YHP http://yhponline.com Entrepreneurs In Depth | Be Inspired | Your Hidden Potential Tue, 16 Dec 2014 01:04:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Angel of the Year Dušan Stojanovic shares his secrets on raising investment http://yhponline.com/2014/12/16/angel-of-the-year-shares-his-secrets-on-raising-investment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=angel-of-the-year-shares-his-secrets-on-raising-investment http://yhponline.com/2014/12/16/angel-of-the-year-shares-his-secrets-on-raising-investment/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 00:55:28 +0000 http://yhponline.com/?p=37102 Last month I was in Hong Kong to look at the state of the Hong Kong startup scene. It was Startmeup Week, a chance for Hong Kong to showcase their entrepreneurial talent and to establish further interest from abroad. One of … Continue reading

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Last month I was in Hong Kong to look at the state of the Hong Kong startup scene. It was Startmeup Week, a chance for Hong Kong to showcase their entrepreneurial talent and to establish further interest from abroad. One of the panels at the main event, InvestHK’s StartmeupHK Venture Programme, was called ‘A Conversation with … Overseas speakers’. On that panel was Dušan Stojanovic, who was named Business Angel of the Year in 2013. Dusan is Founder and Director, True Global Ventures. I interviewed him to learn more about what he looks for in an investment and why his have gone on to do so well.

Dušan Stojanovic

Hi Dusan can you give me a bit of background to yourself?

I did my entrepreneurial exit in 2004 from a French internet bank called Monabanq. That allowed me to start Angel investing. Since 2004 I've done eighteen early-stage investments, ten of those in my own name and eight of those in True Global Ventures name - where I am the single largest shareholder.

Out of these 18 I've had six exits, five full exits and two partial exists and all actually have been in fin-tech payments which is related to my core understanding and my entrepreneurial exit.

I do have second investment thesis, which hasn't been as successful, which is more music, content and gaming –  but it also started a bit later, so basically it's a little bit too early to say how it goes.

But the first one has gone really well, and what I started to do in Stockholm and Paris, I then moved, not taking that much industry risk but keep investing in payments in fin-tech. Today it's Stockholm, Paris, where we originally started, but also in Berlin, New York, Silicon Valley, Bejing, Hong Kong & Singapore. These cities I’d find payments and fin-tech deals without any problem.

So tell me about how you got named as Angel Investor of the Year?

That was back in 2012 now. That year I had three exits in a week. The problem in Europe is that nobody celebrates success. If I would have been in the US I would say: “Listen guys, I did three exists within a week - who else in the world has done that?” In fact nobody has done that. Even Silicon Valley investors get impressed. But you're in Europe, and on top of that I am raised and born in Sweden. I don't want to say I’m ashamed of it, but in this environment, I feel I was very, very lucky to get that. That's how it felt you'd needed to communicate it.

It was in 2012, between 18th June - 25th June, one company got bought up in France, another one in Sweden, a third one in Paris got bought up by a company in Asia. I made 10x, 4x and 2x money, so they weren't huge exits – but it was great they all happened within a week!

When you're looking to invest in companies, what do you look for?

Now we have a very particular investment thesis that is very atypical in general. So first of all - I wouldn't take this as THE investment thesis that should be used. The reason is that we are covering eight cities. I can't do a lot of soft help to entrepreneurs. We're not an accelerator. But this thesis would only work because we’re in 8 cities, it wouldn’t work in only one city.

So our thesis is – we've done 350 investments individually, the 32 partners of us. So we only invest in serial entrepreneurs, at the same time they reinvest some of their exit money into their new venture.

The reason for that is that we help businesses in certain areas. We don't do the soft-coaching - we help them with introductions to get more business in the city where they are, and in the other seven cities where we are.

Then we help them in recruitment, for engineering and sales. We help them with a new round – which is the Series A we invested earlier, and then help them with the exits in terms of introductions. We only do introductions - they know already know how to deal with all that.

We are more of a crowd-sourcing angel community. So we have this call, every six weeks on Tuesday, at 7:00 PST, 16:00 CET, 22:00 Singapore, Beijing, Hong-Kong time, where all the partners are helping the serial entrepreneurs with introductions.

We don't consider that they need help with accounting, we don't consider they need help with legal, we don't consider they need to do an interview to recruit. He or she knows that. So from our point of our view they only need to be accelerated within what they do.

Finally what advice would you give a company looking to raise investment?

