Posts Tagged ‘conference’

Getting by with a little help from friends

May 4, 2010

I’m in ore at the support we received from our friends during The Internet World exhibition. My startup, Aware Monitoring, had at booth at the show. During the three-day exhibition we were visited by other startups, press, and customers who’ve been following our progress. Thank you so much for all your support and help ūüôā We really appropriate it!!

Jonathan English from Skeleton Productions

I’d especially¬† like to thank Jonathan from Skeleton Productions for spending an afternoon helping to man our stand. We had a real buzz with three of us working on the booth. At one point we had eight people around the stand! It’s a real shame Simon my co-founder was not there – he was busy with his wife having a baby. Alex Witkowski, a 3rd year philosophy student supplied by Model Students, did an outstanding job working with me on the booth for the three days. We wouldn’t have had such a great show without Alex’s help!

Alex Witkowski and I on the Aware Monitoring booth

Nick Walker came down from Nottingham for the show and took some great photo’s of us – thanks Nick ūüôā As always it was great to see Glenn Shoosmith and Gregory Bockenstette from the awesome BookingBug who visited our stand! And finally not forgetting Josh Rathour for dropping by. I also made some great new friends and acquaintances throughout the show.

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The pointbreak of a live demo & product launch

October 5, 2009

There’s been much talk of demo’s and launches over the last¬† month with TechCrunch50 and DEMOfall09. It’s also been at the fore front of our minds with our startups launch and live demo at FOWA, London. I’ve posted about the pro’s and con’s launching at startup conferences. Launching at an event is an emotional roller coaster of a ride with the preparation effort required, pre-event expectations and then the post launch reality. Looking¬† back the launch peak is a brief moment in time after a long development¬† journey and before the journey to acquire real customers begins.

Killer WaveKiller Wave (Source: Telegraph ‘Beautiful but deadly’ )

Great  advice on  live demo and launch for startups includes: RRW and Jason Calacanis РPart 1 and Part 2.

Sean Power: “It may be the single biggest traffic spike you’ll ever experience.”, “After the bump, you’ll feel a tremendous rush of adrenaline, then deep, soul-sucking disillusionment as your traffic dwindles back to its former levels.”

There is so much effort needed to build and develop a product in preparation for a five minute launch demo (forgive me for my reminiscing links to many of my past posts):

  1. Finding the team – Getting a great team together is not easy but it’s key to a successful startup.
  2. Identifying the opportunity – Finding a killer idea first of is near-on-impossible or at least improbable.
  3. Getting the investment – Making the money last long enough to build a working saleable product is a ‘Scrooge’ like challenge.
  4. Building the app – Staying on target and not veering off on another exciting project is tricky.
  5. Polishing the app – This takes time and you don’t have much of it. The devil is unfortunately in the detail.
  6. Making it scalable – To prepare to scale or not to scale is a difficult question. No one knows the traffic and usage you will get.
  7. Preparing a memorable demoIn summary Jason Calacanis says: show the product quickly; give a succinct presentation; temp the audiences; talk about accomplishments rather than roadmaps and show understanding of the competition.

Wow, what a journey!! This is why many startups fail to ever get a product  finailsed and launched. The decisions made during each of the above stages directly affects the outcome of the final 5 minute demo. However  this onstage  peak is only a brief  moment in time and a pause before the start of  a new journey.

After the curtains have closed at the conference its when the real hard work starts. You now have to convince customers and investors. The good news is that your startup will be taken a little more seriously because you’ve got a product. However, doubt will remain and very few really believe you have a good idea that will succeed because you have no customers. You now need to be flexible,¬† customer centric and have¬† a renewed determination to succeed.

The live demo launch is yet another emotionally intense thrill ride for startup founders. It is a deadline which gets things done and moves your startup towards the all important goal of getting customers.¬† “Buckel up because Kansas is going bye, bye.” – For the¬† 5 minute demo anyway and then it’s back to reality ūüėČ

Techcrunch Europas Awards: And the winner is..

