A true Entrepreneur never fails, just learns

In the recent months, I have been thinking about the journey we take as entrepreneurs. This is not always a logical one and it has many twists and turns but as a lecturer I know it’s important to present a structured approach with a limited set of options. But as a realist, I also know the path to true enlightenment may be through the pit of delusion.

The message that failure is a good thing is one which many people are now talking about, yet I find our education system still thinks in a binary way, you either pass or fail and this can only be done at defined points, normally set by your age.

Our Examination system teaches us from a young age that there is only one right answer and many wrong ones. This then provides society with a view of you, typically a grade from A* to U. We sit and judge you from afar, if too many get high marks then the exams were easy, if too little get high mark then the youth of today are spending too much time on their Xbox. The hard fact for many young people is that the grade is final and they be able to change it, even if they get better at that subject. You never get the opportunity to learn from your mistakes or gain a higher grade.

Yet Entrepreneurship is about the path your take and the reactions to the decisions and not the decisions themselves.

Everyone is expected to take the wrong turn at some point and the important thing is how you get back on track. How do you learn from the situation? How do you react to your mistake? How do you reflect on the situation and opportunities surrounding you at this point?

Let me explain this in terms of driving from London to Paris. If you made one wrong turn at any point, then as long as you recognized this fact and acted on this information to rectify it, you would still arrive in Paris. It may or not take longer or extra time. yet our education system would have failed you and asked you to never drive this route again.

I always explain starting a successful business as having to make one hundred right decisions. Out of how many I do know know. Over what time I do now t know. I don’t know what feedback loop will be in place. When will I know that I have done it?

We all agree that these decisions will need to be made and that some of them will be shown to be wrong. (Either the right decision at the wrong moment or the wrong decision at the right moment) This is not a fail, just another opportunity to learn, rethink the plan and evaluate your surroundings.

Our secondary education system needs to develop an opportunity to reflect on the learning and allow the learner to build this into their learning plan moving forward.

Your path is your own and only on your reflection can you mark yourself.

The Guitarist Entrepreneurs

What if I tell you that, there are more than five British people who have made more than $1.1 Billion dollars between them by just using one (maybe the greatest) entrepreneurial tool, the guitar.

If there was a group of people who have a way of making money using a simple formula, you would imagine that there would seminars on how to do it, the internet would be full of adverts stating this get rich scheme. Every school would tell young people that this is a career option, but no, because its rock n’ roll.

There are lots of these people around the world but I wanted to focus on just five, so selected these five, who past retirement and still making money, just to emphasis the long term viability of this global self employment opportunity.

This group of people found a secret formula in the 1960s and created such an incredible demand for their services that the world continues to consume it decades later. They made so much money that some governments created special taxes, just to try and get into the act.

Below I have shown you, just five “Guitarists”, each very successful from the same age 67-71 years old.

So what’s ‘secret’ formula and how can five people be worth $1.150 Billion?

Jimmy Page

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven Live
Aged 71
Net worth: $170 million
PRACTICE – While still a student, Jimmy Page worked as a session musician and doing a lot of busking. He states “I had to come to grips with it and it was a good schooling”, and this practice provided an opportunity to get feedback from real customers and also build a solid product which could then be taken to mass market.

Eric Clapton

The Yardbirds / Cream – Cocaine
Aged 70
Net worth: $250 million
INDUSTRY INFLUENCE – Eric Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. This is why successful people still go on TV or write blogs, you can never underestimate how this influence can provide limitless opportunities.

Pete Townshend

The Who – Quadrophenia
Net worth: $105 million
SIGNATURE MOVE – If there was a move which every person knows, its the windmill swing when playing the guitar. On stage, Pete Townshend developed a signature move in which he would swing his right arm against the guitar strings in a style reminiscent of the vanes of a windmill. Others have followed since, e.g. Michael Jackson with his backward walk, that signature move is the most powerful marketing tool available.

Keith Richards

The Rolling Stones – Out Of Control
Aged 71
Net worth: $340 million
LUCK – If there is one person on this planet would has luck on their sides, it’s Keith Richards. Every entrepreneur knows if you have some luck then it makes a big difference.

Startup Incubator Best practice

What do people need from an incubator when starting a business ?

