You’re not the smartest (and you don’t want to be!)
When you walk into C4DI, there’s a key message on the wall. One that John Connolly (C4DI’s Managing Director) likes to remind us about.
‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room’
This resonated with me. I’m good at most things, but not exceptional at many.
You need to quickly figure out what you’re good at, and for the areas you’re not good at, get in a room with someone that is. For me, this means help with design, and detail, and I’m thankful every day to be working with some truly exceptional people.
Get known and build relationships.
I spend about 50% of my time building relationships. Relationships with clients, partners, suppliers are all key to a startup. They help you with traction and to be bigger than you are. Whether those relationships are local with organisations in your building, or global like the partnership we have built with Microsoft, they are equally important to help you get stuff done.
We also invested in understanding who the key players are in the region, introduced ourselves, listened and learned about the challenges they’re facing and then, in many cases, received their support for our own applications for grants or government funding. Recently we gained support from NHS England and the SBRI Healthcare initiative. Below is their visit to kick off our Bridgit project that we’re running with the Hull Local Authority.
Know how to get paid.
This one seems simple, but in health technology, in the UK whether it’s NHS or Local Authorities the majority of work will come from the government.
This one seems simple, but it, of course, varies for different startups. In health tech (in the UK), it’s the NHS and Local Authorities where most of your work will come from. In order for us to win contracts and get paid, we must be on certain frameworks and be known in the industry. We invested upfront to win places on key government procurement frameworks. It’s not easy and it’s a lot of paperwork, but without that work upfront, we would not have been able to sell our solutions or services.
Getting investment is hard.
When I started Upstream, I thought that getting funding would be easy. I’d seen on the media reports of increasing investment into health tech. When I looked at the tech getting invested in, I wasn’t impressed. I saw investment going to simple concepts, with minimum impact. So I thought that someone with 15 years of experience and some innovative ideas, VCs would be throwing money at us. It turns out that an idea isn’t worth anything.
Initially, my ideas were too complex and too large. It was only when we scaled back our ambition and focused down on a single solution that we really started to get traction and understanding from the VC community. Realistically, if you want investment, you need to have gone some way to turn your idea into a reality, proving the market will buy it and have a crystal clear proposition.
For us, by the time we got to that point, we didn’t need the investment anymore. It’s a bit of a cache 22. When you really need cash, you’re too risky. If you manage to survive to the point where you’re less risky then you may no longer need the cash.