July 10, 2009

The creme of UK and Europe’s Tech startup community were at¬† Techcrunch’s Europas Awards last night. The inaugural event was held at the highly¬† fashionable Delfina in London. We also had guests from across the pond, including Sarah Lacy and a very hoarse Scoble. An endless stream of beer, wine and Tech startup high energy made for a great evenings entertainment. The evening started with six startup pitches, followed by a panel discussion and then the awards.

The Oscars AwardsThe Awards are up (image source)

The Pitches

First to pitch was Bernhard Niesner from Busuu with their Language learning and community app. Bernhard gave a energetic pitch with¬† amusing Austrian humor. Next up was Heikki Haldre from Fit.me a Virtual fitting Room app. A female from the audience had the crowd in stitches when she commented that most women don’t know their breast size. You can image the follow on comments.. Philipp Hubertus¬† Mohr from Comufy pitched their award winning personal communication aggregator.

Pitchero will help the UK find the next Jonny Wilkinson according to Mark Fletcher who gave a fast paced tour of their sport community websites app. The next pitch was from GigLocator who launch next week. James Proud gave a very relaxed, honest and friendly pitch. The crowd loved it. Last up was Ravi Sharma from Emarket with their CMG on-line exchange site.

Some great pitches and new European startups. BREAKING NEWS: Mike Butcher announced a European startup league table based on YouNoodle results. Way d’go Mike. A Champions league!!

The Panel

After the pitches a distinguished panel discussed the European startup scene:

  • Stefan Glaenzer, from Last.FM feels that Europe is 3-4 years behind The Valley and falling further back. Stefan believes we need to focus more on sales and marketing. However we do need to keep in mind that Silicon Valley is in its own bubble.
  • Sarah Lacy, author & TechCrunch editor, is on a world entrepreneurship and Innovation tour. Sarah’s visiting many emerging markets including India and China. Sarah sees demand increasing from non Western markets and Silicon Valley slipping back.
  • Michael Birch, co-founder of Bebo and Brent Hoberman, MyDeco‚Äôs, announced they are setting up PROfounders Capital. This is an investment fund for startups. Its run by experienced founders for startups founders. Nice idea.
  • Tariq Krim, founder of Netvibes – Tariq talked about the need to think globally with your startup.

It seems from the discussion we’ve come along way in Europe but have much further to go in today’s global economy.

The Awards

Spotify scooped up the most awards. They won: Best Web Application; Best Startup Founder(s); Best New Startup; and “The Europas GRAND PRIX”.

Ali Huddle Spays Mike Butcher

Alistair Mitchell & Andy McLoughlin, Huddle founders, win
The Best B2B category (source)

The full list of categories and winners are:

  1. Best Bootstrapped Startup (less than 3 years old) – Soup.io
  2. Best Design – Songkick
  3. Best Social Innovation (benefits society, EMEA) – Mendeley
  4. Best Cleantech / Environmental Startup (EMEA) – Alertme
  5. Best European Hardware / Real World Gadget (EMEA) – Poken
  6. Best Entertainment App or Service (EMEA) – SoundCloud
  7. Best Mobile Startup (EMEA) – Nimbuzz
  8. Best Mobile Application (EMEA)  РSpinvox
  9. Best Web Application Or Service (EMEA) – Spotify
  10. Best Enterprise / B2B Startup (EMEA) – Huddle
  11. Best Startup Founder(s)Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, jointly for Spotify
  12. Best Investor (VC or Angel fund, EMEA) – The Accelerator Group
  13. Best Investor Personality (EMEA) – Yossi Vardi
  14. Best New Startup, Summer 2008-2009 – Spotify
  15. The Europas GRAND PRIX” – Spotify

It was an evening of much fun and frolicking:

Mike on high

Mike on high!! (source)

Well done  to all the pitchers for their efforts and congratulations to the Award winners. Mike and his team did a wonderful job of organising this fabulous event. Until next year. Our startup may even enter with our new website monitoring app..

5 ways to Launch a new Web/SaaS App

June 19, 2009

Here at Aware Monitoring HQ we’re moving rapidly towards launching our website monitoring service.¬† But what is the best and most effective way to launch a web/SaaS app. I’ve trawled through the Internet and talked to several of my startup friends for ideas. To get some practical launch hints and tips my co-founder Simon Oxley and I met-up with the founders of one of the UK’s and worlds top 50 startups – Huddle.net.

