Progress, plans and problems

Following my post on why you should spam your investors as much as you can, I thought it’d be useful to share something I learnt from the nice folks at Seedcamp: the investor email update. It’s quite simple but incredibly effective.

At the end of each month, all our investors get this email called “Brainient PPPs (September, 2011)”. PPP stands for Progress, Plans and Problems. For each category, I write the most important five items. Under Problems, I also ask for help directly (eg. Dave, Suster hasn’t replied yet – can you give him a nudge?).

Besides writing the PPPs, I also attached a one-pager with our KPIs (key performance indicators) for that month. It gives investors a quick overview of how the company’s progressing.

A typical email would look like this:

Hello everyone,

Here’s what we’ve been up to this month. As usual, I’ve bolded the most important stuff in case you just want to skim through:

Progress:1. Item 12. Item 23. Item 34. Item 45. Item 5

Plans:1. Item 12. Item 23. Item 34. Item 45. Item 5

Problems:1. Problem 1 – Dave, I need your help on this one2. Problem 2 – Sherry, could use an intro to X (will send a separate email that you can forward)3. Problem 34. Problem 45. Problem 5

I’m also attaching our one-page KPI sheet. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.


We also use the same system within Brainient. Each Friday, every member of the team sends out PPPs to inform their team leader what they’ve been up to, what they’re planning to do and what problems they have. It works great because it keeps everyone in the team informed.

Possibly the ride of your life

Two years ago, I was embarking on what has so far been the ride of my life: moving to London. It all started more or less because of Seedcamp, which has since then grown into a fantastic network of mentors, investors and entrepreneurs. Probably the best in Europe.

One of the components that makes Seedcamp unique is the Mini Seedcamp Events that happen around the world over the course of the year. I like attending these events whenever possible, so on October 20th I’m going to Mini Seedcamp Prague. There will be some fantastic mentors and investors there, and you can still apply to pitch your startup, here.

For me, the decision to move to London happened after I met Alex Van Someren at a Mini Seedcamp Event in Paris. So don’t miss out, wear good shoes and you might just end up in Europe’s technology capital as well. If not, at least the post-event parties are always good.


On how to flirt at Seedcamp Week

Let’s face it. Networking is dull. We forget nine out of ten people we meet, and all those business cards, albeit ending up in our CRM, rarely see any action. Usually, that’s because we don’t bother having a clear strategy: we just network for the sake of networking.

But recently I’ve come to think about networking in the context of a similar activity, but one that people give a lot more forethought to: flirting. Flirting is fun. Partly that’s because the objective is clear. For some, it’s phone numbers; for others, it’s not heading home alone. It also makes you think creatively. So I’m thinking: if you can flirt your way into a marriage, can’t you flirt your way to a term sheet?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of an expert at flirting. But let me share a few tips I’ve picked up over the last few years. Basically, it all boils down to this: you need to stop talking, and start listening.

It starts with identifying your prospective targets. You can either work the room, or you can subtly encourage people to come to you. Some of my friends call this “peacocking” (not a reference to my sadly undeveloped genitalia), and I find that the easiest way to do it is with clothing. For example, I often wear red shoes. You could, I dunno, wear a pink tie. I’m willing to bet you that people will come and compliment your tie. It’s a good ice breaker, and it brings them to you. That’s what you want.

If you get peacocking right, you’ll get a lot of attention. They’ll come to you and start a conversation. That’s good. But it’s also bad. It’s good because you don’t have to work the floor. It’s bad because you will only have about eight seconds to make them stay. Of course, they won’t leave after eight seconds, but their eyes will be after someone with a better, more colourful tie. Have some ice-breakers ready. Tell them something interesting. Something funny. Talk about how you spilled coffee on your trousers right before the pitch.

Once they feel comfortable around you, they’ll start to actually listen. They might even ask you a question about you. It’s important to recognise that IT’S A TRAP. Don’t start talking about yourself just yet. Instead, ask them about themselves. Listen carefully. Don’t say anything or think about what you’re going to say. Just listen. Ask more questions. One of two things will happen. They’ll either be boring, self-involved and dull, in which case you’ll feel like running away, and so you should. (But that’s not nice, so here’s a trick: look around the room and eye one of the other boring people you’ve met. Say “Dan, I’m so sorry to interrupt, but let me introduce you to X, I think you’d have a lot to talk about”. Then run to the loo, grab a drink or feed the meter. Dan will notice you’ve cut him off but will appreciate the effort of finding someone for him to rant at.)

