Elizabeth Varley

Co-founder and CEO of TechHub

Elizabeth Varley

Technology is now part of almost everything we do, and it’s certainly part of every industry. If you never thought the idea of a career in technology thrilled you, what about a career in fashion, sport, education, communications?

All of these industries and many others, are now driven by technology in different ways, so focus on what you’re passionate about, and equip yourself with the skills to become a leader in your field.

Want to be independent? Go your own way? Create something new and exciting? Starting a new business using technology has never been so accessible. From working with startups for many years, and founding two companies myself, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about starting a technology business.

No-one cares about your startup...

...unless you give them a reason to be interested! The essence of business is communication, and you should always think about your communications from the audience’s point of view. Whether it’s verbal or written, whether it’s a live pitch or a video on your website, whether it’s about your product or about your finances, what are the benefits to the person reading, watching or listening? What’s your story? Everyone you talk to, everything you write, think: what’s in it for them?

Talk about your startup...

...with everyone, everywhere, all the time. The biggest challenge most businesses face is acquiring customers, marketing and gaining market share. Sometimes entrepreneurs are worried about secret ideas and people stealing them, so they start their business in “stealth mode”. With very few exceptions, I can tell you that someone has already had your idea before. Probably a thousand people have had your business or product idea. But there are reasons *you* are going to succeed - drive, skills, expertise, it’s all about your ability to execute. The best thing you can do is create interest in your business or your product right from the word go.

Launch early, iterate often

You won’t get it right first time, so do it quickly, learn, and iterate. Your product or service is an infinite process as you review and refine to make sure it’s the best it can be. If you wait until it’s “perfect” (which never happens!), you’ll miss opportunities, not only to gain market share, but to get immediate feedback from your customers. Having people tell you what’s wrong with your creation can be hard, but it’s so much better than spending years on something only to have no-one be prepared to part with money to buy it. When you’re creating a technology product, a long list of features is really tempting. Find out the core problem you’re addressing, focus on that, and your customers will tell you what else they want.

Ask for help

It’s tough starting a business on your own, but other people will give you a hand if you ask them. People can be very generous with their time and expertise, especially other entrepreneurs - you can get a lot of advice and help for free. One of the things I’ve learned time and time again is to work out what you’re best at, and have others do the rest; it saves time and money in the long run.

Get good at networking

If you become a hub of knowledge and contacts, people will often come to you when they need a problem solved. You might be able to solve that problem for them, for a fee, or you recommend someone or something else, but either way it adds to your profile as someone who can help others get things done, and that’s valuable.

Listen to what others need

Yep, this is about sales. No, sales is not about trying to get people to buy things they don’t need. Sales is about solving problems. See above.

Believe in yourself

This is tough. The author of the Lean Startup, Eric Ries talks about the “reality distortion field” each entrepreneur creates around them. The more you believe in what you’re going to achieve, and the more people you can pull into your “field”, the more opportunity you have to get your business off the ground. Remember though, no-one will believe in your product like you will. Get lots of advice and opinions from experienced and successful people, but at the end of the day, go with your gut. It’s no fun kicking yourself when you were wrong, but it’s even worse kicking yourself when you were right, but didn’t follow your instincts.

Breathe

Starting a business, especially in technology, can take over your life and make you feel like you’re always “on”. Try to make time for yourself and the things you care about, and that includes eating, sleeping and yes, breathing.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Varley is a communicator, connector and entrepreneur with a background in technology, content and events. She is Co-founder and CEO of TechHub - a network bringing together the global technology startup community, in London, Riga, Manchester, Bucharest and soon many other cities around the world. 

Elizabeth has previously worked with small business advice site Smarta, with Germination on the SHINE unconference for social entrepreneurs, and headed the team for Twestival London in 2009-2010.

After copywriting, editing and senior content strategy and management roles, she ran editorial and content agency Online Content UK for six years, and programmed and produced digital and tech-focused events for Chinwag and NMK. Elizabeth has previously been a judge at GeeknRolla, the Association of Online Publishers Awards, the Information Management Awards and sat on the London College of Communication’s Digital Media Advisory Forum.

She is committed to supporting the wider technology industry and was one of the founding steering committee members of the DigitalEve women in technology organisation in the UK. In 2002 Elizabeth was a consultant on ITbeat with e-skills UK - a project to encourage girls to get involved in IT and new media.

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