Huddle started providing on-line shared workspaces in 2006 and launched in 2007. Since then they’ve attracted 100,000’s of users, secured two rounds of VC funding (Eden Ventures) and partnered with LinkedIn/InterCall.¬† The team also regularly presents at US and UK conferences.

Launch pad

An Awesome Launch pad!

Depending on your budget, location, contacts and available time there are several ways to launch:

  1. Live on stage!! РLaunch big at an specialised startup launch event such as Demo or TechCrunch50. Lots of Tech press and investors will to be there all looking for a scoop on the next big thing.  Andy McLoughlin and his co-founder Alastair Mitchell from Huddle launched at Demo in 2008. The catch is its not cheap. This years Demo costs $18,500! Andy & Ali did get one really good customer though.  Also these events are US only.
  2. Shhhhh…. – No razzmatazz, just quietly leak your new app into the market. Its cheap and there’s no high pressure expectations from new users. The bigger the launch, the harder the fall if the users don’t like it. A quite launch means you’ve got time to get the app right with users. However keep your fingers crossed that your target community hears about your new app and the word goes viral. Bloggers can help to spread the word when your ready.
  3. Conference bandwaggon – There are a ton of localised Tech conferences where you can launch. Some of them have launch pads especially for startups. To name but a few conferences: Web 2.0 (USA), Le Web (France), Office 2.o (USA), FOWA (UK), etc. These conferences are much cheaper than the big Startup launch events, however the message will not have the same impact with the press or investors.
  4. “Read all about it” – Press releases are a well worn route when launching. Target the press you want to been seen in and engage with PR freelancer/company. Or take the cheaper option try and contact the press yourself. Unfortunately they are so busy they will rarely listen unless its someone they know.
  5. Stand on preachers corner – Talk to everyone who will listen: friends, family, ex-colleagues, first/secondary degree contacts, etc . Everyone and anyone! Forums and communities where your target users hang out are also a good place to engage. But DON’T sell to them or they’ll kick you out. This options cheap and targeted.

With or without a bulging budget its hard to be heard above all the startup noise. Although there are 65% less new startups right now. Which ever way you launch one of the most important things to remember is engage with real could-be customers as early as possible. Customers ultimately equals profits, whereas Tech community does not necessarily. Here is a good (but long) talk on launching/early customer engagement from a wiley old Valley Tech startup vet, Steve Blank.

On route with the FOWA Tour ’09

June 11, 2009

Phew Рthe inaugural whistle stop Future Of Web Apps (FOWA)  UK Tour has finished. I attended 3 of the 4 Tour stops: Leeds, Cambridge and Bristol. The Tour was a condensed version of the highly successful  Carsonified FOWA conferences. This was the first time  Carsonified had taken the UK tour on the road. The aim of FOWA is to help developers, freelancers and entrepreneurs learn and socialize. On the Tour we met many wonderful people and heard some great talks.

london-bus_frontTaking the Tour out of London (a conceptual London bus)

The Tour followed the same format for each venue: big company demo in the morning and other talks in the afternoon. This was followed by speed networking and then drinks in the evening. The demo from Microsoft’s David¬† Gristwood was on the Azure’s solid architecture and road map; Simone¬† Brunozzi¬† from Amazon Web Services gave a very useful demo of EC2/S3; and Doug¬† Merrett/Simon Wheeldon from Salesforce.com showed how simple it was building an app on fly with Force.com. Tony Lucus of Flexiscale also demonstrated their Cloud platform at the Cambridge event.

