It has been a very long time since I returned to Edinburgh for something other than a wedding, birthday party, or long overdue Snax breakfast.

But I am definitely missing the wonderful city and excited to be coming back for a Hackathon this weekend Bela is organising, and there are some final tickets left if you would also like to come join in.

The weekend is finance-themed and I’ll be sharing some thoughts on Friday as well, but everyone is welcome to join whether you come from a business/marketing/finance background, developers of course, designers always, or data scientists too. Fantastic sponsors and prizes, not that winning is always the point of these things but it is a nice bonus.

Looking forward to catching up with many folks from the community and I hope to see some new and old faces there!


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What you need to know to succeed in a startup is not expertise in startups, what you need is expertise in your own users” – Paul Graham.

This post contains points that resonated with me from Paul Graham’s lecture to Stanford about the counterintuitive aspects of running a startup and how to have ideas. Y Combinator has distilled its experiences and insights about how to start a startup into a series of lectures for Stanford University.  Most of the lectures are delivered by people with an impressive track record of hypergrowth in their companies and huge exits under their belt.


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Y Combinator has distilled its experiences and insights about how to start a startup into a series of lectures for Stanford University.  Most of the lectures are delivered by people with an impressive track record of hypergrowth in their companies and huge exits under their belt.

I’ve taken notes of the bits that resonated with me, and am sharing these in case they’re useful.  You can find a link to the lecture at the end of this post.


The previous lecture focussed on Idea and Product.  The second lecture is about having the right team and the importance of execution.


  • A startup should ideally have 2 or 3 cofounders – not more and not less.
  • Choose a co-founder as carefully as you would choose an employee.  In YC, the number 1 cause of early death in startups is co-founder conflict. Make sure that the person you choose is relentless resourceful, tough and calm.  That’s more important than them being an expert in a given domain.
  • Decide on an equity split quite early on – don’t let it drag on.  Also, have vesting on equity.


  • Avoid hiring in the early days.  Keep the team as small as possible, even if that means it’s just the co-founders. However, later on, when you’re scaling up, you should learn to hire very quickly.
  • Getting an early hire wrong can be very damaging to a startup.  Mediocre hires during the early phase can kill startups.
  • For early hires, experience may not matter as much as aptitude and belief in what you are doing.  Good communication skills tend to correlate with hires that work out. 

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Y Combinator has distilled its experiences and insights about how to start a startup into a series of lectures for Stanford University.  The lectures are delivered by people with an impressive track record of hypergrowth in their companies and huge exits under their belt.  If your goal is hyper growth, then the content in these lectures is for you.

I’m working through the lectures and these are notes I made for myself which I’m sharing here in case they’re of use to anyone. You can find a link to the lectures at the end of each set of notes.

This first lecture starts by talking about assessing your idea and building the right product.  How do you decide whether the idea for your startup is worth pursuing?

  • It’s worth doing if you find that you can’t not do it, and that the world needs you to pursue it.
  • Stress test the idea; this should help you assess whether your idea is worth pursuing. Ask yourself about the size and growth potential of your market, the growth strategy for your company, and how easy it would be to replicate your business.
  • Think about what the size of your market will be in 10 years; don’t just focus on the size now.  Small but rapidly growing markets are better than larger, slowly growing one as these will usually have customers who are desperate for solutions and who will trial a limited but rapidly improving ones.
  • Good ideas may often look very bad at the beginning.  Ignore the naysayers.
  • Have a mission; you’ll need one to get people behind your idea.  It’s easier to get support for a hard-startup than an easy, derivative one. People are compelled to work harder to make something difficult come together.
  • Ask yourself, why now?  Why will it be too late to start two years from now and why didn’t it get started 2 yrs ago?

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[Guest Post] This week, we asked Owen O’Leary of The Locals’ Guide to Edinburgh what the best cafes in Edinburgh for work are.

Oh the joys of mobile working! Now, like smoking electronic cigarettes it can be done anywhere. Walking, waiting, travelling and even going to the park can all be activities done from your office. Of course some places are more conducive than others which is why I’ve pulled together a Locals’ Guide to Edinburgh cafes for the footloose and office free start up entrepreneur. Whether you are a plugged in programmer or a high energy sales person the selection below are my top tips for mobile office working.