Over the last six years I have visited, be a participant of and worked in an startup Incubator. So I have had the opportunity to see it from all sides. The one thing I learnt very early on was it’s not about the physical space. Those with the most colourful, innovative decor or largest wall hanging tended to be the worst. Those that I liked focused on a few important things, so lets consider them in the right order:

Business Networking

The opportunity to network and be associated with a network is the most important factor. Entrepreneurs that do well network, it provides co-founders, investors, customers and the most importantly great staff. So having this provided on a plate to you, when starting out, is the golden egg which your business should be incubated in.


Most people who run incubators have never started or run a business, so having a mentor is very important in creating perspective, inspiration and raw guidance. The mentor and mentee should be trained to understand the expectations placed on the each other. The selection of the mentor should be based on the stage of the business, business sector and the location of the entrepreneur. Having more than one mentor should also be encouraged.

Flexible Space

It’s important that formal meeting space, serendipitous meetings and water cooler moments are all facilitated within the incubator. The majority of business people today expect to meet in a cafe or open space but a closed space is also needed for formal meetings. The hot desking should have great wifi.

Friendly Support

Having people who can support you when things don’t go as expected is important. The ability to ask someone who can sign post you to additional support, grants, loans and people is so important when starting out, pivoting and trying to bootstrap your business. When selecting an incubator, do the staff seam helpful and knowledgeable.

Skills Development Events

In the process of starting a business most people learn new skills naturally, but don’t know it and need reminded of the distance covered. Some people need organised session whereby they develop skills and knowledge which will be needed in the future, next month/year. The majority of incubators will have a speaker series to support this.

Funding Support

Most people don’t need that much, if you are outside London, the costs of living is less. If the office is free then it’s just some living expenses and then some Stuff to move the business forward. However access to finance at various stages is important to scale businesses and the staff should be able to support you in this endeavour.

Free or Discounted Stuff

Most businesses need a tool bag of stuff which can help them more forward their business. This may include websites, accounting software, payment solutions, discounted travel, …etc. Its also helpful if the incubator can recommend software solutions for you, saving you the research space and money.


The important factors in starting a business are sometimes softer that you think. Its not always Money, Staff and 1000 sq ft office space. It may just be a cup of tea with someone who has done it before and has a story to tell.

Essential Software Tools for a Startup Business

Over the last year I have either started mentoring or joined the advisory board of several technology startups. These are technology led businesses with a team of both techies and non-technics. For every startup its important to set the tools early on as it influences the culture of the business and also the pace of the business growth. Selecting the wrong tool delays development as everyone has to learn it or even stops the business as no one wants to use this tool.

There is no one tools I recommend and it depends on the team members and then the project attributes, such as the size of team, selected coding platform, use of third party plugins and also the length of the creative cycles. So below you will find at least two options for each core tool. The tools selected below all start off with a freemium model which is ideal for startups.

Another factor in selecting the tools below was they should work on multiple devices (mobile, tablet and PC) and also with multiple people (sharing, editing and also distribution).

Startup Documents

Criteria: Need to share, edit and collaborate on documents. Multiple people should be able to view documents at any time.


I have been a fan of Evernote since it was first launched. I use it in several ways:

  • Research – I use the Web Clip extension to save web pages which then allow me to develop a collection of articles very quickly and then index them against tags and within notebooks. For early stage startups understanding what competitors are doing and how certain technology works is important. This can then be shared with everyone on the team, ensuring a similar knowledge base.
  • I have multiple notebooks that I use for all sorts of things including my task management, goal setting, lists of all kinds, photos and random notes.

Google Apps/Docs

Its taken me some time to get happy with Google Docs and still don’t put documents I want to be secure on it, but as an editor which multiple people can use to generate a shared vision its the best tool out there.

  • Collaborative Documents – The document editor is better than MS Word and has a better spell checker, it also loads faster.
  • Save As function, especially to PDF and Website is worth using as it allows you to email and share document very quickly.
  • Google Forms is the best way to create surveys. Since I found this I have stopped using Survey Monkey which has got too expensive.

Startup Internal Comms & Project Management

Criteria: A place where everyone can state what they are doing and when, any issues are discussed and logged.


This is a must have tool for collaborative teams.

  • Team Chat – To have a open chat box which everyone can contribute, add files and also URL links is extremely powerful. This always on and open team collaborative culture is extremely important to generating momentum for the business.
  • Team Calls – Every team has to go through the storming/norming phases and chatting on Skype for hours on getting the vision/mission/strategy right is the only way. Most of my team members use Skype of their mobile/tablet for this, so they can walk around the house, trying different rooms during each stage of the meeting.


This provides a digital kanban board for project management, allows the team to contribute and on one page see the entire set of tasks.

