Postcards from the Edge: Life in digital entrepreneurship

Make a good product. Market it. Sell it. Make money.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

DEAL Day 4 hit the ground running, with a full-on day ‘behind the scenes’ of digital entrepreneurship and innovation. The bizarre and cutthroat world of pitching, funding, and acquisition was a complete revelation to most, with David Plans and Alan Brown filling us in on what we didn’t know we didn’t know. It was perplexing and intimidating – but necessary. Suddenly, we see that the learning curve has shifted location and changed its angle by quite a few degrees, and what looked like Positives has turned into Negatives. The world of the startup is like the photographic negative of what we expect from ‘normal’ life.

The overriding message was — how easy it is to create and market a brilliant product that nobody wants. In the entrepreneur’s enchantment with his/her own idea, many things get lost: Cost per Acquisition; the Value Proposition; the Business Model; and the product itself – to name just a few.

From ‘Pirate Metrics’, to what Alice in Wonderland can teach us about being too close to your own product, to why surviving failure is more important than succeeding – it has been an incredibly stimulating day of turning conventional thinking and expectations upside down.

Some nuggets of wisdom to take away and ponder in the context of your own business:

  • ACT before the business model bites you! If you don’t validate your idea with the public, it remains just an abstraction;
  • Don’t keep secrets (e.g. NDAs); secrecy only serves to slow you down. All that matters is team, and speed;
  • Test endlessly. The testing process and customer feedback are what builds the website and the product – not the other way around;
  • Your Value Proposition is the abstract representation of the business logic behind a company; your Business Model describes the rationale of how an organisation creates, delivers, and captures value. The Business Model is a process for delivery.

Although we all probably need to lie down for a couple weeks after today, the fifth and final day of DEAL will present a crash course in tips and tricks from those in the know about Incubation, IP, and Pitching, plus Travis Lee Street on ‘How to Launch your Business on a Shoestring’, how ENDuRE can help you build your business, and finally a pitching session with feedback and discussion.

Our workshop may be drawing to a close, but at CoDE we are just getting started on teaching business skills for the digital age. Don’t miss out on the journey.

Photograph of Dr David Plans and Captain Jack Sparrow courtesy of CoDE

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About the Author : Kris Henley

Communications and Outreach for Surrey Business School's Centre for the Digital Economy, a newly-founded research centre to explore the implications of the Digital Economy for business, government and society.