So on the 17th November 2016, I have attended a great meetup, organised by 1 Day Start-up, a voluntary group aimed at delivering events that really help entrepreneurs. They make no money from any of these events and to be fair, it was my first time attending one of their workshops, and I must say I am very excited to see what they have in store for the next meetups, as I found this one extremely insightful and helpful (and thank you). They’ve organised several other workshops in the past, such as “Start, Test and Grow your business to 1 Mil users: With Founder of StudentBeans”, “Pitch Perfect II (Free Workshop): Concept – Pitch – Growth” and more..
Now let’s get to the point. The meetup’s subject was:
“Testing your concept with no money: Lessons learnt from award winning WONDERUSH”, with Nelson Sivalingam (please follow him on twitter, he is awesome).
Nelson is an exciting entrepreneur who has been recognised by Virgin Media business and other featured magazines as one of the top 30 young innovative founders in the country. Nelson is co-founder and currently the CEO at discovery commerce platform Wonderush.com. Wonderush is redefining the online discovery and ticketing by pairing a monthly subscription to taster classes and experiences with a marketplace to create a seamless path to follow on bookings. The innovative platform raised a six-figure seed investment from Fuel Ventures which includes Mark Pearson (MyVoucherCodes) and tennis superstar Andy Murray.
To start off with, Nelson (and I call him with his first name because he is too cool) took us as briefly as possible through the different stages of building a startup, from the idea through to the first seed funding.
His first point was that you first need to understand why you want to implement this idea. What is driving you to solving this problem, or adding the value that you want to add to people’s lives? And what is the value that is going to add to your customers’ or users’ lives?
Next up was the potential excitement or disappointment, gathered from your friends, parents, or whoever is in your close environment in regards to your idea. Your mother may say, “Wow! That’s amazing!”. Your friend may be like “Oh yeah! I’ve seen that from other start-ups!”. You should never be too sensitive or emotionally attached to what your closed ones are saying, but you should rather understand that data is all you need, in order to understand whether there is a marketplace out there and that your idea fits into that marketplace!
The first step to gathering your data without spending much money
The questions for Wonderush were “How much can I charge for this subscription?”, “Are suppliers willing to do it?”. So they tested, in order to check the demand of this product by creating a landing page where people could request an invite once the product is available. The landing page also included a price – £29 – and within only 2 days, they managed to get 1000 potential customers to click on the “request invite” button. Of course, they tested with several landing pages and different prices.
That way, they knew that:
- Wonderush has a marketplace,
- People are indeed willing to pay for it
- How much people are happy to pay for this service
A few other interesting points that Nelson made (I won’t get into great detail) are that
- An important aspect of your product is the UX. Without it your customers will be gone.. for good
- You should be willing to pivot based on the market requirements
Here Nelson explained how things were for Wonderush. People that were holding classes, they were getting a venue for teaching. This obviously has a cost for renting the place, so teachers had to fill in all of the positions in order to cover their costs, otherwise they were in great danger of not making any profit (if not just breaking even or having losses). This was happening, yes, and it allowed the team to see that there is a bigger problem called scalability. So in order to eliminate this, they came up with an online teaching solution that they managed to run in 12 countries within just 2.5 months. And of course online teaching = more scalable.
So, I will just quickly go through some of his points:
1. Hardest thing is finding your team
– Hiring the right people
– Motivating people
2. Try to keep your burn small. Don’t spend too much money at the beginning.
3. Cofounders. Don’t just go around to people you’ve seen 5 times in your life asking if they want to be your cofounders. It must be someone you know.
4. If you have the budget, go for it, freelancers are fine! Don’t give people equity in your company easily, but if you do be careful not to give equity to people that will do the job and then they will be gone.
5. Get advisors
And then we spoke investment
Solutions for starting off vary, from startup loans (10-15k), equity based crowdfunding, angel investing, VCs, SEIS, EIS and more… A good thing would be to find the area that your business is about e.g. lifestyle. Go find existing products of the same area and look for their investors. Try to make connections. And boom… first investment will be in in no time..
5 things every creative entrepreneur needs to know:
- KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO
- KNOW WHAT YOU DONT KNOW
- WHY YOU’RE DOING
- HOW TO GAMBLE
- BE YOURSELF
The way I’d describe all of the above points is: self-awareness, gambling (part of the game) and being your unique self in the sense of providing a unique perspective to the problem and your solution.
And finally, for the book lovers, Nelson suggested a few good reads:
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- Creativity, INC by Ed Catcall
- Zero to one Nots on Startups, or how to build the future by Peter Thiel
- Courage – the joy of living dangerously, by Oshow
His strongest suggestion? Courage. At the end of the day that’s what entrepreneurs need to have! 🙂
Should you have any more questions, feel free to email me, or you can easily contact him on his twitter account (follow him first :P)