One-hour Meeting

Lunch together, it’s only an hour.
For me, this meal is regularly sour.
We’ll chat and ideate, maybe we’ll create.
It is the journey home that will turn one into eight.

I run into the cafe. He serves me a double shot.
The coffee is inside me. I dream it will hit the spot.
He sees the cup empty. I’m asleep on the table.
Confused, he double checks the caffeine label.

He wakes me up and sets me free,
I have a problem the world cannot see,
He assumes I’ve had a late night.
as I fell asleep before the fight.

I fight for wakefulness. My eyes are bloodshot, my tears fall.
I try to resist. I’m against a brick wall.
I take a train to bed, but I collapse again.
Moving fast underground. I wake in zone ten.

End of the line, I change side and return to the city.
This conductor knows me, he holds back his pity.
I’ve visited that station before, but only the station.
I go there in error, while others take their vacation.

I’m back in the centre. It happened again.
I just want to go home and lie down in my den.
The taxi arrives, this option is immune.
I can barely afford it, one hour for lunch and I’ll be home by moon.

Kevin Spacey on TV Pilots and Startup MVP’s

When Kevin Spacey and the House of Cards team pitched the idea for their show to every major network, the networks were all interested but required a pilot which is the norm for American networks.

House of Cards wanted to create a sophisticated story with complicated characters that would establish itself over time. A series that begins with a pilot must establish chartacters quickly, reveal cliffhangers quickly and prove themselves within forty-five minutes. A pilot is a ‘minimal viable product’ by startup jargon.  The point made here is that many great stories will not reveal themselves in a short period of time and that both methods work for different scenarios. If we only allow tv shows that make pilots and startups that make MVP’s to progress to the next step, we are going to miss some blockbuster hits.

“They (audience) want stories. They’re dying for them. They are rooting for us to give them the right thing, and they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus, and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, facebook, make fan pages, silly gifs and god knows what else about it. They will engage with it, with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. All we have to do is give it to them.”

“I hate television, I hate it as much as peanuts. But I just can’t stop eating peanuts.”

Orson Wells

What does a CEO do?

In my effort to further understand corporate raiding / activist shareholders, I came across a webcam lecture given by Carl Icann at Yale. He has built his career on the single assumption that most management teams are bad at management. A corporate CEO does not want a ‘number-two’ that is smarter than they are, as they would be at risk of being overthrown. When the CEO does eventually change, the job is generally passed to that selectively chosen, lesser ability assistant. As a company moves from CEO #1 to CEO #2 to CEO #3, the passing of the baton is going to get progressively worse as each CEO insists on someone less smarter than themself. Later in the talk during the questions, Icann advises the student as a young investor that his first move should almost always be to fire the CEO, primarily as the majority are not used to accountability.

Would Icann be excited about startup culture as they are completely the opposite? Instead of trying to protect their place by hiring someone worse than themselves, founders hire smarter people than themselves to build out their vision and rarely feel at risk doing so. They hustle their way from zero, directly accountable to customers in a close relationship at an early stage. When they raise investment at any level, they are accountable to those investors. Both scenarios insist on accountability from a young age where the previous generation of CEO’s would be ‘climbing the corporate ladder avoiding any controversy and personal accountability. Have we done a 180 degree change?

Brian Chesky described his job as CEO of Airbnb having three core responsibilities during their explosive growth.

i) The vision of the company

ii) Building the core team.

iii) Making sure there is always money in the bank.

When Steve Jobs was fired, Apple lost their vision, upsetting their core team which affected how much was left in the bank, the three core CEO duties were destabilised by this change in management. However, an analytical mind which most investors seem to be, prefer this option of replacing the CEO as soon as those three tasks seem stable. If the founder is to remain CEO, they must reinvent themself to address the challenges of a later stage business. This point is argued by A16Z in their blogpost “Why We Prefer Founding CEO’s”. My question that I would like to learn more about is, ‘what do CEO’s do?’ in three to five points at the different stages below.