BrewLab Brew Lab Bar

Two great reasons why BrewLab rocks: Sockets and students. There’s actually tons of reasons why BrewLab rocks from the fab food and superb coffee but the ones that matter here are all about getting power and being able to sit for a few hours undisturbed. Seating wise there’s a number of tucked away one / two person tables and almost always a powerpoint nearby. Even better with so many students lounging you can crack on with work without feeling like you are the only one hogging tables. Wifi activation requires a check in from Facebook which isn’t ideal for undercover operations but is more than worth it. The seating is pretty snug so save those very important phonecalls for when you have finished your coffee.


Traverse Bar

If you are looking for a bit more peace and quiet then I can’t recommend the Traverse Bar enough. Even at its busiest there should be a corner table free, and its bunker like qualities are ideal for hosting clandestine meetings and hatching plans. Phone coverage is best for O2 in the bar area but you can always make calls upstairs while accessing the wifi next to the Box Office foyer which has tables, sockets and space to pace while you’re on the phone. Less cosy than the bar downstairs its functional feel is just what you need for cracking through a chunk of work. The rewards are waiting behind the bar below. Wifi: TraverseBarCafe Password: TraverseBarCafe


Broughton Deli

“Welcome to my office…” is the well worn phrase I’ve used in the back room of the Broughton Deli for years. A table with two old church pews for seats is the perfect base for strategy meetings over cinnamon scones. The room is just off the main cafe space and if there’s a few of you you can book it in advance. Phone reception isn’t amazing so it’s best used for a well fed session of laptop based work. The food is delicious and the service laid back & leisurely so you’ll not get disturbed too often. Wifi: Broughton Deli Password (at the time of writing): bluetrain


Stag Espresso

I love Stag Espresso for meetings. Based in the Dovecot Studio it’s a hidden oasis of bright clean lines, delicious food and an air of calm. Not quite the place to spend an entire day in (not really a laptop farm) but if you want exude the air of swan-like cool for meeting key targets then let Richard and his team set the scene at Stag. There’s not officially wifi but in case of emergencies the signal from the Dovecot has been known to show up. Ask nicely at Gallery reception for the password.


Waverley Gate

I’m slightly cheating here as the foyer area in Waverley Gate isn’t strictly a cafe although there is a wee coffee kiosk with sandwiches, cakes and coffees in the corner. You won’t be here for the coffee mind. You’ll be here because it’s a great place to take a seat, get set up for the day and work away undisturbed at minimum expense. Of course you might be visiting Amazon or Microsoft in the building and have arrived early or stayed on late to get work done. All of the offices have wifi codes and you can click here to see one regularly made available to visiting guests.

The above list doesn’t take in any of the main chains which are great as you know what you are getting in most places and they have their own individual advantages. It might be:

– Proximity to the train station (Starbucks on Leith St)

– Decent reliable broadband

– Close to other startups so you can bump into folk you might be desperate to meet (cafes near CodeBase, Skyscanner and Rockstar). Prizes for anyone who uses the ordering system to secure an introduction:startup

When you do secure that seed round and finally get a permanent office I totally recommend getting your own coffee machine so you are reminded of edgy early days of start up land every time you try and make a phonecall while somebody is grinding beans or frothing milk.

Ah, the sweet sounds of start up success….






Edinburgh Apps has been running for two years, and aims to involve start-ups and students, designers and developers, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers in creating new ideas to benefit Edinburgh and the people who live here. The challenge pits teams and individuals against each other in a challenge to come up with innovative new ways to use data available from the council and its partners, in a way that brings value and new thinking to the city. Edinburgh Apps was the first event of its kind when it launched in 2013, and this year the contest returns with five challenges to intrigue participants. They focus on themes around health, sports and culture, which has engaged a number of participants working on their ideas.


The more stickies, the better the innovation. Fact.

