Business owners learn from each other at first Founders’ Network

Laura IH Bennett, February 25, 2016 5 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Founders’ Network programme manager Laura Bennett reviews an afternoon of masterclasses and ideas shared at the first exclusive Founders’ Network event, described by one attendee as “one of the best startup events I’ve ever attended”.

 

We’re so pleased with how our first Founders’ Network event went on Monday 1 February. We decided to hold the event at C4DI in Hull, where we welcomed 30 startup founders from across the North of England, including Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Teesside, Manchester, York, and of course from Hull itself.
The startups were at different business stages, from entrepreneurs who had recently launched their product, right through to companies who had raised series A. What united everyone was a common sense of ambition, demonstrable traction for their product, and a genuine excitement and passion for being on this journey as a tech entrepreneur.
Rob Fitzpatrick started us off with a masterclass on ‘sales for non-sales people’. The focus here was on learning about what your customer actually wants, and how to get a firm commitment from them. Experienced sales people in the room shared some tips and techniques that had worked for them, and there was also a lively discussion about some of the difficulties in hiring a sales person. Dominic Murphy, founder of Geek Talent, said, “The Founders’ Network event really helped me focus on my sales process and I personally learnt a lot from those in the room. I’m looking forward to future events and to accessing this invaluable network.”
Founders' Network

For the second masterclass, this time on investment, Devin Hunt (co-founder of Lyst.com) started off by asking everyone to debate the merits of four different startups, and choose the “most investable” one. This put everyone in the investor’s shoes, and served as a reminder that investment exists to serve the investors, not the startup. Devin went over the back-of-an-envelope calculations needed in order to figure out how much to ask for in a raise, how to value your company, and how to use dilution benchmarks. The topic was rounded off with a discussion about what makes a good answer to the question “what do you need this money for?” Key learning from Devin: “You don’t raise funding by building a great pitch. You raise funding by building a great company.”
In the evening, we heard no-holds-barred stories from Alex Depledge (co- founder of Hassle.com) as well as Devin Hunt. Instead of the usual ego-driven stories, both Devin and Alex were up-front and honest about all the times they’d messed up and when things didn’t go to plan. Even more importantly, they spoke about how they overcome those challenges, and gave tips on how to avoid some of those pitfalls in the first place. For many people in attendance, it was the first time they had heard the behind-the-scenes stories about the true challenges on the path towards success, which was a refreshing change from the usual ‘overnight success’ narrative.
I was really pleased with the number of people who had travelled from far and wide to spend an afternoon and evening in the company of other startup founders. This event in Hull got Founders’ Network off to a great start, and the feedback that we received was overwhelmingly positive.
Founders' Network

“This was one of the best startup events I’ve attended. Not only was it great to have such a mix of founders in the room – all at different stages in the investment process – but the talks were some of the most honest and inspiring I’ve heard. It’s very rare that you get to hear someone being brutally honest about the realities of starting and growing a business, or have the opportunity to be open about the issues you’re personally facing and get some advice on what might be the best course of action. For me, this event was exemplary of what Tech North can and should be doing. More please!” Salma Conway, MrLista
Being a startup founder means picking up a whole new skill set every few months or so, as you reach a different stage, whether that’s hiring your first employee or putting in the systems to support 10 employees. Or hiring your first £150K or moving on to Series A. You’ve got to be adaptable, you’ve got to be open to learning, and it helps if you’re willing to share your challenges and successes with other people on the same journey.
Founders Network Circular
Giving tech startup founders an opportunity to meet each other through Founders’ Network, share knowledge and experiences, and hear from inspirational entrepreneurs is something that will contribute towards developing a cohesive entrepreneur-led ecosystem across the region. As the first of six events over the next year, Founders’ Network is enabling Tech North to facilitate the connections that underpin a strong support system of Northern entrepreneurs.
There are extremely few opportunities for entrepreneurs in the North to hear inspirational founder stories from entrepreneurs who can talk truthfully about the myriad challenges faced on their journey towards scaling and/or exiting. In more established ecosystems in the UK there are frequent meetups that founders can attend, where they can hear from inspirational speakers, learn something new, or catch up with familiar faces. More often than not, these events are free.
Founders' Network

For example, in London there were over 200 events for startup founders in the month of February alone! Founders’ Network is one piece that will go towards redressing that balance, adding a unique pan-Northern perspective that is complementary to existing startup founder meetups in individual cities.
Our second Founders’ Network event will take place on 6 April in Manchester – details including venue, content and speakers will follow in the next couple of weeks.
Interested in getting involved? Founders’ Network is open to serious and ambitious tech startup founders who are building a product, have launched (or are close to launching), and who have some demonstrable traction. There are all stages of businesses within the Network already, ranging from those who have recently launched their product and are thinking about their first hires, to companies who have raised Series A and have significant teams of employees.
The beauty of Founders’ Network is that, whatever stage of business you are at, there will be something for you to learn and something for you to offer to others in terms of your own experience and knowledge.
Founders Network

To become part of this exclusive network, please complete this short application form

Yorkshire, Founders' Network, Early Stage