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London Startup Talks #3: Women in the Blockchain

Hey! Here another chapter about women in startups and their thoughts about tech and women in tech. From the sharing economy startup Social Belly to BOTs, our journey is involving more tech: we’re talking about Women in Blockchain!

Why talking about Women in Blockchain?

The blockchain technology is evolving and becoming even more attractive and there are more and more startups trying to build a business in the field. Why shouldn’t women be involved? As one of the most important leaders in the sector said, women, step in!

women in blockchain stats

Stats by womenforblockchain.com

The interview with Quynh and Neha, Blockchain London

In this article, we’ll learn everything we can about the Women in Blockchain, including technology and opportunities from two young women working in the field: Quynh Tran-Thanh and Neha Murarka.
I met those amazing girls at one of Techbees’ meetup in London during an amazing night dedicated to Blockchain, of course.
Quynh is a Quant Developer at CryptoCompare, a data analytics firm for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Neha is the co-founder of Smoogs.io a startup which aims to provide affordable content streaming solutions via Bitcoins.

1) When did you understand you wanted to be in tech?

techbees meetup women in blockchain

Quynh Tran-Thanh, Quant developer

Quynh: I realised I wanted to be in tech after my first hackathon experience around 2 years ago with a group of friends. Back then I was completely non-technical, I joined the hackathon as a project manager, but since we had to finish our prototype app in 48 hours, I ended up jumping in as a front end developer, doing basic HTML and CSS coding.

Neha: It was multiple things that finally led me to end up in tech. I first used a computer when I was 6 years old. My father had bought one from the US (I’m from India). I didn’t know what to expect when I first clicked on that button; would there be fireworks on the screen? Would an orchestra start the moment? But none of that happened of course. But what happened seemed so natural and ever since then using and being around a computer was the most natural thing to me.
I was always more inclined towards the sciences and maths through school. My school offered limited computer science courses but I found all of them way more interesting than my other classes. When I reached college I wasn’t sure what to pick. I landed up selecting a degree of Physics, Maths and Statistics; there was no Computer Science as an option at the time. But within a year, I was bored ad even though I liked the Maths field, I wanted to do something more interesting with it. I got an opportunity to go to the USA to study Computer Science and it just felt… natural… again 🙂

2) Did someone help to achieve it? If yes, how big was his/her contribution?

Quynh: There are a lot of people that helped me along the way. Especially my team at my previous job, they just threw a C++ for beginners book at me when I told them I wanted to learn to program and gave me an opportunity to work on software projects (I was working as a quant analyst in banking). After 1 year, I quit that job and joined CryptoCompare as a developer.

Neha: I guess my father buying the computer had a lot to do with it. Because of his interest in the field, I landed up spending more time than my peers on a computer. If he hadn’t bought one all those years ago… I’m not sure I would have been so comfortable with it.

3) Why do you think Blockchain is the next big thing in tech?

neha smoogs women in blockchain

Neha Murarka, co-Founder of Smoogs.io, who won two awards at Digital Catapult’s Blockchain Pitch Off

Quynh: Blockchain is very interesting, as it has the potential to fundamentally change status quo. The main idea is to decentralise organisations, industries and networks. Just think about Google, Facebook and all the services or products we are using on a daily basis: they are mostly owned and controlled by a single company or entity. Blockchain promises a democracy of organisations by creating trust in an untrusted environment. I think the idea itself is already revolutionary, I hope that the technology will gain momentum soon.

Neha: I think it really depends on the area you are looking at. Personally, I think it has given the ability to add transparency in a lot of processes thereby reducing the chances of corruption in the system. Something so simple implies so much – people can be more in control of their money in banks, identity theft is virtually impossible, government ids can be used globally, middlemen are not required.
And when looking at the most successful application of the blockchain -being used as a currency like bitcoin- there are enormous implications for how money is managed across borders, the effects on financial inclusion, being able to go down to smaller denominations, financial services for the unbanked (approx. 2 billion worldwide)… Basically making money into a digital asset can changes lives for a lot of people.

4)What are you looking to achieve at CryptoCompare, Quynh? And how did you come up with the idea for Smoogs, Neha?

Quynh: CryptoCompare is a data analytics firm for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. We provide insight and data on trading of cryptocurrencies. Through this company, I am looking to educate people about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. I know bitcoin can sound like a scam at first, but I would like people to understand the underlying technology, the many advantages of it (such as micropayments and financial inclusion in the third world countries). I believe that the more people work on this technology, the safer it becomes.

Neha: My co-founder Duncan had been involved with cryptocurrencies since the early ’90s. And believe it or not, he had actually written a research paper in ’94, that talked about micropayments and the consumption of digital media through that. Finally, when bitcoin came around, there was a cryptocurrency that could fulfil his ‘prophecy’, so to speak, with a practical and real possibility of creating real micropayments.

5) Who’s inspiring you?

Quynh: I don’t have a single role model, but I take the best part of everyone I admire: The loyalty and fairness of my boyfriend, the patience and love of my family.

Neha: this might be very cliche but inspiration is all around. I learn something new from my tech team every day! This is something very important to understand about tech: it’s constantly changing and it’s impossible for one person to be completely up to date with the technology out there today.
So firstly, never be discouraged that you don’t know something but take that as inspiration to learn out of it–make it an advantage–and from that comes being inspired by the tech and people around you.

