My top 5 tips from launching a startup

These are by no means gospel truths but just 5 key things I have learned during my time as the founder of a startup and hopefully they will help any of you thinking about doing your own startup or give others insight into the world of a startup.

 
 

1. Conducting yourself

 At the previous advertising agency I worked at (AMV BBDO) I was lucky enough to have lunch with the M in AMV, Peter Mead. 

He started AMV with two friends and is now one of the most respected and best agencies in the world.

Of everything he achieved from awards to god knows how much money he always talked about two things and even wrote a book on it.

 
 

These are lessons are, I like to think that I have implemented in my life and after a year of running my own business I can say have got me further than any money or knowledge would have.

So what are they?

  1. When in doubt, be nice.
  2. Build a culture where people want to work.

 I know, you’ve probably just read those and though…. Pretty obvious!

 And they are, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t live by them.

Firstly, When in doubt be nice, this without question is what go the core Pin Seekerz team together, the partnerships we have formed but more importantly kept people motivated to work on Pin Seekerz.

Too many people see characters like Ari Gold and think that’s the way to get stuff done. It isn’t. Especially when you are a new young business.

 
 

 But remember, to be nice doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover… always remember whoever they are you are talking to, you have something to offer them.

The second point Build a culture where people want to work is again something that seems obvious but can easily be overlooked.

Especially as the founder and leader of the company. You dictate the culture your company forms.

 Now, we are in a unique situation where we do not all work in an office together which makes communication and any face time we do spend together even more important.

It took me a good few months to understand the ways of working of my development team and I had to adapt to this but also ensure that it worked for me and the business. Remember being nice isn’t being a pushover.

When you’re a startup who has adopted the Lean Startup method including from a funding perspective and you have a team all working to the long term goal of success it is imperative to keep them focused and motivated without the lure of money.

This is done by respecting each others disciplines and constantly talking about the goal and ensuring your team believes in your vision and plans for the business.

Remember you’re the leader of the business and if your team don’t have faith that you know where you’re heading, how can they have faith in the business.

 

2. Noise of opportunity

Whenever you start your own business you will find everyone from your mum to a stranger you’ve met for the first time will all have an opinion of what you should be doing.

Some of these suggestions are great, some are just woeful but people are entitled to their opinions.

The two pointers I will share with you are the following:

1) Have a no list.

For the ideas/suggestions you do hear that have merit, discuss with your team and make sure they answer your fundamental business needs. Will it really add value?

If the answer is no then put it on the no list and leave it there. Mark Gainey, the founder of Strava said “We have lots of ideas and features we wish to add but have the capacity to do about 5% of them.”

This is so true, as a startup you will learn quickly that you will not be short of things you want to do but you have to look at what is realistic to achieve with the team you have.

Much better to do one thing well than five things poorly!

 

2) Stayed focused.

Sounds obvious and easy right? I would say it’s arguably the hardest thing to do.

Remember what the unique offering is of your business and remain focused on that in the first instance and then move out.

For example; Nike launched focusing on the niche of running. Then it moved into basketball and so on.

Strava launched with cycling. Now it supports almost most sports.

For us, we focus on creating competition in golf before we move on to in-depth stats and analysis of your game.

 

3) Perspective

It is so easy to get caught up in the world of a startup and your business.

And to be honest, so it should be. It’s one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do.

That being said however it is so important to take a step back and gain some perspective of what you are doing.

 Some people may be able to do this themselves but for me, I use old friends from my old agencies who are senior, experienced individuals to sit down with me and just offer me sound advice and look at my I am doing in a bigger picture way.

If you get lost and caught up in your own world, you forget about what you’re actually doing and why you’re doing it. 

 

4) Perseverance

This is pretty simple but is arguably one of the most important things.

 People who think success happens over night are wrong. Yes there are few but those rocket ships that launch that quickly normally fall as fast.

Remember Facebook started in universities for years before becoming publicly available.

