The start of the journey. An interview with Sticky founder James Garner.

Interview with Sticky

This week we talk to Sticky.to cofounder James Garner. Sticky help companies make apps that are both digital and physical through NFC stickers and a “low code” dashboard. Sticky is a really new company founded towards the end of 2019 with James and his team right at the start of their journey. We thought it would be awesome to get a view from the early stage as it’s where so many of us in the Decksender community are right now.

James has been a member of the Decksender start-up community for a while and it’s been great to see him at some of our events. Hopefully when lockdown eases we’ll have a chance to catch up again in person.

What’s the immediate impact of lockdown been on Sticky?

Despite being very early stage the team at Sticky had already started some exploratory conversations with investors. These have been put on hold but it’s not stopped the team progressing. Lockdown has actually worked a little to their advantage giving them the time to double down on product development with a view to focussing on investment when the landscape looks better.

I admire James’ pragmatism here. Frequently investment is sought at the expense of seeing how far the bootstraps actually reach and it’s often surprising to founding teams what can be achieved without investor money. As James says the closer they can get to revenue is only going to put them in a better position when they do seek funding further in the year.

What’s the trajectory for Sticky?

The original premise for Sticky was about saving the high street. Lockdown has somewhat refocussed this but it’s opened up new opportunities beyond applying digital principles to the physical world. What the team has found is that the digital storefronts they have created are now centre stage, which opens a huge number of doors for the product set.

At the moment their team is small, 2 full time and part-time help. This has been somewhat of a learning curve for James, asking for help doesn’t always come naturally. But, there’s never been a better time to reach out to people, investors included.

A refreshing attitude to the current situation.

It’s hard right now for everyone but it’s clear that James and his team have moved on from panic made and have knuckled down to work through the problems. I think this is a story other founders need to hear especially if they’re thinking of chucking in the towel. The world is crazy right now, some change will be permanent but a lot of things will come back. If you believe in your idea stick with it.

Where is the high street heading?

Given Sticky’s relationship with the high street I wanted to get James’ take on where it’s heading. Like many he believes strongly in a move to a more experiential high street. In his opinion this means a host of more traditional retailers are going to go out of business. Let’s face it this is mainly down to a failure to change and grasp what the consumer is looking for. It’s far too easy to say online shopping is killing the high street. Online shopping is killing businesses that have failed to understand that they need to create strong reasons for people to visit their stores beyond buying the same stuff Amazon sells.

What’s your view on the Government schemes?

Like most of us in start-up world James applauds the fact that the Government is looking to help start-ups it’s just the detail that is an issue. Furloughing workers is impossible, accessing loan schemes unworkable so where can then turn? The answer, which is true for so many of us, is nowhere right now. It feels like a lot of the noise made towards start-ups is grabbing headlines but having little effect. He would have preferred the Government made more of schemes like SEIS and EIS perhaps making these more attractive right now would have been a better move.

What i take from this interview is really positive. Sure nobody wanted to be where we are right now but I truly admire the way James and his team are making the best of things, refocussing on where the opportunity lies and getting stuck in. I think it’s a great story for anyone at an early stage to be inspired by.

Lastly all that’s left to say is a thank you to James for his time and to wish the team at Sticky good luck for the months ahead.

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Get in touch with Sticky.

About James:

A deep tech founder James is focussed on ubiquitous computing, hyper-personalisation, semantics and building the future.

Social media:

Twitter – @jadaradixLinkedIn – James Garner

About Sticky:

Reality’s application layer. Sticky helps companies make apps that are both digital and physical through NFC stickers and a ‘low code’ dashboard. Sticky’s flagship app is Stickyretail which reimagines the in-store+online retail experience, allowing consumers to check out in under 5 seconds.

Sticky social media:

Website – sticky.to Twitter – @stickyadv Medium – medium.com/sticky-adventures

I hope you’re staying safe, I just wanted to…

I hope you're staying safe

If like us, you’ve heard this a million times already then it’s time to fight back.

Maybe it’s too soon!

As a start-up community we get a lot of emails. Over the last 4-5 weeks though our inboxes have been filling up at an alarming rate with the worst emails and messages. ‘Stay safe’ is everywhere, even John Snow has been signing of with it.

We did.

John aside though these harmless phrases have been co-opted for every piece of communication under the sun, so we thought we’d poke some fun at them.

*NB if you wrote these it’s just a bit of fun, but seriously get on a copywriting course asap.

