5 Tips for Early Stage Start-ups

conker.io screen shotBe nimble. Be network-y.

Two of the key pieces of advice offered by Russell Banks (@RussellBanks77) at the most recent Entrepreneurs Anonymous meeting in Dublin, Ireland.

Held on the Last Tuesday of the month, the meet-ups are geared towards early stage start-ups or people looking to set up their own business.

The guest at the first meeting of 2013, Banks is a serial entrepreneur and is now CEO & co-founder of Conker.io, which provides metrics, and behavioral and predictive analytics to games’ companies.

Conker recently won the NDRC’s Lift Off competition and is now putting its investment prize to good use. But he took time out to offer some tips based on his recent entrepreneurial experiences.

Network Like You Mean It

With a goal to become self-employed, Banks decided three years ago to return to school at the National College of Ireland (@ncirl – where I also do some part-time work). But he did more than hit the books. He launched himself in to the Dublin start-up community. He was instrumental in setting up Dublin Beta, a quarterly showcase for young companies to get in front of potential investors, clients and tyre kickers. Russell Banks

He also did something similar on a smaller scale in college with the aim of encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship and bringing together business and technical students who need to fill skills gaps.

Banks also curates the weekly Dublin Startup Digest newsletter, which is part of a worldwide network supported by the Kauffman Foundation.

Find Honest Opinions & Listen

As part of networking, Banks suggested getting honest opinions from people. He said he found most investors and entrepreneurs very approachable. “People will meet for coffee,” he said.

Take Lean Seriously

“Take lean entrepreneurship seriously,” Banks said. This means concentrating time and resources on just those tasks that are essential to getting the business up and running. Lean manufacturing has been around since the 1980s when it first started in Japan.

Around five years ago, the concept was applied to start-ups by Eric Ries in his best-selling book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

Test Your Assumptions

This can turn up “answers you don’t like or won’t fit,” Banks said. An important part of testing assumptions, he added, is knowing what questions to ask. “By not knowing how to ask a question, you might be getting the answer you want, ” he said.

Banks suggested Rob Fitzpatrick’s website The Startup Toolkit as a resource to help formulate the right questions.

Be Nimble

Although it is probably one of the most over-used words in the start-up lexicon, the “pivot” is an extremly important concept for fledgling businesses still working out what their product is or who their customers are.

For web-based businesses, this means measuring everything to determine what works and what should be dropped.

Image of Russell taken from his Twitter page, @RussellBanks77.