Life lessons from a Startup Entrepreneur

By Deepak Pathak

The Road to Success – Day 2

So today was a Sunday but I needed to make sure I did something which takes me one step closer to my goals.

Today I:

  1. Listened to a Spanish Audio lesson (part of my learning Spanish ambition)
  2. I wrote down some tasks and planned the week at work for Wewana:Play

A bit of a lazy Sunday but I did make some progress towards my goals.

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The Road to Success Day 1

The road to success is not one giant leap, but rather a number of smaller steps to reach the greater goal. No Olympic athlete simply woke up one day and broke a record, they trained consistently for years making small steps and gains to reach their ultimate goal. No business was ever built in a day.

Even Flappy Bird the international hit game which supposedly took three hours to make still needed years of technical knowledge, design skills (which he actually worked from a previous game of his) and knowledge about how to promote it. The fact that it actually took 9 months of Flappy Bird being on the app store before he found success further strengthened the case that consistent effort is the key.

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Don’t mask your insecurity as practicality – The Jim Carrey Speech that will change your life

Jim Carrey makes a very unexpected speech at the Maharishi University, USA. In this second second clip he will teach you something so vitally important it will change you forever, especially those of us who always feel we are ‘building for our future’ so we can finally do the things we really want to do.

His advice is simply… people fail, lose their jobs and livelihoods doing the things they never liked, but the things they thought were practical to live life. They lose their jobs doing ‘the right thing’. That is a huge reminder that no matter how much we feel we are doing the right thing in our heads, it is always a risk as nothing is guaranteed and we still have every chance of failing… even in a secure job.

But, it’s what he said next that got me. If you can fail doing the ‘right thing’ then why not take a chance and do the thing you love….’

WOW. Just think about it. There is not such thing as the ‘right thing’ any more when it comes to work and you have every chance of failing so stop wasting your time and energy on something which is equally risky and go do what you love. Stop waiting for the time when you will be able to do what you love and go do it now. Dare to dream, dare to be different what everyone ‘expects’ of you, dare to do what you love.

 

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Is working on Sunday BAD?

For an entrepreneur, the thin line between work and social life is nothing but a blur.

 

It’s very easy to get caught up in the hype that working all hours is good for your business, it might be, but you also have to make sure that working all hours is good for you and your personal life.

It’s what we call a work life balance.

 

So I ask myself whilst sitting here in the atrium of my office building… is working on Sunday bad?

 

Is working on sunday bad?

Well I’m not sure. I do not try to do it very often as I like to rest but sometimes when I do not achieve what I want during the week, then work does extend into the weekend. So for today, I do not consider working on Sunday as bad.

I’m not working super hard to be honest (come on, I’m writing this blog post!) but I am ticking off a number of things on my ‘to do’ list for the week (such as writing a post for this blog!). Anything that helps me start the week in productive and happier environment is good news to me. It means I do not have to worry about all the things I missed doing last week and I can concentrate on the new week with a totally clear head.

I also had a bad week last week due to contracting the flu, so even when I was in the office, not a lot was getting done. So I hope this working on Sunday is a exception that will not become the norm.

To put my work life balance in perspective, my Monday evening did start off with a cocktail party which was perhaps the key factor influencing my contraction of the flu virus. When I work hard, I party hard and when I’ve started by partying hard, I make sure I work just as hard, even if that means missing my weekend. So this case, the answer to ‘is working on Sunday Bad?’ , is a clear NO!

To all those out there also working this Sunday, you are not alone! Plenty of successful entrepreneurs will put in the hours when no one else wants too. I hope you make it productive and hope you also make up for it in your personal life too.

Work hard, play harder.

Right, an hour of solid work and then I’m off to the gym.

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Where Has Dee Gone?!

Howdy Folks!

I’ve not gone anywhere, I’m still here!

It’s been a long few months with some fantastic things happening in my world of business. I ventured into the world of startups which led to me:

  • Creating an idea
  • Accidentally finding people who wanted to fund my projects
  • Suddenly going from being a one man team to having a team of six…
  • Attending conferences with the elite from my Industry in San Francisco, Sweden, Germany, the UK and many more to come…
  • Won a number of awards for the business model and idea..

and we are only just getting started!

I’m going to be writing much more about it this week…

 

Just wanted to give you all a heads up that I’m back with way more knowledge to share then I could have imagined!

Read from you soon!

Dee

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Oxygen Acceleration Day 2

So it’s the morning after the night before and a number of us arrive at 9am as expected for a meeting in the main room, however we are surprised to see a note stating that the meeting is moved till 10am. We head over toward our office space to see a number of other teams are already there alongside Simon, so no idea why the time changes, but that is business I guess. You have to be fluid and adaptable.

