Swear Box Revisited and Bravery

 

Why the potty mouth?
Swearing in business seems to be on the up….

Brave : having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty.

 

The above definition is taken from the Miriam Webster and demonstrates perfectly the traits some men and women show in the line of duty every day. People like soldiers, firemen, coast guards to name just a few.

But now there’s a new kind of bravery that we have to face, in the sphere of social media. Writing a blog is one way of putting your voice, ‘out there’, we’ve covered elsewhere the new ‘fire’ of shock-blogging where people throw a few f-words out there to spice things up and that’s a form of bravery.

If you’re a LinkedIn regular, you can’t possibly have missed the article about the lady working in a shed. Her name is Cara Mackay and only she’ll know what she was looking to achieve by chucking the F-Bomb out there, but whatever, it doesn’t matter. It was brave in a social media way. Since there, there have been plenty of people (notably from the marketing, PR, digital media space) all having a little swear-up. You’ll see a link to another one, posted five days after Cara’s original. Not brave necessarily but it seems to be some kind of catharsis for the author, but it kind of took Cara’s lead for the subsequent swear-box contributors to speak up.

The Founder is a fan of Cara’s. Not because she has a potty-mouth (but still, if that works for her then hey, we ain’t judging) but because she has the conviction to put it out there. LinkedIn banned her for a day and tried to take away her right to free speech but you can’t keep a firecracker like your shed woman down for long!

But Cara has inspired The Founder to be brave in his own way; to finally do something he wished he’d had the vegetables to do ages ago. Starting this weekend, The Founder is going to look at every single contact ask them, why are we connected? What’s in it for me, what’s in it for you?

It may sound ridiculous but several times over the last few months, when asking for intros, we’ve been told, ‘Oh, I don’t really (actually) know them’. One even called himself a LinkedIn Whore. And so, in the large scheme of things, this may not seem brave. But actively looking to reduce a professional network sure does feel it!

Here are the links to the articles….

Cara Mackays Original Post

Another sweary post.

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Fire Fire Fire!
 

It’s been a long time I shouldn’t have left you
Without a strong rhyme to step to
Think of how many weak shows you slept through
Time’s up I’m sorry I kept you*

It’s funny really, we only wrote about ten blog entries but when we took a brief break to concentrate on writing brochures, use cases etc., we got inundated with about three emails demanding that we get back to blogging!  It’s not like there’s a shortage of content out there, we think it’s just because people are interested in the people they’re engaging with every day.

Lots has happened since last October, we won awards, raised equity funding, brought three new huge customers on board and grew the team. But that’s no excuse; we built an audience and then left you hanging. Sorry.

But let’s move forward. Here’s what you can expect to read over the next few months.

The Founder has gone through a number of funding rounds in different guises but none the size, scale and sheer reach of the various Uber raises. He’ll talk about that. As well, LinkedIn. Where to start on LinkedIn? The intrepid Founder is going to undertake an unusual social experiment, more of that another day.

There’s enough being said about Brexit and the brouhaha across the pond with the new leader of the free world (which in itself seems to be a controversial moniker) so we’re probably going to leave that alone.  Not because we don’t have an opinion, rather that we don’t have anything to say that isn’t being said loudly elsewhere. So consider this a break from the madding crowd, a quiet corner, if you will.

We’re going to talk about the difference between UK venture capital people and their US equivalents and the challenges facing female start-ups. Pretty excited, eh?  As if that’s not enough, we’re also going to ponder the wisdom of openly stating your football club allegiance on your website profile and the mystery of the shrinking Cadbury’s Crème Egg.

No, really.  Watch this space. It’s going to be fire.

*Lyrics from ‘I Know You Got Soul’, Eric B and Rakim, 1987.

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There’s nothing like a little bit of unbridled cynicism. When experienced eyes see the ‘new’, oftentimes there’s one of those sneery smiles and gentle head shake with a little roll of the eyes to complete the perfect sarcastic trifecta.

And so it is when you spy the photos on LinkedIn as Eric McNewjob shows off the welcome pack at his new desk-with-a-view over Manhattan, London or wherever is cooler than where you are. Like a wide-eyed child piling into a stack of Apple-branded packets under a Christmas tree at Yuletide, we get peek inside trendy techville as we stare longingly at gadgets, right-on snacks and toys all presented impeccably to make the newbie feel right at home from the get-go.

