Delany & Co series on London Technology Week.
This week marks London Technology Week – a celebration of London’s growing role as a global source of tech innovation and inspiration. Hot-ticket subjects such as the Internet of Things, Big Data and FinTech will be covered, as well as more traditional areas such as education, gaming, transport and coding. The team at Delany & Co will be monitoring the goings on and bringing a daily round up of the best that London tech has to offer.
It’s official – London is Europe’s number one incubator for tech’s next generation billion dollar babies. But how can the transition from idea to company success be made? In our first instalment to celebrate London Tech Week, we examine what just what it takes to make it as a tech-entrepreneur.
Whilst European techies have long struggled to emulate the success of Silicon Valley, research published this week suggests that London may finally be starting to pull its weight. GP Bullhound finds that Europe has produced 13 ‘unicorns’ – tech companies valued at more than $1bn – in 2014. The UK tops the list – in the past 15 years more billion-dollar start-ups have come out of Britain than its next-nearest European competitors Sweden, Germany and Russia put together.
So: how do you translate an idea that sounds impossible into the next big thing? To try and find out, we went along to the Google Campus who hosted an excellent event on ‘Partnerships, Scalability and the Journey to Success’ for those with an entrepreneurial disposition to share their stories. So what’s the magic stuff – that certain je ne sais quoi – that successful entrepreneurs are made of?
Be focused – and keep it simple.
As one speaker noted, with limited resources to hand it is essential to focus on the basics. Don’t try to do everything and please everyone. Success flows from products which most easily and clearly meet and anticipate customers’ needs. Successful tech startups focus on providing simple quality products that add real value to its customers – this is their central metric.
Be open to change.
There’s no roadmap to success. Anything can change in the time between the inception of an idea and a final product – nowhere is this more true than in the rapidly evolving tech world. Unanticipated challenges constantly arise: the market may change or regulatory barriers may block expansion. Entrepreneurs need to be comfortable with adapting to their habitat and altering their product.
One speaker spoke of a cultural shift in the way they tech entrepreneurs have successfully embraced collaboration and openness – a mentality which is very much at odds with how big business has developed over the past 50 years. Trusting and sharing is key to building relationships and refining product offerings.
Learn from failure.
You never learn from success, but you do learn from failure. Entrepreneurs intuitively accept that learning is a continual process. It’s not about money or networks – but a willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone when it comes to their business. As one participant commented: you just have to be comfortable with learning from what happens and taking a different approach next time. You try, fail, and try again.
Be visionary – with the company and the product.
A number of entrepreneurs have spoken of the need for visionary leadership which attracts dedicated employees who buy into the company’s destiny and want to lead in its success. This means focusing on developing the company, not just the product. This doesn’t mean that it’s not important to be equally ambitious when it comes to the product: it’s not about trying to do something marginally or just incrementally better. Successful entrepreneurs strive for a fundamental paradigm shift which will bring about exponential impact. Although it’s harder to achieve, the impact is also much greater.
Be a risk taker.
Entrepreneurs are, above all, risk takers – starting with nothing – and with no guarantees. Whilst entrepreneurs’ success stories are glamorous, we don’t always hear about the long weekends pouring over the books on the kitchen table. What keeps them going? An unwaverable belief in their product and being comfortable with uncertainty. It’s those who are confident enough to believe in their ideas, and stick with them, that change the world.
In the world of startups, success depends on trust. Whether it’s pitching to venture capitalists or future customers, entrepreneurs are commonly selling ideas that don’t exist or have yet to be proved. The first hurdle is convincing an investor they can be trusted: be clear, realistic and consistent.
Understand that persistence brings innovation.
Many entrepreneurs spoke of the need to test their offering early and not wait for perfection. Only by exposing their product to others and understanding that development is iterative and incremental does innovation finally break through. After all, what would have been if Apple stopped at the first iPhone? In other words: create something, put it to market, make it better, try it out again and then create something that obsoletes what you used to make.