GaP->GaS #10: Branding special: Are you smarter than a 12 year old? Maybe not this one!

Never leave an HHH event early! As good as Tuesday evening was, from the amazing talk on branding; “You’re brands a Blockbuster (and you’re the hero)” given by our keynote speaker Mark Ellis of Cherry Creative Agency, to the brave and wonderful founders who came on stage to share their most intimate thoughts; sleepless nights spent worrying about the state of their companies brands; with hundreds of HHH’ers (they love you just like we do folks), the highlight of the evening for me was the final act. The one we only just had time for.

It’s the first time ever in my recollection a founder’s mum has taken the stage on their behalf, but given this founder was just 12 years old maybe it wasn’t so surprising. What was surprising was that this particular 12 year old founder has already won investment for their start-up and is joining an accelerator next month!

Obviously our audience, in true HHH’er fashion got stuck right into the problem and imparted some truly valuable and intelligent guidance, and some pretty direct advice too! Mark at Cherry was so impressed he put a meeting in the diary live on stage! These kinds of amazing and inspiring scenarios only seem to crop up at HHH events, and that, IMHO, is what makes our events so special. Read on for more details.

But first lets quickly bring you up to date with our latest news: our team is growing, and I want to thank Laura, Radu, Faby and Tommaso for making my presenting job so easy thanks to all the amazing behind the scenes work they do. We’re actually hiring right now, so if you think you have something to offer the world of start-ups (and if you’re reading this then trust me, you do) then get in touch whatever your skill set, we’re sure we can find a use for you (and you for us).

Our membership is growing too, we’re up to just over 20,000 intrepid, inquiring and fearless Hipsters, Hackers and Hustlers, the largest start-up community in the UK, if not Europe! To celebrate, and because your success is our success we’re laying on one of the most talked about and biggest start-up parties of the year, TECHtoberfest! An afternoon and a long evening of German-themed fun, featuring demos, performers, an Oompah band, speakers and oodles of beer and sauerkraut! If you’d like to exhibit there are still some spaces available, it’s a great chance to promote your start-up, and there are still some tickets left if you just want to network and party, but hurry…they’re selling out fast!

Let me quickly pay tribute to our amazing sponsors; printing legends MOO (use voucher code HHH15 at checkout for 15% off their services); calls, messaging and picture sharing app Viber (ask us about becoming a forum editor); co-working kings We-Work, SnapZap the live broadcast Twitter app, Event Ninja and Glisser, the live audience Q&A app we use at our events. All are well worth a look; for a full list of all our sponsors, check out the Meetup page.

So, it’s time to talk about branding and share some of your startup pain! One man who knows all about helping SME’s share their passion with the world is Mark Ellis, Director of Cherry, the creative consultancy he has run for 9 years.

In his keynote Mark spoke about how the old ways brands used to communicate with their customers are gradually fading away. One-way communication is no longer acceptable, you have to do more than simply tell your audience you are there. A two-way dialogue with your customers is the least they will expect; consider this quote: “now almost anything can be made anywhere, identity and storytelling is everything” or this one: “a brand is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world”.

Mark argues that today founders should try to be their brand’s hero, the champion behind the blockbuster with an ambition not just to create and sell a product but to change the world in the process of doing so. Here’s three of Mark’s top 7 tips to get your marketing message just right (if you want to know the rest you’ll have to contact him directly 😉 and then I promise it’s straight to the start-up therapy!

1. Define your mission!
To quote Simon Sinek, who’s Ted talk is a must view, most people know what their brand does, some people know how they do it, but the real value of any brand lies in why they do it! If you understand at a deep level why you do what you do, then you are halfway down the path to success already, and further along than most people ever get. Cherry staff call if the “core story”

2. Set the stage:
Research your target market, understand what their expectations are and alongside your “core story”, add your “brand values”, and finally establish the “look and feel” of your brand and find your tone of voice.

3. Kill the Hard Sell!
Treat your audience with respect, don’t ram your product down their throats but find useful and insightful content that informs them and makes them want to choose to partner with you. That, ladies and gentleman, is how to be a H-H-Hero!

Over to you guys: here are the evening’s highlights:

Got a Problem? -> Get a Solution!

Gary at Careerevolution has built a platform to enable users to make a career transition quickly; his target market is employees at corporates, tired of the 9-5 lifestyle, keen to make the transition to freelancing. So where does his marketing begin? Should he be negative (your job is rubbish, do something else!), or positive (have you considered the advantages of freelancing?)?

