GEEKnROLLA – Wisdom from Founders

Founders are not dumb


Mike Butcher


Think of the product first, don’t restrict your ambition to the local market. Make it an amazing product.

Think of the world, and how you can reach it.

Before you launch into designing and building, take a ride around and see what the rest of the world is doing. Odds are that it is already happening, but that you can improve on it.

Be positive. Stop supporting the failure culture. Welcome the learning from failure (but be sure to learn from it)

Promote mentoring – only associate with “Open” people.

Become a GEEKnROLLA!

On the subject of exits

Tommy Ahlers

Don’t build to sell. That is the wrong target and wrong motivation.

Be alert to the value that your business has created for other people.

You may enjoy running the company, and, if it is possible, just keep on doing it if you like it and it is successful.

Things can, however, change. If you have made the right friends, and have a great company, you will probably be made an offer for it.

If you sense that coming, go and make friends with lots of other people who have sold companies and learn from them. They can help you see what you are really worth. There are lots of bases for value:

Customer acquisition

Quarterly revenue targets

Strategic direction, cheap exploration

Key technology lead

You will quickly find you have to do a bunch of stuff to help the sale before things get really serious:

Get your IPR in order

Get your service and employment agreements in order

Improve the reach and power of your metrics

Simplify and stop doing things that are “non-core”

Sort out any complex shareholder or partnership agreements

Start working even harder

Then consider it like speed dating. Get to know them. Get to like them. Travel and meet the acquirer at many levels. Look your best, be smart, be nice and help them fall in love. After all, they liked you enough to
ask you out on the first date.

What if you have doubts about the exit timing? TAKE THE MONEY. Seriously, take it, and go and do something new after a short holiday.

Is it enough money? You will never know. Don’t sweat it. Most entrepreneurs know people who sold too late, and anyone can say “we sold too early and for too little”, but that is not the point here: cash is king,
and your real choice is whether to stay and help the acquirer or go and try again.

Because it is going to be so much easier the second time around.

Panel Session – On
the Subject of Exits

Tommy Ahlers

Saul Klein (Seedcamp, TAG)

Anil (Google)

Solid recommendation given by the panel for the
resources for Lean Start-Ups. Really good place to start out with an idea but
no cash.

Good summary of what happens to start-ups post acquisition /
post integration.  Not all work,
but don’t assume that because the name has fallen off the board that the
business is not thriving inside the acquirer.

Google made 70 acquisitions in 9 years. Most succeeded. Two
or three not so much, but Google still learned from them.

Plink Software, a good recent acquisition by Google was able
to say a little about how they used their technology lead to bring Google to
the table (especially as they had funding offers on the table and good
negotiate for a good price).

Also watching the ‘merry-go-round’ can be important. Serial
entrepreneurs tend to go around and soon pop up after a sale. What they tend to
have learned is how to promote themselves, how to get on the conference and
competition trail, and the value of the big ‘Open’ platforms that you can
leverage quickly. Entrepreneurs tend to be much faster the second time around.
Speed works.

What Nobody Told Me

Jason Trost, Smarkets

You will live or die on the quality of your founders. You
will practically marry them.

You need a great, cheap lawyer who can help you bring in

You need really serious angels to promote you and get you
introduced to the “right people”. This networking will take 50% or more of your
time. So you cannot also expect to find time to actually build the business.

Get on the trail; get seen. Get on the Seedcamp / Y-Combinator
/ competition trail.

VCs never say “no”, they can kill you with “maybe”, so move

Your first hire is critical. Hire closers. Hire dealmakers.
Hire “doers”. Hire local “hackers” and get them working fast. Then reward them
fast and early for good results. Just don’t overpay.

Find a cheap place to work. Free is best. If not, a “hub
style location”.

Then get on with networking like a total monster. Just
remember to carry a demo and a business card. A really nice business card.

So, once you have a product, work harder, faster and sooner
to market it using all the free and leveraged resources you can get to. PR
works like a dream, and you can get really great exposure for next to nothing.
Make sure you bring it on with partnerships and partners who can get you

Underneath all the glory, don’t forget the insurances,
accounting and boring admin.

Then share what you learn with other start-up companies.
They deserve it.

On Hiring People

Peter Smith from

Always be hiring and turning over staff –
actively court the best people

Never compromise on the quality, drive or
passion. If you have a single doubt, don’t hire. Don’t put people on probation
either – get it right first time.

Hire from your own network on personal
recommendation first: they are close to you for a reason.

Hiring from outside your network may be
necessary, but massively inefficient and expensive.

There, that is all you needed to know.