6) Best advice to give to an 18-years old girl looking to find/build her future path? 

Quynh: Don’t be scared. Make mistakes. Whenever you feel stuck in life, just read, read and read!!
Try different things but only quit if you achieved something. (I give these pieces of advice to everyone regardless of gender or age).

Neha: Honestly, being a developer is just so much fun. You can do so many different things with it… create an algorithm for perfectly fitting jeans, recommendation algorithms for your fashion tastes, identify art pieces with a computer programme, create a nurse robot for a hospital, a video game that helps people recover from heart strokes, create apps for a device that talks to your house to adjust the lights, help farmers get a credit score based on the colour of their crops… make a piece of technology do what you want it. It’s just fun and it can be applied in any field that you enjoy, may it be fashion, art, medicine, governance, media, robotics or anything else!

techbees event women in blockchain

Techbees’ Meetup [yeah, I’m the last one on the left)

Thanks for sharing your amazing experience girls and good luck, I’m sure you’re doing great!

ps: if you want to learn more about Blockchain and Bitcoins you should follow Techbees, the community born to engage everyone around those fields. And much more!

Startups

Are you a food delivery startup? Start pivoting NOW

food delivery startup london alessiacamera

When you’re working in a startup you need to be ready to pivot every time you see that something in your industry is changing. And I think there are a lot of things happening in this industry which is not guaranteeing a bright and sustainable future.
So, I think if you’re working in a food delivery startup you should run away the fastest you can, as a lot of things are happening giving an idea of where it’s leading to.

Anatomy of a food delivery startup

anatomy-of-a-food-startup-alessiacameraEveryone needs to eat 3 times a day, you might think food delivery is a great business opportunity to be in. You need to pick the category and decide on your business model.

It is a huge space in terms of consumer demand,” says Luciana Lixandru, an investor who helped lead venture capitalist company Accel’s investment in Deliveroo. “People eat three times a day.
“It is one of these markets, like the transportation market, that is so large and it is expanding because it is more affordable now,” she adds, before adding that no new food delivery start-up should be discounted. “It is very early days in Europe. I don’t think you can underestimate anyone.

The food delivery category includes:

  • Meal/restaurant delivery (e.g., Deliveroo, Delivery Hero, FoodPanda)
  • Meal kits (e.g., HelloFresh, Blue Apron)
  • Grocery delivery (e.g., Instacart, Postmates, Door to Door Organics)

In terms of business model you need to plan out on:

  • Decide on your delivery location;
  • Plan your operational needs;
  • Get in touch with eateries within a set radius;
  • Vehicles and delivery employees.

Work on the product, be passionate about food and be ready to charge 15-25% restaurants for your service. It does sound easy, doesn’t it?

Marketing campaigns for a food delivery startup

Apart from the brand, users need to understand the advantage of using the app.
You need to give users an advantage in terms of time and access and make easy to use the app.
It’s about to leverage technology to unlock value in the cost structure and innovate to pull ahead.
A marketing plan should not only be geared up for building a brand, but you have to invest time, energy and money on the channels which get you immediate traffic and revenue.

Goals to achieve:

  1. new users, 
  2. repeat sales , 
  3. recommendation/referrals. 

Strategies and ideas for your digital marketing plan:

  • paid social campaigns, contests, social/time-limited unique discounts.
  • use notifications and discounts to push users to use the app again through newsletters, events-related campaigns or a loyalty program.
  • bulk orders, online to offline social venues (i.e. give promotions for specific FB groups or online communities) or charity-related events.

Funding and deals in the food delivery industry

According to a recent research by CB Insight, after a few peaks in 2014 (+570% year-over-year) and 2015 (+184%), when it hit nearly $5.5 billion across 259 deals, this year things have changed A LOT.
The category’s three most well-funded companies were responsible for 2015′s five largest deals: three deals to the Chinese Ele.me raised over $2.2B, the German Delivery Hero raised $563M, and the Chinese Womai raised $220M.

Larger competitors include the UK’s Just Eat, which debuted on the London Stock Exchange in 2014 and Deliveroo, which recently picked $275m in a new funding round.

In 2016 only $609M across 23 deals in the first quarter of 2016. A fell of more than 90% in the first quarter. What’s going on?

food delivery startup-annual-2016-alessiacamera-CBinsight

On the other way, companies that deliver meal kits directly to consumers are gaining traction in the UK. According to a report from CardlyticsHelloFresh and Gousto are growing by nearly 65% in the first half of 2016, compared with the same period in 2015.

food-kit-startup-london-todd-quackenbush

Pic by Todd Quackenbush

A few food delivery startups have already shut down: do you want to be the next?

Pronto, a London-founded healthy food delivery startup founded in 2014, has shut down in September after running out of money to sustain itself. After having raised $1.6 million (£1.2 million) last August and £800,000 on crowdfunding platform Seedrs in June, it needed more capital in order to compete in this crowded market.
Before was the turn of Take Eat Easy, a Belgium-founded food delivery startup backed by Rocket Internet, which shut down for the same reason earlier in June.
So, why investors are not really keen to pour more money into this category?

