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checklist

Early stage startup checklist

It’s a known fact: the vast majority of startups fail, most of them fail making the same mistakes again and again.

If you are crazy enough to be trying to beat the odds, we salute you.

At Activate Capital we have put together a programme designed to help founders like you to avoid the most common pitfalls and significantly improve your chances of success.

Here’s what we will explore with founders who will join us:

  1. Get Your Strategy Straight. Understand why you are doing this. Really. Not a strapline, why are you doing this, how do you want to have an impact,what concrete goals do you want to reach in the short, medium and long term.
  2. Business Model Design. Get clarity on how you are going to make money. How you are going to spend money. Who is going to help you doing both and how you are going to make sure that the business model will support the growth of your company.
  3. Your Value Proposition. Let’s understand your product or service. How does it touch people. Why would they want to use it. Why would they want to spend money for it.
  4. Your Market. Who are your customers? What problems do they have? What gains are they trying to get? How do you verify your assumptions?
  5. Impact mapping. Let’s start designing your product by creating a map of what tools are going to be needed to perform which jobs by who in order to obtain what specific goal. This will be the main guide for all your design efforts.
  6. Understanding the software business. Creating software is hard work, if you don’t have a background in software development it is completely different from anything you have experienced before. It’s extremely important that you understand how. And yes, there will be bugs. Lots of them.
  7. Prioritising for your MVP. The importance of “Minimum” in your Minimum Viable Product. It has to be embarrassing, otherwise you have spent too much time or money on it.
  8. Prototyping and testing. Before you start investing in a huge development project, let’s test your assumptions by building prototypes of the key moving parts of your products.
  9. Legal and accounting advice. It’s not only a matter of product. There are many other things that can kill you.
  10. Marketing & Branding. Once you will have a product you will need to get the whole world to notice. There are some key elements to keep in mind while building your marketing plan.
  11. Pitching. Convincing people to invest in your company is tough. We will train you to pitch your product and answer difficult questions.
  12. Hiring the right people. Who will be your first hire? And the second? The success of your enterprise depends on your ability to form an awesome group.

Let me know what you think about this list. And if you are one of the crazy ones: at Activate Capital applications are open for the April 2016 programme.

A cure for the “tech co-founder syndrome”

One of the issues that we are trying to address at Activate Capital is the “tech co-founder syndrome” which seems to afflict so many business people trying to start their new companies.

It’s what most accelerators and investors put as a condition to their involvement when the founder of a company doesn’t have a technical background: the startup must have a tech co-founder.

This request has created an environment where founders are constantly hunting for any dude who can write a few lines of code and is available to get involved in some undefined project.

It’s not that I don’t understand why savvy investors would want that: a company based on a digital platform which doesn’t “own” its own technology is in a very shaky position.

But looking for any tech co-founder is not the solution either. In most cases an unexperienced business person just wonders off and after a long search ends up finding the wrong person.

This is one of the reasons that lead us to form Activate Capital: our intention is to invest in early stage companies and become their “tech co-founder”, but with the weight of a full team of professionals who have been developing digital platforms for a long time.

Because it’s not just about tech. These days to build a competitive digital platform you need UX designers, software architects, project managers, front-end developers, back-end developers, and the list goes on and on.

So, if you know anybody with a great business idea and the crazy impulse to start a new business, please send her or him to Activate Capital: we need to talk!

Introducing Activate Capital

ac

Okay, this is the new thing I’m doing: investing in early stage startups.

I think that the methodology that we have developed both with Activate Media and M/V over the last few years is incredibly effective to maximise the chances of success of new companies.

So this is the plan: find ideas and companies that we like, put them through an intense 12 days over 6 weeks programme, then invest ourselves and/or help them rise capital to launch their product.

Further thoughts and considerations soon.

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Make sure your iPhone backup is encrypted (if you want to save your health data)

Siri was misbehaving on my iPhone 6 plus (it would understand my requests but always fail perform the task), after reading a few articles here and there I decided that the only solution was to restore my phone.
 