Whether you’re a first time or serial entrepreneur I think you need to show something that you've done that's different. Whatever it may be. As a student you bought tickets for Chelsea for example and managed to sell them for a higher price. But what you’re showing is that entrepreneurial nature. You managed to do something that's a little bit different. There's got to be some story around you and your team. Remember that story when you fundraise.

Secondly, find a team that is sufficiently crazy to do things that might be disruptive, but also that will not give up very quickly. We keep failing all the time, everyone does. Every single morning will be hard, but you want a team that won’t give up because the last 24 hours have been really hard.

The worst thing that can happen to a startup is a team change. It's not that you lose a customer. It's not that you don't get funding. Its team change – the founding team.

I have a clear statistics in my business. Intact teams I've always had exit with. While ones which I had problems with, were where some founders have left.

My third bit of advice would be to always focus more on getting financing from the customer, than from the investors. If you have a call and you tell an investor – ‘sorry, I just have to close this deal with a customer, can we talk later’, that's a perfect excuse to tell. You’re letting an investor that he's not top priority. That is critical in fundraising. To build up a deal pipeline of customers, as opposed to investors you're about to close. Because it triggers and accelerates the closing of fundraising.

That’s some great advice to close on. Thank you Dusan.

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Expert Business Advice for Tech Startups http://yhponline.com/2014/12/11/expert-business-advice-for-tech-startups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expert-business-advice-for-tech-startups http://yhponline.com/2014/12/11/expert-business-advice-for-tech-startups/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 01:10:07 +0000 http://yhponline.com/?p=37107 Are you a budding digital entrepreneur or a tech innovator looking to start your own business venture? Broadband Genie is one of the longest running broadband sites in the UK, and thanks to the dedication and hard work of its … Continue reading

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Are you a budding digital entrepreneur or a tech innovator looking to start your own business venture?

Broadband Genie is one of the longest running broadband sites in the UK, and thanks to the dedication and hard work of its team has gone from strength to strength to become one of the leading comparison services.

But when Broadband Genie launched in 2004 the digital landscape was very different. Now startups face an incredibly competitive and rapidly changing environment. In order to find out what it takes to create and grow a successful digital business in 2014, Broadband Genie has gone straight to the source to ask people who have been there and done just that to give us their business insights and advice.

Below we have insights from Wyatt Cavalier, the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Honest Coffees, a startup that sells single origin, specialty grade and Fairtrade coffee online.

Honest Coffees

What made you decide to start your business?

I'd spent several years working in banking (basically helping other banks make more money) and I wanted to do something more meaningful, something I'd be proud of fifty years from now. So I, along with my co-founder and wife, created a company that was basically the opposite of a giant bank. It's a company based on transparency, craftsmanship, honesty, quality, and maybe most importantly: treating people well.

Did you experience any difficulties when setting up your business?

Loads! An entrepreneur's job is mostly about learning how to do a million things you'd never thought about before, from minor things like setting up business banking accounts and registering with HMRC, all the way to creating a product people will want and getting the message out in a way that's congruous with your brand values. As an early CEO, your job is chief problem solver, and there's very little glamour to it.

What's the best thing about running a digital business?

It's the meritocracy of it all. It's got so cheap and easy to start a digital business these days, which means anyone with an idea and a tenner can do it. There's so much information out there about how to build a website, how to market it, how to grow your customer base, on and on, that you don't have to be well off or even well connected to make it work. The other side is that it gives a great platform, a megaphone really, to share your (hopefully) incredible product with any and all. No matter where they are in the world, producers of amazing stuff can find a target market.

What advice do you have for others looking to set up a digital business?

It's a long hard slog, and you'll have more bad days than good. Be conservative with your plans (multiply costs and timings x 3 and divide projected income by 3), have a strong support network and take a break if you're getting burnt out. A bedraggled you working 80% of the time at 50% will never compare to a bright and focused you working 60% of the time at 100%.

 

We also have advice from Joshua Davidson, the Managing Director of Night Zookeeper, an educational game that inspires children to create their own characters to live in a magical world.

night zoo keeper

What made you decide to start your business?

I had thought of the idea for Night Zookeeper seven years before we started the business. I thought it was a very exciting and important idea, getting kids to be creative with technology rather than just consuming it and I was amazed that time was passing by and still no one was doing it. It got to the point where I felt that it just had to happen. Importantly I also had close friends around me with skills to start making the business a reality.

Did you experience any difficulties when setting up your business?

