Why we’re buzzing for tomorrow’s Pride!

Here’s wishing you a happy Pride in London 2018 from everyone at buzzmove!

We’re all looking forward to tomorrow’s midday parade, which starts at Portland Place, passes down Regent Street, through Piccadilly Circus – a stone’s throw away from our Soho offices – before moving on to Pall Mall and beyond.

In anticipation of the weekend’s festivities, we’ve been thinking about diversity in tech and more generally.

It is startling just how much remains to be done to combat homophobia, transphobia and other forms of discrimination in the workplace. Take this for example: in over half of US states, it remains legal, in 2018, to fire people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

There have been signs of a turning tide over the past decade, with a growing number of business leaders in the tech world “breaking the glass closet”. To give you a few examples: Megan Smith (formerly a Google X VP and 3rd White House CTO), Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies) and of course Apple’s Tim Cook, who became the first openly gay Fortune 500 CEO in 2014.

While “Big Tech” is clearly – and publicly – moving in the right direction, anecdotal evidence suggests that attitudes on the ground often lag behind the sector’s official line.

For example, the route into tech for LGBT entrepreneurs is often through Venture Capital (VC), a circuit traditionally dominated by straight white men. So “positive bias” in the VC world can have a disproportionate impact on the diversity of tech as a whole.

We believe that this situation is slowly changing, but more gay and trans role models and advocates are needed not just within tech but in industry as a whole – and here the world needs to remember that diversity is not just better for people, it’s also better business:

Any organisation that blinds itself to the potential of any group of individuals is putting itself at a clear competitive disadvantage, regardless of whether that group is defined by race, religion, class, gender or sexual orientation.

We have a strong commitment to maintain a wealth of different perspectives and experiences at buzzmove, all the more so given the fast-changing needs of our customers and the constant evolution of the technologies we deploy.

So we’re proud to say that our small – but rapidly expanding! – team already boasts 9 different nationalities: British, Irish, Canadian, Australian, New Zealander, Dutch, Italian, Polish and Portuguese.

On top of that, a cursory late-morning prowl round the office uncovered 15 languages other than English represented among our staff base …

Gender equality in particular is a concern close to our hearts – as a women-founded start-up we are a relative rarity in a world where, in 2017, female founders received only 2% of total VC dollars.

We wanted to do something concrete about this imbalance, so we recently launched the #buzzingfor50 initiative with the pledge to achieve a 50/50 gender balance across our company by the end of 2019. We’re currently at 80/20 (men/women), so we invite you to check in on our progress via social media over the coming months.

It looks like we’ve got a sweltering weekend ahead – so make sure you bring a bottle of water and we look forward to seeing you tomorrow for plenty of live music, street food and bright colours!

Why buzzmove has to push for 50/50 gender representation…

Why are there currently so few women in tech?

And why do some people see it as discrimination if we push for a 50/50 gender representation in tech industries?

After all, Google CEO Sundar Pichai noted in a recent Devskiller article that “a diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.”

Here at buzzmove we believe the same. We want to create change from the inside out.

So, what are we going to do?

buzzmove has taken the decision to launch our #buzzingfor50 initiative, a campaign that will push for more women in tech, with the aim of achieving a 50/50 gender split throughout all levels of the company by 2019. We’re self-aware enough to know that we can’t change the entire industry alone and overnight, but just as charity begins at home, so does change.

Our six actionable objectives:

Through a set of six actionable objectives, we’ll be promoting the inclusion of women in tech from the ground up.

Only around 17% of the UK tech industry is made up of women; although, of course, gender isn’t the only factor we should consider when raising issues of diversity.

Currently, we have one-woman developer out of a team of 7, and this is something we’re actively looking to improve. But we can’t hire women if there are no women pursuing careers in tech to begin with. So, we’ll be supporting grassroots women-in-tech organisations and funding coding-for-women initiatives. We’ll also create opportunities within buzzmove to bring in women to the team in junior and volunteer roles, so they can get a hands-on working-in-tech experience.

buzzmove is going to actively invest in women in tech, sponsoring and attending women in tech events, such as Women Who Code, Driven Women , Geek Girls and Beyond the Classroom.

