Manchester (UK) -born and California (US) startup schooled, I draw on digital experience from a variety of startup project in E-Commerce, App, consumer goods. A Growth Hacker by trade I’ve worn SEO, paid ads, content champion and marketer hats to optimize and unlock new revenue channels. While working at companies that include Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Touch Surgery, Trubrain and Vape Shoreditch.
The UK tech sector has a very busy event calendar, which is getting busier as the tech scene grows and more scaling companies are built. We hear from Andy Davis, Head of Growth at Upscale company Touch Surgery, on lean marketing
3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, California, 90401 is where I got my Startup education. Never has there been a better place for inspiration and creative thought; eccentric beautiful people from all over the world, sunshine with views over the Pacific Ocean, the storied Santa Monica Pier is home to the Pacific Park amusement park and the beach isn’t bad either. If you’re not already green with envy at this point, it’s about to get worse as I don’t consider the lifestyle to be my luckiest encounter. No, my luckiest encounter was having incredibly talented people who are experts at fundamentally understanding startups and how to build lean. And they were my mentors, everyday.
I was taught many principles that I carry with me everyday from my time in California and many came from Chris Thompson of TruBrain, a friend and mentor who lived and died by… building lean. Eric Ries ‘Lean Startup Methodology’ brought minimum viable product (MVP) and minimum viable test (MVT) as absolute best practice before rolling out a product or test. Unlike a prototype or concept test, an MVP is designed not just to answer product design or technical questions. Its goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses. Consequently, startup marketers felt offline testing was inefficient, expensive and too slow on feedback. However, as any good startup marketer knows, it’s all about testing the world and seeing what sticks.
Be disciplined with your process:
My general process consists of; seeking out comparable companies, commonly known as (comps) for inspiration, applying that inspiration to an MVT, adjust according to data and results. Score out results against benchmarks and relevant KPI’s, assess breakevens. Funnel more $ into the successors.
As I have limited words for this blog I just listed some of the channels I have tested below, sorry I didn’t have time to share case studies. Next time!
Referral programs, Affiliate programs, funnel optimization, Youtube, guest blogging, guest podcasting. Paid influencers on Instagram and youtube, built own podcast, campaign giveaways via landing page, Ad words, PPC & remarketing, Website A/B test changes to CTA, email marketing, Getting Olark for live customer support, Spotify Playlist for members, email drip system for distribution partners, e-commerce profit shares, in App advertisements, content ads via Outbrain, SlideShare’s, animated explainer video, Facebook, Linkedin & twitter ads, influencer mentions, backlinking, SEO, ASO, press blasts and more…
Is content still king?
Something I get asked all the time and I believe the answer to be, absolutely yes. I have felt for a long time that people who have been educated in startup fall into a habit of spending so much time digging to find hacks that they forget what it is that actually engages the desired audience, content.
It’s never best practice to internally think about your own behavioural habits when considering strategy or positioning but for the sake of this point, do it now… How do you digest content? There is 2 ways to digest content online: audio and visual. Since we’re limited by senses. The point being, something that’s audio or visual actually needs to be produced and distributed in order for an interaction to occur.
First things, first. Content Team, assemble!
Hubspot, generally considered the thought leader for inbound marketing, believe the following to be the most optimised way to build a marketing team: 2-3 writers/editors (based on volume needs) 1 designer, 1 content team manager (the generalist). Essentially, a team of creative people and 1 generalist who manages the process, the SEO and optimisation work.
For a few years now I have avoided events like the plague…
I have always felt they are a huge waste of time. Networking and musing on ideas that will never happen, very bearish on the whole concept. However, I realised that my emotion was starting to get in the way and thinking about events from an internal perspective which again, is a horrible habit for a startup marketer. So, I started to think where the real value add was with events, I was still convinced that attending was generally a fail so where was the value…
It made sense when I started to think about whom is getting the value, not what is the value. Then I realised that the big winners are the event hosts, if done successfully and efficiently can bring a huge value add.