We have faced lots of problems. The whole process was a massive learning experience. This was my first go at setting up a company and there was so much to learn. The main problem we had, which I suspect will be the one most commonly faced by people with an idea out there today, was a lack of money and technical expertise. It is very easy to dream big with digital, but if you can't code yourself, short of learning, you will need to find a developer who will share your vision and build the product with you.

What's the best thing about running a digital business?

I think the best thing about setting up a digital business, is the potential for huge scale. It is very exciting when you realise your product has been discovered and used in Osaka, Japan and Fargo, USA. It is also such a new field, the next idea could be the one to really explode your product to the world. NightZookeeper.com is the first website of its kind in the world. Children draw their own magical animals, write stories about them and then collect the work of other children around the world.

What advice do you have for others looking to set up a digital business?

Ask yourself just how much you love your idea. A business takes a huge amount of effort to get started, especially one with a novel concept or with an untested business model. It is incredibly rewarding if you put in the hours but to do that you really have to love what you do. If you demonstrate the long term commitment to make it successful it could be the best decision you ever made in your life. It was for me. Night Zookeeper is my passion and now it has fans around the world. We make children smile everyday. I couldn't ask for more from my career.

We hope you’ve been inspired by the experiences and advice of these two entrepreneurs. No matter what kind of digital venture you want to embark on, take on board the experience and acumen from these tech startup pioneers in order to make your digital dream a reality.

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Small Business Saturday UK – Building a strong economy from the bottom up http://yhponline.com/2014/12/06/small-business-saturday-uk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=small-business-saturday-uk http://yhponline.com/2014/12/06/small-business-saturday-uk/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 13:31:04 +0000 http://yhponline.com/?p=37095 Small Business Saturday UK returns to today, Saturday 5th September. The first Small Business Saturday UK took place on December 7th 2013 and was hugely successful. Small Business Saturday UK was set up to encourage consumer spending in small independent retailers … Continue reading

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Small Business Saturday UK

Small Business Saturday UK returns to today, Saturday 5th September. The first Small Business Saturday UK took place on December 7th 2013 and was hugely successful.

Small Business Saturday UK was set up to encourage consumer spending in small independent retailers in the hope that people will see the benefits and keep it up throughout the year.

I think this point is crucial. It is great to have a day to showcase the hard work that small business owners put in. It can often be very difficult and susceptible to local changes such as a new superstore that can come in and destroy a small business. Small businesses are the foundation of the economy and make a big contribution, ensuring their sustainability and growth is of huge importance.

Chuka Umunna, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary brought the idea to the UK and identified 3 rules to make the Small Business Saturday UK work. Here's what he says they were: 

1. Be non-party political, I got in touch with local authorities and got their backing.
2. Operate from the bottom up, it wouldn't work if it was top-down.
3. Centre on small businesses, although several large businesses support it and are involved, it’s not about the large companies.

There are loads of ways to get involved as a business or a consumer. You can find out more on the Small Business Saturday UK website.

See how the rest of the country is rallying together: #SmallBusinessSaturday

 

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Is the Hong Kong startup scene the real deal? http://yhponline.com/2014/12/06/hong-kong-startup-scene/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hong-kong-startup-scene http://yhponline.com/2014/12/06/hong-kong-startup-scene/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 12:11:44 +0000 http://yhponline.com/?p=37078 Hong Kong played host to the Venture Forum on November 11th as part of startmeup.hk which I was lucky enough to attend. The week was designed to showcase the Hong Kong startup scene as a vibrant hub for startups to set up … Continue reading

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StartmeupHK Venture Forum 2014

Hong Kong played host to the Venture Forum on November 11th as part of startmeup.hk which I was lucky enough to attend. The week was designed to showcase the Hong Kong startup scene as a vibrant hub for startups to set up and grow from.

One that I think it achieved. Despite being in its relative infancy, the Hong Kong startup scene has seen an impressive level of interest and ability to attract some big names from abroad. Dave McClure even made an appearance via video at the Startups HK event held at one of KPMGs sparkling local offices.

Hosted by Casey Lau and Gene Soo we took a look at how the Hong Kong startup scene was established and grew into the vibrant community it is today.

Hong Kong Startup Scene Founders

Despite the positives, the Hong Kong startup scene is still early in its life cycle. As an ecosystem it seems to be lacking the mentorship of those who've been there and done it before.

One of the big successes so far have been 9Gag. Ray Chan one of the founders was the star of the show at the Venture Forum main event, but was sadly missed at further events during the week and seems to be rather elusive from what I was told.

