GAPGAS: The Art Of Getting Referrals For Your Business

Monday’s are for learning, and here at Hipsters, Hackers & Hustlers, as always, we try our bestest to give our entrepreneurs the tools, the contacts and the opportunities to make hay not only when the sun is shining, but when the skies are grey and things may be looking a little bleak. So when Monday is here – Never fear! Grey skies or blue, HHH is here for you ; )

Before we commence our review of Monday’s fandabidosi “Got a Problem? -> Get a Solution!” (where startup founders have their problems crowd-solved by our amazing audience of HHH specialists) event, big shout out for our next speed-pitching event in June and keep coming to our site for the latest news about “ScreamPitch”, “Don’t Fuck me Fund me”, and the big one – my new accelerator in the Carribean!

Our keynote speaker on Monday Scott Cundill knows better than most the problems entrepreneurs’ can face setting up and running their own businesses – in fact he even wrote a book about it – “How Not To Start And Run Your Own Business” – it was even printed upside down just to remind us that even the simplest of things can become a recurrent nightmare when your money and your future is riding on it!

Scott has also recorded his own TedTalk and written for national newspapers in his native South Africa about how to harness the power of marketing and create waa-aay above average referrals, but to understand what really stokes the flames of his passion you have to go all the way to China. After Cundill befriended a Shaolin monk who had arrived in South Africa with few contacts and even fewer words of English, the monk taught Cundill a new string to his bow; martial arts. Together with his son Scott travelled to China with his new friend, met a grandmaster, and won an international Kung-fu medal at a famous tournament.
The Kung-fu, he told us on Monday night, did wonders for his self confidence and self esteem, but also had a transformative effect in his business. Call it zen (and the art of motorcycle maintenance?), call it a renewed sense of purpose, it led Cundill to put together a series of instructional courses to help others achieve their business goals. You can find them on Scott’s website.
In martial arts, Cundill told us, the older you are, the better you are, and in business, the sooner you start learning and mimicking his tried and tested strategies, the better things will work out for you. It’s all about the mental side; it’s about coolly doing the opposite to what you have been taught to do and above all it’s about being relaxed – and soft. Not soft as in weak, but as in responsive, sympathetic, and adaptable.
“Let your business grow by communicating well”, says Cundill, and on the technical side, grow your database, and – use email! Still (lost count of how many times I have written this but doesn’t make it any less true) the most effective form of marketing in terms of response; better than Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat – probably combined.
So don’t waste your valuable time trying to make a piece of marketing material “go viral”. Chances are it never will. Don’t try to climb the North Face of the Eiger when you can take cable car! Keep your email marketing professional, treat your business referrals and referrers with honour and respect, and keep it personal. There’s no substitute for zen and hard work ; )

So without further ado let’s recap on the startups that took the stage on Monday night to vent their frustrations and seek help from the HHH community. And why not join us next time – if you dare!

Andra from Cluj in Romania made our first startup SOS call of the evening and as ever there was a full complement of HHH entrepreneurs / advice dispensers there to help out. You guys! I just can’t… (wipes away tears of gratitude)…

Andra is in London for one week canvassing opinion on how her company,, a games developer with more than 35m weekly users that makes over 200 games per year, can counteract falling CPM advertiser rates. The business is attracting just half the advertising revenues it was once able to command – how can they arrest the slide and turn their ad-revenue fortunes around?

First question was a good’un – from one of the founders of data driven consultancy Quantified Solutions. Are you suffering from what everybody is suffering from; the“adblockalypse”? Adblockers are making it harder and harder for advertisers to display their messages to the online community, who are, consciously or otherwise, shunning them right now. “There’s nothing we can do about it”, Andra worried. It’s true that right now advertisers have little answer to adblockers, other than trying to block them through the courts, but there are one or two options the intrepid entrepreneur can try, apparently…

Firstly, try incentivising the viewing of an ad – if you’re in the mobile games industry, for example, offer someone extra gaming tokens or a game related reward (extra life, level pass?) if they sit and watch your 30 second ad. Thomas, HHH regular and currently developing something truly game changing in this space (help donate to your chosen charity by watching ads) agreed. Others suggested switching to affiliate marketing, whilst Scott’s advice, similar to Thomas’ was to “align yourself with a cause”. It makes the whole ad-viewing experience more palatable.

Next up! Nathan is a consultant for his own equity crowdfunding business, Assemble Advisory, helping any business or entrepreneur looking to raise between £500k-£2m. “What kind of questions do crowdfunders normally want answers to?”, he wanted to know.

