Christopher McCann (snap40), winner of New Ventures 2015 and the Young Innovators Challenge 2014 has taken over our blog below to talk about his entrepreneurial journey and gives some great tips for others thinking of starting out.
It’s been a year since we were selected as a winner of the SIE Young Innovators Challenge and we were incorporated as snap40 not long afterwards. We’ve since went onto win SIE New Ventures competition as well as the Converge Challenge Kickstart and Scottish EDGE.
It has been an exhilarating and humbling year of highs and lows. We’ve faced some major setbacks but we’ve also strongly moved forward. I’ve personally had to face the fact I was completely out of my depth and to both quickly learn and surround myself with great people who can help me build snap40 and take it to where I believe it can go.
Here are a fewthings I’ve learned this year:
Have a mentor
I’ve got an outstanding mentor and friend in David Bowie. David has been helping me and challenging me since way back in October. In my view, that’s absolutely key to the success of a start-up – you need someone with significant experience who can push back, isn’t afraid to tell you they don’t agree or that something in the plan doesn’t seem right. You also need someone with whom you can frankly share challenges and options with.
Find a great mentor, someone who can help you and someone you trust. I have that in David and it has enormously paid off.
Focus on building a great team
I made the error of not having a co-founder from the start and taking too long to start really building the day to day team. We’re now excited to have Stewart Whiting, our Lead Data Scientist, on board and we’ll be announcing some more additions shortly. A great, passionate and motivated team is everything and the only way that we’ll successfully execute our plan and achieve our vision.
Finding great people should be something you do from the very start, from day one. No successful business is built by one person – in my view the real job of a start-up founder is to bring fantastic people together to achieve their vision.
Product is what really matters
Just as you need to make finding a team a priority, there is no business without a product. Your product is a hypothesis, it’s something you believe someone else will find valuable but to take the business forward you need to find as many ways to prove that hypothesis as possible, as fast as possible.
Whatever your business, find a way to get something together as fast as you can, something you can test out your hypothesis with, with as many customers as you can. If it’s a software product, knock together something (even if it’s awful and doesn’t work properly) over a week and then test it out. Testing out your hypothesis can be as simple as putting up a holding page describing your product and the fact it’s coming soon, spreading the word and seeing how many people sign up to the waiting list.
For us, it’s not possible to get actual prototypes onto patients to test out because of the heavily regulated nature of medical technology. Instead we tested it out on family and friends and heavily exposed the proposition to our customers, the health services, from the very beginning.
Relationships are everything
In my opinion, relationships are crucial to any success. It’s also important to remember that it’s not just about that one person; it’s about who they know. Use your personal and extended networks to get to the people you need to get to. Don’t underestimate the importance of people ‘joining the dots.’ Once you spread the word enough about what you are doing, it’s a small enough world that you’ll start to really raise your profile.
People will help you. I have yet to find anyone who isn’t willing to give a young start-up some help or make introductions. Share your vision with them, excite them and, generally, they will do anything they can to help.
I love every minute of building snap40, even the painful lows and the challenges. It’s hard, it’s rarely ever easy, and you have to be completely willing to put your heart and soul in. Responsibility with taking it forward lies with you, no-one will do it for you, but you have the power and ability to make your own success. Resilience and the drive to do that, the ability to take the hits and keep pushing, is what makes the difference.
For more on Christopher’s story, visit his Start Up Interview.