The current Catalyst Centre tenants share their pearls of wisdom!

Inspired by Forbes’ Best Start-Up Tips from Tech Heroes – well worth a read at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kateharrison/2014/01/09/the-best-startup-advice-from-14-tech-heroes/ – we decided to ask our current Catalyst Centre tenants for their pearls of wisdom.

Although the four businesses are all in the start-up stage, the tenants have already learnt a great deal and, often in business, it’s the early lessons that you need to remember. So, over to Mario Troullis of TrouDigital; Chris Frost from Fusetab, Jenny Josephs of The Bug Shack and Chukwuma Ogbobie at Safe in Sound Media to share their top tips so far and to give us an update on how they’re getting on….

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gleaned so far? 

Mario: “My best tip for anyone now would be to understand the various parts of the business model canvas, especially the value proposition, which will guide you on exactly what you’re offering your clients and why they should buy from you as opposed to your competitors.” (see more on this in last week’s blog!)

Chris: “My three things would be:

  1. Don’t start a business while planning a wedding or anything else that requires lots of time! Clear the decks before starting-up.
  2. Spend time thinking about your value proposition and how it can be modified to serve new customer segments.
  3. Go to events because you will end up explaining your business a lot of times. It’s not only good practice but you never know who you will meet.”

Jenny: “Do your research. I have found DueDil useful for looking up other companies up to see, for example, how many shareholders they have, when they registered and also some financial insights.”

Chukwuma: “My best tip came from Phil Sharpe and it was to ‘flip a problem on its head and try to solve it that way!’ As an example: our SafeNSound App is designed to save more people on the roads. So, rotated, how can we ‘kill’ more people to help define some of the App’s key features? It sounds drastic, but basic reverse engineering can be a good way to find solutions.”

Where’s your business at now, compared to when you entered the Catalyst Centre? 

Mario: “The biggest difference is the structure and foundations we now have in place. These include implementing accounting packages and putting in place some tactical partnerships with companies who can help us grow.”

Chris: “My business is now well defined with a solid business plan being started. I also have a lot of the fundamentals covered, such as proper legal contracts for customers, an intellectual property plan and sound financial tracking processes.”

Jenny: “At the start of the Catalyst Centre process I really wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted my product to be. I spent a long time thinking about alternative business plans and I’m now starting to really think about what my customers want and how I can address their needs. I’ve also taken the step of registering my business and getting a website together (although it’s still very rough!)”

Chukwuma: “We’re a lot more focussed, we have a clear value proposition and we’re ready to pitch!”

How has the support you’ve received so far helped you achieve this? 

Mario: “The Catalyst Centre has given us a network of experienced and influential business people who, as part of the Science Park family, have offered us some invaluable advice.”

Chris: “The Catalyst Centre seminars have been great and have taught me a lot about the basics of developing and running a business. But more than that, I have made some great contacts through attending them.”

Jenny: “It’s been a good opportunity to be able to listen to people with business knowledge and expertise and talk to them about the issues I face in my own business. Sometimes it’s the advice that our speakers give, sometimes it’s interesting comments they make along the way and sometimes it’s useful just to watch the way they present to the group – it all makes me think!”

Chukwuma: “The seminars and mentoring have taught me how to add further value to the business and how to seek access to funding which will be vital.”

Where do you think you will be three months from now?

Mario: “I think by the end of the next three months, we will be well on the way to offering some fantastic new products, and hitting new milestones for the company.”

Chris: “Hopefully Fusetab will have a simple mobile app out to start collecting feedback for the consumer side of my service, and a better website to educate and grow interest. I also hope to be able to give a quality pitch to investors and back it up with a business plan.”

Jenny: “I’ve decided to take a step back from sales and really focus on market research until it becomes easier to judge when the industry will really take off. However, I will have a pretty decent website and a new logo which I will use to communicate with other businesses, potential partners and customers. It’s a really crucial platform for gaining a following, presenting information and achievements and keeping interested parties up to date with what’s going on in the world of entomophagy.”

Chukwuma: “Funded, researched, developed and ready to launch!”

Well, it certainly sounds like there’s a great deal going on in our business incubator! For more top tips from experts who have been there, done it, bought the t-shirt and learnt the lessons, keep an eye on news of the Catalyst Centre seminars in our blog.

Applications for the Catalyst Centre’s 2015 competition is now open at www.usspcatalystcentre.org.uk. Entrants will be asked to complete a short online form, describing their business idea and a shortlist will be invited to pitch their proposition to a judging panel comprising successful entrepreneurs. You’ve got to be in it to win it!