– pre-investment start-up

– post-investment start-up

– speed-up

– scale-up

– pre-IPO

– post-IPO

Thanks for reading, please contribute a response to the question.

Icann reads ‘Rudyard Kipling – If’ every so often.  Link to Poetry Genius explains the poem line by line.

Kickstarter: Marketing

Kickstarter  is extremely exciting! Anyone can go out and get support for an idea without enagaging the traditional gatekeepers such as producers, manufacturers or investors that only allow the ‘go big or go home’ mentality. Many ideas never come to life using traditional models, projects that appeal to less than 1,000 people instead of more than 1 million are not only feasible on Kickstarter, they represent the majority of the revenue on Kickstarter.

Creators working on massive ideas used to be forced to give away control at an early point that can never be recovered. Kickstarter is therefore affecting both small and large projects in a new form of Indie Capitalism (term coined by Bruce Nussbaum) which is optimistic and based upon a different set of values to Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the typical startup + VC culture.

My first Kickstarter raised £26,000 ($40,000) and I can’t wait to do another! The campaign received 35,000 hits and 550 backers. Clearly, some things went right and some things went wrong. Below are some of the best tips I learned, most of them during or after I had finished on Kickstarter.

I have created more furniture projects that can be seen on

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 11.53.57

For those not doing a Kickstarter soon and not reading on, please note that Kickstarter is a rewards-based crowdfunding platform, not an equity based (investment) crowdfunding-platform.


Make a List:

Preparing a list of people you are going to contact beforehand is a must-do starting point and can be updated throughout the campaign. The audience for kickstarter projects generally comes from several places that are discussed below.


Beyond mentioning your project at work or in the gym, it is best to discover which friends are most likely to back you. The easiest backers to convince are going to either love you, love your project or love kickstarter. You should have a good idea for who loves you and who loves your project, add them to the list. Use the ‘Find Friends‘ feature on Kickstarter to discover your facebook friends who have previously backed projects. Those who have previously backed projects on Kickstarter are likely to do so again. sorts friends by how much noise they create online and adds a second layer from your personal networks to contact. Those with a kloutscore of 70+ may be online influencers and should be prioritised. Send a personal email to everyone you know with a score between 50-70. Prepare these emails before you start.


You can’t hack this option, but getting on the Kickstarter homepage as I did or in the Kickstarter newsletter drives alot of traffic to your project page. I didn’t get mentioned in the newsletter that lists three projects with a similar theme each week, but looking through many projects on Kicktraq, you can see the sharp rises in backers which the newsletter brings.

Kickstarter Staff Pick

During the campaign, check out who is backing you. Many backers will have personal networks and followings much larger than you, I wonder if this $10,000 campaign knows that Zach Braff from Scrubs is a backer. After my campaign was over, I realised they were two delivery addresses in 90210, Beverly Hills!


Create your kickstarter page/video well in advance so that you can show bloggers/journalists using the preview link. Ask them to sync the time they will go live with when you launch your campaign.

If you have an awesome campaign, the press will want to cover it. In reality, only certain press who already believe what you believe will be interested. The best journalists that covered my campaign said that they were “waiting for this to happen,” they knew the topic inside out having interviewed people like Chris Anderson (former editior of WIRED) the previous week. Many journalists will wait for when the campaign is trending. Both of these groups took the same amount of time to pursue, so make sure you research who to contact from the beginning and when to contact them.

I searched major press sites for similar topics and made an spreadsheet of journalists who were covering the field. It was immediately obvious from what they previously wrote whether they were going to love my project or ignore it. Journalists recieve lots of mail, tweets, post etc every day, they are saturated with requests for Kicktarter coverage. Check out this presentation by Mike Butcher from TechCrunch Europe on how to contact tech media. He recommends you give the journalist a story. You should also think about preparing multiple angles that can launch the campaign from different perspectives.

For example:

Early Campaign – Launch articles on what you do.

Mid Campaign – Launch articles as a progress report and how you did it.

Last Push – Launch articles that highlight why this project matters.

