Great Online Resources for Entrepreneurs

Recently came across a great post listing online resources that could be very useful if you're starting something up, or frankly if you're involved in any sort of enterprise. The links are categorised as below:

  • Finding Funding
  • Hiring Freelancers
  • Social Networking
  • Financial Management and Accounting
  • Time Management and Project Management
  • Communications / VoIP
  • Data Backup
  • Invoicing
  • Contact Manager
  • Online Reputation Management Tools
  • Accepting Payment
  • Shopping Carts
  • CPC Revenue
  • CPM Revenue

Here's the link -

Elevator pitch for iVolntr

Still a bit of a struggle to get the Elevator Pitch right for USP, but I've had a go based on the guidelines from my previous post.

""The core idea is to create a collaborative virtual-volunteering website that is accessed through social networks like Facebook. The primary goal is to bolster the support system for social organisations. It essentially aims to solve the problems of commitment, localisation and physicality that act as barriers to volunteering.

There is no direct competition and there is a large market of people who want to do something socially beneficial but need it to be easier to do.

The business model is well proven around ad-serving, as this will function as a meta social network that ties in users from popular existing networks, with virtual-editing functionality that will make the site sticky for both new and existing users."

Yes, needs work I know but it's a start and it's under 150 words :) Comments and questions welcome!!

How do you prepare an Elevator Pitch?

The term 'Elevator Pitch' comes from the idea of having to pitch to some bigwig in a chance meeting during the time that it takes to get to their floor. Apparently this works out at about 30 seconds or 150 words to get the key message across. Not sure how someone worked it out, but apparently VCs love the short and sweet approach so I guess it's worth looking at. I recently came across some good guidelines for how you should create and focus your elevator pitch at the searchengineland blog

  1. What is the core idea and what problem does it solve?
  2. Has it been done before (is there competition?) and is there a viable market for your core idea?
  3. Why are you best suited to solve the problem and what is your business model?

I'll illustrate an example in my next post.

Limited by tick boxes

I mentioned earlier that at the iGenius conference that I was approached by Cliff Prior, the CEO of UnLtd UK and offered an assessment for their Level 1 grant (uptp £5k) for social entrepreneurs. I was both touched and hugely encouraged. However at the time I had no plan for using the money so requested we put it on hold til I got back.

After thinking about it I realised that this type of award could really make a difference to help me start. My immediate costs are

  • Expert technical input on architecture, dev team structure, timeframe etc to help create a sensible cost model
  • Visual branding and marketing development costs
  • Set up a formal company
  • Run some events to get user feedback
  • Professional designer input... not least to help convert all my scribbles into something visual that I can use to engage larger scale funders. Too many startups skimp on stuff like this and wonder why they struggle to engage investors
  • General fundraising expenses for networking events, travel, materials etc - iGenius 2008 alone wiped me out
  • And moving forward, some office space to work out of because there's just too much going on for my bedroom and collaborating with others in coffee shops only goes so far

Last week I attended the first step in the assessment process.

Unfortunately it seems that what I need is not a valid use of the award because although I ticked all the boxes around social impact, these expenses don't directly contribute to the running of the project. Not to suggest that the staff weren't helpful or accommodating. They tried. Not their fault they have to follow guidelines. There's fraud and probably a whole host of other risks and accountability to manage.

My question is, shouldn't a foundation to support social entrepreneurs also leave scope to support the big ideas to get started? The ones that are looking to change the world rather than their local community? As more and more of us look to leverage the power of the web to create national and global solutions, isn't this scale of enterprise going to become more common? Could this now be time to consider allowing the use of the awards to help the bigger ideas develop far enough to raise more funding?

Dummies Guide to Startups: Bridging the gap between Brand and Strategy

The reason I'm sharing so much on brand is because today brand is everything. You could be the most unique startup and the first to do something, but if your brand experience isn't right, you leave massive scope for someone else to come along, do the same thing as you and walk away with your market because their branding is more compelling and memorable. Here's a really interesting presentation on bridging the gap between your brand and your strategy and is a nice follow on from my previous post on brand building.

