How I can help Esc members
Crowd Valley is a spin-out of the Grow VC Group (www.growvcgroup.com), which represents crowdfunding, new investment models, global business development programs, and service providers for startups and investors. The Group and all of its companies are always looking for entrepreneurial designers, developers, marketeers, and anyone else around the world interested in these new markets. In particular we have a great new company called ChangeLab23, which provides UX and software development services around the world, so I'd recommend to any designers or developers looking for new ventures that they have a look at www.changelab23.com.
I'm one of the co-founders of a company called Crowd Valley (www.crowdvalley.com).
Crowd Valley helps organisations around the world set up crowdfunding platforms by providing technology and back office services. Analysts and investors have suggested that the crowdfunding market could be worth $300bn just in the US, where the JOBS Act will allow startups to access capital from non-accredited investors for the first time, and we're aiming to provide the infrastructure for that market.
My role is a good mix of sales and customer support alongside developing the product. I'm responsible for making sure the product develops in the right way both for our customers and for financial regulatory authorities, which have a big part to play in regulating the new crowdfunding market.
Before I escaped...
I worked for a boutique consulting firm called Rapid Innovation Group in London, which advises technology startups on sales and marketing strategy and execution.
I spent five years working with 15 different startups, including some of the best technology entrepreneurs I've ever come across. I learnt a lot about entrepreneurship and company-building but I think there's a big difference in giving advice and being the one who takes the decisions. I wanted to feel what it was like across the other side of the table - especially once I met my now co-founders and started looking into the emerging crowdfunding market for the first time.
My moment of truth...
The last time I ever got a payslip from my previous firm definitely made me realise that this was going to be a huge change. You quickly realise that you have no money at all coming in until you make something happen yourself. That's quite a sobering thought on Day 1.
Planning for it...
In an ideal world I would have spent years putting aside a pot to give myself more breathing space, but with this opportunity coming quite quickly the best I could do was save up as much as I could from my last couple of months' salary and cut out as many costs as possible.
I think people often forget that the best way to get money into a new business is to win some customers. So we set ourselves up with the goal of being profitable from the very beginning by providing support packages as well as selling the product itself. Within the team we have quite a range of expertise and strong networks so we used those as much as we could to give ourselves the best chance of building a sustainable company.
The worst and best bits...
The positive side is definitely the sense of self-determination - you know that you're doing something that you chose and your success is down to you and the team around you. That feeling is a huge motivator. At the same time you have to listen to a lot of people saying it won't work for whatever reason.
The first time we made money by selling the product was a great moment. The actual amount wasn't particularly high but it proved that we were doing something right, and that first customer has been a very vocal supporter of ours ever since. The worst part especially in the early days is probably the effect it has on your life outside of work. There are times when you have to decide whether to avoid going out with friends or go but hope that nobody notices you haven't bought a round for a while.
Make sure you spend time in and around the industry you're looking at. It's easy to come up with ideas that make sense at first glance but then don't stand up when you start speaking to people in the know. Some of the best startups solve problems that might not be obvious to everyone but make real sense to their customers.
Useful resources and information...
There are so many great blogs about entrepreneurship and starting companies - here are a few of my favourites: - A VC - http://www.avc.com
- OpenView Labs - http://labs.openviewpartners.com
- Both Sides of the Table - www.bothsidesofthetable.com - Seth Godin - www.sethgodin.com - Feld Thoughts - www.feld.com - Steve Blank - www.steveblank.com
- RIG - www.rapidinnovation.co.uk/blog