The classic Coronavirus intro:

I hope you are doing well and staying safe…

Courtesy of every LinkedIn message I’ve received recently.

Whilst I applaud the sentiment this has become so overused as to become meaningless. In fact it’s now a replacement for a more traditional salutation such as ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ or ‘Dear…’.

I mean really! We’re locked in our homes, none of us is intentionally not staying safe, or at least I hope we’re not.

*Of course there is always an exception to the rule. He tested positive 2 days later after touching all the mics at a press conference.

The next thing that invariably comes up is an attempt at ethos. Normally cloaked by a statement designed (let’s hope so anyway) to demonstrate how we’re all in the same boat. I guess the hope is that the recipient will think “yeah you know what we’re all in lockdown, so maybe I should hire that offshore dev team that cold emailed me out of the blue”.

If you respond to these please let me know for a separate study!

And then we’re into the meat. I’ve seen communications start with the classic above that then drift straight into the pitch that’s clearly just been copy/pasted from pre-coronavirus efforts. Where it used to start “Having problems with people not paying..” it now starts ” I hope you’re staying safe..are you having problems with people not paying?”. I pick this example because I bet a bunch of us are having problems with people not paying, or we’re not paying for stuff.

You know what though, suck it up we’re all in this together.

Wanna see what bad cold email looks like? Click here.

It’s not all bad.

There are some people out there who have really thought about how they can both talk to businesses and also be mindful that the business in question maybe dissolving before the founders eyes. As ever Hubspot have been pretty on point, their emails tend to be a mix. A little bit of Covid-19 madness tinged with some useful stuff that reminds you there are people still out there, even if they’re strapping skulls to their car and perfecting their Mad Max look as we speak.

It seems as we live through this major change to our global society the comms that work best are those that are succinct, to the point and provide relevant information. Quite frankly who’s got time to process anything else when we’ve got to think of something creative to do with 300 toilet rolls.

If you need some tips E-consultancy created a handy guide, here.

Above all this is a great time to connect with your fellow humans. Yeah we need to sell stuff, but you know what sometimes some things are a little more important. I’d love to get an email that simply says, you know what it’s a hard time for all of us, we’re not going to bombard you we just want to wish you well and hope to see you on the other side. Here’s hoping….

And of course don’t forget, we’re here for you.

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UK Support to startups: Too little to late?

UK support to startups

A response to the Government’s announcement of start-up funding from Cedric Torossian one of Decksender’s investment community.

Finally after France and Germany and many other countries, the UK government announced a £1.25 billion plan to support startups. That might seem like a lot of money to us but it actually amounts to very little. It is hard to know how many startups there are, but we know that 672,890 start ups were founded in the UK in 2018/2019 tax year…that means that if the £1.25 billion only went to those new startups they would get less than £2,000 each…so we can safely assume that this “bailout” corresponds to less than £1,000 per startup in total. Big deal indeed, hopefully they will not binge too much on that, and it is only too right that with such a generous package tight strings are being attached, read more here.

Meanwhile the UK bailout of banks in 2008 reached nearly £500 billion and there are 345 banks in the UK…and with virtually no real strings attached. This comparison of bailouts is of course a simplistic way to look at things but still it shows a huge disproportion of how our governments look at banks versus businesses that have the most potential to generate real wealth and bring competitiveness to our economy, not to mention the talents they attract and develop.

Unlike with banks all money given now to startups will be returned back to the national economy under the form of salaries, services (accountants, lawyers, consultants…) and taxes as startups usually are well integrated in to local economies and do not undertake fiscal optimisation, dodging taxes in plain English. Startups employ a huge number of people and it is better to help them keep those jobs rather than having more unemployed people as this would also potentially increase cost on benefits.  So even with the help on startups that will fail the money spent will not be lost for the nation, it will return to the economy and thanks to the successful ones overall growth will be generated, and that is called the keynesian multiplier. 

Meanwhile with the bank bailout where is the £500 billion? We know £16 billion went to bankers’ bonuses the year after the 2008 crisis they created, so yes nearly 15 times more than what we are giving startups today…

Now what do entrepreneurs do with the money they get when they finally do an exit? Often they reinvest in other startups  – which by the way the banking system fails to finance – risking their own money…

Hence the totally well funded logic to be so careful not giving too much to startups whilst supporting banks at any costs. Really?

