Startup Stories: A Day in the Life of Buying Butler
On a typical morning, I'm up around 6:30 am. My team and I are based in Nottingham, although I try and stay in London a couple nights a week to save the commute to the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London. My train arrives into Kings Cross, and I jump on the Hammersmith and City line towards Whitechapel. The area is very up-and-coming in terms of tech and startups. When you look at what's happened at Silicon Roundabout in the last few years, and the influence it's had on Shoreditch, you can now see the tech vibe spreading further east.
If I'm staying in London, I normally get into the office at 8:00 am, or just before, and use the early start to catch up on emails. My co-founder and CTO Steve Weston is based in Nottingham, and we'll have a call with the team so I can give my Sales and Business Development update. We'll also discuss any roadblocks or issues from both an internal and external perspective. We're a small team, so it's important we communicate clearly and make sure we keep everyone abreast of what's going on.
One of the benefits of being in the accelerator is being around the other startups who are in the same boat as us. We have a weekly CTO and CEO scrum bringing people from all the businesses together. This helps us to get visibility in to each other's progress and pain points. We're all in it together, and although we all have our heads down in our own companies, ultimately, we all want to see each other do well. We help where we can by making introductions and highlighting how we've overcome issues. The open-plan environment is encouraging in the early stage of the company. We can hear the successes and failures of the other teams as they happen. It's a great bunch of people and even the mentors who aren't mentoring us, often come up and pitch in with help.
Depending on meetings and workload, I tend to grab lunch around 1:00 pm. Ninety-five percent of the time I eat at my desk (as is evident from my keyboard!) but some of the teams will head out to the local restaurants, or alternatively down to the local market.
Once a week, we'll catch up with mentors, usually for about two or three hours. They have been fantastic through this whole process, since they have "been there, done that." Their expertise is absolute gold. I try and arrange external meetings for the afternoon, so if I'm not in the office, I'm in the city with suppliers and partners, or else hitting the phones to secure meetings. Something we've had to consider whilst being in the accelerator was the need to slow the business down. We were trying to spin too many plates, and we had to slow down the development of the business in order to maximize the opportunities from the accelerator program that will ultimately "accelerate our business."
We are coming to the end of our time in the program, which means Demo Day is getting closer. The Demo Day puts us in front of investors and key influencers within the Microsoft network, and the other accelerator teams. This is a great opportunity to gain investment and open doors for further development. As it draws closer we are ramping up our practice to refine our pitch with absolutely fantastic help from our mentors and other members of the Microsoft Ventures team.
Each week we'll have a meeting with Diane Perlman, the startups' lead at Microsoft Ventures in London and Andy McCartney, CEO in Residence, where we can lay all our problems on the table. They will bend over backwards to get us to the right people to help solve the issue. Likewise the crowd at Central Working, where the accelerator is based, is fantastic and make the whole experience here easy. They take a real interest in what we're doing and have even made introductions to people in their other co-working spaces, which has been hugely helpful.
The coaching for Demo Day has really encompassed two elements. The first is refining the presentation. The coaching has helped us to cut it down to pertinent soundbites, which has helped us to create a cohesive presentation where the linkage between slides is crucial. Throughout the practice sessions, Microsoft Ventures have made sure we have a fresh audience to present to. Their impartial feedback was vital as it told us to make it shorter, punchier, and make the presentation tell a story.
The second part is about delivery. We have been trained by an actor in improving our voice. I was told that I sounded too much like a lecturer, so I've put a lot of work into giving a more conversational pitching style. Half the battle is the delivery, and how you hold yourself, look around the room, etc. We've learned that these finer points have helped to distinguish us from the competition.
Every now and again we do need to de-stress, and luckily, there are various break-out areas in the office to do just that. We feel fortunate that there are a few gaming businesses in the accelerator, so we can go and try their games out if we want - and give them feedback of course! There is also an office dog - one of the startups has a poodle called Gandhi. Playing catch with him in the office is a great de-stressor.
If I'm heading back to Nottingham, I normally pack up around 6:00 pm, but if I'm down in London I tend to stay a little later. Last night I went for a curry on Brick Lane with one of the guys from another team as there were a few of us working late. It's great to have those amenities to close by. Microsoft Ventures also arranges a number of social events so the teams can relax a bit, and every Friday night after scrum there is a happy hour and drinks at the local pub.
Although the platform of our product hasn't changed much, the user journey has improved greatly. As a business, we've moved forward massively from the connections we've made here.