This year’s Edinburgh apps launched on September 5 with a bustling icebreaker. Last weekend marked the midway of this year’s challenge, and for two days on October 4 and 5 teams and individuals worked on a variety of challenges and ideas. After a pitching event in the morning, participants gathered in thein the stunning Informatics Forum to hear from the council as departments involved detailed some of the thoughts behind this year’s challenges. The health focus was on managing behaviour and staying safe after addressing drug, addiction and abuse issues, and accessing information for patients with deteriorating illnesses like MS or dementia. The culture and sports department focused on getting people more physically active, and how to experience the many monuments and museums in the city in a new and better way.

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When we started chucking around ideas for Startup Cafe posts on topics that matter to startups, we mentioned the importance of health and wellness to survive the marathon that is Startup Life. That lead to the concept of hosting a regular ‘Health Corner’, where we discuss personal health and making it a priority.

From my own personal experience, overall health has a very direct correlation with my own success. Despite investing time that could be spent working on fitness, I have always found that time invested pays dividends in energy, focus, and confidence. So to kick off Startup Cafe’s Health Corner, I’m rounding up the top reasons for startups to live healthy:great-lakes-80383_1280

  • You focus better. A healthy diet has a direct correlation with cognitive function and mental wellbeing.
  • Endorphins are awesome. Don’t do drugs. Get high on endorphins. Nuff said.
  • Manage your stress. Best ways to beat stress? Sleep better, exercise more, and eat right.
  • You’re way happier. Exercise and overall wellbeing leads to happiness. And happiness leads to more productivity.
  • …And more energetic. Startups take a lot of energy. Like, a lot! Working out for even just 30 minutes every morning will give you way more energy to get through the day.
  • It says a lot about you. People want to work with people who inspire them. By taking care of yourself while working hard, you show your network that you have real strength of character.
  • It can bring the team closer. Getting outdoors for group activity, or promoting a healthy snack environment in the office can give you all something to work towards together (that isn’t work).
  • It makes you happy. I know I already said that. But it’s mega-important.

Most of us can do at least a little better with our wellbeing. So I challenge you, for the sake of your startup, to make one change this month that will improve your health! Run more, bring fruit to work, go to bed earlier, meditate… whatever!


CodeBase is the newest tech incubator in Edinburgh, and over 40 start-ups are based on the top floors of Argyle House. The building is an easily recognisable example of 60s brutalist architecture, and has housed a variety of tenants over the last 50 years. Now it is home to cutting-edge technology and innovative businesses in a range of industries who continue to make Edinburgh a proud city of innovation. CodeBase hosts a range of events, from technology training and business networking to art events and coffee mornings. Have a look at upcoming events here, or see what the CodeBase community is up to.

The biggest resource of any tech incubator is the people and businesses who work there. We’ve pulled together an overview with most of the existing tenants in CodeBase – as new companies join all the time, check out the CodeBase tenants on their website to see the latest additions. But first, check out our introduction to the many startups in Edinburgh’s CodeBase.

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How Not to Work From Home

work from homeI love it when I tell people that I work from home, and the response is always the same, genuine, “wow, must be nice!”. Even when the other party also works from home, we both smile and exclaim what an amazing work-life-balance we totally have. But we all know the dirty truth – working from home has an unproductive, pyjama-wearing, errand-running dark side. Here is the list of mistakes that I have already made, so you can avoid them. You’re welcome. Continue Reading »

productforge_2_avatar-01Are you a future entrepreneur? Get experience in working within a team building a Minimum Viable Product over at Product Forge later on in the month. Allan Lloyds, Founder, explains more:
Product Forge weekends are an opportunity for you to develop your career through practical experience. Our events bring together entrepreneurially minded designers, developers and product managers to nurture their skills, broaden their network and develop new ideas. 
Participants form small cross-functional teams who work on a product concept over a weekend. Anyone is free to pitch an idea and everyone receives mentoring, meals and 24 hour access to the venue.
The top ranking teams win prizes to help them develop their career further. But however your team ranks you’ll have a new piece of work to add to your CV or portfolio, dozens of new contacts, and maybe even an interview or two lined up with one of our sponsors!
For more details please visit http://productforge.io