Many of the attendees I spoke too at each event felt that the corporate sessions were too much of a pitch. I guess they were sponsoring the event to keep ticket prices  down. The managed hosting providers EveryCity also sponsored the Tour and took heaps of photos of attendees wearing EveryCity stickers in the most unusual places:

NickBarkersVeryTallHat

Nick Barker
(Some will do anything to get their photo taken ūüėČ
vote me & silly hat to win, click here )

2st Stop – Leeds – “Fares.. please”

Simon¬† Collison from Erskine Design gave an entertaining talk about building client trust. Simon high recommended involving customers in an Agile feedback loop to create a usable app. An important point we need to remember. Dan Rubin then gave a wonderful talk on designing intuitive user interfaces which mimic non-frustrating real world physical interfaces. Dan used great images of taps, buttons and door handles/locks. Like his slide deck: Keep it simple, don’t over design and “don’t give instructions to users” – if you do the apps not intuitive. Next up was Lorna Mitchell, a senior developer¬† from iBuildings, who talked about developing in PHP and database architecture. Click for Lorna’s slide deck. Finally Ryan Carson of Carsonified gave an excellent talk on marketing web apps through on-line measurement and building social capital. Ryan’s slide deck to follow..

3rd Stop – Cambridge – “Hold tight..”

First up was Wil¬† Harris of ChannelFlip with a wort’s n’ all presentation on “Lessons learned starting a successful digital media publication with no budget, no technology and no idea”. The key message was start something, NOW! Then learn and iterate. With an offering in 87 countries Stefan Magdalinski of Moo.com gave an insightful talk about scaling and growing an international business. The American market proved to be the most demanding. Dorothy Briggs of Rabbitsoft then gave a talk on using Web2.0 in the Enterprise. Our startup knows all about Enterprise 2.0. Last but no means least was the charismatic German Christian Heilmann from Yahoo. Christian gave an enjoyable and entertaining talk on Yahoo’s exciting YQL API platform. The Tech crowd loved it!

4th Stop – Bristol – “All alight”

Our good friend Andy McLoughlin from Huddle give an excellent talk on partnering. Click here for Andy’s deck. His advice to finding partners was as to √ľber network and get lucky. Once found, partnerships take¬† a long time to develop and can be challenging to finalize. You also need the ability to scale rapidly.¬† The next presenter was Ian Broom of Weboo. Ian give a useful reminder on goal setting, having fun and staying fit to be being super effective.¬† Richard Healy from BaseKit then gave a talk on their exciting new DIY website building app. Like our website monitoring app they are also¬† in alpha ūüôā Last up was Dan Rubin again, who gave a very similar presentation to his outstanding Leeds talk.


The speed networking was very intense. After the sixth person I generally started to loose all ability to speak.¬† However it was good to meet so many people in such a short period as we made some great new friends ūüôā

I last attended a 3 day London FOWA in 2007 and taking FOWA into the regions proved to be a great idea. It shows there is startup life and thriving web community  outside of London. Roll on the next Tour!

Dan Ruben gave a excellent talk on designing intuitive user interfaces which mimic natural and unfrustrating physical interfaces. Click here for Dan’s slide dec

Geek n’ Rolla: Community, community, community

April 24, 2009

Mike Butcher of TechCrunch UK set a brisk pace at this weeks inaugural Geek n’ Rolla in London. The one day conference was packed with top Tech UK speakers including Inma Martinez, Andy McLoughlin and William Reeve. The Rock n’ Rolla gangsta theme was celebrating the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit. After all there are¬† very similar traits between entrepreneurs and criminals. They are both highly inventive, enterprising and resourceful. I and others felt the event created a real sense of community (a law abiding one that is).

rocknrolla-movie1

The event was supporting and building the UK Tech startup community for startups like ours (Aware Monitoring). Lashings of helpful and informative advice was given out throughout the day from: Andy McLouglin on building a strong team; bootstrapping from William Reeve; Lesley Eccles on launching big in the USA; and working with VC’s /Angels from Fred Destin / Nick Halstead .¬† Daniel Tenner has a write-up of the talks in more detail. Some of the advice from the panel judging the 10 startup pitches at the event was brutally honest. I was really impressed with the standard of pitch. They were all very professional. Not a stutter or ummm amongst them. My money’s on the Booking Bug or Swiffen startups.

