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Why I won’t run another startup

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Lured by the lights of the startup industry, ARTHUR ATTWELL found himself as the product in someone else’s show. After closing his startup business, he made a few rules for himself.

Earlier this year, I closed my startup. So now I get to reflect on what I’d have done differently. Hindsight is unfair and inaccurate, but I still enjoy its lessons. This is one, a note to my future self: Don’t call your projects ‘startups’. It’s a semantic trick, but a really important one. Here’s why.

‘Startups’ have become a commodity in an industry of startup conferences, websites, courses and competitions. As founders of young organisations, we struggle to distinguish genuine guidance and support from the distracting pizzazz of the startup industry, where we’re just the product, not the customer. Lured by the lights, we spend valuable hours crafting slide decks, jumping on planes, giving presentations and filling out entry forms, almost always so that someone can sell tickets to the show. I worked it hard, and I didn’t see the return. I want that time back for my business.

Here are five new rules for myself.

1. No more startup events

I’ve been invited to four startup events just this week. Wait — checks email — that’s five. It’s a freakin’ craze. Startup seminars, breakfasts, retreats, showcases. Say no to all of them.

Startup events are supposedly ‘good for networking.’ I made an interesting connection at one or two, I think. For the most part they’ve sucked vast amounts of time I really should have put into working on my organisation.

Your next project may be in publishing, healthcare, engineering or another industry, but it’s probably not in the startup industry. At a startup-industry event, you’re only going to meet startup-industry people. They are not your customers. Only go to events packed full of potential customers in your industry.

Very occasionally, treat yourself to a dinner with a few entrepreneurs you like — it helps fight the loneliness. Otherwise, if you’re not out selling, get back to your office and work. Or go home and spend some down-time with your family.

2. No more startup competitions

Then there are the competitions. Innovation competitions, pitching competitions, business-plan competitions. Sometimes the prize is an investment in your company. (First prize, an investor! Second prize, two investors!)

Honestly, do you want an investor who comes shopping for startups at a cocktail function? Winning an investment is like your bank calling to say you’ve won an overdraft. Lucky you.

It can be worse. I got a call from a major international consulting firm to tell me we’d won a big innovation award. But I can’t tell you about it because I have to pay them a licence fee if I do. Seriously: they wanted 7500 euros just to let us tell people we’d won. Another time, I got interviewed on a startup-support radio show, only to be asked to sign a letter afterwards saying they’d given us R188000 in airtime. (I didn’t sign.)

You can also win ‘business support’, or well-meaning MBA students to ‘help you grow your business’ for their course project. I’ve spent days with teams who are new to my industry using my time to tell me things I already know. I want those days back.

If you’re certain that you have time to enter competitions, only enter the ones where they’re giving out loads of free money and you know you can win. Don’t be the product.

3. Beware the warm glow of startup media

The startup-industry press is so seductive. It’s pretty and says it loves you. Being a startup, especially based in Africa, is great for media coverage, more especially if you win a startup award.

At Paperight we kept a long list of posts and articles about us that came from startup-industry acclaim. We won startup and innovation awards in London, Frankfurt and New York, an Accenture Innovation Award, and public congratulations in South Africa’s national parliament. We were featured in several ‘startups to watch’ articles and were profiled on the websites of CNN, Forbes and others. We were even featured in a book about open-business innovation. We’re fairly certain that the awards made this coverage happen.

But in not one case did we see a corresponding spike in sales (or calls from investors), and for a young business running out of runway, sales are all that really matters. For a while, the acclaim is great for motivating staff, and to help inspire an investor’s confidence, but the effect wanes after a few awards. Don’t chase coverage in the startup industry. Find your own industry’s media outlets (they’re harder to find and less sexy than the startup press) and focus only on them.

4. Don’t tell customers you’re a startup

Every office-bound exec wants to love a startup. Like a pet. But no one wants to buy from a startup. Especially big companies. Big companies want to buy from big, stable businesses. They want to trust that you’ll still be around in a few years. And their people need to feel you’re a familiar name. At Paperight, we needed book publishers to trust us with their most valuable IP. It’s insane to think they’d give it to a ‘startup’. We could have put our whole business in a cupboard for ten years, then dusted it off and they’d be more likely to work with us, because we’d be too old to be called a startup.

5. Get real help

The startup industry appeals to a very real need for emotional, intellectual and financial support. But (except in very rare cases) it is going to distract you more than it delivers. It’s bad for focus. Instead, find experienced confidants from an industry like yours. If nothing else, their emotional support will mean more to you than a hundred hollow prizes.

I’ll be surprised if I stick to my new rules. So remind me, please, because I’ll probably forget: run a business, not a startup. You don’t have the time.

* Arthur Attwell is the co-founder and director of Electric Book Works. Follow him on Twitter on @arthurattwell

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Happy Emoji Day! Here’s 10 reasons to be cheerful

First created by Shigetaka Kurita in 1999, the emoji has become a huge part of everyday communication. Whether you love them or hate them, flying dollar bills, applauding hands and rolling eyes are here to stay.