Yesterday I backed it up on my Mac, wiped it clean and the restored it from the fresh back up.
 
Several hours later (after the restore it had to get back in synch with all the photos, the music, the apps, etc.) everything was back to normal, except that all my health and activity data was gone.
 
Turns out that health and activity data is only backed up when you are encrypting your backup on your Mac or when you are using iCloud for backups, while I had unencrypted backup on my Mac.
 
Now: I do appreciate the fact that Apple doesn’t want my potentially sensitive health data to sit unencrypted on any disk, but I can think several different options which would have saved my data.
 
Not cool Apple, not cool.
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WordPress.com, the desktop app

Here it is: the new WordPress.com desktop app.

There was a time when desktop apps to edit web sites were needed because editing in the browser was such a lousy experience.

But then Dave started adding buttons to the pages of his sites that read “Edit this page”. I have always thought that this was an extremely powerful tool: rather than having to dig in the bowels of the back-end of a content management system every time you needed to change something, you just went to the bit you needed to edit and hit a button. There and then.

With today browsers you can do even better: you can just click on a bit of text and, if you have the priviledges, you can edit it.

For the last couple of years we tried to use this “edit in the front end” approach for most of our projects (for example La Libreria dei Ragazzi and AgriProFocus are all edited in the front-end).

So, what do I think of a desktop app to edit a web site? Is it even more removed from the site than the back-end? Hard to say. So far I enjoyed writing this post on my blog. It has been a long time.

I don’t think anyone is reading this anymore…

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Good days

There are no bad days for great walks. I have enjoyed myself quite a lot under some very miserable weathers (as long as I had the right attire).

And then there are days like today: with better colours.

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iPhone magic

I dropped by the Apple Store last week in London to see the new iPhones. I was hoping for the “instant lust” that usually goes with Apple’s new gadgets, but it didn’t happen.

Now, to be fair we should admit that smartphones are becoming a commodity and we can’t expect to be amazed with every new iteration. The iPhone 6 is a perfectly nice phone, most likely it’s going to be my next phone when my contract on the current 5 will expire (not the Plus, it’s just ridiculously huge imho), but I’ll just sit and wait for the upgrade without any exceptionally big expectation.

I’m just hoping that the Apple Watch will provide that little bit of extra excitement that keep all of us going 😉

PS: while I think that most of those “Steve would have not done this” posts are pure BS, I must admit that the bulging camera lenses are a bit odd.

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Know where I’m going

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 09.17.01

This map shows all my movements from January 1st 2014 to right now. The data were collected by the app Moves and the map generated by Move-O-Scope.

To me this is absolutely awesome.

Running Moves significantly reduces the battery life on my iPhone 5, but it’s something I have been willing to live with because I just love the data that gets collected and the way Moves displays it.

Walking patterns in our neighborhood
Walking patterns in our neighborhood

Then Moves was bought by Facebook.

When Facebook bought Instagram I thought: “Oh, well… the pictures I was posting to Instagram were public anyway”. I was a bit annoyed with how they treated the integration with Twitter, but this was pretty much it.

When Facebook bought Whatsapp I thought: “Oh, well… I have never used Whatsapp anyway”.

But I do feel uncomfortable about Facebook buying Moves and having access to their data. Strangely enough giving all the information about my moving around to a tiny and unknown Finnish company felt better than giving it to a huge American one.

My walking patterns in London
My walking patterns in London

I haven’t deleted the application yet, but I guess that I will do as soon as I will find a replacement which works as smoothly as Moves. Or maybe I will just live with it.

What is certain is that I will keep running a tracking application on my phone.

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VIP dinner guests

After lengthy discussion over drinks last night, here’s the top ten list of people I’d like to invite to dinner and have a nice chat with (sorted, Sir Paul coming first).

  • Paul McCartney
  • BB King
  • Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Sting
  • Bill Clinton
  • Giorgio Armani
  • Jony Ive
  • Steven Fry
  • Madonna
  • Brad and Angelina (Monica kind of insisted on Brad coming along…)
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