Only it’s not new. As far back as 1988, on The Founders first day as a salesman for Peugeot he was presented to the keys of his 205 GTi 1.6 demonstrator (if you know, you know), a PDH Garages blazer and most importantly his Lombard Finance payments calculator. Even before that, when The Founder was a mere scrap of a lad on his first paper-round, aged 13, on his first day at Sandy’s newsagent in Morden, he was presented with a prestigious over-the-shoulder paper bag and a bobble hat with The Mirror emblazoned across the front.  Ah, the halcyon days of yore….

But spare a thought if you will for the new starter at Shuttle towers in a couple of weeks; a reconditioned Dell Latitude, Moleskin pad (which pilfered from a lender’s stand at the NACFB Expo!), a Lamy pen and a pre-paid Oyster card*. But she’s lucky! The Straight Line Guy had to make do

with a Chromebook that he bought himself and a Wiley Fox phone.

These are the realities of the start-up. Much is made of ‘boot-strapping’, ‘lean’ and ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ and it’s true, it really is.  It would be lovely to be able to give our newbies a newly price-inflated Mac Book Pro with a 29 inch screen for the desktop moments, a funky t-shirt and some healthy, nutty snack wonders but we’re just not there yet.  But there’s no reason to be miserable, we have the tools to get the job done and we’ve just had news of a lovely grant from Reigate and Borough Council who want to buy us some rather nifty equipment to help with our UX and UI testing.

How cool is that?

*the Crunchie in the picture may or may not be there in a couple of weeks.

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We read lots of blogs because they’re something of a window, almost a way to see the human side of a business. Or at least that’s what you want to see, but the story is usually ideal and has some kind of message or positive ‘yay us’ outcome which is lovely actually, after all who wants to read misery, right?

Of course, living in start-up and early-stage world there’s always something to write about.  Whether you’re closing your first deals, winning investment or fending off competition, you’re learning new stuff every day and you’re gathering stories of derring-do, heroics and disasters.

But then, there are days like this.

Days when the bills get paid, receipts get logged in Xero and the VAT Return is completed; sales leads are turned in to opportunities in the CRM and the hundreds of to-do lists are consolidated in to one. Days when the glamour (!) of startupville fades into the same grey of the clouds above and you’re just in the grind of everyday, humdrum maintenance.

Sounds miserable eh?  Far from it actually.  It’s days like this when you realise how far you’ve come. You’re paying VAT, not reclaiming.  Petrol chits remind you of those super-energised customer meetings. The pile of receipts is never-ending and you see the one from PC-World, for the laptop you bought for employee number three. Then four. Days like this.

Doing the housekeeping is a time of reflection, a chance to slow down, take stock and measure stuff you wouldn’t normally measure.  Every day we look at the cash balance, the pipeline, the click rates on the email campaign, the agile development board and everything else that can be scrutinised, measured and optimised. But when you take the time to clean house, to fill the printer up with paper, to tidy the stationary cupboard (actually, we bought a new one this weekend and spent the morning assembling it!) and clear the desk you get to feel like a grown up business. Like you’re getting somewhere.

So now we’re recovered from the week that was and now we’re all mapped out for the week ahead. Gatwick, London, York and Norwich beckon with stop-offs in Doncaster, Kings Lynn and a small town in Essex, more customers more petrol chits and a couple of nights in ‘economical’ hotels.

So, days like this?  No bad thing…..

A Deeper Love

 

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The Founder and Straight Line Guy

 In startup land, there’s something that our friends at Entrepreneurial Spark call the Founders Dilemma and they devote an entire event and lots of research just to talk through some of the challenges of finding that elusive ‘co’. At some point, the me has to become we as it did with Shuttle. But like all things, there’s a story.

The search for a Co-Founder was a mind-stretcher to say the least.  The Founder has a ton of experience of bringing teams together and some pretty high-heeled ones to boot. Having spent the lion’s share of his career building and shaping teams, he has no trouble qualifying technical competence and weighing cultural fit and then negotiating and agreeing terms of engagement.   But when it came to finding the elusive Co-Founder, then things got really tough.

After fruitless discussions with friends and current networks, it was clear that folks were either skeptical about joining a start-up or just didn’t seem to bring enough to the table.  And the trouble with friends is, they’re all TOO nice and your idea sounds great until they have to buy it, then things get awkward.

The next step was 602-227-1308. Among the sixty or so responses there were the predictable ‘I have a wonderful financial services product that I want to take to market from my shed in Pontypridd and the ‘you need me’ but underneath that, there were some real gems.