There is no doubt that startups have been and will be hurt by Brexit and now this bittersweet plan to rescue them is actually revealing about our government’s commitment to make Great Britain great again….one might have expected the government package for example to include more tax incentives to private startup investors investing in early stage startups. Instead the last budget has made it more difficult for those investors to get rewarded or de-risked for their support.

And if this was not enough nonsense there is an irony in all of this:  Startups are creating, with the fintech and blockchain revolutions, the disruption that is potentially going to destroy the whole opaque and archaic banking system as we know it. 

So the question is what is the government going to do when its darling (banks) collapse as it fails to adapt to startup’s needed innovation? Could this be precisely (part of) the reason the government is let’s say lukewarm in its support to startups today?   

Reach out to Cedric, Linkedin.

Tell us what you think, drop a comment below.

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Coronavirus survival guide for start-ups. Part 4

corona virus start survival guide part 4

Part 4 of the coronavirus guides is less of a guide, rather we felt it important to get the views of the Decksender community in the trenches. So this week we interview Richard Harris of okappy and Cedric Torossian of Pollenise.

Each represents the two sides of our start-up community, Richard as founder of his workforce management platform and Cedric as serial investor, entrepreneur and start-up adviser.

Our discussion, although separate, followed a similar flow. With each having a clear focus on the job at hand during lockdown and equally taking some time to embrace the change that in both cases is certainly not all bad.

What it’s like to be a start-up right now.

Like a lot of tech businesses Richard hasn’t really seen too much disruption to the day to day. Clients may have slowed but the move to remote working hasn’t impacted his team too much. As a start-up business their infrastructure is somewhat aligned towards a remote working style anyway and with the addition of regular Zoom catch-ups the changes haven’t caused a major impact. What they have seen however is a slow in customer acquisition but nothing that has hugely affected the business. Vitally they haven’t slashed their sales & marketing and this has helped to sustain a flow of new business albeit at lesser levels.

This is a really important lesson, it’s so tempting to slash marketing and sales budgets but it’s totally counterintuitive to sustaining a business for the future.

Luckily the lack of support from the Government shouldn’t cause too much of an impact for okappy. It’s a common story we hear from start-ups, how do I furlough staff when my workforce is so small? How do i access a grant for businesses that pay rates, we don’t? The only option left is the loan scheme and as Richard says he doesn’t hold out too much hope for this.

I sense an air of frustration here and it’s a story Decksender hears a lot. The focus of government’s efforts simply aren’t towards the start-up community. Hopefully that will change but until it does we need to get smart.

The upside for Richard has been far more opportunities to connect with family and refocus on what’s really important. It’s also given the okappy team a chance to complete on some of the tasks that often fall down the priority list.

The future however is a little more uncertain. With plans for a series A this year Richard is undecided as to whether this will go ahead as planned. His team have no plans to change direction as fundamentally their sector is one that’s unlikely to be hugely affected, if anything they may well see some benefits to come out of this, but their next round plans have been put on hold.

I generally get a sense from Richard that things aren’t as bad as the mainstream media would like to portray. They may be lucky in that their business model and sector are somewhat protected but a wider economic downturn affects everyone. Richard’s view point is refreshingly pragmatic though, addressing the problems they’re faced with as they arise and adapting to thrive for the future.

Views from the investor side

I started my conversation with Cedric looking to find out more about the mentality of investors right now but our interview quickly moved to something i think is more important. Namely how our culture will shift and where the future focus will lie for the investment community.

It would be fair to say Cedric is hedging his bets about the future that’s ahead of us. In his words the next six months is likely to see a bit of back to normal and a bit of behaviour change. He’s sceptical about a major cultural shift but he makes some great points on the kind of sentiment that will likely stay with us beyond coronavirus.

For too long we have separated the planet and the people, this needs to change and lockdown is helping us to realise this. His outlook suggests a trend more towards businesses based around value and margin as opposed to cheap and disposable and it makes sense. Look at the environment, the air has never been cleaner. Look also at the steps we’ve had to take to make it happen. One could argue lockdown has been a test for the tough decisions we’ll need to make soon if we want to, at least in part, stop global warming. I think if nothing else we’re beginning to understand the real value of things and be less focused on consuming the disposable junk today that becomes tomorrow’s landfill.

Sentiment is a powerful thing, as Cedric points out the hangover is likely to also include a move towards products focussed on staying at home. It’s something echoed by the Government, one of the major fears of lifting lockdown is that people won’t actually come out and prefer to stay in the place they feel safest. This creates opportunities for start-ups to tap into, the danger is that it’s too short lived to launch anything meaningful.