There is also no magic formula to making it and knowing what will make your business a success. We at PS are still searching for that tipping point. 

But the most important thing is that is just comes down to hard work. Hours of dedication and motivation to keep plugging away, trying new things until you find that winning formula.

 

5) Patience.

This technically links into the above point but it’s so important that I wanted to ensure it was made clear.

This all takes time, you need to be prepared for two to three years of relentless hard work with pretty much no return. 

Any successful business you will see they started this way so if you aren’t willing to play the long game, then don’t play it.

One year in. The personal lessons.

March 2016 saw the one year anniversary since Pin Seekerz first launched on the Apple app store.

In our first year we managed to:

  • firstly get the product to market
  • work with two of the biggest YouTube stars
  • sign professional golfers and influential golfing figures to the business
  • align ourselves with influential golfing brands.

If you had told me we would achieve all of this in our first year I probably would have laughed and said no way.

But we did.

 
 

However, it wasn’t all nice jolly ventures and like anything in life you have to take good with the good and bad with the bad.

Yes, the above was an amazing feeling and something I am personally proud of but the stuff people don’t see outside of the core team I am equally proud of.

I have shared in previous posts the achievements but I want to give little insight into the other elements that made up our first year.

 

Comments can hurt.

After our initial launch it was great to see people downloading and using the app but we knew it was going to be tough as no matter how much you test, there will always be bugs.

Low and behold there were.

One thing I was not expecting was how personal I would take these comments, whether that’s on social media, app store reviews or emails.

 
 

I like to think I am a tough person and can take my fair share of comments, abuse or whatever you want to call it, but when people commented negatively about the app, that affected me way more.

However, whilst this seems a little pathetic, what it did was fuel me to put these things right and make a better product.

I am guilty of myself before starting Pin Seekerz of taking to social media when I was unhappy with a product or service but after being the on the receiving end of it and experiencing it first hand, it is something I will never do.

Yes, we always want feedback but next time you’re dis-satisfied, just think about the person/founder receiving these comments and I encourage you all to do this in a private forum, and if you're starting your own business, be prepared!

 

Change of lifestyle

People I meet and chat to about how PS is going or people who want to start their own business always ask “How did you have the courage to leave work?”

The answer is, I didn’t think about it really.

That may sound arrogant or stupid but it’s the truth.

At the time, I had a good job that I loved that paid well enough.

But after getting PS to market, I knew that if I didn’t leave my job and put my all into it then it would never work and I would always have that ‘what if’ around it.

I therefore knew that I needed to leave and commit to PS full time but the thing that cemented it and made it easier was my dad, who is one for structure and stability and a man who’s not afraid to make his opinions known said to me “You have to do it”.

 
 

 With that almost stamp of approval I left my job.

Now if I had sat down and worked out my pay cut, living costs and lifestyle etc. before leaving then I would arguably have never left.

Again, what seems to be a stupid oversight actually turned out to be my greatest move as I just did it.

That being said however, you cannot prepare yourself for life as a real startup.

I won’t go into every little thing that affects you when you go on your own and take this step but if you are thinking of starting your own business and want to chat, just contact me.

However, I will share the most important and biggest factor that isn’t about you but about the people around you.

When you make that decision to change your life and follow your passion, it’s exactly that. Your life and your decision.

You are doing what you want to do but you need to consider the impact it will have on the people around you.

I can live with the same £3 meal every day of the week and not going out for dinners, drinks or buying clothes as that was my choice but that has a direct or even indirect impact on friends, family and partners.

I was lucky enough that when I left my job, it was just me. I did not have a wife, mortgage or kids so in reality, I didn’t have an awful lot to lose.

But what I failed to acknowledge for the first 10 months was how my lifestyle choice, behaviour and devotion to working of PS affected the people around me.

I lost touch with friends who to be fair after asking me constantly to come out and me saying no, you can’t blame them for not asking anymore.

At the time as well I had a girlfriend who in all honesty was very chilled about me leaving my job and pursuing my passion which again made it easier.

