Over the last few months much of my time has been spent working with startup companies, particularly those who have come through the SeedComp process. Like all startups, getting the first bit of money attached to their projects has been the biggest hurdle. It’s true that it’s never been easier or cheaper to start a digital business, but it’s also often true that the bigger your plans the more money you need to get them off the ground.
Raising money for your startup is an important job but it has surprised me just how many options and opportunities are available - provided you’re willing to work for them. Here are just a few worth considering:
Yourself: If you can afford a holiday, you can afford to make the first few steps in getting your business established. It’s not realistic to expect anyone else to invest in your business if you haven’t been prepared to stick whatever you can in first.
The F Crowd: The first investors in a business are often referred to, rather unkindly, as the three ‘Fs’ - friends, family and fools. If you’re serious about getting your business off the ground, this has to be something you consider (unless you happen to be independently wealthy yourself, in which case you can skip this whole article). Remember, this isn’t asking for a handout, this is about investing in a business idea and they will hope to see a return on that investment.
Private Investors: OK, this isn’t Silicon Valley but there are plenty of private investors out there interested in innovative new ideas that they can make money on. Start by working your own contacts (companies you’ve worked for for example), then get in touch with organisations like Halo, the business angel network, or online investor matching sites like Derry-based SeedUps.com.
Give some particular thought to other companies that are in your space, if your product might be complementary there could be a deal to be done with one of them. Also keep an eye out for investor pitching sessions, which give you a chance to present your idea to a roomful of potential investors in one go, the NISP Connect PitchFest is one example (www.nisp.co.uk).
Next week we’ll take a look at some of the publicly-funded financial supports that might be available to you.
Two Quick Digital Startup Ideas That Don’t Need Funding
OK, every business needs some money to get started but these two ideas won’t need much more than a name, website and a business bank account to get started.
Web Design Agency: If you’ve got the skills, why not go for it yourself? Consider focusing on one particular niche or theme - bands or retailers for example - and become an expert in that field. Becoming an expert in a particular niche will help you sell your services to a global audience.
Web Content Agency: The web is all about content - it’s what converts casual visitors to customers, it drives the search engines and it fuels social media. Unfortunately most people aren’t very good at creating content that can tick all these boxes. If you’re a talented writer, study everything you can about SEO and then get yourself out there an expect to charge anything up to about £4-500 a day once you have something of a track record. Partner up with videographers, animators and audio engineers to offer the full package.
Mark Nagurski is Derry’s Digital Champion, based at the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. He’s particularly interested in working with digital startups in the North-West and you can contact him by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.digitalderry.org