London is still the most important city for startups in Europe. It’s the city where you can see the trends and the reactions before every other country in Europe.
This year Uber and Amazon have jumped into the food delivery industry with UberEATS and Amazon Restaurants. For Amazon, it’s just an extension of the grocery delivery service Amazon Fresh.
It’s no doubt that venture capitalists are not optimistic anymore about funding food delivery startups. Amazon and Uber’s advantages are not just related to brand and marketing.
The efficiency in logistics, the huge database of satisfied users and the fact that they might not be oriented at quick economic returns. Which is why if you’re trying to get your space in the crowded food delivery startup sector, you can’t. Better if you start pivoting now!
And not only  if you’re based in London. UberEATS is going global, planning to open in Amsterdam, Brussels, Dubai, Johannesburg and Stockholm before the end of the year.
The market is not for the little Davids anymore: Foodpanda has been acquired by Delivery Hero to synchronise the efforts in terms of customer acquisition and retention.
Competition is hard and it’s in our city already: better if you get ready.

Startups

Best No-bullshit Startup Events in London – November 2016

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Startup Event London November 2016

Welcome November! Well, still a few days before kicking off, but not in my mind. I like to plan things ahead!
Something I haven’t included in my previous month list: this week you cannot miss the Harambe live talk by Vincent Dignan at We Work! It’s going to be hilarious as ever. And I know what I’m talking about as we worked together last year, building Secret Sauce Conference. So, if you want to know how to make your idea going viral, you need to go not only to learn but to have a lot of fun, too. Promised!

Here the monthly roundup of the best no-bullshit startup events London (November 2016) you can’t miss!

Thu 1 November: Building a rich & helpful customer persona at Calthorpe Project [free] to learn about online and offline research methods and find out about your future customers.

Wed 2 November: SVC2UK – Masterclasses at Google Campus [free] to hear from a line-up of inspirational speakers from Silicon Valley addressing topics taking over the world of technology

Thu 10 November: Fireside w/ Alex Depledge, founder@Hassle.com at Runway East [£5.80] to learn everything about her journey of building Hassle.com and the future of the sharing economy

Mon 14 November: The Five Stages of Business Growth – Part 1: Idea to Reality at Google Campus [free] to learn on how taking the first steps while building your business. Unfortunately, this is sold out but maybe you can try to squeeze in? 🙂

Wed 16 November: Seedrs entrepreneur lunch & learn: crowdfunding campaign video workshop at Seedrs HQ [free] to learn how to create a clear and concise video for your crowdfunding campaign

Thu 24 November: London.AI meetup, one of the best meetups about AI in London. But be careful, you have to send an application to be able to attend it!

I think for this November that’s it..you know, November is the worst month of the year, everyone’s thinking of spending evenings on the sofa with a blanket, no surprises there’s not much around 🙂
But..as usual, if you’re going to one of those hit me up!

best-no-bullshit-startups-events-london november2016

Startups Women in Startups

London Startup Talks #2: How to become a Bot Builder

Hey everyone!

It’s been quite a long time since my first ever London Startup Talk with the founder of Social Belly, and that happened for a couple of reasons: I’ve been experimenting a lot with my blog and I’ve decided to reserve this space to introduce amazing women entrepreneurs in tech.
Women are less represented in tech and without striking amazing results, we just need to do more to het the same recognition as men. And that’s no fair, at all. So, after having won the hackathon organised by Makers Academy and having seen I’m not the only experiencing it, I’ve decided to support and spread the word about amazing women doing super tech projects.

Why the London Startup Talks Series?

During this year of blogging and consultancy for startups, I realised that, even if women are engaged in amazing projects, they’re less exposed than men and that’s not fair. We’re working twice as much, why can’t we have the same treatment? We’re always involved in diversity and equality topics or easily involved in the fashion industry or blogging contests, but why can’t we just talk about tech or engineering? Is it that strange asking a woman about her love for tech?
As I’m in love with tech, I’ve decided to interview the most amazing women I know and not only because we share the same love, but also to give them exposure and highlight what they do.
And of course to give you a bit of insight of what I feel about tech. 🙂

So, a few months ago I went to a Chatbot Meetup and together with the amazing organiser Kriti Sharma (recently featured on BBC for Ada Lovelace Day) I met with Anindita from Gupshup, a Bot Builder Platform, and Susana Duran, Director of Mobile Development at Sage.
I was curious to hear from them, learning about their experience, concerns and ideas about Bots and the next technologies, that’s why I decided to ask them a few questions.
And today I’m very happy to share this interview with all of you!

The interview with Anindita and Susana: become a BOT builder!

1) When did you understand you wanted to be in tech?

women-startups-london-san-francisco-growing-tech-education

Pic by Ian Schneider

Anindita: It was a natural progression. I always wanted to do something that would help people interact. Communicate better and faster. Technology is evolving so rapidly that every day is a new with a million promises.

Susana: My parents bought me my first computer when I was 10 years old and that was a long time ago. I liked it and I took some programming lessons by that time although it wasn’t very usual. Time went by and I started my Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science and after that a master degree.

2) Did someone help you achieving it? If yes, how big was his/her contribution?

Anindita: My mentor, boss and guide, the CEO of Gupshup.io. Mr. Beerud Sheth. He changed my perspective. Sometimes it is important to be futuristic yet elegantly simple.

Susana: My parents. Although they would have preferred other traditional careers, they provided all the support I needed since I was very young.

3) Why do you think Bots are the next big thing in tech?

Anindita: It is a once in a decade paradigm shift. It is similar to the web or the app wave. It will change the way people use technology to communicate. It will be a bigger and more powerful medium than anything we have seen before.