The meeting was called primarily to introduce us all to UKTI – UK Trade and Investment who are helping to subsidise a trip to San Francisco for all the teams. It will be a tech mission perhaps introducing us to potential investors or partners and all part financed by Her Majesties treasures, or UK’s people’s tax if your prefer.

It all sounds pretty cool and it’s interesting to know that financing is available to British companies for multiple reasons, if they wish to spread they business abroad. A valuable resource which I would never have known existed.

Lunch today was all on ourselves alongside the afternoons activities. This gave us a chance to work on a number of tasks which we had not finished from the morning. one of which is our desperate search for a technical developer. We urgently need a Javascript and HTML wizard to come join us and make an exciting and really cool product. One of our approaches has been to contact universities to see if we can attract any current unemployed graduates or post graduates.

Surprisingly there is a vast difference between the helpfulness of careers centres from various universities and it has very little correlation to the universities general rating. A number of universes are really excited to hear of placements and proactively help you post details of the vacancy along side sending it out directly to the graduates. Many also has schemes to encourage us to take their grads but subsidising wages. Fantastic responses that were not only encouraging but also motivating.

However, on the other side of the scale we have universities who’s careers departments never seem to pick up the phone, or when they do, they are really not interested in proactively helping their unemployed grads to get jobs. Some even told me they have no idea which grads are currently employed or not. Odd, given that many other universities seem to know exactly who is unemployed  and thus who to target with job offers.

We have a number of meetings set up this week, which may help us find our developer, so fingered crossed we find the right person quickly. If you reading out there know someone who has a good grasp of Javascript and HTML then get in touch asap! There is money and even possible equity in the company on the table!

The rest of the afternoon we spent working on improving our slide deck and finishing off some analysis of market segments we will target.

Highs:  Being able to do some real work and feeling the vibe of a buzzing office full of energetic entrepreneurs.

Lows:   The public transport journey, waiting 30 minutes for a bus that is supposed to run every 7 minute is frustrating. I may have to invest in a cheap car just to save me a lot of time.

Lessons learned:  Things change, you just got to learn to adapt and make the best of it.

 

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Oxygen Accelerator – Beginning of an exciting new journey

Oxygen sign on screenOctober 1st 2012 marked a very special day in my calendar. It marked the first day on Oxygen Accelerator, an investor funded startup incubator, which brings startups together into one place and bombards them with resources over an intensive 13 weeks to really accelerate their growth.

After much interrogation by mentors and investors, we passed two interviews to be shortlisted for the program and found out at the beginning of September that we had been accepted!

I say we, as our company is a two man team made up of myself, Dee of course,  and a user experience professional by the name of Mez. We happened to meet at a launch48 event which I previously wrote about here, where I pitched the idea for my business and somehow ended up with a viable business proposition and proof of concept after just 48 hours.

This business has grown since then and has since been accepted on Entrepreneurs For The Future program alongside being featured as a success story on the Launch48 website.

Well, all the build up finally came to a head on Monday October 1st as some 20 odd entrepreneurs embarked on their first day at on the Oxygen Accelerator.

I don;t know why but for some reason I was very restless during Sunday night. I rarely get over excited, and it’s even rarer for me to get insomnia, however there was something about Sunday night which was strange. On Sunday night I somehow found myself being super productive and tidying things that I had left in a state for weeks. I ironed all my shirts for the week ahead and set my alarm before watching an episode of Sopranos and then falling asleep. By 6am I was wide awake and just could not get back to sleep. I wasn’t tired and I didn’t feel stressed but my body simply did not want to stay in bed so I got up and prepared myself for a day that would mark the start of an incredible 13 weeks ahead.

We all started arriving at Birmingham Science Park, a place that has been my office for the last few months so already a home to me. Other teams has travelled from various places such as Oxford, London and Scotland to be there, with one team even relocating from Italy.

The day started with a formal introduction by Simon Jenner (who has looked after us before on E4F) and Mark Hales, our lead investor.

Of course there were the basics of what to expect, which revolved around a lot of hard work and a real push to build a great product and business within the 13 weeks. We were told stories of teams in previous years who would work all night and sleep a few hours at their desks with the underlying tone being that we should not be scared to do the same if needed. Well I’m on the accelerator to build a business, my social life can suffer for 13 weeks if it helps me build a valuable business.

What stuck me at this point was the lack of women. There is not a single woman on any of the teams for this years accelerator. This is sad for me, as I feel a female presence can help bring some balance to the office and can even make teams function better. However it is what it is, and the class of 2012 is currently completely male exclusive.

We were then all made to pitch our businesses to each other so that we could all get to know the others in the room whilst also critiquing each other pitches. I’m not at liberty to discuss any other team whilst on the accelerator so my roundup will always focus on my business alone.