In the end two people stood out, both were complete tech-heads, both were charming, honest affable guys and both will make someone wonderful Co-Founders one day but in the start-up game there’s a heartbeat and a soul that can’t be heard or felt. There’s an energy that runs through it with a DNA that isn’t unique especially because it can be tuned in to, but it has flavor and culture. And no matter how much you try and force that energy and vibe into a conversation (or even series of conversations), if the other person can’t feel it, it’s just not going to happen. And if the magic doesn’t come, the story feels contrived and un-natural and flat. If anything, the buzz that was there seems to be being drained and diluted

Until you meet The One.

In our case it was the once-mentioned Straight Line Guy, introduced to The Founder by a mentor from the Accelerator Academy who knew of him from a piece of work blah blah blah.  The detail doesn’t matter, the fact is this guy was available and he seemed to tick some boxes, but here’s the kicker, he was willing to take it slow.

Straight Line Guy had form; he’d worked in startupville for a few years and had blood on his hands and feathers in his cap. For all of The Founders creativity and blue-sky thinking, so Straight Line Guy is process, customer delight and KPI-driven measurement. Finding someone to take a share of the leadership isn’t about divvying up tasks, it’s about filling gaps, finding holes in your armoury and tooling up with top grade ordinance.

Strictly speaking, he’s not a co-founder per se, but for all intents and purposes, that’s the role he holds and fills impeccably.

His name is Alex, but for reasons that we’ll come to later, we’ll call him Straight Line Guy.

How’s that?

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A Pound in the Swear Box

 When we were searching for our first round of seed investment we did the predictable time-service that is research.  As we steadily worked our way through every incubator, every accelerator and every other early growth opportunity (not to mention the so-called hackathons and such), so we also looked at the organisations that have benefited in the past and are now on to bigger and better things.  You know, to get a feel for the success story.

We came across some really interesting things, some really ‘homely’ ideas like borrowing other peoples’ dogs and swapping ideas for kids days out. Then there are the comparison aggregators, the game-sites and every conceivable social media platform.  And then again, are the productivity apps, one of which really caught our eye but not for the reasons you might think.

Yep the UI was great, in the same way the UI for lots of things is great, and the use case, seems pretty nailed on but neither of those things, or the snappy orange and black colour scheme was the thing that really stood out.  It was actually the use of a near-as-nevermind naughty word. In fact, it was the absolute use of a naughty word but with a single ‘i’ exchanged for an exclamation mark.  Imagine if you will, “Get Stuff Done” but not with the word ‘stuff’.  With a naughty word.

When we first saw it, it jarred. That’s because here in mainstream business world, someone had crossed a line.  Sure, in uber-cool environs, they’ve been effing and jeffing for years, but seeing it in our world, well that’s just not cricket. Or is it?

Somehow these pioneers have become comfortable enough to use the language they want to, when they want to.  Maybe they think that there’s enough of a market out there in their own age/culture space, maybe they think they can break down stuffy old barriers; either way you have to doff your cap to their chutzpah.

It’s true, The Founder is a keen proponent of the Getting Things Done movement and maybe sometimes may use a blue word or two, but would we put it up on the strap-line?

We’re not quite there yet and if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to get shit done.

Oops, where’s the swear box?

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Ever gone on the entrepreneurial journey?  For many of us with (rapidly thinning) grey hair, the first we knew of the word entrepreneur was in the halcyon days of George Cole and Denis Waterman’s ITV masterpiece, Minder. Arthur Daley, a small-time con-man who would charmingly trick his way into people’s wallets and skilfully talk himself out of trouble was the first public custodian of the moniker, ‘entrepreneur’.  At least for The Founder, anyway.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘entrepreneur’ is simply; ‘someone who starts their own business, especially when this involves seeing a new opportunity’. The Founder has no truck with this over-simplistic definition, it’s lazy and goes nowhere near the mindset of the entrepreneur and really only talks to a single thing they may have done, not what they are capable of doing.

No, sir (or madam, if you prefer). Not at all.

An entrepreneur is a person who’s willing to challenge and be challenged. Imagine standing in front of your first love, reading the first love poem you ever wrote out loud for the very first time. That. An entrepreneur is someone who has an idea, more than likely borne from a problem they’ve encountered and they’ve dared to say it out loud. They’ve had the chutzpah to stand up in front friends, lovers, spouses, mentors, investors and customers to test assumptions, press on or pivot and move this thing forward, with only themselves for support. They’re challenging their worlds and the worlds of those they talk to, good entrepreneurs are great challengers. Pretty cool, eh?

At some point though, the idea can become a crusade and that’s a problem in itself. Entrepreneurs become lobbyists, protesters and these challengers becoming challenging.  Change the last three letters of a word and you shift the dynamic diametrically from being a positive tag to being a dragging label. The best professionals in the world love to be challenged. None of them particularly wants to work with challenging people.

