13 Jun 2014

What startups wish they’d known…

By Lily

I asked our teams recently what they wish they’d known before starting Bethnal Green Ventures and I received a deluge of replies. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

Here are our alumni’s 20 top tips (which could apply to anyone going into an accelerator programme). Be warned that some of them may contradict each other.


  1. Go to the office. Spending time with the rest of the cohort and mentors is a huge part of the value of the programme.
  2. Focus, focus, focus… Decide the top three things you want to get out of the experience, and make sure you review these each week.
  3. Build the smallest thing you can.
  4. Get out of the building and talk to as many people as possible. Find a market for your product before your write a line of code. Spend time with users. Be open, listen. Confident in you goal but not arrogant.
  5. Get all the connections and introductions you can. Remember, good networking is about giving, not taking. Offer to help others. Believe in serendipity. Be brave and make calls.
  6. Ask for introductions. Referrals are your best form of marketing.
  7. Start looking at funding applications from day one, so you know what information you need to start putting together and the data, research and proof points you’ll need to back up your claims in the applications closer to the deadlines.
  8. Aggregate advice and make your own decisions. Lots and lots of people (even the local shop keeper, the friend of a friend of a friend and your great grand uncle) will have advice and opinions on what you are doing and the best way to go about it.
  9. Read the Lean Startup ASAP. The idea of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) being something that quickly tests your value proposition hypothesis is something every startup should have drummed into them as much, and as early, as possible.
  10. Don’t be distracted by the small stuff. (You can waste ages on coming up with a new logo or name.)
  11. Be consistent (between pivots!)
  12. Find something that works. Then make sure you ship it, fast. You don’t have a scaling problem yet. Validate what you think you’ve learned. You’ll know if you’ve found a fit.
  13. Have a CRM for your sales pipeline. Selling is about relationships so put names on it. Experiment with pricing. Create excitement and scarcity. Hustle! This is horrible and hard but vital. Most professionals massively underestimate how many phone calls are required to get a deal done. (It’s 30 on average).
  14. Secrecy is your enemy.
  15. Dream big, but act small.
  16. Plan to do what it takes to make your first sale by the time you leave
  17. Burn rate is the enemy. Work out how to reduce it. But invest in tools to save time.
  18. Watch out for charlatans.
  19. Sort out bank issues and HMRC paperworks before you get in the door. It will make your life much easier
  20. HAVE FUN!