching this space!

How to build an entrepreneurial community in Norwich

Great words of wisdom from Brad Feld, co-founder of TechStars on how to build an entrepreneur community. For him it’s not so much about getting the VCs (although doing so creates a positive feedback loop where capital follows success) or even requiring a great University spinning off lots of companies like Stanford in Silicon Valley – it has to be lead by the local entrepreneurs who need to be in it for the long-haul where people pay-it-forward and are passionate about helping each other rather than seeing it as a zero-sum game such as poker. We need to make it easy for the new kids on the block to get involved as SyncNorwich is doing.

This week saw another fantastic episode of This Week In Startups with Brad Feld, co-founder of Techstars and MD of the Foundry Group, a VC company based out in Boulder, CO, one of the most entrepreneurial, inspiring and beautiful places in the world and somewhere I hope to visit this year. Brad said that it’s possible – and necessary – for any city in the world to have a startup community and I liked the concept of needing both feeders (i.e. colleges) and leaders (i.e. obsessive product-focussed entrepreneurs). I also liked the part where Brad said that an adviser says “give me 1% and I’ll help you” whereas a mentor just helps, but more in a karmic way than truly selfless. He also stressed of importance of having just the right ratio of product to business people in a startup team. Brad has a series of books under Startup Revolution with the first Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City and the second Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur now available for pre-order.

Good things are happening in the Norwich tech ecosystem. The first Sync Norwich conference Sync Conf is coming up on the 15th Feb and profits from the event are going to be used for Norwich’s first startup pitch night where the best team scoops the investment. I’ve been asked to help teams with their pitches prior to the event and it’s going to be great to help people to drill down on why their product exists and why it’s better than anyone else’s.