But we’re not just going to sponsor pre-existing women in tech conferences and events.

We’ll bring the initiative back to our office, with the aim to organise and run our very own women in tech event too.  

In fact, we’ve already started on this action point, having hosted an informal Intro to WWDC for both men and women in June 2018.

We recognise that in the tech world many of these meetups can be intimidating and seem too advanced for junior level staff. Therefore, this informal grassroots event was created to provide an open space for iOS beginners to enjoy an evening during which they could speak openly about what that they want to see in the future.

Building on that, buzzmove will tackle the problem internally, looking at unconscious bias throughout all levels of the company. Each and every new hire will have to take part in unconscious bias training (along with our current staff), in order to hopefully change the way, they think about women in tech and, well, life.

What happens when we reach 50/50?

Hiring is step one; ensuring that our working environment is inclusive and understanding of their diverse needs, whether they’re breastfeeding mothers or observe specific religious routines is part of step 2.

We want to ensure they stay. Better yet, we want to ensure that they want to stay.

Amma Mensah, The Founder and Director of Beyond the Classroom said that “When we talk about diversity within the world, within organisations, we often think about ticking a box…[But it can be so much more than that.] The reason organisations and community should be diverse is because it creates diversity in ideas, perspectives, experiences, talent and that breeds innovation.”

Who wouldn’t be an advocate for that in the workplace and in all walks of life?

Furthermore, buzzmove will advocate for equal pay and put our (literal) money where our mouths are, because there’s nothing worse than shouting about equality while simultaneously failing to do anything about it internally. In continuation, we won’t penalise women for initiating pay negotiations, because studies have shown that, shamefully, women are judged more harshly than men for pursuing pay rises, even if entirely expected and justified.

We won’t forget about men!

Men hold a great deal of sway, particularly in tech industries and while conversations about women in tech are often met with inane questions like “why should women get the job?”—hint: because they’re competent, capable and qualified.

That’s why we need men’s active ally-ship, not just their passive agreement.

We want our strong, male advocates in Buzzmove to speak up on this topic and drive change in a number of ways such as: talking to other men about the lack of women, notice and correct gender bias in the workplace,  increase the number of female leaders, work with women’s groups, make discussions of gender less “risky” and just simply listening to women’s stories will make such a difference.

Currently, The BBC reports that women are often deterred from applying for tech positions thanks to the so-called ‘manly’ wording of job advertisements; for example, the use of words like ‘manage’ ‘strong’ and ‘dynamic’ were found to put them off.

We believe that women shouldn’t be deterred from applying for tech roles simply because they’ve been led to somehow believe that they can’t identify with skill- sets like ‘competitive’, ‘leader’ and ‘build’.

To be clear though, what we won’t be doing is changing the wording in our job advertisements though. After all, that might encourage women to apply at a surface level, but it subtly and simultaneously reinforces the pervasive stereotype that suggest women are there to ‘support’ rather than ‘manage’, ‘follow’ not ‘lead.’

We know that’s bullshit.

Women are ‘strong’, women are ‘competitive’, women are ‘leaders’.

After all, 50% of buzzmove’s board are women, as are 37.5% of our management.

But that’s not enough. In fact, there’s always more to be done. Which is why we’re doing it.

Want to follow what we are doing on social media?

Search our  hashtag #buzzingfor50

4 simple but effective steps to make your removal business more ecofriendly

Moving heavy loads around in large vehicles is a recipe for high carbon emissions, and the use of packaging materials can often be reckless and inefficient. 

Removals can be a wasteful industry – but it doesn’t have to be. 

The growing problems for our planet associated with carbon emissions means that it has never been more important to prioritise a green approach for all businesses, particularly in an industry with such a large carbon footprint.