I have heard several people such as Simon Sinek say that you should always talk about ‘why‘ your project matters first, but the first 100 people to back your campaign already know why the projects matters, they just need to confirm ‘what‘ you are doing is what they already care about and that you are good enough to deliver.


Influencers are the group of people who everyone pays attention to. In the past, they were limited to celebrities, famous sports people and journalists. The internet has created a long tail where you can now find influencers from any field from sneaker design to cancer research. Many of these influencers will have blogs, social media channels and email newsletters. Having their support will add to both the credibility of your campaign as well as bring in lots of traffic from their followers. A call of action from an influencer goes alot further than press coverage, but as I didn’t know that before beginning my Kickstarter, I missing out. (Journalists can be influencers too, but not all journalists are influencers.)

Many blogs have a ‘submit story‘ button, make a spreadsheet of those links before starting with additional columns for what is needed. e.g. eight photos minimum.

There are also Kickstarter influencers such as @BestKickstarter with 85,000 followers.


Surround sound is the most important thing you need to understand.

The idea is simple. Hearing about a Kickstarter campaign from multiple respected sources will convince would-be backers to click ‘Back This Project’. You might try convince msuic lovers on week one, so that a music lover will see your campaign appear multiple times from multiple sources and influencers they trust. On week two, your strategy changes to focus on a circle of technology lovers by chasing down a separate group of influencers, bloggers and journalists. On week three, you chase new yorkers and on your final week you focus on schools. The purpose of ‘surround sound’ is not to spread your limited resources too thin. A person in one of the communities above needs to see your campaign several times within a short time period before they click on it.

Start with another spreadsheet naming what communities you can target, who are the influencers in those communities and how you are going to engage those influencers.

TOPSY facilitates social search and is useful at finding influencers. If you find similar campaigns on Kickstarter or links that your potential backers find interesting, drop them in the Topsy search bar. Topsy lists all the twitter accounts that tweeted that link which can be sorted by influence. Find out if you have any friends in common and tweet a couple of these people to see if they are interested in your campaign.

TWEEPI can be used to mass follow/unfollow people from curated lists. For example if you had a photography list made by a reputable photography magazine, you can mass follow the list which will notify everyone on the list that you followed them. Two days later, you unfollow everyone that didn’t follow you and build up 100+ followers each iteration taking two days.


If you tell ten friends about something and only one friend tells another person, your story goes dead quickly, (0.1 virality). A viral campaign is one where every friend is telling a minimum of two or more friends that results in viral growth. What can do to convert your campaign from 0.1 virality to 2.0+ virality? Make your campaign easy to share. See what SOMA campaign did.


Making a page on is free and quick. It allows you to tell many people about your project and collect email addresses so that you don’t lose them. There tools are built to encourage people to share your page.


Make a Remarkable Campaign

Seth Godin argues that things today should be remarkable as those things will be shared.

Share your campaign with as many people as possible using the Kickstarter preview link to gain feedback and make sure it’s clear. Be prepared to make your video more than once if feedback says make it again. I recieved advice to remake the video halfway through my campaign, but didn’t have access to the friend who helped make the first video.


Friends will ask, “What  is Kickstarter?” I assumed that most people knew what Kickstarter was. In the Kickstarter of ‘Double Fine Games’, Tim Schafer explains that adventure games are a a bit of lost artform. When an employee cries “adventure games are not dead,” Tim explains that publishers would laugh at his face if he pitched an Adventure Game. The employee responds that he is willing to pay for an adventure game and lots of others fans are too. That is Kickstarter.

‘Wish I Was Here’ by Zach Braff  tells the complicated story of his problems in financing. Investors generally want control which in many cases can ruin a creative project. In the film industry, this translates as final cut and controlling the cast and filming options. Kickstarter was a means for Zach as a director to maintain his artistic freedom, his pitch is less about the film and and very much focused on explaining why he is on Kickstarter. (Zach Braff did recieve some negative press of which he responded with a Kickstarter Update.)