However, as time went on and I got more and more involved in work and me being unable to talk to her about what was going on and the world I was now in I became more and more within myself which ended up in us growing apart.

But with everything, you have to learn from this. Yes I take responsibility for becoming almost a recluse and only seeing PS, but would I change it? Absolutely not.

At that particular time, the business needed my all to get it to a point where I can now have a better work/life balance.

Funnily enough, since my break up I am now enjoying working on PS again but more importantly have made a real conscious effort to carve time out for friends, family and just having fun which has made the most dramatic difference to my life.

So, from my personal experience I would encourage anyone who is doing their own thing or thinking about it, give it your all…. You have to, but always be aware of others around you and don’t let it go too far as you soon realise the people around you keep you sane and give you perspective on what you’re doing.

@Pin_Seekerz

iOS: http://apple.co/1x7Sqai | Android: http://bit.ly/1GVeY08 

Putting an end to lip service and actually trying to change the game of golf.

For those of you that know #GCW you will know they are not shy about sharing their views on the game of golf and the people that make it up both in respect to actual golfers and the individuals who govern the sport.

If you’re not aware of them, take a quick look at their Twitter feed and you’ll get the idea very quickly.

 

After seeing their amazing Twitter hashtag over Christmas #ShitGolfGifts – I became a fan of them and after seeing their followers which included players such as McIlroy and Spieth I thought they must have a strong voice.

 
 

 

I then met Ryan from #GCW and several beers later we realized we could do some good work together.

This firstly manifested itself into trying to sort slow play. We came up with the idea of The Pace Project #GetOnWithIt.

With the support of Chubby Chandler we set out to identify and help golfers use common sense to prevent those horrific five, six hour rounds.

 

#GCW then began doing a podcast sponsored by DraftKings which can barely be called a golf podcast, however it was pretty entertaining.

Ryan then asked me to feature on an episode and whether by design or luck the dynamic seemed to work with Ryan the punchy viewed leader, Burton – the man who knows nothing about golf and myself who I liked to think adds a bit of sense.

With Burton’s Tinder tips, discussing blind golfers and many other ridiculous topics we started to enjoy it and others seemed to as well.

We even managed to get the golf sensation on that is Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston.

If you haven’t already and have an hour of your life to waste then give an episode a listen.

 

But what’s next for #GCW and Pin Seekerz? Stay tuned for a future post our new YouTube channel coming soon.

Check out #GCW's site for some pretty entertaining golf articles: http://thegcw.co.uk/ 

 

@Pin_Seekerz

iOS: http://apple.co/1x7Sqai | Android: http://bit.ly/1GVeY08 

Teaming up with Callaway Europe

Another great achievement for the Pin Seekerz team in forming a partnership with Callaway Europe.

 
 

This partnership all came about as I noticed someone from Callaway had joined the Be The One competition we ran with Rick Shiels and Peter Finch and from there I decided to speculatively email them about potentially forming a partnership.

After meeting with Callaway it seemed right away that we would be a good brand fit as Pin Seekerz is all about motivating golfers and Callaway wanted to target a younger golf audience with an innovative campaign and they had some of the best equipment to offer as incentives to our golfers.

It's worth mentioning here as I get asked a lot by people I used to work with in advertising in that everything I learned working on big brands and was taught by my bosses made this partnership, the signing of the players and all future partnerships possible.

You are always taught to think what strategically are the reasons for forming these partnerships and what can we offer you guys. Without this thinking, none of this would of come off so for anyone who I used to work with, thanks!

After a few months of discussions and planning the #TeamCallaway League was born. We wanted to give golfers around Europe the chance to compete for some amazing prizes including weekly and monthly prizes as well as prize for the league winner and also special bonus prizes.

It was a great experience working with one of the biggest brands in golf and I hope you guys enjoyed it.

We hope to announce our next exciting collaboration soon!

BH.