But being kinder to environment doesn’t have to be tiresome or tedious.

That’s why we’ve complied together 4 easy but effective steps to lower your environmental impact.

1. Reduce CO2 emissions

Let’s start with the big one – removals companies have high levels of carbon dioxide emissions, but there are ways to tackle this problem.

You can start small, by cycling to home removal surveys instead of driving.

If the customer lives far away why not try buzzsurvey.

It’s a live surveying app that not only saves you time of travelling to and from the house and the time it takes to carry out the survey, the money in petrol back and forth but is also way kinder to environment. 

No c02 will be emitted into the environment when you use it unlike when you’re driving to carry out a survey.

Using biodiesel is also an option where possible, with this natural alternative to fossil fuels made from renewable sources such as vegetable oils and animal fats.

While biodiesel sounds like an excellent solution, there are a few caveats. Not all vehicles can be run on this alternative, so you need to make sure that your vans are compatible before considering this fuel.

It is also worth noting that a lot of biofuel is made from palm oil, which is incredibly damaging to the environment.  

The best way to reduce carbon emissions is to switch to electric vans, which are completely emission-free although more expensive to buy. Another issue is that the majority of electric vans on the market at the moment are smaller models, like the Renault Kangoo ZE, and Nissan e-NV200.

Fortunately, bigger e-vans are on their way to the UK, including the Renault Master ZE, which will go on sale later this year.

The Renault Master ZE is due to be released in the UK this year. Image via renault.co.uk

2. Being more mindful day to day

Before you think about investing in any offsetting programs you should try to reduce your impact on the environment.

It may seem small but overtime it’s incredibly effective.

This can be done in a variety of ways, from greater levels of recycling, to using more energy efficient appliances and lighting in your office. Operating a paper-free workplace is also a good way to offset carbon emissions, by using digital devices instead of order forms, letters, and so on.

3. Carbon offsetting

If you’re still concerned about your emissions, you can also compensate elsewhere in your business through carbon offsetting. This is the process of saving carbon dioxide elsewhere to balance out your emissions.

You can do this by calculating your carbon footprint, and reducing your carbon emissions elsewhere.

Another positive step as a removal company would be to get involved in Buzzmove’s carbon neutral initiative, which helps removal companies offset their carbon emissions through planting trees. As the tree grows you are constantly offsetting your carbon emissions. For instance, 1 tree can offset 1 tonne of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old. Why would you not get involved? To find out more, click here.

4. Recycle packaging materials

In addition to carbon emissions from the vans themselves, one of the biggest eco-issues associated with removal companies is packaging materials. If you offer boxes as part of your service, make sure they are reusable or recyclable.

There are also certain materials that should be avoided, such as plastic packing peanuts and plastic bubble wrap and often end up in landfill. They are not environmentally friendly because plastic don’t biodegrade. In fact nothing that is made out of plastic biodegrades. When it does finally break down, toxic chemicals are released.

A good substitute would be using air-popped popcorn and shredded paper for padding. The shredded paper can also be recycled after moving. If you prefer to buy padding, opt for reusable pads, recyclable packing paper, and specially marked biodegradable bubble wrap and packing peanut.

This approach to recycling should extend across your business, as running a more ecofriendly removal company is not just about the vehicles themselves.

Being green should permeate everything you do, from your own vehicles, to your staff, and even any commercial partners.

Removals can be a wasteful industry – but fortunately if you follow these tips you can run a more ecofriendly business.