  • Great way to show projects, tasks and business mapping on one page which everyone can buy into.
  • The graphical interface provide a simple way to get the team to contribute and set/agree their tasks

Startup Cloud Storage

Criteria: Always on and backed up to the cloud. Low cost.


Keeps my working files available to me wherever I am, synched across multiple devices.

  • For one startup all their large images are shared through dropbox with all documents shared through Google Docs.
  • I also backup google docs and websites  to Dropbox
  • For another startup they use this for their business plans and external funding applications


This is a cloud-to-cloud backup provider which enables you to draw down these resources and also edit and repurpose.

  • So backing up what’s on Flickr, Twitter, Delicious, Zoho, Google Apps/Docs, WordPress, Basecamp, Gmail, Facebook, Google Calendar…

Startup Code Management

Criteria: Version control for multiple developers


This is the default repository for any startup source code plus task lists for developers.

  • It offers as standard distributed revision control and source code management functionality you need.
  • The Wiki and bug tracking features are important once development has started. A wiki can help track the outcomes of those conversations you have about “Should we do it this way or that”. As you know you one of these will be wrong and you will need to reserve this decision.

Windows Azure

This feature rich version allows expansion and future proofing.
You can get this free on the “www.microsoft.com/bizspark/” programme

  • As with a lot of Mircosoft products they are very well designed, (sometimes too over engineered), so choose the options carefully to start with and then open up additional features later on when needed. This way you can grow into the product and not be over “controlled” by the tool.

Startup Social Media

Criteria: Simple tools to tell the world of your progress during development. Management of multiple channels during launch.


This is my default social media management tool, as it has Instagram, Youtube and others.

  • Management of multiple streams
  • The fact you can see all tweets from a particular Search and interact with these is very powerful

Buffer App

A simple and elegant way of scheduling tweets and posts.

  • Easy to get started and set a scheduled tweet or facebook feed
  • The sharing and timing when these posts go out is very powerful

There is lots of research on how startups work and the process. The vast majority of it states that time, finance and commitment is limited within the team. Therefore a simple limited set of tools is more powerful than having a expanded and more complete solution. The startup process to MVP and Alpha testing is a non perfect process and therefore over engineering the need for support tools just over complicates the project and therefore inserts delays.

7 Books every start-up entrepreneur should read

There is a great number of books out there which is aimed at Entrepreneurs and the skills and techniques they need. However if you are starting a business you don’t have time to read too many, so I have limited it to seven, which you should be able to read in one week. Enjoy!

Entrepreneur Revolution: How to Develop Your Entrepreneurial Mindset and Start a Business That Works by Daniel Priestley

I very much agree with the theme of this book “The age of the entrepreneur, the agile small business owner, the flexible innovator. The days of the industrial age are over.” and every student I meet, its about developing this mindset. This book should mainly provide some motivation and inspiration for your plunge into the next books.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Building a business is no longer about “the business plan” which is cast in stone, its about doing and then creating small changes or pivots to the plan as you move forward. He goes over the a number techniques an entrepreneur can use in order to create a business.

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder

Great for the visual entrepreneur or those not interesting in writing a 50 page business plan. The book teaches us the right way to create a visual business plan and act on it. With pictures, graphs and timelines, this book is a must-have for every visionary young entrepreneur.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This classic book will turn your relationships around and improve your interactions with everyone in your life. Business is all about relationships, employees, investors, partners and customers all need you to be the best at dealing with their interactions.

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Godin is one of the greatest entrepreneurial minds in the world and you should be taking a look at www.sethgodin.com. In Purple Cow, he advocates building something so amazing that people can’t ignore you and then allowing them to be your brand ambassadors. There are a lot of great case studies in this book.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

While working on his doctorate in the 1970’s, Stephen R. Covey reviewed 200 years of literature on success. He noticed that since the 1920’s, success writings have focused on solutions to specific problems. In some cases such tactical advice may have been effective, but only for immediate issues and not for the long-term, underlying ones. This is why a lot of entrepreneur books have case studies or information which is of little help to you in your situation.

Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls “true north” principles of a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless.

The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

Every entrepreneur knows that the key to a successful business is good sales technique. Not only do you have to sell your product, but you also have to sell yourself and your idea.

This book gives you valuable information and strategies about how to make more selling by focusing on one thing – the person. Young entrepreneurs tend to forget the basics of selling and jump right over to getting results, but in order to get results, you need to know the basics. Brian Tracy goes over those major points thoroughly.