If, on the other hand, Dan is both interesting and fun, the conversation will flow naturally. You’ll end up speaking about yourself – and hell, maybe you’ll even exchange business cards. Don’t just stop there. Make Dan remember you. One way to do this is by saying something memorable, albeit stupid, like, “I just realised, you look a lot like my dad”, which will likely make him laugh. You can then follow-up with an email saying “Hey Dan, I’m the guy with the red shoes who said you look a lot like his dad”. My mates in the pub call this anchoring, and it works like a charm.

Last but not least, you get a lot of Nos when you flirt. Blunt, direct, aggressive Nos. In networking, you get a lot of passive nods or endless speeches. They’re essentially the same thing. When that happens, it’s time to move. Introduce her to someone else and move on. Flirting is a numbers game, and so is networking.

While we all appreciate how your startup will disintermediate videocasting folksonomies by leveraging back-end users, I simply don’t care. It’s not interesting, entertaining, funny or useful. So rather than banging on endlessly, how about you stop and listen for a change. Listen to many, speak to a few, as Shakespeare would say.

Ten Habits of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs

Yesterday I was invited by the nice folks at Albion London to speak about the habits of highly successful entrepreneurs at Marketing Academy, together with Reshma Sohoni, the CEO of Seedcamp. While I don’t consider myself a highly successful entrepreneur, I’ve met a lot of them over the past six years since I started my first company. Reshma has met even more through her work at Seedcamp, so we decided to put together a Top 10 list. We hope you’ll find it useful:


Right before last year’s Seedcamp Week, I wrote a post trying to give a few tips & tricks on how to win. As it turns out, a few people actually read it (I met all three of them), so I decided to touch a different topic this year: HOW NOT TO BE BORING. Because, truth be told, most pitches & presentations are.

Without further ado, I wish best of luck to all participants and I hope this presentation will help you make the most out of Mini Seedcamp London 2011. Or at least help you make sure people don’t start yawning in the middle of your pitch.

Seedcamp turns 3 and fabulous

This week, 23 startups coming from all across Europe and most of the London tech scene attended, mentored, helped, or partied at Seedcamp Week. As expected, I am going to need a couple of days to recover, even if this time I wasn’t competing, I was just trying to give a helping hand.

Today, Seedcamp also announced that Carlos Espinal from Doughty Hanson has joined Seedcamp as a Partner, and that they’ve increased the number of companies they will invest in to 10 / yr. Twelve, actually – in good Seedcamp spirit. I am incredibly happy for Reshma, Saul & co for getting Carlos on board, and I think he will bring tremendous value to the team.

On a slightly different note but on the same subject, I strongly believe Reshma & co are building THE European tech ecosystem, something we very much need if we want to see European companies become successful. And in order to build this ecosystem, Reshma, Saul, Carlos & Philipp need all support they can get. Plus – I find it very rewarding to give back to the community and help others succeed. Do you?

How to win Seedcamp Week

Next week, 23 lucky startups will attend Seedcamp Week, probably the best event of its kind in Europe. Three hundred mentors – entrepreneurs, angels investors, marketers, technology people – will be all eyes and ears, trying to help these startups become successful companies.

I think I still hold the record for the entrepreneur with the most Seedcamps under his belt, having won Mini Seedcamp Paris 2009, attended Mini Seedcamp London 2009 and won Seedcamp Week 2009, so I’d like to share some tips to the 23 entrepeneurs that will be on stage on Monday.

1. All you have to do when you’re up there is win people’s trust. That’s it. Really. You can try to explain how your product disintermediates rich-client social media APIs, but seriously: nobody cares. All they care about is YOU (and your co-founders, if there’s more than one presenting)

2. When you’re asked why you’re there, don’t say you’re there for funding. Of course you want money – everybody does. But there’s a saying in town: ‘Ask an investor for money and he’ll give you advice. Ask him for advice and he’ll give you money’.

3. Shut down your laptop and keep it shut. You are here to meet people, that’s it, full stop. Everything in this world happens because you knew the right people at the right time, so the best way to increase your chances of success is by meeting as many people as possible.

4. Follow-up heavily. If you’re very active, you will probably have around 40-50 business cards after each day. Follow-up while your memory is still fresh, ideally in the night, on the same day. Personalize each email. Because I have a terrible memory, I usually write how I met the person and what I discussed with her / him on the business card, after the discussion.

5. Most people laugh when I say this, but: wear good shoes. That’s the first thing everyone will notice about you. For example – I know everybody will notice me next week, because my going-out-to-events shoes are a very, very, very RED.

So, keep in mind: your chances to win Seedcamp Week will increase exponentially with every person you meet and “win” to your side. I hope these tips will help you. Good luck, and get some rest this weekend, you will need it.