The networking was cosy with 250 people in a small space but it worked. I felt a real sense of community from the startups at the event and applaud Ian Hogarth for setting up community resources like startuptools. Mike Butcher did a really good job bringing everyone together. Well done, Arrington (Mike’s boss) would be proud ;). And I applaud any one who helps bring the UK Tech community together including the DrinkTank, OpenSoho and the Nott Tuesday organisers.

palo-alto

The Americans really get their Tech community efforts right in The Valley. Yes, I know the UK doesn’t have the funding or the close ties with Tech focused Universities like in The Valley but that’s the point. Guy Richie can make hit films and we can make hit apps. People keep reminding me the odds are against our website monitoring startup succeeding as we are located in the wrong city and the wrong county i.e. as a Tech startup we should be in London, UK or better still in the USA. I say that doesn’t mean we won’t succeed! Loads of great Tech startups and businesses have come out of the UK including Last FM, Bebo,¬† MessageLabs, Sage, etc.

I think the UK Tech scene is going from strength to strength. The community brings so many benefits: Sharing of ideas; sharing of problems; sharing of resources; sharing positivity and sharing ambition. After all, together we are stronger ūüôā

Summer of Love: Geek n’Rolla, Internet World, djangocon, FOWA Tour & Fuel

April 20, 2009

Simon Oxley, my co-founder, and I are attending several UK/European conferences this summer. If your also going to be at any of these let us know and we’ll hook-up. We’re really looking forward to them all ūüôā

geeknrollainternetworld

djangoconference2009logo

fowa_tour

consonified-fuel-2009-banner

Office 2.0: Turning calamity into success

August 27, 2008

With only a week to go one of the main diamond sponsors pulled out of  Office 2.0 conference  much to the annoyance and distress of the organiser Ismael Ghalimi. I have already covered the conference on E20portal.com and this blog.  I wanted to write again because this is a great example of an enterprenur coping with a difficult problem on a self imposed deadline.


A diamond sponsor?

It’s been¬†interesting too observe Ismael’s¬†unfolding shock, despair and then¬†purpose with¬†this set back. Ismael published an inspiring and reflective post Faith, Friendship, and Freedom¬†when the S**t¬†hit the¬†fan, saying:

“With such a string of bad news, it would be easy for us to lose faith in what we are doing.”..”Many people wonder why we do all this to begin with. There is a fair amount of risk involved, and an insane amount of work, for a reward that is unclear most of the time. The reason is pretty simple: it’s the simple exercise of our freedom.”..”Today, I learned something, and this makes it a good day.”

As Stowe Boyd, a well know blogger, entitled his post Office 2.0 Conference: That Which Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger. The extreme deadline of the event meant that Ismael had to move quickly to a solution. It was great to see how the community rallied togther to help and the conference very rapidly organised a new Launchpad conference track with lots of smaller sponsors.

This situation has shown the entrepreneurial spirit of seeing the positive and turning calamity into success by working together. We could all probably learn a little from this.

Ismael Ghalimi’s extreme deadlines that innovate

August 14, 2008

After writing an article for E20portal.com on Ismael Ghalimi ‘s Office 2.0 conference, I also wanted to share some personal reflections from an intriguing conversation with Ismael about deadlines and innovation.


Ismael Ghalimi

Deadlines are nothing new. However organising a significant event over a very short period (nine weeks) with limited resources creates what I’ve termed an extreme deadline. Ismael says the self imposed deadlines “forces productivity” and “pushes tools to the limits”. However the risks are high — unhappy paying customers and suppliers may result in a loss of hard earned credibility and reputation.

The Royal Air force Red Arrow’s Pushing the envelope

Being extreme is about pushing the limits or as Ismael said “Pushing the envelope” – a term used by aircraft pilots. Ismael referred to the conference as an “experiment”. By innovating the conference organisation into this limited time window, Ismael called it “outside of the thought zone”, rapid and effective decisions have to be made. If¬†mistakes are made they can be¬†corrected quickley or work arounds¬†found. As the conference back-office evolves Ismael is also pushing the boundaries further to reinvent the conference attendee experience.

Ismael sees the future of conferences as: “branding being much more than having big conference booths”; “more involvement of panellist moderators”; “Social networking before, during and after the event”; use of “conference internet tablets”; “displaying the back channel conversations for all to see”; and “giving remote attendees a good experience”. He is putting some of these ideas into practice at the Office 2.0 experiment using Jives clearspace and this years free HP 2133 Mini-Note PC. Conference 2.0, as I called it, is trying to extend the social experience using social media for more audience participation and interaction.