Author bio: Sam Butterworth is a writer and blog editor at Happy2Move, a London-based man and van removal business

Editor bio: Isabella Hernandez, content writer at Buzzmove, a price comparison platform for mover quotes

Press about Buzzmove

We could shout about how great buzzmove is but we’ll let everyone else do the talking…

April 2018

Man and Van Edinburgh

Trees for life with Buzzmove

Van Move It

Let’s plant some trees

House Beautiful

10 ways to make your house move more eco-friendly

The Mover

Buzzmove works to reduce c02

March 2018

Eco Badge for donating to Trees for Life

London Removals

Aldhouse and Smith

AR Removals Wakefield

Happy 2 Move

Gold Bear Removals Brighton

Eco removals Brighton 

Moral Fibres

Ecofriendly guide to moving house

February 2018

Eco Badge for donating to Trees for Life

Eagle Relocation

Excess International

Guardian Removals and Storage

Simpsons Removals and Storage

Goldline Removals

Doveley Removals

Mr Shifter

Gold Bears Removals

Property Reporter

Top tips to make your home move green

Ideal home

How to make ‘moving home’ more eco-friendly 

CEO Today Magazine

The Future Of Global Mobility Management Is Digital

December 2017

Financial Times

Insurers hope for a smart future from the connected home

Venture Clash

Press – Venture Clash – Buzzmove

Insurance Times

Buzzmove aims to home 38 people for Christmas

Strategic Risk Europe

Buzzmove aims to home 38 people for Christmas

The Mover

Buzzmove moves to bigger offices

Insurance Nexus

Home Removals Meets Insurtech: Buzzmove on the Future of Contents Insurance

Soundcloud: Insurance Nexus

Buzzmove: Protecting your contents in a new way

November 2017

London Loves Business

Changes to stamp duty could add £199m to UK economy

October 2017

Reason Global

Moving home? Does your removal company have an insurance policy in place?

May 2017

What House?

Exclusive Q&A with Damien Seaman, Buzzmove

June 2017


Interview: Fintech CEO on how to create Buzz in a start-up

April 2017

Talking Tech

Leveraging technology in the insurance industry

March 2017


INSTANDA chosen amongst Top 12 insurtech startups from the UK

Simply Business

International Women’s Day: top 5 female-run startups to watch in 2017

Homes and Travel

Countdown to Brexit – making your overseas removal a success

Roberts Piano


January 2017

Cambridge Independent

Common mistakes when moving house that Cambridge residents should try to avoid

October 2016

Calum Branan

The Proptech businesses you should know about

August 2016

Start Ups

Insurance tech firm Buzzmove secures super-seed £6m funding

Global Corporate Venturing

White Mountains catches Buzzmove for $7.8m seed round

Startup Bootcamp

Award-Winning Insurtech Alumni BUZZMOVE Raises £6 Million Super-Seed Round

Tech London

Tech London: PropTech platform Buzzmove gets £6m in seed funding

Startup Bootcamp InsurTech Demo Day

FS Tech

InsurTech startup Buzzmove raises £6 million

UK Tech

PropTech platform Buzzmove gets £6m in seed funding

Haggerston Times

New home…New Insurance Policy? Home Contents Inventory Platform BUZZMOVE Raises £6m Shortly After Completing World’s First InsurTech Accelerator 


Insly selected among TOP 11 insurtech startups from the UK

July 2016

City Am

How artificial intelligence, peer-to-peer technology and blockchain are changing the insurance industry forever

May 2016

Insurance Thought Leadership

An Eruption in Disruptive InsurTech?

April 2016

Real Business

First Women Awards 2016: The challenge to decide this year’s winners begins

July 2005

Janez’s Tupar


March 2014

Tech Crunch

Buzzmove Nabs $650K Seed As It Readies Its Removals Comparison Marketplace For Full U.K. Launch

Business Matters Magazine

Buzzmove moves out of Wayra & secures $650,000 funding ahead of national launch


Menno’s Moving Must Knows

Everything you need to ask your removal company and what to watch out for

Moving is never easy.

Especially moving internationally.

With 18 years experience in international removals I’ve realised a lot can go wrong because every country plays by very different rules.

On top of this, transparency is the most important factor to value when moving abroad because you need a clear breakdown of everything your quote includes and what it doesn’t in order to budget any potential mishaps.