Some campaigns get funded on their first day, when they are well prepared. Some go for stretch goals which was always part of the plan. Others cross the line on the final day while and of course some projects fail. Watching lots of campaigns in advance is a must. Kicktraq that will be explained further below is a great resource to understand other campaigns as you can see their performance very clearly. Another site is Can He Kick It.

Study who failed on Kickstarter, Melissa Joanheart came across as inauthenthic looking as if she was paid to be there, a complete contrast to what kickstarter is about. She wasn’t making the film, she was starring in the Kickstarter video.

You shouldn’t be asking for help, you should be offering an experience they’re going to love.

Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 13.03.40Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 13.03.12Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 13.03.55


On Kickstarter, I look at the video first, check the rewards, possibly back the project. The video is your first impression and will decide the fate of your campaign.

I made a big mistake of wanting to pitch a vision but thought that visions weren’t allowed by the Kickstarter rules that read ‘projects only’. Visions are allowed. If you are appealing to people who are backing the mission of the project, you need to mention it. If you are appealing to people who back the product of the campaign, you need to mention to the use-case. Reality is you need both.

Most successful videos are just someone telling their story straight into the camera. The easiest starting point is to make a checklist of what should be in the video (From Kickstarter Guide)

  • Who are you?
  • What is your project and why does it matter?
  • What is the story behind the project?
  • Where’d you get the idea?
  • What stage is it at now?
  • How are you feeling about it?
  • Ask for people’s support, explaining why you need it.
  • How will you spend their money.
  • Discuss rewards.
  • Explain that if you don’t reach your goal, you’ll get nothing, and everyone will be sad.
  • Thank everyone!

Music Resources can be got from SoundCloudVimeo Music StoreFree Music Archive, and ccMixter. Technical specs: Videos must be 4.88GB or less and have a file type of MOV, MPEG, AVI, MP4, 3GP, WMV, or FLV.


Use gif’s as done in Dartstrip’s campaign


(You fulfill the project after Kickstarter is over, the campaign is all about the community.)

You will want backers to actively get involved in your project, but they will only get involved when they feel included as part of the project or the mission, let them leave their mark. I wasn’t sucessful at building this ideal into my first campaign, but you can see that in the +Pool project, backers are allowed to leave their name on a tile of the pool that will be built in NY. I am not sure if they made individual photoshop images of backers who bought a tile, but I think it would strongly encourage those backers to share the project again if they did.


Meeting Greg from SketchChair who created several rewards for different types of backers, I learnt that I have made a fundamental mistake. I essentialy had one group who could recieve a rocking stool, but Greg made rewards for people who wanted a chair and separate rewards that would target designers and programmers who would also be interested in the project. Out of 584 backers, only 41 backed to get his chair. You’ll never please everyone, but different people back projects for different reasons, don’t limit yourself to one group.

  • Customers: They want the product
  • Project Fans: They feel the intent of the project is amazing, but don’t necessarily want it, but want to somehow be part of it.
  • People Fans: They feel you are inspiring and amazing want to back you. Below, Tyler made the beginning of his film purely about him as he felt that people back people on kickstarter, not projects.

  • Community Fans: If you are doing something creative commons for example, the creative commons group on Kickstarter will list your project. People who don’t care so much for what you made, but believe in creative commons might back out of a shared interest, but only if there is a reward option for them.


Shoreditch Village Hall has 340 backers with £90,000 backed, it a project that garnered support from the big tech companies based in East London. Two thirds of the money raised is from 26 backers who gave £1,500 or more. A futher 53 backers gave more than £100 which combined with the initial 26 were responsible for £75,000 of the total £90,000. 83% percent of the money raised came from 23% of the backers. (See Pareto Principle.) One would assume this was not by accident, but the team cultivated relationships with those 79 people or companies.


Watch Kirby Ferguson’s TED talk explaining everything is a remix. Build on the work of others finding interesting videos and things inside or outside of Kickstarter that might influence how you build your campaign. Some of my favourite pitch videos are the Dollar Shave Club, the work of Improv Everywhere or Dr.Seuss told by the people of Burning Man.