We’ll see.

What is certain and something we both agree on is that investors will not be put off start-ups, especially those who aren’t in overly affected sectors and especially those with stellar ideas and businesses plans to match. After all at very early stage people are investing in people and ideas not on P&L forecasts.

On a closing note Cedric’s biggest piece of advice, get out and talk to people. Metaphorically of course but now has never been a better time to connect with investors and forge relationships.

Background on Cedric and Richard.

Cedric Torossian is a UK based serial entrepreneur, fundraiser and startup advisor specialised in the digital economy, ESG (Environment, Social, Governance), innovation, data analysis and strategy. Broad range of experience in growing startups from founder, non-exec board member, advisor and mentor building on 15+ years experience as an analyst for Wall Street investors working on investment strategies and performance projections of top listed energy, retail, consumer and media companies. With over 20 years working in London he has gained an extensive knowledge of the UK investment world from angels, family offices, VCs to private equity and hedge funds. More about Pollenise here www.pollenise.com

Okappy is a B2B workforce management platform which applies social and market-networking technology to a real business need. The need to communicate and collaborate when working with employees often at different locations, multiple subcontractors and multiple customers.  Okappy gives business owners complete control of every job, every step of the way.
More about okappy here https://www.okappy.com

Decksender was created to democratise funding. It’s free, sign-up.

Coronavirus survival guide for start-ups. Part 3

cornavirus survival guide for start ups part 3

An interview with Crowdcube’s Jonathan Keeling.

In this weeks guide we talk to Jonathan Keeling who heads up the partnerships team Crowdcube.

Some key takeaways from the interview

It’s never been a better time to connect with your investor audience. As Jonathan says most investors are just like you, sat in front of a computer at home. Get in touch you might find them strangely accessible.

It’s a great time to really evaluate if your businesses is right for funding under current circumstances. But, if you wait it’s worth starting the process early as a major rush is likely later in the year.

There is help out there!

Some resources

Crowdcube have also pulled together a petition for the UK government in the form of an open letter supported by the start-up community. It aims to encourage the government to support start-ups in the same way that France and Germany have done to ensure our thriving community remains.

Get involved here:

Find out more about Crowdcube’s initiative and access a host of free resource:

You can also reach out to Jonathan and his team directly at [email protected] if you have questions about fund raising right now.

Coronavirus survival guide for start-ups – part 2

Coronavirus survival guide for start-ups – part 2

In our second coronavirus survival guide for start-ups we interview AnYes Van Rhijn who discusses well-being and staying positive.

AnYes has specialised in well-being, coaching and mentoring for a number of years and she shares some of her insights and tips to stay positive, keep focused on your vision and keep things together during these difficult times.

Whilst everyone is rightly concerned about finances and how they will cope we believe that mental well-being is of equal importance. It’s incredibly easy to fall prey to the sense of fear sweeping the business community right now and the reason we we’re so keen for AnYes to share her experience with us.

Watch the Coronavirvus survival guide for start-ups, part 2 below.

A bit more about AnYes Van Rhijn

AnYes van Rhijn is on a mission to help women reach their full potential professionally and personally so that in doing so they can become role models for more women to do the same.
Known as The Reinvention Mentor, she helps female entrepreneurs and business owners, who feel stuck in their life and business, create the business that will sustain the life they desire. She helps them clarify the vision of what they want it to look like, build the confidence and mindset to dare go after it, create the successful and fulfilling business that is aligned with who they are and what is important to them, and, last but not least, implement the systems, tools, work-life balance and self-care that are needed to make it sustainable.
If you are ready to step in the driver’s seat and find out how she can help you do so, you can book a complimentary discovery consultation on her website: www.thereinventionmentor.co.uk.

She also is the Regional Director of The Athena Network – Central London region (UK’s leading female business network**) where she runs 7 groups (100+ members). Convinced of the power of networking she’s building a community of like-minded women who support each other and has the ambition to turn her region into Athena’s flagship region with 18 groups and 450 members by the end of 2022. She is launching her 8th group (Westminster) on April 23rd. To find out more about this launch you can express your interest here: https://bit.ly/2upD3z1

Is your business affected by Coronavirus? Read our coronavirus survival guide for start-ups part 1 where we interview Aarish Shah and he discusses how to keep on top of your finances.