03 Mar 2014

Getting Started

By Lily

As we gear up for the next round of applications for Bethnal Green Ventures (opening next Monday!) we get a lot of people coming to us and asking: How do I get started? How do I quit my job? How do I find collaborators?

We don’t have all the answers, but we’ve seen a fair few people go through the process now, so we’re getting pretty good at recognising patterns and knowing what tends to work and what tends to go disastrously wrong, so here are some thoughts. We’re still learning too and would love your to hear your thoughts in the comments.

One of the most common questions we get is “how do I find the right people to work with me on my idea?”

We set a lot of store by what Kurt Vonnegurt has to say about teams:

“The team must consist of three sorts of specialists, he says. Otherwise the revolution, whether in politics or the arts or the sciences or whatever, is sure to fail.

The rarest of these specialists, he says, is an authentic genius – a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in in general circulation.

“A genius working alone,” he says, “is invariably ignored as a lunatic.”

The second sort of specialist is a lot easier to find; a highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius, and who testifies that the genius is far from mad.

“A person like this working alone,” says Slazinger, “can only yearn loud for changes, but fail to say what their shape should be.”

The third sort of specialist is a person who can explain everything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people, no matter how stupid or pigheaded they may be. “He will say almost anything in order to be interesting and exciting,” says Slazinger.

Roughly translated, you need three things in a startup: technical talent, a passion and understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and an ability to communicate this clearly to the world. These skills may not reside in three separate people but it is a good idea to try and have them all in one place.

But a team needs more than brilliant people and key skills, there are plenty of dysfunctional teams stacked with brilliant people – the missing ingredient here, as Bryce Roberts argues, is chemistry. A knack to working together and enjoying it however rough the ride might be. And the only way to really get to this – just as with dating – is trial and error. You’ll know once you start working with the right person/people.

So the next question is invariably where do you meet these brilliant and chemically aligned people?

Our best bet so far has been to get out there and talk about your idea as much as possible. Tell everyone you meet because you never know when a chance encounter might trigger a lifelong relationship, or when a random introduction might be THE ONE. This approach may seem a bit scattergun but there are ways of increasing your chances. The first is to go to places with like minded people – we’ve found that the tech meetup scene is a brilliant place for startups to be born – more than one of our teams first set eyes upon each other in a crowded Shoreditch pub. Some of our favourite are Cleanweb, Women in Data, District Health, Tech for Good (disclaimer we help run this one- and it’s on next Monday!), Internet Of Things and many more…

Apart from events there is also the brilliant online world – twitter if well tamed is a brilliant source of information and collaboration; mailing lists such as Ada’s List (if you’re a woman in tech) and networks like Student Hubs also brilliant places to go. Sometimes funders can also point you in the right direction or hook up people who are keen to find each other – so don’t be shy to approach them! It’s not easy but we are confident that the right people are out there, you just need to maximise your chances of finding them. Good luck!