Archive for June, 2010

Going for Business & Tech Awards

June 30, 2010

There’s lots of local, regional and international Business /Tech awards around (Ernst & Young, Red Herring, TechCrunch50, UK IT Industry Awards, etc). Some cost alot to enter and some only a little. But are they worth winning? And how do you win ’em..

If you not heard my startup Aware Monitoring is through to the final of a local Award competition – Nottingham Post New Enterprise of the Year 2010 Award. We’ll know this week if we’ve won.

Simon & I in the papers (click here for full article)
Source: Nottingham Post & Nottingham University Business School

I recently met David Atherton, the founder of Dabs.com, an ecommerce IT retailer. Dabs  went for a whooping 800 awards and won 200 of them! Dave said ‘they were a great low-cost form of PR and marketing.’ Most people I’ve spoken to who’ve won awards say they are worth winning because they bring:

  1. Immediate press attention – The awards organisers and sponsors tend to promote the finalists and winners to the press. Its great free PR.
  2. Knock-on press attention – Other publications will take attention if your company wins an award. They’ll want to write about you too!
  3. Confidence – The feel good factor is extremely valuable for the founders and  employees moral. Everyone is recognised for  their hard efforts.
  4. Success – Everyone wants to be a success. To be finalist or a winner shows your company is succesful, even if it’s not aways the case.
  5. Credibility – Prospects and customers want to feel they can trust their suppliers. Awards seems to bring confidence in companies.

In a talk by Doug Ashby he felt that the Awards got in the way of selling to prospects and customers. Doug has won several awards before exciting well from his Mainframe hardware maintenance business. Doug felt the awards bloated the winners ego to the extent where they take their eye (focus) of their business.

A friend of mine, Adam Harris, won the IoD (Institute of Directors) Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2008. Adam said ‘that you have to put the time and effort into the application to win.’ Sounds obvious, but Adam said ‘most people leave completing the application until the last-minute and rush it.’ Like an important proposal  take your time and get the  applications right. Of course, you need a great story, a business with some strong successes and good writing skills to be noticed.

I took Dave & Adam’s advice and we’re through to  a local award final. Whether we win and it then goes to our heads (ego) is yet to be seen 😉

UPDATE:

We won! Amazing!! It was a truly fantastic evening. We did well to win our category against stiff competition. For our ‘Aware Monitoring wins Award’ company post on the win, click here and for the full Nottingham Post write-up click here.

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Innovation sucks!!

June 17, 2010

Innovation is extremely alluring to companies and startups. It offers so much potential. However innovation  takes mountains of time. You just can’t come up with a Facebook, Dyson or Ford in 5 minutes!! It’s simply not a light bulb moment. It can take 1000’s of  attempts. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 1000 ways that won’t work”Thomas A Edison. Innovation is a gradual internal company and external market process.  This makes innovation very frustrating for the entrepreneur because the one thing they have in short supply is time! Innovation is awesome but it also sucks!!

Innovation has to build-up momentum and be developed over several or many iterations. This evolution of ideas can be within the same team, company or marketplace. It can even be ideas shared between different markets or countries. That’s the great thing about our modern economy, its survival of the fittest ideas. The key to unlock innovation is for the idea to be at the right time and in the right place.

I’m sorry, but time and time again I hear startups saving we are the next Facebook, Twitter, etc. In reality you need to know where are you in the innovation cycle – that ranges from innovation to commoditisation. Geoff Moore ‘Crossing the chasm’ is always a good book to read on this subject. The position in this innovation cycle dictates your actions, growth and timescales.

The challenge with innovation is that it takes eduction, thus the need for time. The educating of potential customers is difficult because people don’t really like change and risk. Companies, especially big ones, definitely don’t like change and risk. Education costs an awful lot of money whether with mass market consumer items or niche corporate b2b products. The marketing message needs repeating over and over and over again. First mover advantage is great but second mover can be better. Just look at Google (2nd to market) and Yahoo (1st to market) and who came of on top.

The trick is to get into a market niche on an upward curve, get running with the pack (competition) and then gradually innovate. As always it is easier to say than do!! Apple is a great example. The success they enjoy today with the iPhone popularity goes way back to 1993 with the failure of the Apple Newton. Apples’ iTunes which is intrinsically linked to the iPod and therefore the iPhone originally benefited from the downfall of Napster. These innovations have been brewing for many years and between many competitors.

The great thing about innovation is that it has unlimited possibilities. It’s brings the combination of creativity and exciting growth potential. Innovation is awesome but it takes time, money, careful listening to the market and mountains of persistence. One hit innovation wonders are rare and not the norm. All of this can be frustrating for startups because no one is in a rush except the startup and the one things startups are most short of is time.

Growing up!

June 1, 2010

Our startup, Aware Monitoring, is moving up in the world – we’ve relocated desks from our old hot desk facility to our very own desks. This event may sound trivial but it’s not. It’s a significant milestone in our evolution.

We’ve now got our own phones, our  very own sign at the front door and permanent desks! This move is  happening just as we are looking for our 1st employee. These really are exiting times for our startup. I’ll miss the old office but it will be great to have our own space. I’ve not had my own desk since leaving employment way back in 2006.

We’ve been using The Nottingham University UNIEI incubator hotdesk facility since September 2008. The new desks are still in the same building. Nottingham University have been good to us. They’ve  supported our startup and helped us grow. I first posted about our website monitoring startup idea – ‘Our new software baby is on its way’, back in January 2009 with baby Jack-Jack imagery (The incredibles, Pixar). We’re now growing up  😉 It’s great to be moving onto the next level.

Next stop – break-even and our very own offices!!