Susana: Mobile is the future and immediate and quick actions are the key. Mobile apps are also trying to follow the trail of bots with solutions like Google with Android Instant Apps but now bots provide the best and most complete solution for any platform.

Bots represent a once-in-a-decade paradigm shift. It is similar to the web or the app wave. It will change the way people use technology to communicate. It will be a bigger and more powerful medium than anything we have seen before.

women-using-computer-bots-technology-pic-by-fabian-irsara

Pic by Fabian Irsara

4) Do you think there are more or fewer obstacles being Women in Tech?

Anindita: Depends. I think technology is a great leveller. It does not look at gender. It looks at innovation, usability and reach. If you have the grit and willingness to change and adapt to new things and to serve people, there is no stopping you.

Susana: Although everybody says there is no difference, women need to demonstrate more than men and by default are considered less valid for tech issues.

5) How do you think we can improve a more gender equality in STEM?

Anindita: Ability, humility and hard work. The world is changing. Gender biases will have to go away if there is talent.

Susana: Family is still a matter that is considered a woman duty, as well as all tech stuff is a man thing. Equality will be achieved when both things can be imagined for anyone.

6) Who’s inspiring you?

Anindita: My mentor, boss and guide, the CEO of Gupshup.io. Mr. Beerud Sheth

Susana:  There are lots of entrepreneurs and people who deserve being our inspiration but my inspiration mainly comes from my own overcoming instinct and my willing of continuous evolution. My family give me their support and even when I am frustrated and I think that this is too much they are always there to hug me and make me smile again.

Family is still a matter that is considered a woman duty, as well as all tech stuff is a man thing. Equality will be achieved when both things can be imagined for anyone.

7) The best advice to give to an 18-years old girl looking to find/build her future path

Anindita
:  it is important to be focused, but it is equally important to have fun. Great ideas come from a free mind. Changing these ideas to reality come with a disciplined self. All the best!

Susana: Do what will make you happy as you will probably spend the most part of your time and life on it. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s not going to be easy just try it.

 

giphy-girls-feeling-stupid

Conclusion

..and now we need to follow their advice, girls: do what makes you happy and remember to step outside your comfort zone! And if you feeling stupid, just do it anyway, it won’t be that stupid if it’s really what you want to do!

How are you feeling, girls?
Say hello on Twitter!

How are you feeling boys?
Does it sound like a bunch of stupid words? Read why we need your help

london startup talks -series-how-to-become-a-bot-builder women in startups

Startups

Best No-bullshit Startup Events in London – October 2016

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Startup Events London October 2016

Morning, all! Do you know that morning when you get up full of energy, especially cause you haven’t slept well, but your mind’s spinning with ideas and things you want to do? This is exactly what happened today. Well, to be honest, I’m a bit worried, as it’s Monday, but ..it’s fine, I’ll take it as it is.

Today I’m glad to introduce you to this first post of a collection of events where I want to put together the Best Startup Events in London, so startup conferences, workshops and events related to startups, innovation and tech stuff!
Normally I’m just doing secretly, during lunch breaks as you know, they’re going to be full quite soon.
But since now, to celebrate my summer as a freelancer, I’ll be sharing the list with you as  “happiness is real when shared”.  I met so many amazing people this summer that I really need to celebrate my coming back to London.
Well, as I want to build a new list every month, I’ll do a lot of research to look for the best non-bullshit startup events, but if you know them and you think they should be included, just reach out.
No more excuses of not knowing what to do..now you’ll know!

Hope you like my curated list of no bullshit Startup events London October 2016

Tue 27th September: Storytelling with data  at Google Campus [free]
To learn what makes engaging insight and how to get from data overload to insight.
I think this could super interesting, as it’s matching a very important topic startups normally are not very much considering. 

Tue 27th September: Let’s solve your startup marketing problems…50 Key Growth Hacks To Scale Your Business at We Work Moorgate [free]
Vincent Dignan is sharing his best tricks to scale your business to success.
If you’re never been to one of his talks, you MUST go. And not only ’cause I co-founded Secret Sauce! 😀

Thurs 6th October: Capital Accelerate and Scale Tech Superstars Launch Event at Huckletree Shoreditch [free]
The launch will be an excuse to run the infamous tech conferences with Huckletree providing two stages and a mentor space to run over 20 talks and panels by experts from Capital Enterprise membership, some leading London start-ups and from the leading companies including Google who will be flying their leading experts on Micro-Services and Tensorflow

Tues 11th October: Our bizarre future of Bitcoins, Blockchains and Smart Contracts at SAF Building, Imperial College London [Non-member £12,Staff £5, Student £3]
Talk by Professor William Knottenbelt, (Director of Imperial College Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering) which explores the potential for Bitcoins, Blockchains and Smart Contracts to revolutionise the way we live, work and do business.
Don’t know if it will be too theoretical as it’s organised by a University, but I think still very interesting to learn more about bitcoins and blockchains. 

Tues 4th October: Public Speaking for Startups: how to deliver presentations that inspire action at Hackney Community College [£19-29]
Learn how to deliver memorable presentations that inspire action in this workshop led by Anis Qizilbash, founder of Mindful Sales Training.
Pitching is VERY important you need to learn as much as you can about it!

Tues 4th October: Growing An Engaged Community Around Your Startup at Camden Collective  [£11]
2-hour interactive workshop to learn how to build a community from scratch by Culture Agency Collective.
Again startups are normally just focused on growth hacking and acquisitions but they don’t know anything about creating relationships with their customers. And you know retention is key, don’t ya?