So, let’s consider some of the value add:
Influencer engagement – Unfortunately for those outside of the major tech hubs this will be much harder to do lean. However, if you happen to be in Tech City for example, your chances dramatically increase. To be blunt about it, people love talking about themselves and announced as the honourable speaker. So, getting influencers involved in events can be much easier than you would think and once they agree and attend you have a new mate.
Press – Getting exclusives on the latest and greatest in tech is irresistible to the press so when approaching the press make sure you offer it as an exclusive. The hard part about this is making an event that actually involves some newsworthy content. Perhaps consider this before the event, as having an event without a purpose is an over saturated marketplace.
Content Creation – There is an opportunity to get lots of different assets from an event; interviews, buzz footage, speeches, product endorsements, blog content, image content, etc. I like to look at films promotions as a great example, chat shows, interviews, multiple trailers, blooper reels, deleted scenes, these are all ways of promoting the film. I’ll let you draw the parallels.
Distribution – You get more bang for your buck with events, think bigger than real time. Push the content from the event in incremental bit’s therefore, you get continued engagement, the internet is like an investment portfolio. For example, if you put all your money in commodities your risk is much higher, so by diversification, you’re limiting your risk of no return. Try promoting on different owned media for a whole week, as a layman example – Facebook for week 1, Twitter for week 2, etc and make the most out of your content. With events, you also have the opportunity to distribute through your guests, make sure you get all attendees owned media handles so as you distribute you can backlink, tag etc and since they attended and probably have their picture on display, people will generally be happy to share.
My Next Test
I think that is goes with saying, my next test is an event, a ‘Hackathon’ to be more specific. The event that I’m running is for Touch Surgery, one of Upscale’s first 30 companies. The event is a Hackathon in partnership with BAPRAS: The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive & Anaesthetic Surgeons. The goal is to find solutions to problems in the medical field, identified by the leading Surgeons at BAPRAS, that can realistically be pursued as a viable product or service such as; hardware, software, app, tools/ instruments, consumables.
My results are TBD but as long as I follow the lean process, remain competitively curious and stay on my toes ready for adjustments (based on results), I will have given myself the best chance for success.
Shameless Plug – I’m still searching for talented; business, marketing, engineers and designers to participate in the event, June 4th & 5th @ Balderton Capital. Sign up page: http://partner.touchsurgery.com/biz-form/
Hack your Cognitive Performance
It’s something that I spent a lot of time, energy and resources pursuing. My ambition growing up was to be a pro golfer and the compelling thing about golf compared to other sports is that physicality isn’t necessarily an advantage. The real advantage was mental performance, so from a very young age I become obsessed with optimizing my mental performance and efficiency. The golf thing didn’t work out but it was a natural fit that I would go on to build startups that were all about; Cognitive preparation, optimization, leading to productively efficient outcomes. Of course, on my journey I tried and tested everything that might help with my cognitive performance and that’s what I’m going to share with in this blog post…
Like 100 Million other Americans my pursuit towards enhanced focus and productivity started with coffee. Tea was my first caffeine fix but coffee came into the mix and it was a game changer. Coffee, completely changed my energy levels and I immediately felt ready to take on the world. Like most humans, when I discover something I like, I binge out. I soon found myself unable to focus on anything at all so I decided to test out what the optimal coffee intake was per day. After a few weeks of testing I discovered that a coffee at 8am and a 2nd at 1:30pm gave me the best performance. Quantifying ‘best’ when it comes to cognitive performance is a formula that neuroscientists are still searching for.
During my coffee test I discovered that coffee is actually a nootropic, given it’s a very basic one I was compelled to learn more.