One of the most commonly asked questions, it turns out, concerns when to get the lawyers involved? Too early, and you risk paying for unnecessary goods and services that are disproportionate to what you are trying to achieve; a quick, hassle free fundraise. Too late and you may find you have been caught out by red tape or claims made against you.
Another question; how transparent are the fees that crowdfunding sites charge? This one got the crowd pretty pumped – some complained that crowdfunding sites pass charges on to both the companies doing the raise and those investing. Others felt commission structures meant that the platforms became naturally biased towards the fortunes of the companies on their platforms, which might see them promote an inferior product simply because the superior version was raising on another platform.
Other questions? Which platforms are sector specific, and which provide more transparency around pre-committed money, how much was raised before the product or service launched their campaign?!  Food for thought, Nathan.


Have you tried diluting your cocktails a bit recently? Hangovers are not the entrepreneur’s friend!

Have you tried diluting your cocktails a bit recently? Hangovers are not the entrepreneur’s friend!

Laura at Club Soda (and your soon to be new presenter of HHH nights now that I am making a dash for the Caribbean and launching my own desert island accelerator!) runs courses for people who think they may be drinking too much. Not alcoholics or people in need of medical help, but those who just want to cut down their monthly I take of alcohol. What Laura wanted to know was; how do you sell a service into a niche marketplace?

Journals and Health publications were one option that was floated, although, thanks to her connections with the Guardian newspaper, regularly appearing on their women’s hour podcasts, this was an area Laura already had covered.
Put on an event? Done, and done! 0% beer tasting anyone?
Can you ask friends and families to anonymously refer people who might benefit from a course like this one? An audience member asked. This could, if done tactfully, see a big rise in numbers, not to mention help any number of despairing partners / loved ones.
Finally, trumpet the benefits, Laura was told. Not drinking can save you £200 pcm. Or how about launching a “no drink” day. Dry Tuesday? Sober Saturday? That’s enough ideas! (Ed).


A French student in London for a few days’ study at Google Campus is in the process of launching a service he plans to call “Artify”. It’s a chance for lower income families to display classic or the latest pieces of art from galleries around the world by having them downloaded digitally, through Wi-Fi, onto a blank canvas. Genius! So “who is the typical end user?” our French friend wanted to know.

First question; what size is the frame (about the size of a big screen telly)?
First answer: charge as high a fee as you can command while you work on the technology. “It must have a sense of exclusivity!” Came another audience member’s response. Hang on, we thought this was targeted at low income families?
The biggest problem, or rather question to answer, was around how to charge for the product. Monthly subscription? Fee up front? It’s early days for “Artify” but judging by the audience’s enthusiastic response we’ll be hearing from this startup again.

Adriana was another young, French entrepreneur visiting London as part of the most recent, Laval(near Paris)-based cohort of the Idenergie Accelerator. When her dog was recently ill and she was in an unfamiliar location, she had panicked, unable to find a vet who ticked the right boxes for her; the right experience, the right price, even, if you are in a foreign country, the right language.

Pet-tech is a high growth sector; witness, Toothpick and other platforms that have arisen as we turn to disruptive tech to look after man’s best friend and other furry friends. But Adriana was asking if there is really a sustainable market for a digital vets platform and how to drum up interest amongst the general public.
Best piece of advice for a young, thrusting entrepreneur? According to the audience; read Eric Reis’ book The Lean Startup! It sounded to us like Adriana, if she moves quickly, has the world at her feet. The market is there and by being on an accelerator she is definitely in the right place. Get reading and the rest should follow!

Phew, 2 more to end with!

Shikhar has started a business, and wanted to target students with an International Baccalaureate. Where should he be looking?

Try Lanterna, it offers free Baccalaureate courses – someone helpfully pointed out.

But Shikhar’s business had another problem – a good one, if you like – someone is interested in acquiring it. What should Shikhar think about that?

If you’re a serial entrepreneur you’ll take the cash on offer and use it to fund your next business, was one typically forthright answer (you are a lovely bunch, but ambitious too, and honestly, we’re OK with that ; ) ). Alternatively, do your due diligence, find out who your acquirer is and make an informed decision. Or go for glory! Ultimately the choice is all yours Shikhar – isn’t that why you became an entrepreneur in the first place?

Finally, finally, FINALLY!

I’m taking charge of a major revamp to the Hipsters, Hackers and Hustlers website and on Monday I needed your advice, especially around the jobs board. So tell me, tell me, tell me!

And you tell me you did! Make it curated, always give a salary guide, let people advertise that they are recruiting before they attend an event – let people know about Glassdoor, and make it so we can login with LinkedIn and don’t have to re-write our CVs every time we apply for a new job. Oh please, make it so!

And so, it will be made so – according to your wishes –  and that is the word of the Lord, your Rob!

Just kidding – not about the jobs part ; )

Keep on hustlin’


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