Submit your campaign to Kickstarter in advance to launching as they firstly they need to verify and approve the campaign. Once verified, you will have a green launch button that you should have ready two weeks before launching as you are going to want to send the preview link to the press and others for critical feedback. I have seen several people post or tweet that they are waiting to get approved intending to launch as soon as that green button is active, I strongly recommend against doing so.


The Launch:

Most Kickstarter projects follow an S-curve, they start well, go flat in the middle of the campaign and climb again towards the end. Prepare accordingly. I got recommended to start on a Monday at 8am as less people are on the internet at the weekend and you need build up momentum that can take first three days.

You should have everything above lined up before launching your campaign, strong lists and prepared press, email newsletters to fire out, influencers in position to shout and tweet about your campaign and mention you in their newsletters, surround sound strategies with targeted communities.


Kicktraq is a must use tool that allows you to track your campaign showing the pledge totals per day. You can see curves of how fast you reaching your target. As the beginning of your campaign will have relatively more raised than the middle, the predictions will shoot up really high in the first few days, ignore them. While Kickstarter offer analytics on your campaign, I found myself checking Kicktraq more regularly.


I changed alot of the copy mid-campaign as it was looking as if I wasn’t go to make it. Be prepared to change your campaign midway. I got recommended to remake the video but didn’t have the same opportunity to get a good camera lined up and therefore struggled to change it.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 11.53.57


You can learn alot from looking at the updates of others that are mostly public. Cesar Kuriyama put his app ‘One Second Everyday’ online needing lots of backers as the reward amount for an app was small. With lots of updates and lots of press, he sucessfully got more than 11,000 backers compared with many campaigns that have 500-2500 backers. Campaigns with lots of updates do better, so think about doing 20+ updates and what milestones you want to post.


Conversions range based on how many hits you have, how good the articles were, how good your video is, how good your rewards are and lots more, but I still think they are interesting to look at.

Here are conversions of several campaigns (backers to hits)

  • Avg Reward – £45 – 35,000 hits, 550 Backers, 1.6% conversion (£26,000 pledged)
  • Avg Reward – £25 -60,000 hits, 2,789 backers, 4.5% conversion (£57,000 pledged)
  • Avg Reward – £5 -80,000 hits, 11,200 backers, 14% conversion (£37,000 pledged)
  • Avg Reward – £100 -500,000 hits, 37,500 backers, 7.5% conversion (£1,700,000 pledged)


If your over halfway there, but nowhere near your goal. You can try upselling the pledges of your backers by offering further rewards. Alternatively, with over 50% funding and an active audience, you could try asking everyone to tell a friend, but try incentivising it through rewards rather than just asking.


When Shoreditch Village Hall wanted to create buzz two days to deadline, they threw a party with lots of beers! The line of go and meet your customers has been said time and time again by Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia and might prove useful for Kickstarter too. If your backers are largely in one city, throw a party. Invite everyone to bar without permission, no expense needed.


I didn’t know what stretch goals were when I started. If your target is £10,000 and you meet your target on the first day, then offer some things you’ll add in if you get £15,000, £25,000 and £50,000.


The Kickstarter app is far too addictive! If my phone vibrated with a notification, there was a chance that £50 had just entered my pocket, a surreal feeling.


One campaign I learnt alot from was SOMA that made this excellent post that every potential Kickstarter campaign should read throughly. Mike Del Ponte’s intensive prepartion paid off receiving $100,000 in backing in just 10 days of which I will mention later in other points.



What to do after:


Remember it takes two weeks to process payment.


Best to put a deadline for survey responses, 80% will respond within three days, the rest will make you chase them.


Once your Kickstarter campaign is finished, several sites have formed to be marketplaces for sucessfully funded products such as and Tiny Lightbulbs. There are of course a ton of other options that are open to all projects.


Youtube channels don’t succeed because of one video, they have several. Some campaigns become businesses, others become serial project creators.


It is time to send rewards to backers. Send plenty of updates as without them backers will get frustrated and leave negative comments.

A video to watch as you start something new by Ze Frank

For a more in depth guide to Kickstarter, check out ‘It will be exhillerating‘ by Studio Neat ($5) and Kickstarter’s own guide.