What is a nootropic? “Nootropics, a greek word meaning ‘Towards the Mind’, are compounds that are both (1) neurologically active and (2) directly or indirectly enhances cognitive potential via increased capabilities (ie. reflexes), state of well being, or learning potential” Essentially, people use them to enhance memory or other cognitive functions. Sound familiar? Yes, 100 million people use nootropics every single day, coffee. However, there are better ones available. The best analogy I can think of for nootropics is dieting, you can’t just have 1 green juice for 1 day and expect to be healthy or lose weight, it takes consistency before you see results and nootropics is exactly the same. It was around week 2 when i really started to notice the effect, other people I spoke with said less time and others said more. However, I really enjoyed the benefits. Tasks that i would normally procrastinate on I found myself jumping right into, like laundry I would normally put off until I had no clothes left but on nootropics I would simply get it done without really thinking. A really compelling mind state.
Music is a part of everyone’s life and without having quantifiable evidence I think it’s safe to say that music can have a profound affect on a person’s mental state. I’m guilty of letting my mood determine what music I listen to which in term exaggerates my mood, whether that be good or bad. Humans are inefficient by nature so it comes as no surprise that a person’s mood can be inconvenient, bad moods coming on at the wrong place, wrong time, happens to all of us. I wanted to force myself to listen to positive music when I was in a bad mood and see the outcome. It was actually amazing and something that took me a while to achieve because I didn’t have the discipline to change the music over at first. We have all been in a bad mood in the car when someone puts on happy upbeat music and it actually makes you more angry, but i found that if you surfice for a little while you actually start to feel better. Amazing. Touch Surgery are preparing a playlist on spotify, built from surgeons around the world suggesting songs that they listen to in the operating theatre that gives them the optimal mental state for an operation. If it’s good enough for Surgeons, it’s good enough for me.
App’s and Technology:
In a recent Touch Surgery blog post it said “If this is true the habit of constant mobile phone use is creating a strong subconscious prioritisation. Therefore, concentration will be peaked when we are looking through mobile devices”… I found this particularly compelling to think about as I do generally remember what I see on my phone over any newspaper or book I would glance over and to clarify I’m part of this generation of mobile phone addicts. Touch Surgery, being an educational app, were determined to quantify the viability of using their platform over the traditional methods and had great success in proving their theory; Study 1, Study 2, Study 3
User engagement with technology is an all time high and we are past the point of no return. Touch Surgery, managed to quantify their performance and I encourage others to do the same. It’s all about testing and finding the lifestyle fit that gives you access to the best cognitive outcomes… Happy hacking!
Tech backing Britain to stay in the EU
Among the numerous opinions on the Brexit debate, expressed passionately by so many sides,
the technology sector has also had its say. 87% of the members of Tech London Advocates, which is an industry group representing almost 3,000 senior members of the capital’s technology sector, don’t like the idea of Britain leaving the EU. They claim that if the country is out of the Union, it would be harder for British companies to reach customers in the EU countries, which everyone equipped with the blessing of a basic common sense could also deduce.
Another factor is also the ability to find and employ talents from the continent, which would be
hindered, along with convincing international companies to operate in the UK. On the whole, in
case of an actual Brexit a new definition of what it means to do business in Britain will undoubtedly occur.
“Without the ability for EU citizens to cross borders freely some 25 per cent of the current UK
tech talent pool would be lost. This, in the short term at least, would be hugely damaging for many of our customers”, said Talent Point, quoted by IT Pro Portal. Talent Point is a recruitment agency, which registered 3,347 job hunters last year, with 24.73 per cent coming from the EU. Their availability in the British job market is mostly due to the freedom of movement within the Union.
Russ Shaw, the founder of Tech London Advocates, said, quoted by The Guardian: “London has established a global reputation as the digital capital of Europe. There is significant concern within the digital community that Brexit would undermine this position and threaten relationships with the European market. Attracting international companies to the capital has been one of the great success stories of London’s digital economy. Brexit could see global businesses locating in emerging digital hubs in Berlin, Paris and Stockholm rather than London.”