Tues 11th October: Startup Sales Bootcamp:7 steps to sell without being salesy at Google Campus [free]
Learn how to approach customers and get them to buy from you without being that typically pushy sales person by Anis Qizilbash, founder of Mindful Sales Training
I’m always very keen to learn more about sales, as it’s very much connected to Marketing but it’s not the same things even if you won’t agree with me. And selling your project is also very important!

Fri 21st October: Start-ups for Africa: tech for development showcase at Google Campus [free]
This is a chance to get to know other people in London who are looking to use their entrepreneurial skills for the good of Africa
I’m very interested in tech for good and I’m wondering whether this event could be helpful understanding how technology can help improving people’s life around the world. I will tell you about it!

Thu 27th October: #TechLawHub Meet Up at Google Campus [free]
Receive practical advice about legal, accounting and marketing issues, with one-to-one Q&A sessions after the presentations.
I think everyone doesn’t know enough about accounting or legal issues and, if you don’t have a CFO you should definitely attend this workshop!

best-startups-events no bullshit events for startup

So..see you around?
Let me know if you’re coming to one of those events, let’s meet!

 

About me Startups

Giving back to the community: mentoring startups at H-Farm

HFarm-accelerator-startup-italy-serra-dinner-alessiacamera-mentor

Why giving back to your community is important

When 4 years I decided to move to London I wouldn’t have expected that things were changing so fast in Italy and of course, I’m very happy to see how things are different now.
There’s still a lot of work to do, but I am positive. That’s why this summer I decided to spend some time working with the community where my passion for digital was born, having had the opportunity to speak at Web Marketing Festival in Rimini, one of the biggest marketing festival in Italy and mentoring startups H-Farm.

My experience mentoring startups at H-Farm

H-Farm is an amazing project, born in 2005 nearby Venice, to help entrepreneurs launching new initiatives. If you think that nobody at that time, in Italy, was talking about startups or building an environment where digital and technology were the king and the queen, now we can say it was an very thought-out vision. It’s an area where you meet smart and motivated people, where you can “smell” innovation and where everyone is working on personal projects aiming to change the reality we live in, and you know, innovation is contagious.

Hello I'm in @hfarm and there's a tiny little self-driving gardener having fun around #tech #startups #robot #hfarm

A post shared by Alessia Camera (@alessiacamera) on

I learned a lot of things mentoring startups H-Farm!

In two days I’ve talked more than ten hours about tech, projects, marketing and strategy, ending up being exhausted but happy. I arrived in the morning at the railway station in Mestre, picked up by a private driver taking me to the Campus. Jessica was waiting for me and helped me arranging the room for the workshop I wanted to give about customer acquisition strategies. After that, I started immediately with 9 one-to-one meetings with the 9 startups involved in the Wellness and Fashion & Retail accelerator. Talking with people, believing in what they were doing was awesome and I felt privileged to have this chance.

I arrived in the morning at the railway station in Mestre, picked up by a private driver taking me to the Campus. Jessica was waiting for me and helped me arranging the room for the workshop I wanted to give about customer acquisition strategies. After that, I started immediately with 9 one-to-one meetings with the 9 startups involved in the Wellness and Fashion & Retail accelerator. Talking with people, believing in what they were doing was awesome and I felt privileged to have this chance.

I also learned that opportunities are not coming alone, you need to create them, and that being surrounded by amazing people makes easier overpassing difficulties.
Giving back to the community is just an amazing idea I recommend to everyone doing it once in life as you’re really feeling well-helping others on something you’ve already faced. And for once, money is not involved, at all.   

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Which are the startups I mentored at H-farm?

I met with Bernard, from Loyaly, building a personal assistant to help improving relationships customers and brands in the beauty industry, facing the challenge of building the technology and how to position themselves on the marketing reaching big and established brands. I met with Marcus from Fitsapp, an app to make easier for people looking for trainings to get in touch with personal trainers with a tailored program or a one-to-one premium plan, launching soon in Northern Europe. Indigo Recommendations is creating a mobile tool to help retailers maximising the experience they have while in the shop, I had an awesome chat with Gianluca, helping to understand how reach out to their clients. Xensify wants to help small retailers with information and  tools to optimise customers’ inshore experience, I met with Sergio and Giacomo helping them with the marketing strategy. Rob with Roundstay aims to make easier organising and booking trips for people passionate about fitness, we had a good chat about the concept and the overall idea. Fitssi is a social-training app mainly for women, helping them to gather together and share the cost of a personal trainer in a more fun experience: Danny and I talked mainly about branding and business strategy. InteriorBE is a platform to help users in needs of renovating their spaces with a community of interior designers, and I really enjoyed talking with Federica about their marketing and social media strategy. I met with Cristiano from Train Me creating a platform for gyms to coordinate and better support personal trainers from the gym point of view, with whom I talked about marketing and acquisition strategies. And the last one (but just in order of meetings :D) was Adzuki Mobile, a recommendation/referral platform based on images where with Claus and Veronica we talked a lot about the concept and their business strategy.
What else? If I were you I would follow all of them, they’re doing a great job and I wish them good luck for their demo night in October, I hope I can make it.