Hong Kong Startup Scene Success Stories

Success stories will come and hopefully the founders will give back to the ecosystem like David Zhu of Divide who sold his company to Google. He was at multiple events through the week and was an intriguing speaker at the Startup Grind Hong Kong hosted by Joshua Steimle.

Startup Grind Hong Kong Divide

As part of the week I was invited by InvestHK to visit a few of the many co working spaces and speak with local organisations and people who are all collaborating to boost the Hong Kong startup scene. I spoke with Director-General of InvestHK, Simon Galpin who mentioned that SME's make up 90% of all the companies in Hong Kong. They have the pedigree but can they provide the environment to help more of these become large multinational companies? Only time will tell, but they seem to be on the right track.

InvestHK have been set up to provide support and local guidance to startups setting up and expanding in Hong Kong. With local knowledge and connections, they are available as a very useful free resource.

InvestHK

Local incubators and accelerators are still developing and the support to help with actual growth is still in its infancy in comparison to other startup hubs around the world. If they progress at the same rate as the past 5 years then no doubt they will have the backbone to support an influx of startups and outside support & investment.

The city itself is relatively expensive, but that's no different to London for example; and with an abundance of co working spaces (I think 45 at last count) desk space can be found for an affordable price and within a short commute to Central. I'm reliably informed that the price of accommodation drops dramatically just a few Metro stops away from the centre of the city.

It's a place which us well suited for expats with a multi cultural population and plenty of bars and cuisines to suit all. I certainly came away believing I could easily make the transition from London. Oh and did I mention the food is amazing!

Constant Tedder (a fellow Englishman) moved to Hong Kong after selling his stake in his games studio company Jagex. He set up Hive one of the local co working spaces which despite the explosion in co working spaces in Hong Kong, has survived and thrived. Constant put this down to location (which is limited and difficult to negotiate with landlords) and building a community and vibrant yet homely workspace. Hive has excelled in the past couple years and are now looking at further expansion beyond Hong Kong into the rest of Asia as the startup scene's in this part of the world evolve. Co working spaces such as the Hive can be an easy way for early stage startups coming over from abroad to integrate into the community and build those all important connections.

The Hive Hong Kong

With a growth in local investors and VC deals taking place or seems finding funding is also becoming easier. External funding is growing slowly, and with the number of HNI's (never seen so many Ferrari's and Tesla's) in Hong Kong, incentivising this audience to invest in growth stage startups could be a welcome boost to the ecosystem.

If you're looking for a hub to expand or launch into the Asian market then Hong Kong is definitely a location you should be considering as your base.

Feel free to contact me if you're looking to set up in the Hong Kong Startup scene. I'd be happy to make an intro to InvestHK.

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Interview: Kirsty Ranger, IdeaSquares – Making ideas happen http://yhponline.com/2014/11/30/kirsty-ranger-ideasquares/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kirsty-ranger-ideasquares http://yhponline.com/2014/11/30/kirsty-ranger-ideasquares/#comments Sun, 30 Nov 2014 16:35:54 +0000 http://yhponline.com/?p=37058 Kirsty Ranger - IdeaSquares Today we talk with Kirsty Ranger who had an idea and made it happen. She's now helping others with the same. We all have business ideas. Lots of people even give their business ideas a go. However … Continue reading

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Kirsty Ranger - IdeaSquares

Today we talk with Kirsty Ranger who had an idea and made it happen. She's now helping others with the same.

We all have business ideas. Lots of people even give their business ideas a go. However many don't often get critical neutral feedback, the most helpful kind of feedback. So what if you could get your ideas out in front of the world? Share what help you need, put yourself in front of potential investors or new hires. Well now you can do that thanks to Kirsty Ranger and her business IdeaSquares. Here's her story:

Kirsty Ranger IdeaSquares

Can you give me a bit of background to yourself?

Originally from the North West of England, I travelled (did 2 ski seasons, one in NZ one in Switzerland), spent 10 months working in Australia before coming home to study Psychology at UWE in Bristol. I had a brief career in psychological therapies and research before deciding to do something more exciting!

What is IdeaSquares?

IdeaSquares is a virtual space for business ideas. Whether a business idea is at the very beginning, or is ready for investment, ideas on IdeaSquares are instantly open to votes, support and feedback from the crowd. Often the first step to perusing an idea means to network. Build a network of supporters and receive feedback from as many sources as possible. We’re sourcing the support of major funding partners, incubators, accelerators and startup supporters. We’re now working with ideas to help them to become ‘investment ready’ and are referring businesses to funding partners.

