panelYesterday evening Sarah and I went along to Tech Talkfest, the eighth of a series events organised by Zoe Cunningham, who somehow manages to do this alongside being the MD of Softwire. Previous events have addressed areas as diverse as TV, women in tech and games, and fashion, but tonight’s event, entitled “Tips for Startups” was aimed squarely at giving some very practical advice to, well, startups.

Zoe hosted a panel that featured four speakers, each of whom briefly gave their 3 top tips for startups before engaging in what turned out to be a lively discussion.

Christine Reilly is a senior executive in the consumer practice at PR agency Hotwire. Accordingly she gave us three tips on promotion and press coverage:

  • Define what news is and establish whether you have it.
  • Find the right person to share your news with.
  • Share your news!

She stressed the usefulness of building a thought leadership position, mentioned the twitter hashtag #journorequests and pointed out that while social media is essential, it’s certainly no substitute for in-person socialising, especially over coffee. (Not news to me, but always good to hear!)

David Davies, of the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite gave some insightful legal advice:

  • Make sure that ownership of any IP is clear, ie that it’s assigned to your startup.
  • Get your partnership agreements down on paper as early as possible.
  • And when you’ve got VCs or angels sniffing around, use your lawyer as a sounding board – don’t just get them in at the last minute to tie up the paperwork.

Next up was Marion Gamel, who has a diverse background in fashion, publishing and technology (including at Google), and is now VP of Marketing, EMEA at Eventbrite. Her advice for startups?

  • Be data-driven
  • Be scalable
  • Be relevant locally
  • Test, reiterate, test, reiterate… and on and on
  • Build a strong company culture

Finally, Matt Ballantine, startup founder for only a fortnight and formerly of (amongst others), BBC Worldwide and Microsoft, talked about selling your proposition to clients – but from the point of view of someone who’d been on the receiving end of a lot of such selling.

  • Understand your different user groups – and crucially don’t get them confused.
  • Build empathy with these groups.
  • Ask yourself: what can you give them?

He also stressed that whenever you can, use the word “you” rather than “we” – a basic rule so frequently transgressed by businesses.

Areas discussed during Q&A included: the enforceability of NDAs; the use of events for PR as apposed to a purely virtual approach; the difficulty large companies have in continuing to innovate (a common theme in this blog); reactive vs proactive PR; the pitfalls in transition from startup to corporate; and the importance of understanding different IP frameworks internationally.

Sarah got in with a couple of questions about how should startups develop and refine their elevator pitch. Tips included: keep it concise, understand what your audience/customer/client wants and have a clear mission statement.

We enjoyed catching up over a glass of wine with Michelle Gallen, the entrepreneur behind the networking app Shhmooze, whom Sarah met through her work with the Springboard accelerator programme (now TechStars London) and whose technology we use at Angel Academe. (Tip: download this app if you’re an event organiser or regularly go to events and want to maximise their value. We find it very useful for event promotion, to see what events our contacts are attending and who we should meet at the events we attend).

Anyway – congratulations to Zoe on a really interesting evening. The next one is at Google Campus and asks the very pertinent question: “Does Your Startup Reflect Your Values?