But H-Farm is not just an accelerator, in 10 days is launching H-Campus, an educational program based on technology and digital for children and youngers from 3 until 26 years old to prepare the new generations to the challenges of the new century. And it will be awesome, because for once, going to school, especially in Italy, will not just mean passively listening to a teacher but work in groups, solve real problems, interact with each other and technology. ‘Cause in this 21st century we can’t just go to school and university, graduated and wait for a job, we need to invent it, never stop learning and be ready to change our path if there’s not what we’re looking for.
And if you’re not much convinced, here a quote from my most favourite author. 

work-job-build-your-future-quote-alessiacamera

ps: many thanks to Luca, Laura & Jessica for having made this happen. 

pss:If you’re a startup and you have an awesome idea for a IoT project you should check the IOT-Fintech acceleration program at H-Farm. You have time until the 3rd of October to apply!

 

Startups

Digital-only banks, currency exchange made easy: the Fintech revolution

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Startups focusing on the problem

If you like travelling like me, you know that it’s painful being abroad and using your card with a lot of non-sense commissions to pay when you want to use your bank card. And you have to pay those bank commissions, simply because you’re using your card abroad, in shops or because you need to withdraw local currency.
Is it fair?

You’re giving your money to banks for free, without earning any interest (you’re lucky if you’ve not to pay to get some additional services). And, if you need that money while you’re on holiday abroad, you have to pay for it. Maybe 30-40 years ago not everyone was interested in using the card abroad, as only a few of us could go abroad on holiday, but now it’s what everyone is doing. Meaning that those banks are earning a lot of money just because of new people’s behaviours and none is really thinking different, segmenting the audience and understanding their needs.
That’s how a big bunch of startups is offering new services in an industry commonly known as Fintech, disrupting the traditional way banks are operating and getting a lot of interest and funds: in the UK more than $5.5 billion (£3.8bn) of investments were made in the fintech industry between July 2015 and January 2016.

Find a specific (fintech) need and create an amazing service

In the brand new world of fintech startups working to satisfy specific needs, providing effective and efficient services for a niche of people a few of them are very very interesting. And I’m glad to share the ones I think are implementing a very good service.
I’ve already talked about Transferwise, allowing people to transfer money between different countries paying just a little fee compared to what you pay to banks (in my last year’s startup roundup). The technology is based on a peer-to-peer system, so if someone wants to convert their pounds to euros, TransferWise’s technology finds someone who wants to transfer money in the opposite direction (euros into pounds)

Join the Fintech revolution!

A brand new part of fintech startups is represented by digital-only banks, which are going to start operating this year, such as Mondo, Tandem, Starling and Atom. But what does digital-only banks mean?
If high street banks have been using digital technologies to help transform various areas of their business, those new banks have decided to go all digital instead, in order to offer a fully integrated mobile experience in which customers use their smartphones or tablets to do everything from opening a new account and making payments to resolving credit-card billing disputes, all without ever setting foot in a physical branch. Without losing time, having to fill out lots of papers or having to pay hidden fees.
Do you think it’s just a cool idea and high street banks will never disappear? Well, according to this McKinsey report, “in the United Kingdom and Western Europe, there is a potential for 40% or more of new deposits to come from digital sales by 2018
And in terms of digital evolution, we’re ready, as you can see from the graph here below.
And you should read this report by the Deutsche Bank, if you’re keen to understand whether we’re ready or not.

The digital revolution in the financial sector - the fintech revolution

But let’s come back to startups providing specific services in a cheaper and more efficient way.
I personally love Revolut allowing you to use your money abroad without incurring in fees.
I love travelling and I don’t really like paying fees just because I’m using my card to withdraw money abroad or because I’m using it to pay in shops. Revolut, working like a digital wallet, allows you to transfer money from your account to your Revolut account through the app and then use it thanks to a physical MasterCard. Once abroad, you can use the card to make your purchases or withdraw money without incurring in any fees. Isn’t it amazing?
The next one I want to try is Nutmeg an online wealth manager helping you to invest money without having to go to a physical bank. When you register you tell the platform how much you want to invest and the risk you want to take before being presented with a portfolio, chosen by the Nutmeg team. No algorithm. Same concept as the Italian MoneyFarm, I should definitely try both.

Then, there are fintech startups helping SMEs to get money with less hassle, faster and cheaper, but they’re a lot. Better if for today I stop there.
Enjoy your August peeeeps!

Digital strategy Startups

Acquisition strategies for startups: 5 tips you should follow

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Acquisition strategies for startups: the whole picture

Well, I have to say that every time I see someone on LinkedIn positioning himself as a Growth Hacker, I have a smile on my face. Talking lately with a lot of entrepreneurs, in fact, it seems that hiring a Growth Hacker is the key element if you’re working to establish a successful and sustainable startup.
I imagine what people may think: “Amazing, this person will solve all of my problems, driving tons of users, with the cheapest CPC ever, my project will be very successful and I’ll become famous“.
Ok, maybe the last bit is too far, especially if you’re an early stage entrepreneur.
But, I bet there are a lot of people with the same feeling.
engine-of-growth-startups-growth-hackerWe’re used to reading startups stories with incredible growth strategies, creative ideas, getting fantastic results in a relatively short amount of timeBut, are those stories giving the whole picture?
I’ve been involved in a few amazing projects, where, even if the acquisition campaigns and the engine of growth start working and you’re getting results, sometimes you need to be careful. It can stop very quickly and your growth can be unsustainable.