@Pin_Seekerz

iOS: http://apple.co/1x7Sqai | Android: http://bit.ly/1GVeY08 

Our Ambassadors: Willett, Horsey, Root, Chubby & ISM!!

If someone would of told me when Pin Seekerz launched in March 2015 that before the year was up we would have the support of Danny Willett, Dave Horsey, Joe Root, Chubby Chandler and ISM I would of laughed in their face. But we did!

This is a great personal success for me as it was the culmination of months of hard work and meetings to make this happen.

It all started when I met a member from ISM at the 2015 BMW PGA Championships at Wentworth after I had enquired about using a player as an ambassador for the app.

At the time when I met with ISM at Wentworth, they did not actual know that I had to sneak into the media centre for the meeting as I did not have accreditation. Amazing how pretending to be on two phones at the same time was seen as only what media people would do... but it worked.

 
 

After our initial meeting I spent time talking further with ISM, meeting with Chubby Chandler and explaining the app and why I wanted these players to get involved and how it would benefit them also.

Chubby understood the app and saw what I was trying to do for the game so suggested I met with the players and if they liked it and wanted to it then they would.

So that's what I did. Firstly I went to meet Willett in Rotherham to talk him through the app and he was extremely nice and supportive and agreed to join the team. Same with Horsey and Root who is mad on golf.

It was an amazing experience for me as at the end of the day I am a sports fan like you guys so it was great to meet these guys, chat with them and ultimately have them support the app.

Chubby then made the suggestion of announcing the partnership in Dubai ahead of the DP World Championships.

Here I hand delivered all the media a pack containing information on Pin Seekerz and the partnership and one journalist even asked Willett a question during a press conference which was great.

 
 

As we have now established a partnership of them using the app during their social or practice rounds, we are really excited to get you guys interacting with them more so stay tuned.

Oh and then Willett became Masters Champion on my birthday weekend... does it get much better! 

BH.

@Pin_Seekerz

iOS: http://apple.co/1x7Sqai | Android: http://bit.ly/1GVeY08 

Our first partnership with YouTube stars Peter Finch & Rick Shiels

Having come from a background in advertising, I knew how important it was to get reach and make people aware of Pin Seekerz.

That old saying of 'build it and they will come' is frankly nonsense especially in the app world.

I also wanted to do something different rather than advertising in standard publications and knew the value YouTube channels had.

After some initial research I came across Peter Finch & Rick Shiels on YouTube. I am sure most of you have heard of them but at the time I hadn't but liked their channels as they seemed just two normal guys offering good golf content.

I therefore approached them and asked if they would help me promote and launch Pin Seekerz and after some discussions, they did which was great news as that was to become a primary channel for our marketing.

As most startups don't have the luxury of a marketing budget, again it was imperative to form a relationship with people who believed in the product and would help spread the word without the $$$ to do it! 

You may again call it a stroke of luck. (There's a theme emerging here).

The Pin Seekerz Launch

Once we established this partnership, it was time to launch the app and what better way to do it then in a course vlog on their channels in Dubai under the floodlights and and on a world class golf course.

 
 

This proved to be a great success for the launch of the app as it created an authentic link to two trusted golf YouTube channels and set the foundation for the the rest of the partnership.

Our first video has generated over 140,000 views to date! Pressure golf!

 

But like all good partnerships, we did't just end it there, we continued to come up with cool campaigns to engage their golfers through the app.

 

We first launched 'BE THE ONE' where their subscribers had to choose which team they wanted to join, Pete or Ricks. Then over the course of the 2015 summer, you would battle it out on the Pin Seekerz app with the top player from each team winning the chance to play with Rick and Pete in a final match showdown at St Andrews.

 
 

The most recent competition was tapping into a rivalry that has raged for years and that was North vs. South - dividing the UK in two to find the best region!

Rick and Pete captained the North whilst two other social media stars, Steve Buzza and James Pickard captained the South.

 
 

Over the winter, golfers battled it out in their respective regions leagues with the top 8 golfers earning the chance to represent their region in the final match at The Belfry.