The guys at Cherry gave their view; begin with a big, positive statement, then go to specifics. Changing jobs can be tough and guiding people around the site will be an exercise in handholding at first. Lead with inspiration and patience and watch your clients slowly warm to their task.

Over to the floor: always be positive, said one audience member, but “remember how much people loathe recruiters!” said another: “It’s a hard sell, so be transparent”. A third suggested the site’s landing page (still being built) needed work; 4 boxes across the page explaining exactly what the platform can do is what’s needed; and, since Gary has great presenting skills, how about an explainer video? Final suggestion? “Remember that human behaviour is driven by fear and greed”. Make of that what you will ; )


Next up, Charles, creator of, an app that lets you buy drinks in a bar with your smartphone, from your table, and fetch them when they’re ready (and paid for). Charles had a unique problem. If the app is to be successful, uptake at time of release must be widespread or the idea will die. How to create interest and excitement pre-release i.e. with no product to demo?

Tricky, said the guys at Cherry; it’s hard to reach a critical mass with no product! Create a media buzz and focus on sign-ups perhaps…Tabbre have already sponsored 2 local breweries.

And the audience? Go viral! Find something that captures the imagination and gets people excited about the product to follow. Win some clients by putting sales first and marketing second, the audience advised, make sure you have some guaranteed users rather than plenty of interest but nothing concrete. Survey pubs and bars to discover the biggest pain points that bar staff experience, solve them with your app, and they will be pushing it for you to everyone they serve a drink to, was a particularly sage piece of advice, I thought.


Kat and her best friend and business partner are the ultimate children’s party entertainers, but how can they expand their business, Kat’s Whiskers, letting new staff run the parties without diluting the quality (we are the best in the business for sure! Says Kat)

Advice! There was no shortage of it! Our lovely Faby thought freebies and social media was a great way to spread the brand’s message and let prospective employees learn what Kat’s Whiskers are all about. Andrew L advised: be the hub brand, and let your new employees build theirs around you. They might not be able to beat you but they’ll certainly want to join you!

Interview parents and put their testimonials on your site, it  will help people understand what made them choose you and what their experiences were like. Social media is valuable but also try local radio or television, make yourself as visual as possible. Put yourselves out there and take the pain away from stressed parents who just want the best for their kids but are nervous about pulling rabbits out of a hat surrounded their own and their friends kids. Be the best example you can be and your hires will want to maintain the standard you set. (This was a really great session, HHH at its finest!)


Sodaclick founder Ibrahim has built a nifty little app to create and share cool visual messages across social media, but he’s struggling to engage people; “when they understand it, they love it”, says Ibrahim. The solution? It is indeed a great idea, but the site doesn’t make it easy enough to create your first message; it’s not visually engaging enough. A little more effort on the UI and UX and a sprinkle of design know-how and wizardry can transform this start-up’s fortunes.


And finally, it was time for Pat…here to talk about her daughter’s new business, MeMeLife, a fitness and lifestyle app for kids; which makes sense…Pat’s daughter is only 12 years old! But she has investment, she has a place on an accelerator starting next month, and her mother wanted to know; was it too early to bring a marketing agency on board to help boost the brand?

Mark at Cherry’s eyes were lighting up! Sensing an opportunity, he was ready to get Pat and her daughter in the studio to discuss how to move forward and create a strong and lasting brand, a proper “core story”. But as always the audience weren’t shy either. Go big, go for the branding agency! Keep it real, take your time and enjoy the journey. A few audience members had issues with the name, sounds too much like meme, was it too late to change it? Finally, Pat asked, “what we’re the chances of a marketing agency working pro bono?” Even with a story as good as this one, Pat, that may be wishful thinking. But who knows; stranger things have (and this we now know for sure) have happened!


It’s great to learn about the amazing experiences and journeys our members go through, and even better that we get to be a part of those stories, offer advice and guidance and make amazing things happen! Honestly, if I didn’t have to call these meet-ups to an end I think we would all be there debating and discussing all night. You’re a passionate lot…ok then one more start-up before we call it a night!
And that, ladies and gentleman, is my final word. Eugh, I feel like Jerry Springer all of a sudden saying that ; )


More mayhem next month with speed pitching and another GaP->GaS, and I almost forgot…check out our startup ski trip, and the incubator we’re launching in the Caribbean. And don’t forget your TECHTOBERFEST ticket!


Keep on hustlin’



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