Dispatches from the entrepreneurial front

I’ve been contemplating doing this for a while … a diary about being my entrepreneurial adventures (rather than being in a war zone for once).

When I was in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wrote a set of dispatches from the front which I ended up sending to about 500 people each fortnight. Perhaps these were a bit more exciting (or at least more about life and death literally). That being said, an entrepreneur’s life certainly does amount to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and the ‘sea of troubles’ is pretty commonplace too! As a result, I thought that recording some of the experiences of being an entrepreneur would make an interesting part three.

I start this diary at the start of 2015; the business has been going for a while, and as with any startup, we’ve pivoted and adjusted our mission and I think we finally have product market fit, and so it is time to scale (our mission for this year). Certainly there are a few tweaks here and there, but at least we haven’t had to change things around 39 times before we hit success with attempt number 40. The story of Norm Larsen is a great one demonstrating the need for entrepreneurs to be persistent in order to see their vision brought to life — and given that everyone uses WD-40, it is a great example to throw back to detractors of entrepreneurs who don’t understand the need to try and fail multiple times in many cases.

Like being in a war zone, the challenges of an entrepreneur are numerous — the fog of war exists, there aren’t necessarily enough resources to achieve the missions and you need to have a better OODA loop that the enemy (or in this case competitors, substitutes and whatever you are trying to replace). Fortunately, we have over 15,000 businesses on our platform so people are starting to take us relatively seriously.

One of the great resources that we able to get on board in 2014 was to be accepted into Seedcamp. In the same way that studying Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and the writings of other military types is valuable in building your skills and knowledge as an army officer, Seedcamp has helped immeasurably in terms of developing as an entrepreneur. More than anyone else, they helped to really highlight that we needed to radically look at our branding (and they weren’t afraid to tell us).

So as we enter into 2015, we have a plan and a set of milestones to execute against. While I fully appreciate that no plan survives first contact with the enemy, I hope it will provide a degree of structure going forward. One of the important things that I’ve learnt, whether in a war zone or when running a business, is that you need to ensure that all your activities are co-ordinated such that they are synchronised and/or sequenced when needed (particularly when you don’t have all the resources you need).

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