Last night at Google Campus Dreamstake founders Marina Atarova and Paul Dowling ran another of their renowned Founder Stories series, featuring talks from Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder at Project Placed and CognitionX, and ex-Secret Escapes sales guy, travel blogger, and founder of Edge Retreats Luke McCormick.
What did we learn? As ever there were some fundamental lessons for all start-up founders, from the earliest stage “wantrepreneurs” to experienced serial entrepreneurs to take heed of.
Listen, learn, network, read!
First up Tabitha spoke to us about launching two start-ups at the same time; Project Placed, the software platform helping universities manage the placement of students into 1,000s of SME companies to help them learn how to solve problems in a the real world not just in textbooks, and CognitionX – an educational social network helping students prepare for their dream jobs.
A self-confessed data science geek (“it’s what gets me up in the morning”), Tabitha has launched businesses with the likes of Charlie Muirhead, the serial tech entrepreneur, and had some innovative, perhaps surprising advice to share with the audience; Listen! You wouldn’t believe what a hard skill listening really is – but it works wonders; Read Books! For inspiration, turn to tomes such as Blue Ocean Strategy, anything by Azeem Azhar, or Management By Objectives; Networking! Ask people how you can help them, not vice versa, and finally – Tell everyone you meet you are raising money! You never know who they might turn out to be.
But Tabitha also had a word of warning for founders – IPO’s – leave them well alone! Start-up companies, particularly in the tech disruptor space, simply weren’t built for IPO’ing – try explaining to the stock market that your data science play is so complex even your fellow techies struggle to understand – and watch them shrink with horror – and withdraw their support. It’s nobodies fault, it’s just…don’t try it – or at least think very, very hard about your exit. Fools rush in, etc. – the stock market is a graveyard for start-ups, littered with the remains of great disruptive tech ideas.
Enjoy the view and let the Villa porn suck you in!
Luke McCormick grew up near Byron Bay, so he knows a thing or two about beautiful sandy beaches, blue skies and even bluer waters. That didn’t stop him swapping the glorious Aussie sunshine for drizzly overcast London however – he came for one year – and stayed for ten.
Soon he was on the move again, however, writing a travel blog and visiting and reviewing some of the world’s most luxurious hotels – he thought he would launch a travel agency – took a look at the market – and balked – this space is so crowded it makes Oxford Street on the day of a tube strike look like the Gobi desert!
Luke joined Secret Escapes and furthered his travel experiences, before taking some time out to ask himself, as all founders must; “what do I stand for?” Quality, exclusivity, exceptional people, and great experiences all cropped up and soon he had created a “mood board”, a visual reminder of the core principles he wanted his new company, Edge Retreats, a platform to find and rent beautiful Villas in exotic locations, to uphold. It remains hung on the wall of his office to this day.
And it surely has worked – Luke pitched Edge Retreats to Forward Partners, the only VC in London to exclusively fund solo founders – and they liked it – now Luke can pursue his dream of finding some of the greatest villas in some of the most beautiful, far flung destinations on the planet. He only asks one thing – if you and your guests plan to arrive by helicopter, as some did recently, make sure you take off on time or you may find your helipad is closed! It’s at times like this Luke and his team really earn their corn – something to contemplate on a grey Tuesday morning – don’t stop believing!
As ever Paul and Marina hosted a fine evening and with live demonstrations from start-up showcase companies SearchStyle, show-casing the finest fashion trends in real time, by real people, across the world, leveraging geo location mapping and Instagram, Youmakeit, Backtracker and others, there were almost as many take-aways as you would find on JustEat’s app!
There may be a slight lull on the start-up scene but as 2016 starts to heat up, rumour has it Dreamstake are cooking up something pretty special for the next phase of London’s start-up phenomenon. Watch this space.