Where entrepreneur used to be used as a euphemism for a bit of a chancer, so challenging is a euphemism for a pain in the neck. Not cool.

Entrepreneurs exist in every facet of everyday life, from the halls of our schools to the biggest global conglomerate to the local greengrocer offering single-tree apples and super-fresh, organic pomegranates.  All of these people are challengers of the status quo and look up from your PC right now and look around you.  Somewhere there is an entrepreneur and maybe it’s a skill to recognise that in others, not just yourself.

Or are they just a pain in the neck?

Gotta flow, Hugo……

 

david-and-hugoToday is a gloomy day in the Shuttle Fortress. The Founder is listless and the trusty Straight Line Guy (we’ll come to him another day) has his chin in his chest. It’s temporary of course, but it’s a natural if brief period of melancholy because today we lost one of our number.

Yep, we’re a man down and it’s not like we didn’t see it coming. In fact, we knew from day one, that September 22st, 2016 would be the final episode in the three-month story that was The Intern.

The Intern was introduced to us by the lovely Bella Cranmore of benzoperoxide who we met through our participation in the Entrepreneurial Sparks programme. Straight Line Guy sifted through a few people who Bella thought may be a fit, and he honed in on Hugo. Hugo, a French Masters student was looking to join an early-stage business where he could improve his spoken and written Business-English and after a couple of Skype calls and emails, an agreement was reached.

Hugo joined us with a dual remit. The first was to provide some deep-dive research into our potential overseas market opportunities and to make those into a compelling business case for investment of time and money.  The second element, was to design, build and deliver an in-bound marketing campaign in cahoots with Straight Line Guy, concentrating firstly on the Bridging and Short-Term Lending area.

But that’s the dry stuff, it doesn’t really matter a jot that he delivered.  (and boy, for the record, did he deliver!). That’s not what we’ll miss.

We’ll miss his relentless drive, his quiet Gallic charm and humour and his willingness to learn.  Yeah, we actually like him. A lot. Just a week ago, Bella came to film a testimonial and the mutual respect was tangible and as much credit that we give to Hugo, we’re also going to pat ourselves on the back.

We’ve seen interns come and go in other businesses and we learned the lessons that were being played out in front of us.  The biggest one of all was that interns aren’t just cheap (damn near free, actually) resource who you throw a phone script at and say, get selling.   It doesn’t work like that.

We interviewed properly and invested time in working with Hugo to make sure he understood our offering, our product, our customers and what we wanted from him.  We gave him a voice on our team calls with meaningful deliverables and included him in everything we did. He quickly became part of what we are and who we’re trying to be.

So, back to the south of France he goes to complete his studies, with our thanks, our respect and if we have our way, he’ll be back.

Bientôt, Hugo.

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Welcome to inaugural post on the 153rd millionth blog in the info-verse.

No,really. A quick google enquiry reveals that there are approximately 152,000,000 blogs for you to catch up with, each one telling stories of struggles, crusades, missions and journeys.  Along with those that talk about lifestyle choices, sports fandom and every conceivable facet of culture, there is absolutely no reason to want for reading material whether its life affirming, inspirational or just plain funny.

So why are we bothering?  If you’ve clicked to read this, you literally had millions of other options but you came here because you want to know more about us. Who are we? What are we for? What are we like?   We’re guessing here, but we think that it comes down to curiosity.

For all of our professional evaluation and buying criteria, we really just want to know who we’re working with. We talk a lot about alignment and synergy but in truth, we want to work with people like us, people with decent values and intention, people who deliver and do the things they say they’re going to do.

Blogs have a candid, off-the-cuff nature that belies the planning and strategy that goes on behind many of them. Whether it’s a content plan or a posting schedule or carefully placed SEO-boosters you can bet your bottom dollar, someone somewhere is staring hopefully at Google Analytics to see how their latest masterpiece is doing.

So why should we be different?  Well, we’re not.

We’ve resolved to post our view of the world once a week, every week. Between us we’ve worked out the things we want to talk about and roughly, when we want to talk about it. All we have to do is make sure that we include the ‘we’. Easy, eh?  We’ll see.

And boy do we have some rich pickings for subject matter. Having spent 18 months or so going through the start-up eco-system, we’ve seen some sights. Working in the financial services industry has its challenges and we’re pretty sporty folk too, so we’ve always got something to comment on.

So there you are.  Just under four hundred words of ‘hello’. Welcome to Shuttle and our view of our world. We’d love your involvement and comments, please do find us on Twitter or email us.

See you next week