The UK has been at the top of the European tech economy and one of the factors is namely the
possibility of recruiting talented engineers from the EU without any complications. This is one of
the main aspects from a tech point of view in favour of the idea that Britain should sat in the Union; other factors, which perhaps appear more insignificant, but surely would be felt in case of a Brexit, are things like the European Commission’s ongoing Digital Single Market initiative. It reduces mobile roaming charges and lets everyone watch their favourite video content while en route across Europe.
On the other side, very few tech people claim that EU policies are in the way of their desires to
invest and do business across Europe, and just three percent said EU trade policies have a “negative impact” on the chance to trade outside of the continent. And there is of course Boris Johnson, by the way one of the representatives of London’s tech economy, who is voiced strong opinions in favour of the Brexit. The debate continues and it already hypothetical questions and the uncertainty already have an impact on the tech industry, just like on any other
I find that this generation of reality TV and instagram models has yielded a society that expects quick success and at a young age. Justin Bieber had $200m when he was 20 and is what’s crammed down this generation’s throats and now that everyone has a platform with social media, everyone is fame chasing. This causes a variety of problems but the one that concerns me is the quality of content being produced. It’s a vicious cycle and even production money is looking at reality and cheap content vs. quality motion pictures. We have no attention span anymore. Just look at movies from yesteryear, scenes that went 5- 10 minutes without a single word spoken. Now, you have to sell the movie in the opening seconds and maintain constant dialog.
I’m also a big believer that since we have the biggest ever generation of fame chasers, nobody is actually living life. Life is now portrayed through a phone or computer, and that’s what matters, not the experiences. Sad reality, and if you don’t believe me just look at a concert. Everyone’s phone is in the air and the priority is getting a cool video, not enjoying the musician you just paid money to go and see.
I’m not usually the type to write about celebrities and talk about how they are my hero/ inspiration. When I was a younger, of course I had my sporting heroes; David Beckham, Tiger Woods were the two for me. However, there never seemed to be a connection, I couldn’t relate to them, even if I was aspiring to be like them. I’m now a young man and have found my hero, Mr. Ricky Gervais.
For me, he’s the best and I suppose I look at things from a different perspective but I consider Ricky Gervais is a content entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs build businesses around what they know and Mr. Gervais is no different and the reason why his content was so good is because he had actually done stuff in his life. It’s fairly well documented that Ricky had worked in a office for ten years hence made the office, was then involved TV and made Extras. This shows a great discipline, most people who start a business fail because it’s not clear exactly what their business is. This may sound ridiculous but it’s so true, people are so focused on trying to be something different instead of focusing on just being the best you.
On a personal level I share Ricky’s religious views or lack of to be more accurate. I also like the fact that he still lives in London. Most famous brits end up relocating to the US and develop a strange half brit half american accents. Next, the podcast that has been downloaded millions of times was essentially first to market. Again, showing his entrepreneurial prowess, podcasts were a relative unknown when Karl, Steve and Ricky decided to make on of the funniest shows ever made. He saw that ‘on demand’ was trending and pursued it, continuing to do so with his current Netflix relationship. Special Correspondents coming soon!
Since this is a hero/ inspiration post I won’t make it too long but I would like to conclude with why I have found a hero later in life. You have to go through thick and thin (see what i did there) to find happiness and have a story to tell. It’s the stories that make you interesting and make you who you are, I have been guilty of wishing for the easy way out but through Ricky I learnt that happiness isn’t a section of your life, it’s the whole damn thing. Be yourself, don’t get a fake american accent and create the best version of you.
I’m always guilty of this. The dreaded foot in mouth syndrome. Sometimes it’s just word vomit and you say something that you didn’t intend, this is usually followed by an awkward laugh and brief embarrassment.
I grew up on banter, you give it and you take it. I had this really interesting conversation a few weeks ago about what is your idea of the stereotypical British man and now I’m in London the answers are all so different. Some people would depict the James Bond gentleman in the suite, some people think about Hugh Grant or Colin Firth but for me that was never my idea of the British man. Don’t worry, I’m not about to get onto some political or racial rate here, just so you know…
The people I have trusted the most in my life have never been the people who are always super nice to me. The people I have liked the most in my life have never been the people who are super nice to me. No, the people I like and trust in my life will be the first people to call me out if I’m in the wrong or occasionally in the right, just for fun. When you get to the point in a relationship when you feel comfortable say “hey, you look like shit” you know you have a real friend.