Pre-acquisition strategies homework

So, before even planning your user acquisition strategy, here a few steps to consider, plan and implement:

1)Include a referral or in-product growth strategies
Even if we’re living the digital revolution, the majority of products are still been sold thanks to the word of mouth. Of course, there are different ways to encourage people to share information with their friends or family but, first of all, they have to love your product and they have to think it will improve other people’s life. Secondly, if you really want to drive growth, you need to set a quantifiable reward: people will struggle to understand how much is a 20% discount on your product if you haven’t released it yet. Meaning: you won’t get very good results in terms of acquisition.
If your product SUCKS, please, please, please improve it before spending a shit amount on paid, PR or earned media. 

extrinsic-intrinsic-motivation-startup-growth-strategies@alessiacameraAnother point I think it’s very important is planning an in-product growth strategy. Is there a way you can add a feature to your product to push your users using it as much as possible? Try to understand the intrinsic motivation users will have while using your product and try to design it in order to create the habit, without them realizing it. At the end, it’s what Zuckerberg has done and still doing with his product.
[If you want to learn more, you should read Hooked by Nir Eyal, I think it’s brilliant!]

2)Is there a way your product can advertise itself?
Do you remember why Steve Jobs decided to put the Apple logo visible to other people on laptops and mobile phones? It’s a way products can advertise themselves, leveraging visibility and curiosity. Simply by using a product, a customer advertises your product to people around them.
Pretty straight forward isn’t it? Start working on it, you’ll realise it’s more complicated than what you think.

3)Use the ACCORD framework to analyze your product and your potential market.  But, be honest.

accord-model-competitive-advantage-startup-growth-strategy@alessiacameraSo, the first thing you should do as the entrepreneur is list as many things as you possibly can that are the relevant advantages of this product or service that you’re bringing to market over the status quo. The greater your relative advantage is, the greater the potential to realise demand.
I don’t think  I’ll have to explain the Compatibility and Complexity. I also already explained Observability in the previous paragraph. The Risk point: can I adopt your product or service without functional risk, without being socially embarrassed and without a financial risk? And the last one: can the product be consumed or used in a relatively low-cost or small unit?

If in the analysis you thick all the 7 boxes, you have an idea on how quick your demand will spread. But be honest, we all know your product is amazing, but you have to sell it, not just convince people around.

4) Have a budget
With tons of new products and services being released every day you simply can’t bootstrap.
Product Hunt, Techcrunch are still tools very important to raise awareness, but they’re not enough anymore. You need to build a proper plan, experimenting until you find the right channel for your audience.

Customer acquisition is too much important for a lot of people in the company to give it a try, you need to build a plan, try all the channels, find the right one and repeat it. And, if part of this plan can be executed without a proper budget when you maximize all your efforts towards your best channel, you’ll need a bit of money to get results and scale it.

5) Focus on the niche and then expand it
Talking with entrepreneurs, too many times I hear: “I want to expand across Europe” even before having launched the product or service in the UK. What’s the difference between dreams and plans?
I also want to become rich, but unless I have a proper plan and feedback from my customers telling me I’m on the right way, well, this is not a SMART goal.
This is a great story for a PR consultant, but when you’re creating a customer acquisition strategy, the goals you should define or have in mind should be numbers, and, especially at the beginning you should focus on one market, understand your customers’ needs, deliver the product and THEN expand it.

SMART-Goals-startup-growht-plans

That’s it, for the moment.
I’ll be talking about Growth Strategies at the Web Marketing Festival in Italy, on the 8th of July.
If you want to share a “piadina” & some web marketing thoughts, let me know!

Startups

Artificial intelligence: London is the most important hub in the world

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Artificial Intelligence London

Imagine if you could predict people’s behaviour. Even if just for simple tasks like texting (and adding emojis, a brand new only-beta feature) to your chat. Well, now come back to reality as Swiftkey is already doing it. SwiftKey learns from previous SMS messages and output predictions based on currently input text and what it has learned giving you word suggestions following your writing style.
Swiftkey has been funded in 2008 and bought by Microsoft earlier this year. It’s not the first British AI startup bought by a US Tech giant: Google bought Deepmind a couple of years ago, not only with the need of putting his hands on Deepmind’s technology but also to have access to an incredible pool of talents.

London.AI-Meetup-London-startup-Artificial-intelligence@alessiacamera

Ed Rex from Jukedeck @ London.AI Meetup

If you’re following the startup scene in London, you know that good developers are on the hunt. If your project is around AI, you know that finding good people with that expertise is even more difficult. That’s why there are meetups like London.AI, aiming to create a network of investors, companies, developers, academics. And that’s where I’ve been yesterday evening, attending a panel around creativity and AI.
The panel was super interesting, telling the experience of the co-founder of Prediction.io, a open source machine learning tool aiming to help developers building more intelligent products, such as recommendation or prediction engines (without having to reinvent the wheel) now acquired by Salesforce. If was great hearing from Jonathan from Union Square, a VC investing in creative AI projects (and a lot of other stuff) especially regarding the fact that ideas and networks are still important. And the last one, by Ed Rex, founder of Jukedeck was brilliant (and scary): AI is not just learning to predict our search and our behaviour but is also learning to be creative, using the same process we have in mind when we develop new ideas and produce a final result. Isn’t it scary? Ed is very much convinced about the positive effect this is leading to: much more people open to new stuff and more personalised products. Will be true? I’m sure we’ll continue the conversation.

therapist-computer-robot-worried-about-AISuper fascinating projects, but only a few of all the AI projects in London. And it’s funny, ’cause London (and not the Silicon Valley this time) is becoming the main global hub, not only for London’s startup ecosystem but also thanks to Imperial and UCL offering a trove of talent and ideas.
According to the Guardian this is a growing network of academic excellence which has already attracted some of the world’s brightest minds, all keen to be part of an environment reminiscent of San Francisco’s web startup hub. – This is a scene where everyone knows each other. You can’t help being caught up in the excitement of it,- says Shanahan professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial.