1000 Users

The myth of “we had 25,000 users sign up on our first day” or the line “we told our friends and they told their friends,” are both likely to have been backed up by a smart strategy. I am still figuring out the plan with and researching other playbooks for inspiration. All of the startups below have a great product which is central to their success, but beyond that are some very important findings that led to their growth.

Add any other companies or additional information to discussion on Hacker News


  1. The founders weren’t scared of letting people try it before launch. They just kept showing it to people and taking feedback.
  2. They got everyone they talked to be a brand ambassador.
  3. Early adopters used the product extensively.
  4. Users posted their photos to twitter attracting new users, (many early adopters had ‘000’s of followers.)
  5. Early users became huge advocates and pushed it on blogs and in reviews on app store.
  6. Showed it to influencers. (Robert Scoble, Kevin Rose, Leo Laporte and MG Siegler)


  1. Reid Hoffman seeded the product with successful friends and connections. (The company would have been doomed if there had been massive adoption of have-nots, instead of people who were hiring, recruiting etc.)
  2. He refused to meet with potential investors until they adopted LinkedIn.  Entrepreneurs and aspiring executives would follow their lead.
  3. Deployed an Outlook contact uploader (very painful to build/support) to allow viral spread among professionals.
  4. Deferred any features related to revenue or engagement until after the growth path was established, which took nearly 1.5 years.
  5. Invitation reminders that expired after two weeks were another key feature.


  1. The original founders built forums and started reading through the conversations people were having. The overwhelming topic was, “I wish there was a place I could sell my crafts! Ebay sucks – it’s hard to use, doesn’t care about us, and charges high fees.”
  2. Craftspeople buy crafts in other sectors than their own trade. Sellers were also buyers and brand advocates.
  3. They told their friends at even larger crafting community forums about Etsy, which brought even more sellers.
  4. Sellers previously had no e-commerce presence, so for them to accept any online transactions at all, they had to send customers to Etsy.


  1. Mentored by
  2. Found spikes in demand and tried to cover those events (from SXSW to London Olympics.)
  3. Went to bloggers with CNN keywords, then local news with CNN keywords. CNN searching their keywords covered them.
  4. Spammed Craigslist. (See Blogpost by Dave Gooden)
  5. Went door-to-door.
  6. David (Barry Manilow’s drummer) rented out his full apartment, as opposed to just bedrooms which they met in person.
  7. Video by Brian Chesky


  1. Email Marketing: “I think I personally wrote to the first 5,000 users.” Silbermann
  2. Psychology of the invite-only beta.
  3. Engaging and frequent notifications.
  4. Design demographic = design blogs coverage.


  1. Emailed friends and sent emails to several mailing lists.
  2. College Newspaper
  3. Cross-school friends connections and artificial scarcity.
  4. At a time when camera phones were just taking off.
  5. Hub strategy, take on strongest competitors first (startup at Columbia), then expand to where no competition exists.
  6. Aggressive use of email notifications to acquire, engage, and retain users. Defaulting users to receive comment updates was especially clever.


  1. Posting demo video to that moved from 5,000 to 75,000 signups.
  2. Many failed experiments.
  3. Word of mouth / Social worked for Dropbox much more so than search.

Warby Parker

  1. Hired a Fashion PR agency (Bradbury Lewis) that landed them in GQ, hit their annual sales target in three weeks.
  2. Made the office into a store.
  3. Co-branded with other stores – the readery.
  4. Took the store on the road – the schoolbus.
  5. Held a bazaar.

Continue reading “1000 Users”

Gangnam Style

If you’ve followed my tweets, you can tell I’m big fan of internet culture and the spread of the Gangnam style video and various remakes/parodies. The original video is at 590 million hits as of October 2012. Below is a list of some of my favourite Gangnam Style videos.

