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  • 7 tips for starting up small

    There's no formula for guaranteeing the success of a startup and each new venture comes with its own story and own personal ideas of how to make it work. Still, there are some commonalities that you can learn from and prepare to encounter before heading into the great unknown. Here are seven simple and easy things to watch out for before and during the first few months of your startup's life, particularly if you're starting up without an investment or strategy partner. 1. The younger you are, the better If you have an idea for a startup but are not inclined...

  • Establishing your international startup anywhere

    There’s been a growing trend for startups to base themselves anywhere and have their employees scattered across the world, and in the process erase the concept of the old-school HQ. This trend seems to be even more prevalent for startups that operate online, with the WordPress/Automattic team being a great example. Over at WooThemes, our team is scattered across five different countries and we have a central office (which houses half of the team) in Cape Town, South Africa. Our whole business is online and we’re able to manage all of our daily activities from the comfort of our chosen...

  • Startups: What VCs look for

    Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs often don't see eye-to-eye, and in South Africa in particular, there seems to be a very real gap in meeting the needs and expectations of both parties. While we know the path of the entrepreneur can be a frightfully fun but rocky one, at some stage venture capital becomes a real option to consider, and when you get to that stage, make sure you know exactly what we are looking for. As funders, we really look for four basic things and your pitch must answer the following: 1. What is the burning need you are taking away?...

  • 10 easy ways to fail as an entrepreneur

    Many people dream of starting their own businesses and becoming financially independent, but while the idea of organising and operating your own business venture may be thrilling, there’s a good chance that your fledgling company won’t survive unless you identify potential pitfalls and plan to circumnavigate them. Here are 10 ways that you could fail as an entrepreneur: 1. Poor market research Make sure there’s a need for your product or service. Ideally, your offering should be unique and fill a gap in the market, but if there’s already competition in your intended sector, research ways to position yourself uniquely to improve...

  • 10 lessons for tech startups

    Having been involved in a number of web and tech startups from Vottle.com to a VoIP mobile startup under the auspices of Internet Solutions' ISLabs, I have been lucky enough to have worked with some very bright entrepreneurs, and have learnt some valuable lessons along the way. From Two-Minute noodles, to Darwin, to Ham-and-Egging, here are my 10 lessons for founders. 1. The Boot: Almost every business can be bootstrapped to start, and should be. Not even Google needed outside financing for its first couple of years. Superstar entrepreneurs have an uncanny knack of making money go...

  • Rebooting innovation in South Africa

    Since I became the United States Ambassador to South Africa last October, I have met truly inspiring South Africans with great ideas almost every day.  I have been very impressed with South Africans’ ability to link abstract knowledge and real-world application. With such talent, it seems natural that this beautiful, vibrant country should become a global innovation hub for the 21st century. Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan emphasised in his 2010 Budget Speech that “successful developmental states are built not just through public policy and state action, but also through national identity, social cohesion and responsible citizenship - through building social capital that reinforces trust and co-operation, in the...

  • Can entrepreneurs thrive in corporate settings?

    Does working for a company preclude an individual from being an entrepreneur? Most certainly not; indeed, some of the best innovations and developments are achieved by people who are working for large corporations. The difference is that within these organisations, entrepreneurship – and critical thinking - is actively encouraged, not only in the research and development departments, but in the managerial suites too. With the global economy slowly coming out of a...

  • Opening speech @ #SiliconCape

    Here is the text of the speech I gave at the opening of Silicon Cape in Camps Bay. I'm not alone in saying that this was an inspiring and well-supported event. Welcome everyone and thank you all for coming. A special welcome to the Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, Dr Mamphela Ramphele and Mr Johann Rupert. It’s an absolute honour and it’s humbling to be speaking in front of such an important gathering...

  • A short word on innovation

    Innovation in a business context is one of the most misunderstood concepts around. I have to admit that I've misunderstood it for most of my life too. I've grown to realise that ideas by themselves are pretty much worthless -- and innovation really arises out of a process of execution of those ideas that tests and combines other ideas, technologies and theories. It's common sense really. It's why Venture Capitalists will rarely invest...

  • The surprising science of motivation

    Fascinating TED talk on what motivates people in companies, challenging traditional notions of management. Very relevant to many online companies who are looking at building new and different cultures. (via Wendy Robb @ 20fourlabs)