Which are the other AI projects we should give a closer look at in 2016? Here what I liked the most.

  • Magic Pony technology: using AI to expand and create pictures, discovering the finest details and larger patterns. If you don’t see where the application can be, imagine a game or CG movie where textures like that can be generated dynamically, different for every playthrough or character. Chances are that humans would still have to ground-truth these images to fine-tune the algorithms, but it’s a powerful way to implement a feature artists and engineers have been pursuing with varying success for years.
  • Babylon:  an artificially intelligent ‘doctor’ that aims to prevent illnesses before they occur. To do this, the program tracks your daily habits, diagnosis illness based on symptoms and integrating data about heart rate, diet and medical records.
    Babylon is currently in a trial partnership with the National Health Service to test feasibility in making its service available to all UK citizens.
  • Onfido: helping companies to carry out remote background checks using artificial intelligence and machine learning to build the sophistication of its fraud detection over time
  • Seldon: predicts the future actions of consumers of media and e-commerce services across web, mobile and tablet combining behavioural, social, contextual, and first/third party data to increase the relevance of content and product recommendations and ultimately boost engagement and conversion.
  • Rainbird: an artificial intelligence platform that uses existing human and business knowledge to automate knowledge work and deliver smart systems that can transform organisations. The technology is also capable of learning through interaction and from every decision that is made, getting smarter over time with the aim of improving large scale decision-making processes.
  • Telectic: interpreting the Web’s content at scale by creating an automated semantic layer to the Web. The initial objective is to map and discover insights about the professional world by reorganising the Web’s information about people, networks and organisations.

Anything else you would add? Let’s chat

 

Startups

Are we in a bubble? What I learnt from David Murray, “the grumpy entrepreneur”

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Living in London, working with an early-stage startup, learning every day about new projects and ideas, hearing about startups acquired by big companies (which now seem “preferring” to acquire startups instead of developing their new products internally) for undisclosed deals, I’m asking myself whether we’re in a bubble.

If you read the news, everyone is talking about startups and millennials becoming rich all of a sudden, unicorns, and millions of startups being valued millions of dollars releasing apps for everything.
But what’s true? Is just the fact startups are trendy or you can actually become a millionaire?
Do you remember the bubble there was at the beginning of 2000 with the first dotcom companies?
Are we living the same?

images-bubble-startup-londonI’ve recently been to an event where David Murray, “the grumpy entrepreneur” was, in fact, analyzing the current situation and I think it was very insightful.
David is actually an entrepreneur surviving the first bubble in the USA, he went bankrupt with Commerce One, a startup he joined at the age of 24, where he also had shares for $22 billion.
I really appreciate his honest approach during all the evening, telling us his story and sharing what he learnt, ‘keeping him out of hot water now’ (something that never happen with a lot of entrepreneurs I met, just keen to sell your idea and never admitting something they did wasn’t actually very good).

I met some amazing guys with great projects during the last year when I decided I couldn’t work for a corporate anymore, but really I also met some people running startups having no clues about what they were supposed to do (click here to understand what I’m talking about)
I hope they’ll have a look at the Grumpy’s suggestions 😉

  • Be careful with your money. Between 1997 and 2001 a lot of VCs got burnt, companies without a product could reach $1 billion evaluation very quickly. Investors wanted to jump on the rollercoaster without really understanding how to evaluate those companies. One company spent 16 million dollars on its launch party!
    Investors are much smarter now.Unicorns-don't-exist-startups
  • Don’t use the word unicorn! Even Google says they’re mythical creatures and these are which will have to go public very soon. Have you ever thought they can go public at a valuation less than the last private investment round? Start thinking of it. So, you’ll be prepared when people will start panicking.
  • Early stage entrepreneurs: stop being arrogant. You need to be confident and have a little bit of arrogant to bring the business forward. But David saw the same arrogance level at the beginning of 2000 when people really think they were like Jesus Christ, and he was one of them.
  • Also, respect other people’s money. People starting to make some revenue think their company is worth £40-50 million, but it’s not the case. You’ll see when you’ll try to raise.
  • Running a startup is like singing at X-Factor. Everyone thinks it’s very easy and they’re able to do it. But not man, it’s pretty hard and you need to have the skills to do it. You can’t just quit your job ’cause tech is the right place where to be and hire some smart people who’ll do the job.
  • Cash is key: review your business plan if it says you’ll get money at the end of the year. You might want to rethink that strategy, companies exist ’cause they make money.
  • Investors are supportive even when things are not happening as you were expecting. Talk to them and have them onboard, they’ll help you out. And if you’ve been offered an exit, even a modest one, go for it!

What do you think? Do you agree or have a different idea?

David shared a lot of more suggestions, but you can watch the video on YouTube and take notes. 😉