The final took place in May, with the North emerging victorious!

 

BH.

@Pin_Seekerz

iOS: http://apple.co/1x7Sqai | Android: http://bit.ly/1GVeY08 

 

The Early Days...

...And how we got there.

As I am several months behind doing this, I thought it was best to give you guys a whistle stop tour on our early days from the initial though, to the building of the app to going live and forming some of the partnerships we have been lucky enough to form over the last year.

As it's a long story I will condense it over a few blogs!!

So how did it all start?

Simply it started as I was watching the the Ryder Cup, none other than the 'Miracle in Medinah' and watching Kaymer hole that putt to win. I thought to myself "I wonder how I would cope under that pressure?" The answer is I know I would bottle it!

But it got me thinking that surely today and not being a member of a golf club should not mean I cannot experience that level of competition, well maybe not quite Ryder Cup level but club competitions!

 
 

So what did I do about it?

Well classically I did nothing for a while but then one day whilst I was in my current job of advertising working with some big brands, it dawned on me that the idea I had, had something in it.

I therefore went back to the idea and flushed it out and Pin Seekerz - The Worldwide Golf Club was born.

I then spoke to my best mate who was a designer and asked him if he wanted to get involved with this idea and come on as the head of design. Whether he regrets that decision now... he was more than keen to do it and we started to put initial designs together for what the brand and app could look like! 

To this day, I could not have done anything with Pin Seekerz without his unrelenting hard work, so Steve, thank you!

Early designs of Pin Seekerz!

 
 

Fast forward a few months, once we had the all the initial designs done, it was time for the hardest part... find someone to build the app! This really is the most important part for any startup and I went in there with zero knowledge of what I needed or how to find them.

 
 

It's become well known to me now that most startups fail because they run out of money and having to pay developers is the number one reason for apps.

So without knowing this, I went in with the ambition that I could get someone to build it for equity for two reasons.

1) I am a great believer in having people invested in something with their time to motivate them rather than money.

2) I didn't have the startup funds to pay someone to do it!

After some time, it was looking pretty gloomy but my housemate at the time said to me 'These sorts of hurdles are what you have to expect... just find a way.' At the time I didn't really respond to him but little does he know that this motivated to find a solution.

My stroke of luck came when someone I used to work with at my first advertising agency popped up on my Facebook newsfeed who used to work in their digital department and I messaged him asking if he knew of any developers that may be interested in getting involved.

Call it fate but he had just started his own company using students to help build apps and websites. After a few weeks and some beers we agreed terms and he became my tech partner.

I still to this day know how lucky I was to have my best mate that would design everything and another top lad I knew well who would build the app as my team. 

And that is how the Pin Seekerz team was born! Seems so straightforward but I promise you it wasn't.

The lesson I would always pass on is that do not rush into your team just because you need the money, developer or designer as trust me, you're going to spend every waking hour with these people so trust and respect is a must if you want to have a solid relationship going forward.

BH.

@Pin_Seekerz

iOS: http://apple.co/1x7Sqai | Android: http://bit.ly/1GVeY08 

What's this blog all about

I decided to start this blog for two reasons.

Firstly it allows me to keep a record of everything we at Pin Seekerz are trying to achieve this year as a new startup in London and the journey we go on behind the scenes to make everything happen. Plus I should of started this months ago but I have only just got act together!!

The second on a personal level, is so I can keep a record of this experience.

The life of a startup has its ups and downs more than anything I have ever experienced so if any of you are thinking of starting your own business, hopefully some of this may benefit or just make you laugh! I will share both business and personal experiences as it really is all one!

As some of you guys know, I am always open to speaking to you to get ideas for the app or anything at all. So comment below and I will do my best.

For now, this image sums up most days working on any startup, not just in the golf world.

 
 

BH.

@Pin_Seekerz

iOS: http://apple.co/1x7Sqai | Android: http://bit.ly/1GVeY08