From Wikipedia

“Gangnam Style” is a Korean neologism that refers to a lifestyle associated with the Gangnam district of Seoul, where people are trendy, hip and exude a certain supposed “class”. The term was listed in Times weekly vocabulary list as a manner associated with lavish lifestyles in Seoul’s Gangnam district. PSY likened the Gangnam District to Beverly HillsCalifornia, and said in an interview that he intended a twisted sense of humor by claiming himself to be “Gangnam Style” when everything about the song, dance, looks, and the music video is far from being high class.

People who are actually from Gangnam never proclaim that they are – it’s only the posers and wannabes that put on these airs and say that they are “Gangnam Style”- so this song is actually poking fun at those kinds of people who are trying so hard to be something that they’re not.

During an interview with The New York Times, PSY revealed that his Korean fans have very large expectations about his dancing, so he felt a lot of pressure. In order to keep up with expectations, he studied hard to find something new and stayed up late for about 30 nights to come up with the “Gangnam Style” dance. Along the way, he had tested various “cheesy” animal-inspired dance moves with his choreographer, including panda and kangaroo moves, before settling for the horse trot, which involves pretending to ride a horse, alternately holding the reins and spinning a lasso, and moving into a legs-shuffling side gallop.


Spin-off Music Video with HYUNA

Ai Wei Wei

Continue reading “Gangnam Style”

Start-Up Games

The Start-Up Games winners outside Number 10

Versarien, and MediaDevil crowned winners of the Start-Up Games

More than 120 high-potential start-ups from around the world convened in London this week to participate in the Start-Up Games, competing for the chance to be recognised as an international start-up champion. This morning, three companies emerged as winners: Gloucestershire, UK -based Versarien swept to first place; Porto, Portugal-based nabbed second; and London, UK-based MediaDevil took third.

Announced by the Prime Minister in January and organised by UK Trade & Investment’s (UKTI’s) Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) in partnership with StartUp Britain and main sponsor Kraft, the Start-Up Games saw 270 bright entrepreneurs from 120 start-ups being put through their paces during intense training and competition. The participants represented more than a dozen countries including Australia, Brazil, India, Italy, Russia, Spain and the US; competition was tight but there could be only one champion.

Neill Ricketts, co-founder of gold-medal winning Versarien, an advanced materials company, said:“Being recognised by our peers and the judges has given us such a boost; it’s real validation that we have a good idea. We didn’t know what we were letting ourselves in for but it was a superb event and gave us the chance to meet and network with companies from around the world, and to have conversations with companies like Google, which we simply wouldn’t have been able to do without the Games.”

In addition to the medal winners, 16 additional companies were recognised as particularly strong competitors: The Avaverse, 001 Marketing, Actus Performance Management System, Intellixente, The Giving Card, Uvuu.Me, In Your Face Productions, Babelverse, BeefJack, Hedgehogg,, Ci-Co (Clock-in-Clock-out), Tyze Personal Networks, CogniCor, Fabsie and Lutebox., a soon-to-be-launched site for students who need some ‘pocket money’ and for individuals, businesses and charities who need one off/short term assistance,  also collected a medal.

The winners visited Number 10 Downing Street earlier today where they received their awards from Lily Cole, GREAT campaign ambassador, model and founder of start-up, and Jonathan Luff, advisor to the Prime Minister. The GREAT campaign aims to showcase British excellence around the world, and to attract the world’s best innovators, investors, and entrepreneurs to do business in Britain.

“There is a fantastic energy in Britain at the moment, and an increasingly connected start-up environment,” said Oli Barrett, co-founder of StartUp Britain. “We are seeing more people than ever starting out on their own, and it’s fantastic to be able to play a role in helping British companies to go global, and in welcoming overseas founders to Britain. It is also encouraging to be reminded that, as a country, we are producing exciting companies and passionate founders with the potential to make a difference on a global scale.”

During the competition, which kicked-off at Team GB house on Wednesday, participants traded “stakes” in each other’s companies, with each company being valued at the beginning of the Games at £1 million with 100 shares. Total valuation at the end of the Games was a key factor in deciding the winner. Additionally, the three overall winners were those who – in the opinion of the independent judges – had not only gained the support of their peers in the game, but showed potential for growth and expansion and had a strong team capable of executing their plan.

