Building for the Valley – Bootstrapping tips from Tweetmeme

I posted this up on the CubeSocial blog yesterday, but thought readers here might be interested too…

Nick HalsteadYesterday Linda and I were guests at an excellent Thames Valley Innovation and Growth (TVIG) event “Building for the Valley”.

The session was delivered by Nick Halstead, CEO and founder of TweetMeme.

As a TVIG-sponsored start-up ourselves, we were fascinated to hear the story of Tweetmeme’s growth from being one of the first TVIG start-ups “when it was just Nick and his heavily pregnant wife in a cupboard” (!!) to a globally known brand, with 15 staff, handling more web hits than the BBC.

It was a story of rapid growth on a bootstrapping budget, and an inspiration for all budding entrepreneurs. Here are some of the takeaways:

On Networking

Don’t go to a networking event unless you can get a list of attendees beforehand. When you get the list, run it through LinkedIn and choose your ‘targets’ deliberately. Time is too valuable. Don’t leave networking to chance meetings. Have a maximum of one beer all evening: this is about business not partying.

On Marketing and PR

Become a reference point for your industry. Bootstrap your PR.

When Nick started Tweetmeme he blogged every night, then nagged friends and other bloggers to read his posts: “we have never paid a PR agency”. Nick explained that it helps to have a consumer focussed element to your portfolio because these tend to get more press.

Blogging means that you get to lead the conversation; the traffic you get translates into customers; you become a reference for news stories; and you get asked to speak at events.

On Public Speaking

Public speaking = free PR, but don’t be tempted you use it to advertise your product. Instead give useful information. (Don’t sell, educate). Build your reputation and integrity, and the (interested) attendees will become customers over time. A side benefit of public speaking is that you are more prepared and confident when you have to pitch to investors.

On Recruitment

Avoid recruitment agencies. Hire straight from university; only “bedroom coders”; pay them in options – “they must believe in the dream”.

On Investment

Getting investment has the biggest learning curve. It takes up 90% of your time. Keep the deal simple – complex terms tend to drive the wrong behaviours in leadership team: “with hindsight we would have given more away for simpler terms”.

Smart Viral Marketing Technique for Small Legal Practice

image I was forwarded an email today from CM Murray, a solicitors practice (law firm for US readers) in the UK, that had these two links in the footer of the email:

Little Book of Redundancy

Little Book of Employment Law

The links point to two fun, educational and beautifully presented, pocket guides to the areas of law that CM Murray specialise in.

Now I am in no need for an employment lawyer right now, and hopefully I won’t be for a long time, but if I ever am, I will certainly remember CM Murray.

My one tip: they should get these posted up on SlideShare and Scribd right away to get them under the noses of as many people as possible.

Well done to all involved.

Lessons In Social Media

Interesting watching events unfold today around the Guardian gag-order case. Here’s the background: Late last night The Guardian reported that it had been served an injunction stopping it reporting on events in parliament around a specific question that an MP was planning to ask. It was banned from reporting the name of the MP, the question, the topic of the question, or anything else apart from the name of the law firm (Carter-Ruck) serving the injunction.

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Skip forward 12 hours and a full-blown TwitterStorm is in flow with 4 of 10 trending topics relating to the case and speculation about what the parliamentary question is about.

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The lessons from this:

  • Law firms need to understand the power of social media to be able to advise clients on risks of taking legal action.  They also need to consider how their own reputation could be damaged by taking on cases that are perceived by the general populous to be unethical or immoral.
  • Big corporations need to weigh-up whether taking legal action will draw more (negative) attention to their case than would otherwise have happened if they had just kept quiet and let traditional media report unrestricted.

Chalk one up for democracy and the little guy.