It’s about to be 2016 and political correctness is at an all time high. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about respect. I like to use the word ‘respect’ when it comes to these matters because ‘equality’ and words of this nature can mean so many different things, it just depends who you ask. However, ‘respect’ is a constant, it’s solid. Give everyone the same respect until they give you a reason not to and you won’t go far wrong. Easy.
The work place is the worst. I have always felt that people who swear more are always the most trust worthy. Why is it necessary to act differently in and out of work? I never grasped that concept. In a business environment trust is a big part of getting things done so why are we acting so fake to each other? I don’t get it. Maybe it’s my upbringing.
What does it take, to take offense? Remember “sticks and stones will break my bones….” it’s just words people. I think primary schools have developed a whole curriculum on what is the right and wrong terminology to explain things now, I’m glad I missed that class, I’d never have made it out of primary school. Like I said earlier I have a bad case of foot in mouth syndrome but that doesn’t make me a bad person or in the wrong, if a person uses the incorrect term to describe someone else, it doesn’t mean that they are intentionally being rude. No, there is so much to consider now when you meet someone, the whole art of conversation is being completely demolished and it’s so sad.
I understand that people don’t appreciate certain terms so here is a quick guide on how not to be an ass hole when someone says the non politically correct thing. You pull the person to one side a little while after the term was used and you say “ I know you didn’t mean anything by what you just said but it can be offensive so perhaps say …… instead” done.
I walked today. Waking up with an overwhelming sense of “I need to be outside” can be exhilarating. I love when I’m in the mood to just explore.
I have to admit that being in this state of mind comes and goes. I’m currently testing out Nootropics to try and get in the elusive “flow” state, the type of thing Tiger Woods could achieve back when he was winning. It’s a semi conscious state that really allows you to just do exactly as intended. It’s funny that as humans we struggle to achieve the things that we intend to do, if you look at it from that perspective it really makes no sense. The simple idea that the most successful people in the world are the ones who manage to do as they intended should do one of two things to you….
- Make you think that “I’m an idiot” 2. Motivate you to put one foot in front of the other and act accordingly.
Number 1 can often be the case for myself but occasionally number 2 is and that’s when I like to go for a walk…
So, back to walking. I now live in London which is the greatest city in the world for people watching. You see some shit that really make you contemplate if all people really are created in the same way. For instance, the man hiding under the bridge today that had an alarming resemblance to the child catcher out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I relived my childhood nightmare. Then you see people that make you feel like the most uncool person in the entire world. I’m of course referring to the skateboarders that I was fascinated by today, those guys are cool, the clothes are cool, the attitude is cool, the actual skateboarding is cool, everything is cool. I felt like I was watching rockstars working on their craft during a private session.
People watching is fun but I really like the fresh air. I had the realisation today that during the week I spend approximately 1 hour per day outside. Wow! that’s crazy. I should probably get out more.
My absolute favorite thing about living in California was the outdoor living, people couldn’t get enough of it. Now, in London, people seem like they scurry from the tube to a building, from dinner to home, etc.. and whats with all the power walking people? You might feel as if you are saving so much time but in all reality you might be moving 2 miles per hour faster than me, and 2 miles per hour over half a mile amount to about 20 seconds. Congratulations!
Sorry about that rant. had to get it out of my system.
Keep your eye level up. What you will realize is that London and most places for that matter, are far more beautiful when you’re not looking down at the ground or your phone. Take a walk, get some fresh air and be inspired by your surroundings. You will realize soon after that it doesn’t require a book or a classroom to be mentally stimulated. Simply, take a walk and be observant. Have a good week everybody!