In summary here's what it says about what a brand is

  • It's not a logo, entity or product
  • It's your audience's gut feeling about your organisation, product or service
  • In other words it's not what you say it is, but what they say it is

The presentation then highlights the 5 disciplines of brand building:

  1. Differentiate: Focus
  2. Collaborate: 1+1=11
  3. Innovate: Zig when others Zag
  4. Validate: Use focus groups plus cheap, dirty, quick tests. If your audience can't verbalise your concept then you've failed to communicate it.
  5. Cultivate: Develop and influence the character and not just look and feel of the brand

Dummies Guide to Startups: 5 Steps of Brand Building

There are 5 key steps to understanding and building your brand

  1. Situational Report: A situational analysis is designed to take a snapshot of where things stand at the time you're developing your brand. An easy way to outline and create this is through what's called a "4C Analysis" - Company, Customer, Competitor and Channel.
  2. Positioning Statement: A Positioning Statement is a one to two sentence statement that conveys what you do for whom, and why. It is useful as it requires you to identify, and then briefly articulate your distinct value to your customer in relation to your competitors.
  3. Growth Vector Analysis: This describes product alternatives in relation to market options and is one of several means to classify strategic alternatives. Basically a growth vector matrix contains three market options and three product alternatives so that there are nine different combinations or vectors in all.
  4. Growth Driver Analysis: Checks whether assumed growth in your market is a reality or just an illusion. It should also help identify if and how you can influence growth in your market.
  5. Action Plan: This is your short and long term plan for developing your brand, based on outputs from the various analyses you've completed.

The vector and driver analyses are a bit more complicated than the others, so my advice is give them a thought but focus on getting the situational analysis, positioning statements and action plans right. Searching on Google will provide you with lots more detail on all these, but I'll put up some more bullets on each as we go along.

"That's why I made the internet"

... is now officially my favourite quote ever. Did you know that the World Wide Web was invented by one guy. Not NASA or the CIA or the Pentagon or some other massive organisation as a lot of people believe, but by one guy while working at CERN. And an English guy at that! The guy's name is Tim Berners Lee, and if you didn't know that, it tells you everything about the Englishness of the whole enterprise. Bill Gates and co. made a million off the back of the world wide web and Tim BL basically handed it over as open source and free to the world. Even better, instead of being bitter about these gazillionaires, Tim has continued to develop web standards and push things forward for the benefit of the little man. Now that's what I call social enterprise!

A couple of days ago Greg sorted me out with a spare ticket to the NESTA Innovation Edge conference. They had speakers like Bob Geldof and Gordon Brown, but I really just went along to hear Tim Berners Lee speak. Primarily because one of Tim's latest areas of development is the semantic web. Not quite artificial intelligence but contextual intelligence. Anyway that's for another post.

Tim sadly didn't talk about the semantic web, but was interviewed instead by some 'famous' journalist guy I'd never heard of. At one point he was talking about the web and information sharing and social behaviour and he finished his sentence with ... "and that's why I made the internet". Think about it. This is singularly the greatest invention and cultural shift of our generation, and the man just shrugs like yeah you know I made it for everybody. No pretentions. How cool is that?

Imagine one day having created something that changed the world. How would you deal with it?

What is Social Enterprise?

Here's a short animation on social enterprise by the Social Enterprise Coalition. Very light on content but still a simple introduction to the sort of things that social enterprise incorporates.

The message is that there's more to business like:

  • Sustainable futures
  • Communinty transport
  • Fairtrade
  • Re-cycling reusing renewing
  • Ethical choices
  • Profits for good
  • Community builders
  • Sharing profits

Shift Happens

Here's an interesting slideshow originally created by Karl Fisch, examining changes happening as we move forward. As entrepreneurs and social movement builders I figure it's worth keeping an eye on what's happening to global culture, but this presentation is pretty cool from any perspective.

Shift happens has been updated since this original presentation - I've put up the latest versions in my later post "Did you Know (Shift Happens Update)"

Update on progress for USP

Yes I know. Fallen off the face of the earth a little. Mostly been so busy with other things and hanging around waiting for various things to come through to let me get properly started on USP that I've been putting off this update post for a while. But anyway here's a heads-up on what I've been up to while I've been away.

After coming back from the i-Genius summit, I moved on from Conchango and decided to take a break in Mumbai for a few weeks while I figured out what to do next. I'm now working as a management consultant for a consultancy called Charteris in Barbican. My main focus area is multi-channel engagement and customer centricity, which is relevant because it has plenty of cross-over learning in both directions with USP.

In terms of where we're at with the project itself, I've got a funding meeting next week. A meeting with a tech friend of mine from Google in June. Met an ex-colleague who's into Facebook apps so planning to attend a Facebook Developer Garage with him some point soon. Looking into tapping into Universities for student developers too. Been scribbling through some user interaction stuff around how it could work too... Greg, Martin watch this space - will be in touch soon. Am also working on sorting the brand out - so Elissa if you're reading this I haven't forgotten!!

In parallel been building links with other social enterprises and organisations. Planning to get more involved with i-Genius' development. Did some work with UnLtd India while I was out there, and will probably start doing some work with UnLtd here. Recently joined BANG Edutainment as a trustee (they work with social radio and inner city kids) - Dave I'll be filling you in on this soon. Finally also been involved with The Disruptors and disruptive social innovation, so watch out for the blog soon.

So as you can see... lots been happening!


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