Those magic words “I think I can help you, let’s talk after” are what our Got a Problem? Get a Solution! evenings are all about! And based on the recent event, if you’re prepared to step up to the plate, you may get a little more than you bargained for; we always felt we were on to something with this format, so when we witnessed a trader pitch a designer from out of nowhere, we had to give ourselves just a little pat on the back! You don’t see that kind of thing at your average Meetup.com event, which is how we at HHH and our members know we’re a little bit special!
The therapists chair
The GaP?->GaS! format is simple; anyone can step on stage and open up for 2 minutes about issues or problems they are experiencing with their start-up. Then it’s up to the audience, an amazingly knowledgeable and eclectic mix of our beloved Hipsters, Hackers and Hustlers members, to try to help them solve their problem.
Let’s set some ground rules
There are a few ground rules: no answering back to the floor, no promoting your product, no demoing, and no pitching (we have a completely different event for that)! Other than that it’s a pretty open forum, and what’s really exciting about it is that you never know which direction it is going to go in, as you will see!
Last night was GaP?->GaS’s fifth iteration; we were a little taken aback when we arrived half an hour before the start to discover an already half full Google Campus sat, waiting patiently for the evening to begin. GaP! -> GaS! is serious business!
Who stepped up to find a solution?
So first up last night was Jack, founder of a business that solves the problem of collecting missed parcel deliveries from your “local” post office, which is usually out of the way, crazy busy, and never open!
Jack’s business partners with local newsagents who agree to hold parcels on their neighbours’ behalf until they can arrange a convenient time to pick it up. His problem? Marketing. His site is not getting the hits he thought it would, and the flyering he’s done is not having any effect. His business is currently hyperlocal, so he needs to find a way to spread the word and get the locals engaged.
The audience were a little shy at first, so our wonderful presenter Adam kicked things off; Facebook provides some of the most highly targeted marketing around and it can be tailored to target different demographics, areas, times of day, you name it, they can help you find your target audience. A second suggestion (he doesn’t do things by halves) followed: find some customers prepared to give the service a testimonial, because “nobody sells your product better than somebody else!”
Suddenly the audience found their voice! Incentivise your customers; tell them you are a new business and explain that they are helping you develop your new product. That way you will get them using the service as well as talking about it. Go to the post office and talk to anyone you find queuing up to collect their parcel. Ask them what they think of your idea and offer them a free trial. Put a leaflet stand in your local newsagent! All great ideas, and good to start the evening with a satisfied start-up founder.
There were too many founder stories to talk about them all here, (so you’d best come along to the next one!), but I can give you some of the highlights, including our curious tale of the guy who built an app and forgot about it for 5 years; by the time he’d finished explaining his story he was being pitched live on stage! More about that in a bit.
Founder Andy was having problems selling his mock exam app into schools and to parents and students. What kind of models should he be looking at? The general consensus was that the education market in the UK is a tough sell. Luckily Eamonn, a founder who was up on stage later asking how to pitch his start-up to hackers (come to our speed pitching nights!) had been there and done it and recommended releasing a freemium version of the product. “It.Just.Works”; once the user is familiar with your product they won’t want to cancel or switch. Start-up consultant Andrew suggested adopting the Zoo Keeper day / night model. One free version to use at school, and an alternative paid for version students can carry on using at home.
Andy from Green’s Printers knows everything there is to know about selling print services but nothing about marketing tech, so should he push his new techie product on social media, hire a consultant, or bring it in house. Plenty of answers here; Andrew advised avoiding a disconnect between the two services by integrating them, and bringing it in house! Eamonn’s advice: “I ran an agency for 4 years, don’t use one!” Another audience member recommended the book “the 19 channels of marketing”. £3.99 on Amazon. Where else can you go for obscure knowledge like that! Seriously, GaP?->GaS! makes you think about your business in a whole different light. Where else can you find a room full of experts giving you their time and advice…for free!
So let’s talk about Russell; Russell is the guy who built an Android currency conversion app, forgot all about it, and 5 years later discovered it had had 1.5 million downloads! A few days later he was called by a Forex trading company; they wanted access to his user base, and offered him a pretty sweet cash deal. Russell wanted to know; do I sell?
The audience loved it! Get a lawyer fast! Take the money! Create an affiliate platform of your own, start advertising! Russell wasn’t keen on an advertising model, not wanting to frighten existing users away by pestering them with ads. More advice: string the buyers out, try and squeeze them for as high a price as you can get, but accept that, ultimately, you are going to sell. The trouble is, Russell pointed out, I’m dealing with them through an intermediary.
All of a sudden, a voice from the audience pipes up; “hey Russell, I work for Forex company, erm, sounds like you have a pretty interesting product there. Don’t do anything just yet, let’s have a chat afterwards?” Put HHH members together, people, and watch as business gets done! It’s great to have confirmation that HHH members are always up for a deal!
In that spirit, we even got on “the couch” ourselves. As I’m sure you’ve heard we’ve taken control of a 40,000 sq. ft. co-working space, complete with 2 pirate ships, and one of the hottest new accelerators in the UK, MassChallenge, from Boston, who are leasing 120 desks for the next 5 years. Spaces are going quick,come and see for yourselves, we’ll shout you a coffee and show you around. We wanted to know what was needed to make this the best, as well as the biggest co-working space in the UK? Now we know: provide an integrated database of useful start-up tailored products and services (like our amazing sponsors, Waterfront solicitors?), introduce sponsored spaces where founders can congregate and discuss problems with different sector specialists, and finally (and we like this one a lot) a “pitch me pizza” machine; the better your pitch, the more slices of pizza you get. The guy who “pitched” us this had clearly spent way too much time dreaming about this product, but then there is very little HHH wouldn’t do for good pizza, so maybe, just maybe…
So that was my summary of last night’s event; a cerebral affair it was, but with all the usual laughs and thrills and spills. Big thanks to our sponsors Microsoft and also to Waterfront Solicitors, the specialists who now offer free consulting clinics at our events, check out these details! You can also download their white paper here and for just £299 they will complete a full Intellectual Property audit for your business. Trust me, that’s cheap.
Thanks for reading, I’m off to check the iTunes store and see if they’re still stocking that angry birds rip-off app I built in the early noughties. Wonder if I can get Mind Candy interested…?