Female Entrepreneurs Learn Top Business Strategies for 2010

pic_misaeThis is a guest post by Misae Richwoods, a previous Golden Web Award winner and consultant to start ups, SMEs and the independent professionals market via MRMedia Group
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pic_panelSun Microsystem's headquarters sit in London city, a stone’s throw from the river Thames and in sight of London Bridge. Although Sun were a pioneer in Workstation computers and brought to the world numerous gems like Java and OpenOffice, Sun are also the owners of a system that has powered the web revolution – MySQL. Not only does MySQL run Google, the world’s biggest search engine, it also powers Yahoo!, its rival and YouTube, BBC News and Facebook are also users. It’s free, open source and has a reputation for being the fastest and most stable database you can use without paying the huge premiums that Oracle’s systems cost. In the words of Facebook COO, Owen Van Natta:

“MySQL has been a revolution for young entrepreneurs”.

But, what’s all this got to do with The Next Women?

Not only did Sun Microsystems generously host their 2010 Strategy event, they underlined it with their own story, the power of “blue ocean planning” – a focus technique taught to delegates during The NextWomen strategy workshop.  Mapping out industries to reveal contrarian opportunities shows where innovation can be applied to make a new business model.

Everyone on Wordpress owes it's low cost to a 'Blue Ocean'

natalie turnerIn the world of databases, Oracle’s high end systems had been dominant for many years.  MySQL went in the opposite direction to Microsoft, focussing on low cost of ownership whilst still providing a quality product. In doing so they created massive value in customer eyes and opened up a new “blue ocean” of opportunity – the affordable web database. Everyone running a WordPress blog owes it’s low cost to MySQL’s innovation.

The all-involving hands on strategy workshop delivered by Natalie Turner (@natalieturner1), gave an enlightening method of aligning our companys' growth strategy with innovation to exploit industry openings. Sure, we could all work harder and be better, but that’s certainly not the reason I or the other female entrepreneurs present started their own companies. If working harder and being better at the same thing is what you excel at, being a highly skilled professional may be the most rewarding way for you to use your time. Those who succeed as an entrepreneur are those bringing pastures new to the world. The hard work for us is training the brain to spot the opportunity rather than being a chip off the old block!

Judy Piatkus - A veritable Don King of fresh ideas and speaker at our next Kitchen Dinner, February 24th 2010

pic_judyOn the day when Twitter lit up with talk of Apple’s iPad I was delighted to find I was sitting next to someone who’d been a hero of mine for many years. A veritable Don King of fresh ideas, this woman brought waves of trend setters from Karen Kingston’s clutter clearing spirituality, through Patrick Holford’s eat your way to better emotions and into Seth Godin’s recent meatball sundae. Yes, it was none other than literary inspirer Judy Piatkus (@judypiatkus). Having sold off Piatkus books in 2007 (in advance of the trend toward ebooks eating into valuations), Judy is now using her proven record of trend spotting to help SMEs both as a consultant and workshop facilitator. Her undemanding manner and ample charm reveal the detached consideration she has towards trends – Judy’s take was that it’s been known for years that sooner or later a hardware manufacturer will get the ebook reader format right and this presents a massively dilutive force for publishers who’ll now need to support more formats than ever whilst contending with the issue of digital rights. Publishing now joins music, video and web design in the list of industries ravaged by technological innovation.

Reshma Sohoni of Seedcamp on Funding Strategies

reshma sohoniFunding is a topic near to the heart of many an idea. Most entrepreneurs think of an idea then look at how they can pay for it to be carried out and as the evening sessions kicked off Reshma Sohoni (@rsohoni) from Seedcamp gave the scoop on funding. I tweeted out a succession of points from this and judging by the reaction I got, it’s dear to many hearts so I’ll share a few again:

1.    There are many different types of funding – grants, angels, VCs and loans – and all have different pros and cons

2.    Remember whichever you take is going to be a long term relationship (think marriage!)

3.    Bootstrap as long as you can. Every round of funding you take from investors will take away profits for both you and them with you standing to loose more

4.    Companies are judged by the amount they are expected to achieve on exit. A big opportunity will be £500m+, medium from there down to £150m and a small opportunity anything under £150million

5.    You may well need advisors to help you along the way. If you need to give an equity stake then think <2%

The Tour de Force of the Internet

pic_Maya2_croppedNext up was Maya Moufarek, Regional Marketing Manager EMEA, Google (@msmaya) who gave a tour de force of the internet, noting how Google Insights for Search can highlight valuable trends in people's interests. She also shared a few examples of inventive online campaigns hoping to spark new ideas with some of the entrepreneurs in the audience.

Did you know:

  • There are 1.6 billion people accessing the internet via a PC?
  • 1.6 billion people constitutes less than a quarter of the world’s population?
  • That over 4 billion people have a mobile phone?

Clearly there’s a lot of room for growth left yet on the internet! Regarding the two points that have become so apparent over recent years, namely the rise of Social Media and Real Time Search, Maya said:

  • 3 years ago, Social Media didn’t exist as a genre. Now 16% of the time spent online is spent on social networks
  • “As far as I know” your Tweets and your website are treated separately.

Those of you who know I run London’s #140conf meetup, a conference founded by one of Twitter’s seed investors Jeff Pulver that looks at real time media, will have noted some note swapping going on afterwards between Maya and myself! Those of you interested in SEO should know that Maya works for Google Apps rather than directly on the search algorithm.

The Future of Twitter

pic_twitterThe evening and the talk, of course led me to think more about Twitter and short real-time content.  I feel there is a growing belief that frequent tweets can be useful in creating visibility and possibly influencing a site’s PageRank. Yet my decade of experience in SEO leads me to think that right now, Tweeted links are not being used to boost websites up the rankings - although I am more than certain that there must be factors out there already being considered on matter. Google’s deal with Twitter is non exclusive and the race is on between Google and Bing to see who can use this data in the most innovative way.

A Panel that Proved it's Good to Mix Business with Love...

Finally there was a closing panel with Wendy Tan-White, Founder and CEO of Moonfruit, Natalie Turner, Founder and CEO of Entheo, Tom Harrow, Co-Founder of FindaBabysitter, Anna Sofat, Founder and CEO Addidi chaired by Simone Brummelhuis, founder of Thenextwomen.com. I’ll leave you with a few pearls of wisdom from their session:

  • Hiring staff is difficult for every startup. Everyone on the panel was married to their business partner!
  • The more professional skills you hold in house the easier it is for you in many levels. The panel varied with some being from IT, others from finance others from innovation and management backgrounds. All where united in that if they’d needed to buy in those skills it would’ve been harder to grow and harder to get funding
  • Whilst PR has a place, network building and referrals are increasingly important, especially post Social Media.
  • Social Media itself is transient – turning a viral message into a lasting community is still challenging as Moonfruit’s experience with it’s “Win a Macbook Twitter” campaign showed
  • Social Media presents opportunities for well targeted messages – Natalie quoted LinkedIn mail as receiving over 30% response rate, something email hasn’t achieved for years.
  • Make budgets alive is a secret to hitting targets, says Wendy Tan-White. If you know it’s going to be difficult to deliver a level of growth it’s an opportunity to engage your creativity!

If search, social or online marketing is something you need to work on, you can follow Misaes tweets, hire her for a consultation or ask to come to one of her talks on the subject.

A big thanks to everyone who made it such a successful day.

Wow, I never thought about what database technology powers WordPress. Now that I know it's MySQL, guess I better listen more to what's happening there ... especially with Oracle's acquisition of Sun.

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