What we can all learn from technology start-ups

‘No two days are the same’ is a bit of a cliché in the world of PR but a cliché for a reason. I love the variety of the job where, in a given week I’ll work on anything from a whitepaper exploring diversity in the ad industry, to a blog about an initiative helping SMEs tackle cybercrime, to a case study about IT procurement in education. Working in a tech PR agency, you find yourself becoming an ‘expert’ on a range of different topics, finding out things you never knew about. While every sector brings its own quirky element, one of my favourite types of client are technology start-ups.

Perhaps it’s the sheer passion, the leg-work that it’s taken to get an idea off the ground, or the promise that something exciting is just around the corner, but I think that there’s a lot that we can learn from the culture of the tech start-up scene. Thankfully, Manchester and London are both brimming with talent with lots of places to look to when it comes to getting inspired. Here are my top three take-aways when learning from the start-up community:

1)      Keep on experimenting

Another cliché! But something that’s really worth mentioning. Whether it’s a product, a service or something different altogether, tech start-ups will often go through dozens of prototypes to reach the end result. They don’t give up on the first attempt but keep going, (often even after they’ve launched) as they continually experiment, react to trends, keep pace with what the industry is doing and so on. It’s not a failed attempt, but rather a refining process to get exactly where they want to be.

As more established businesses sometimes find, it’s very easy to plough on as you are because everything’s generally working okay. But finding the time to question why you do things, to test things and to learn, could be the best decision you ever make.

2)      It’s okay to get off course

This leads me to point number two. So much of being a start-up revolves around having an iron-tight business plan, often geared towards securing investment. You must carefully consider (and prove) every step – from when you can take on your first member of staff to ongoing overheads and implementing your marketing plan. You can’t afford to approach any aspect with the belief that everything will be alright on the night.

But it is okay to take risks and to deviate from what you originally outlined. You may meet someone who inspires you to take a different course of action, or an opportunity may just present itself. I’m a big believer in gut feeling and think that if it feels like a good idea, it generally is. Either way, don’t beat yourself up if the final product doesn’t end up looking exactly how you thought it would. You may end up with something even better.

3)      We’re all in it together

A lot of start-ups I speak to have the same problem – they’re trying to stick to the parameters of their role, be it technical director, MD and so on, but find themselves getting sucked into day-to-day tasks that technically sit outside of their remit. To some extent, you need to get to a stage where you’re confident that the business is a well-oiled machine with everyone looking after their designated areas.

But being involved in all areas of the business can actually be a luxury – you have real involvement in steering big decisions and a sense of camaraderie that can be difficult to maintain as you grow. It may seem hectic at the time but managing that growth, and preserving that close-knit culture will always reap rewards.

Think we’ve missed something? What tech start-ups have inspired you? Drop us a line at lizzie@fourthday.co.uk or tweet us @fourthdaypr. 

The author

Lizzie is an Associate Director in the Manchester team

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