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Scientist suggest that the use of emojis will help us gain the same satisfaction from digital interactions as we enjoy from personal contact.

Almost two decades later, and we have over 2600 unique emojis to perfectly express what we feel, thank you Mr Kurita! Join HMD, the home of Nokia phones as we celebrate World Emoji Day on the 17th of July with these interesting emoji facts:

The most popular emoji used is “Person Shrugging”

1.       The Nokia 3310 was chosen as one of the first 3 “National” emojis for Finland… it represents unbreakable!

2.       South Africa’s favourite emoji is the “Kiss and wink”… how sweet SA!

3.       French is the only language where a ‘smiley’ does not top the list for its use

4.       On average, over 60 billion emojis are sent on Facebook every day

5.       For the first time ever, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was a pictograph! The “Face with Tears of Joy” was crowned word of the year in 2015

6.       According to Emojipedia, some of the most requested emoji’s include afro, a bagel and hands making a heart

7.       To include all races, a diversity pack was released in 2017

8.       It has become so trendy that the Museum of Modern Art displays the original emoji collection on canvas

9.       In 2009, Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick was completely translated into emoji’s

 

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How emojis stormed Twitter

Around 250 million emojis are sent out every month on Twitter. That’s an incredible 3.2 billion emojis per year according to Brandwatch’s latest Emoji Report. For #WorldEmojiDay Twitter has announced the most Tweeted emojis in the past year:

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For #WorldEmojiDay Twitter has announced the most Tweeted emojis in the past year:

The most Tweeted food related emojis over the past year are:

Emojis give Twitter users the opportunity to express joy😂, sorrow😟, anger😠, sadness😢, love💞 or many other feelings and actions. 😈🤡🤓😤😱🤔

 

Big in Japan

The use of emojis on Twitter still corresponds to the basic idea of the Japanese inventor Shigetaka Kurita, who developed the first 176 emojis. He came up with these in 1998 to express feelings and emotions in a character – saving way due to the limits of SMS (similar to Twitter’s original 140 character limit!). Nowadays there are incredible 2,789 Emojis available (via Unicode).🙀

Hashtags and emojis belong together

But even on Twitter there are some very special emojis👽that only appear when entering certain hashtags 🏳️‍🌈. These are usually limited to a certain time or location. Among the numerous hashtag emojis there are also some very special ones, which are not known in some countries but are still available. We have done some digging and found some of the funniest and most unique hashtag emojis here.

 

Here are 10 very special hashtag emojis on Twitter

1.

The Japanese Bachelor (#バチェラー)

2.

Fans of Sex and the City will love it (#carriebradshaw)

3.

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Winnie the Pooh and his gang (#ItsPooh; #ItsPiglet; #ItsTigger; #ItsEeyore)

4.

The Hot Dog Superhero (#superhotdogger)

5.

Like Bigfoot, but smaller (#smallfoot)

6.

Scary! (#thenun)

7.

For all Indie fans (#panicatthedisco)

8.

Jurassic-Amazon … or something like that (#amazonfindsaway)

9.

Huh! (#vikingclap)

10.

Avada Kedavra! – Protego Maxima! ( #crimesofgrindelwald)

Emoji meets Hashtag – drawing attention to important topics

For over a decade now, almost everything that happens in this world has had a hashtag. Behind hashtags there are interesting discussions and exciting stories from all areas of life. And for some years now, hashtag actions have also included a special emoji to draw further attention to these important issues, with these exciting visuals driving interest in sharing hashtags amongst lots of diverse communities on Twitter.    

Here are some special hashtag emojis activated recently around the world:

#MeToo – the most famous hashtag emoji

Under the hashtag #MeToo, people from all over the world draw attention to everyday sexism and report on their experiences with sexual violence with a symbol of hands raised in the air in unity. This hashtag campaign has spread like wildfire on Twitter. To make the discussion on Twitter even more visible and to encourage people to participate and join the conversation, Twitter has created this very special emoji.

#MarchForOurLives – a powerful movement

People standing close together and facing a threat together. What began with a demonstration and climaxed in an emotional speech by Emma Gonzalez quickly grew into an impressive movement. Thousands of people campaigned on the streets to oppose the threat of weapons and especially the arms lobby. The activists are not alone on Twitter either. Symbolically, Twitter has added the power of the masses to the hashtag #MarchForOurLives   

#Pride – to love and life!

With a colorful rainbow heart, Twitter and its users celebrate life and love regardless of gender and orientation. Twitter is the place where inclusion lives, empowering diverse voices and communities across the globe to express themselves and connect. #Pride

#EndAlzheimers – the disease of forgetfulness

Twitter has put a very special emoji alongside the #endalzheimers campaign, which supports Alzheimer’s research. Together against oblivion!

#GlobalCitizen – to face the greatest challenges of our time

#GlobalCitizen is an organization committed to women’s rights, health, education and development aid worldwide. Together, people from all over the world face the greatest challenges of our time and try to make a difference together. Twitter now adds a unique emoji to this very special hashtag.

 

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