The event seems to have got TechWeb’s attention, a larger conference provider, as Steve Wylie the TechWeb Enterprise 2.0 conference General Manager is on the conference attendee list. Interestingly Ismael is using the event as a networking and marketing tool for his other businesses, which include open source BPM software and serviced offices . Ismael said he runs the conference because “it’s fun” and he “loves people”.

Web and software firms like Ismael’s know all about meeting drop dead release dates. These deadlines can require additional emergency resources to be drafted in, planned features to be dropped and products that ship with bugs. As someone recently said to me JFDI (Just Feakin’ Do it – the acceptable version) when asked their opinion on the idea of the E20portal.com website. They said even if it is rough around the edges just get it out there and see what sticks.

A careful act holding onto time as demonstrated by Harold Lloyd

I think deadlines are very important to focus effort. However deadlines can cut both ways. They can help to bring action but they can also harm quality. It’s a careful but vital balancing act for any tech firm, particularly start-ups. Most entrepreneurs have limited resources, and time, so deadlines are a key part of effective productivity to get innovative products out the door.

Enterprise 2.0, Boston Judgement Day (4) ‚Äď Who should the customer believe?

June 19, 2008

With so many choices when selecting a Web2.0 Enterprise 2.0 strategy, who should the customer believe: the vendors; the analysts or themselves? Seeing¬†the numerous vendors categorised at Tony Byrne‘s CMS session, selecting the right solution must be a difficult decision for any customer. I heard many customers during the conference say that the event was too much¬†of a¬†‚ÄėVendor fest‚Äô, which was echoed at the final ‘Town Hall’ feedback back session.

Despite all the vendors shouting from the rooftops the majority of the case studies presented were¬†using Opensource applications (Three out of the five: CIA; Sony and Pfizer). Even the wonderful case from Lockheed Martin was customised on the ‚Äėincluded‚Äô version of Sharepoint with a massive 14,000 man day effort. Interestingly there was talk from Lockheed of Opensourcing their code and expressions of interest from the audience .

Was the stark difference between what we saw from the vendors and what we heard from customer cases because these users were early adopters (visionaries) prepared to work with unpolished Opensource? Or is Opensource providing the working products, with the help of in-house technical expertise, being demanded by customers. It is well know in the industry that some Opensource is better than commercial code.

Unfortunately I missed the opinions from Opensource Panel session at the Conference with Bob Bickel of Ringside Networks, Jeff Whatcott of Acquia and John Newton of Alfresco but caught up with them on John Eckman  MP3 recording.

Perhaps Enterprise businesses are now looking to free applications as in the Web2.0 world. It is a compelling argument, free/low cost and working products. There is no doubt Opensource is on the rise, as supported by Jeffery Walker of Atlassian. Yet only 5% of vendors at the conference were representing this large and growing community, a view shared by Kathleen Reidy and John Eckman. Interestingly some of the commercial products at the conference are reliant and partially build upon Opensource, some even up to 80% I was reliably informed! Customers maybe starting to question why pay for an application which is built on Opensource. The problem with Opensource is it can sometimes be poorly packaged and can need a lot of attention to set-up and maintain.

The cases presented at the¬†‘leading Enterprise 2.0 conference’ shows that customers are ‚Äėbaking‚Äô or testing solutions before fully implementing them as recommended by Tony of CMS. Opensource offers a very attractive approach to testing and trying before buying. I believe customers are increasingly listening to each others experiences, believe less in the vendor’s promises and are more willing to use Opensource. However, as Milton Friedman said ‚ÄėThere’s no such thing as free lunch‚Äô. Customers say they want more case studies and less vendor pitches. However, someone has to subsidise conferences and pay for the commercial development work to round Opensource products off for the mainstream.

I believe the balance between Opensource and the proprietary commercial software is going to change with many vendors having to move more towards a business model like MySQL(pre-Sun) or MindTouch who were at the conference. Because many of today’s vendors are so proprietary and lack flexibility they may not be able to make this transition. However the challenge Opensource vendors have is making healthy revenues from a very diverse, demanding and large customer base. Currently the most effective and successful software vendor model for the future still remains unclear.