For funding partners, the fact that we’re working with businesses to prepare great investment proposals means that if they are coming from us, the business proposition will be well presented and clear. We’re improving the quality of business propositions that land in the inboxes of investors and we’re increasing the chances of businesses getting heard. Funding partners are happy to support us in our quest to improve the quality of the business propositions that are put forward to them.

How did the idea for IdeaSquares come about?

Shows like Dragons Den, where people pitch ideas for funding on TV have encouraged entrepreneurs to broadcast/share their ideas. By doing that, even if they get a ‘no’ from the dragons, it’s usually a useful experience. I thought it was interesting that people are less reluctant to share their business ideas these days. I think the internet especially, has encouraged more openness and collaboration between entrepreneurs. I thought, what if there was somewhere online that the journey of perusing a business idea could begin. We live in a hyper-connected world and the path to entrepreneurship has never been more accessible so it made sense to me to allow people to submit their ideas online. We’ve now had over 1200 ideas submitted to the site.

What’s the business model?

We offer additional promotion for ideas, by featuring you in our newsletter, on our home page and shouting about you via social media. This does well (roughly 10% of businesses choose to pay for the additional promotion). We also receive referral fees from funding partners If they invest in an IdeaSquare.

How did you initially fund the idea?

With my own money and a small non-equity crowd fund I built an MVP. I then took this to Webstart Bristol and was accepted onto their first incubator program along with 9 other Bristol based startups. I received a small investment, 10 weeks of support and housing and excellent mentorship. I turned 20 or so ideas into 350 ideas in this time. I then raised a small Seedrs round in May. Since then, we’ve reached over 1200 ideas, have secured major funding partners for the ideas on the site to be referred to, both in the UK and internationally, and have prepared to scale internationally. We very recently raised a further round on Seedrs to aid scaling our model, reaching 100% of our funding target in just 7 days, we are now overfunding for last minute investments! So don’t miss out.

What is that funding for?

This funding is simply to scale. We’ve made new hires, identified key partners, engaged in cross marketing efforts with international partners and are ready to begin referring internationally. 80% of ideas to the site come from outside of the UK, so it only makes sense to do this. We aim to have at least 5000 ideas submitted to the site within a further 6 months, from all over the world.

What do you think was key to you successfully raising on Seedrs?

The key to the success of a successful raise on Seedrs is in the planning. You could have the best idea in the world, but if it is poorly executed on Seedrs, it will likely fail on Seedrs. You need to make sure your video tells a clear story in a short space of time whilst giving a good, general overview. You need a good marketing strategy. You need to have a network of supporters to seed the first 30% of your round before you can rely on the Seedrs community to invest. To ‘crowdfund’ you need to be able to bring in the crowd!

Where do you see the future of IdeaSquares?

I would love for IdeaSquares to continue to become strong brand that is well known for supporting and providing opportunities for entrepreneurs and their ideas, all over the world. I think we’re working really hard to try and make a difference to entrepreneurs and open up opportunities in the early stages of an ideas’ journey. This is often the hardest time to be heard! We’re working with key partners and seem to be so well supported in what we’re trying to achieve. If we can even support 1 company from Idea to grown up, funded business that is creating new jobs and opportunities, I’ll be happy! Although the vision is obviously to do this for far more than 1!

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

The biggest challenge was right at the beginning. Getting people to listen to my crazy idea about a website with squares full of ideas! Luckily Webstart Bristol loved it. As I said, this early stage is the most challenging time. Overcoming this challenge only re-enforces that what we’re doing with IdeaSquares Is useful!

How did you overcome it?

Talking to as many people as possible. Networking, sharing the idea, asking for help, asking for money, just putting everything into this. If anyone thinks being an entrepreneur and having your ideas heard is easy, it isn’t!  You have to work so hard, be persistent, confident, consistent and lose a lot of sleep. But it’s so much fun. When it’s yours, something you’ve done and worked really hard for, when someone says ‘hey this is awesome’ it feels so rewarding.

What has put the biggest smile on your face since starting?

Two occasions come to mind. Once when the first square was submitted and once when someone first asked if they could pay to be in our newsletter. In the grand scheme of things those were small milestones, but they were the most significant to me.

 

As Kirsty mentioned IdeaSquares are still raising a round on Seedrs. You can invest anything from £10 and own your share in IdeaSquares. Invest in IdeaSquares here.

 

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