Afonso Santos, founder of silver-medal winning, a company that is shaking up the outdoor advertising sector, said: “This was an awesome experience and exceeded all my expectations. It was a big risk and investment to come here from Portugal, but for the first time in my life, I saw effective networking where everyone had to talk to everyone in the room. I’ve come away with investors as my friends and a mentor. I’m now going to be saving up to relocate and expand my business to London as a result of the Games.”

“One of the greatest benefits of the Games was as talking to experts, getting invaluable feedback from them and hearing about their experiences,” said Callum Bush, founder and MD of bronze-medal winning MediaDevil, a company that sells screen protectors for mobile devices. “The fact that I was forced to talk to other companies and people in a very ambitious way throughout the Games was a fantastic challenge.”

Ben Southworth, Deputy CEO of the Tech City Investment Organisation, said“It has been a real honour to be around such an inspiring and diverse group of start-ups and entrepreneurs this week. We hope everyone leaves the Games feeling more confident in their ability to create and grow a great businesses – whether that’s in London or further afield.”

Other Press

TCIO (Mentions Fabsie as a Kraft Award Winner)


Financial Times

OpenIDEO Winner!

I’m second from the right. Thanks to Cansu for the illustration.

“From the podium, we heard inspiring comments from leaders in entrepreneurship. A few highlights include Eze Vidra of Google Campus London challenging the notion that start-ups are riskier than corporate jobs and Israeli angel investor Yossi Vardi encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to just get on with it (and more controversially, challenging the politicians to take off their jackets and ties and relate to the entrepreneurs). Just before lunch, Tom presented an overview of the OpenIDEO challenge and the winners received their awards from MEP Marku Markkula. Here are the winners in the European Parliament hemicircle:”

Full write up by Amy Bonsall 

From L-R: Amy Bonsall, James McBennett, Tom Hulme, Haiyan Zhang, Karina McElroy, Priyanka Kodikal, Louise Wilson, Cansu Akarsu, Bogdan Ceobano (EC), Stefan Ritter, Charlene Lam, James Moyer. Missing: Sanyu Karani

University of Cambridge – CfEL

I participated in the IGNITE programme at Judge Business School in Cambridge. Talks were given from many excellent speakers such as Lord Karan Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, who explained his mission from day one was to brew the finest ever Indian beer and make it into a global beer brand.

Lectures were given in Law, Business Models, Finance, Teams, Marketing and Investment Pitching. One to one mentors were assigned of which Jane Garret who runs Global Compositionin Western Australia ran our group.

From Website:

“Ignite has been attracting projects from the high technology sector for a number of years, influencing the development of numerous start-ups and spin-outs. The programme provides access to one of the most successful technology clusters in the world. The “Cambridge Phenomenon” is a term used to describe the rapid and successful growth of science-based industry in and around the city, which has established a reputation as one of the most successful technology business clusters in the world and earned it the nickname “Silicon Fen”.

Many of the businesses have connections to the University of Cambridge, with innovations deriving from research conducted in University laboratories. The innovators based both at the University of Cambridge and in the wider, local community have developed over 1,600 firms which employ more than 30,000 people. The collaboration between academia and the private sector continues to influence the growth and prosperity of the Cambridge Phenomenon.”

Here are some photos from the week below.

Judge Business School where Fabsie spent a week learning some startup essentials.

Our accommodation for the week was at St. Catherine’s College whose symbol is the wheel seen above the gate.

This Cambridge cow seemed to like the stool.

When in Cambridge, one has to go punting on the River Cam. Our stool is viewing Mathematical bridge of Queen’s College designed by William Etheridge in 1749 and designed in wood. We can imagine a future challenge to make a downloadable Fabsie bridge across the River Cam.

Discussion with Alison McDougall-Weil and Govert Dijkstra.

In class with mentor Jane Garrett, delegates Stephen Shepard, Mireia Mercado and facilitator Jessie Bwanali.

Drinks at Queen’s College.