I’ve pitched my business multiple times along with my co-founder Mez. I usually do the introduction, explaining the problem, our solution, the market, our target and our plans, whilst Mez always handles a live demo, so we stuck with the same format and repeated the presentation that has been well received in the past. I think it went down pretty well, but we would find out properly in the afternoon when we were given feedback.

After the presentation we were all treated to some pizzas before an afternoon packed with meeting with Lawyers and presentation feedback from multiple parties.

Sadie is P.A. (personal assistant) to Oxygen staff and thus has a lot of contact with us. I already have a good relationship with her after being the same office space for numerous weeks, so she kindly put us first with all the important people of the day. We were first to hit the lawyers, and even though we started 15 minutes earlier than our scheduled meeting time we still managed to overrun by another 15 minutes, with Simon having to step in and tell the Lawyers to wrap up or everyone else would be off sync with timing!

The meeting with lawyers revolved around the clarification of any issues with formal paperwork we would be asked to sign. Since the lawyers acted on behalf of Oxygen they could not and would not answer anything outside their clients interest in the contract.

The next meeting was with Simon and Mark where they gave us feedback on our presentation. We thought we had done pretty well until we reached two pages of improvements that went into my notebook! This journey may be a serious bursting of some ego, but at least it’s all in an effort to make us better. We have to pitch our business again next week to all our mentors, so I guess it’s important to not just be good, but to knock the ball right out of the park.

A few more feedback sessions followed where we met with different teams and critiqued each others presentations. A bit pointless really, because if we are to trust Mark and Simon, then their feedback is all we really needed to hear at this stage rather than perhaps being confused by what other people have to say. Thankfully however both of the other teams we were scheduled to obtain feedback from, gave us very positive comments. Shows, that experienced eyes can see holes where others perhaps can not.

For some pointless reason Mez and myself, who both live in Birmingham decided to join the others on a quick half hour walking tour of surrounding facilities! It was actually a nice way to talk to a few of the others, but we gained zero knowledge from the points of interest!

Panaramic view of Birmingham at nightWe then all made our way to the incredible Marco Pierre White restaurant lounge at the top of one of the tallest buildings in Birmingham (it was about 6.30pm by the time we made it there). It’s an exclusive and rather expensive venue where we had a special area booked out. Free drinks and food flowed whilst we enjoyed the fabulous views and some relaxing company. I did have to think back to the morning, where one of the first things we were told was how hard we would be working, yet here we were enjoying the high life… but I guess not all things start as they mean to go on.

What was really interesting to observe, was how different groups seems to already be forming. Of course, teams in general stuck together, but you could see people aligning themselves with various others. 20 people is far to great a number to expect us all to act as one groups, but I didn’t expect to see the divides so early on. Groups don’t really bother me as I’m very independent however I always like to observe what is going on around me. I think some of these guys will be in for some shocks in the coming weeks, a lot of alpha male characters with no female team members too add a different vibe or way of thinking. Let’s see how this develops.

Sometime around 11pm (almost 5 hours from when we arrived), various groups of people began stumbling home, thinking it might be a good idea to get some sleep before day 2 of Oxygen accelerator.

 

Best Part of the day:      The event at Marco Pierre White’s Lounge Bar

Downer of the day:     Still not having sorted out contractual issues.

Lessons learnt:         No matter how good we think we are at something, experienced eyes are always going to be able to suggest improvements. After giving me 2 pages of improvements for my presentation I was told, great pitch.. yeah right… but next week it damn well will be.

 

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The bloggers guide to great headlines

The bloggers guide to LinkBait generationCreating a good headline is an important part of blogging. It helps with SEO through keyword usage and it help with reader retention as it entices your visitors to read more.

You have less than three seconds to catch a reader’s attention so a great headline really is essential to gain people’s longer term attention. Once you catch them for those 3 seconds they give you an extra 30 seconds, which is where you article comes into play, but without a good title, it’s unlikely too many people will make it as far.

Well here is a great tool to help you come up with great title ideas within minutes. It’s a tool I’ve used to create the title for this article and it’s totally free!

Let me introduce you to the:

Link Bait Generation Tool

 

Link Bait simply refers to certain content on your site that entices a reader to not only stay longer (great content encourages greater time spend on your site) but also encourages them to link to your site too in order to share you great content with others.

For bloggers, a major area of LinkBait creation is the of course your headline and associated article. You can spend hours coming up with interesting yet useful headline and topic ideas, or you can simply use a great free tool such as LinkBait Generation to come up with amazing options. You simply type in your main word and it will generate ideas for you.

Here are some examples.

In the first test I simply used the word blogging to come up with great article and headline ideas:

  • 6 bits of Blogging advice that will land you in prison
  • 9 crazy ways that Blogging is infiltrating pop culture
  • 7 things about Blogging that science can’t explain
  • 8 ways Blogging can be used as a weapon
  • The top 7 most disturbing videos of all time about Blogging
  • 10 ways Blogging can help you get a date
  • 6 incredible Blogging hacks

All these great title and topic ideas were generated in under a minute!

Lets try something a little different and use the keyword ‘marketers’

  • 5 life lessons learned from marketers
  • Why marketers sucks: myth vs. reality
  • 8 unbelievable ways marketers has been used by the military
  • 7 bizarre ways marketers can kill you suddenly
  • If marketers had a love child with Satan it would look like this
  • Why marketers should scare you more than Osama Bin Laden
  • 10 surprising ways marketers will be different in 20 years

Ok, not every suggestion there was great, but there are a number of cool ideas within them that I am seriously considering writing about. Not bad for a few minutes work.

So if you are stuck for topic ideas, then give LinkBait generator a try and see if it can get your creative juices flowing again.

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What the Olympics Reminds Us about being Successful

With the London 2012 Olympics drawing to a close, it’s an opportune moment to look back and reflect upon what these athletes can remind us about being successful. As entrepreneurs we often forget many of the other elements that help you become successful, relying instead on our own ability alone. Unfortunately as you will see in this article, that alone is rarely enough.

Here are some great lessons for entrepreneurs from the London 2012 Olympics:

 

1) Competition makes you stronger.

I was watching some highlights of the marathon this morning and a famous athlete of past olympics emphasised just how important the inter-country rivalry is. Sometimes they trained harder simply because they thought the other country was better, meaning they pushed harder and faster to ensure their country stayed on top. This somewhat friendly rivalry helped them to stay focused in their training and to constantly be improving.

As entrepreneurs we often think what we are doing is good enough. We should instead, benchmark ourselves against the best out there and make sure we not only keep on par with competitors but also work hard to stay a few steps ahead. Competition is good for you, embrace it.

 

2) Nobody makes it alone

Nobody at the Olympics makes it alone and this was emphasised brilliantly yesterday by Bolt after the 4 x 100m final. He took the time to thank the universities that had gone out of their way to give him access to their facilities so he could train hard.

Even when training he is not alone. He has coaches and technicians alongside a medical team that analyse his performance and help make constant changes which help him become even faster.

Every athlete is the same. You can only go so far on your own, whilst expert coaching can perhaps take you much much further then you imagine.

As entrepreneurs we should also remember that whilst we can learn many things on our own, surrounding yourself by good coaches and advice is really the key to reaching your full potential.

 

3) It takes hours and hours of practice. 

None of these guys woke up one day and simply became great a sport, they all tried, failed, improved and worked long and hard to get where they are. Of course we can say most of them do not have a day job, but they still spent many years of their lives training very hard (mostly thought their teens when the vast majority of us were getting up late and busy having fun).

They dedicated their lives to their sports and practiced incredible hard. Victoria Pendleton’s huge relief that she no longer has to train after giving up cycling should show just how hard these guys train to be at the peak of their sports.

We as entrepreneurs often think we are working hard, but are we really? Find a way to measure your progress and your successes so that you to can become a champion at what you do by practicing hard every day.

 

4) If you want to be the best then you have to look after your mind and body. 

The way you move and the way you think really affects how well you do in a sport. Some athletes even believe mental strength to be one of the most important factors as it is what defines you in the years of training leading up to the Olympics.

Mental strength and physical strength are two components of a healthy person. Entrepreneurs all to often neglect both mental exercise alongside physical exercise.

Use London 2012 as a catalyst to help you begin developing both. Take the time to improve yourself mentally by surrounding yourself with successful people and reading more widely on topics that may help you. Take time to partake in regular physical activity also so your body remains fits and active. As an entrepreneur it will be not only immensely rewarding to be healthy but also hugely beneficial to your productivity and general well-being.

 

5) The Olympic village is a heck of a lot of fun.

Understandable really, here are thousands of young people who work really hard almost every day practicing their sport. They live by bedtime curfews, strict diets and strenuous physical routines.

So when all is said and done, they let their hair down and party like it’s the end of the world.

As entrepreneurs we also need to remember to let ourselves go at times too. Working hard is great for periods of time, but it is also important to release that energy too and just completely forget about your routines for a few days.

If you are the type of entrepreneur that works every hour you are awake, that does not remember what a weekend is and is losing touch with civilisation, then set yourself a number of weeks where you are always to work hard following by a period of time where you completely unwind, let go and party hard.

You will feel better for it, just like the athletes have proven.

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