>>>Looking to move abroad soon? Compare vetted, fully-insured international removal companies in 3 simple steps

Here’s the most important tips and questions to ask your potential international mover to secure a straightforward and uncomplicated move:

Who is your clearing / destination agent / overseas partner when moving?


Because most UK companies will not have their own presence on the other side of the pond.

Ask your removal company who’s on the other end. Make sure you check online reviews. Ask fellow expats for their experience.

If you’re not happy with who the removal company is on the other side of your destination, then insist on using another company.

Get your own boxes or use the professionals?

International moving companies will always recommend their packing material.

This is not to try and get extra dosh off you.

Most standard boxes or recycled boxes are not designed or fit for international moving.

It’s best to go with the removals boxes because they are of export quality.

Make sure you have the correct type of copy of certified documents if needed

In my experience, if you don’t have the the correct certified copy of documents, it can be very problematic with customs.

Some countries require certified copies of documents that can only be obtained in your home country… before departure.

So make sure you’ve got these before you set off to your new home!

Make sure you read your quotation carefully

If you don’t understand anything ALWAYS ask for a clear breakdown.

Look out:

Because it’s not always a door to door service.

The last thing you want is your stuff stranded in a foreign depot.

Some quotes say “assistance with customs clearance”

This may seem pretty vague.

That’s because it is.

If it doesn’t say “full” it may miss out vital services like dropping your belonging only to the local depot and not to your home.


Are there any extra costs involved?

One you may not expect is a  random examination for your container.

This means they may open the container at random at their discretion to do a physical examination.

Or do an Xray of the whole container.

This may lead to confiscation of one of your items. They may dispose of it, destroy it… or worse… ship it back!

Don’t end up being like that German professor who was arrested in Rome for having a human skull in his luggage. According to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, he said he bought it at a market stall for 50 euros and was only planning on using it for scientific purposes. The man was charged, and skull confiscated.

This happening to you may seem pretty unlikely but if you’re moving to Australia to join the other nearly 2,000,000 expats according to Pack Send it will be a lot easier to trip up.


According to Pack Send, Australia is the most popular destination in the world for British expats due to it’s great quality of life, good economy and sunshine. However, happy expats and travellers will not vouch for the it’s infamously strict customs regardless of how much of an A star celeb you are. Johnny Depp’s dogs will bark in agreement due to their near death experience.

The obvious no gos are food of any kinds, tradition medicines or herbs, animals.

According to Australian High Commission you’re also not allowed:

  • Any alcohol above the 2.25 litres limit.
  • Any tobacco products or cigars over the limit of 50 grams, or 50 cigarettes.
  • Overseas/ duty free goods with a combined total price of more than AU$900, including gifts.
  • Goods or samples for business or commercial use.
  • Currency of AU$10,000 or more.
  • Plants, parts of plants, wooden articles, seeds, bulbs, straw, nuts and any animals or animal material.

A not sot so obvious one is soil or objects with soil attached.

So watch out for mud on your golfing equipment, lawn mower, gardening equipment, shoes, camping tent and so on.

That’s why you can be made responsible for cleaning your shipping container and making sure there’s no mud on your car tires.

Why so strict?

According to Sydney Moving Guide, Australia tries really hard to keep its unique environment and agricultural industries are free from pests.

It’s a contamination hazard. The soil may be polluted or contain increment, bacteria, seeds, etc.

You think that’s bad? You can’t even bring tea!

Another one that you may not of thought could get confiscated but most certainly can is an artificial Christmas tree,


Because it contains real pines? That means that this showstopper will be confiscated.

But it doesn’t stop there.

According to The Telegraph, a gun-toting stuffed armadillo was sent to Australia from Teas as a gift, but it’s journey stopped at Sydney for breaching Australia’s strict laws on wildlife importation. One official said: “Bad taste should have been enough of a reason not to attempt to bring [it] into the country”.

Watch out for the BIO-SECURITY laws.

Especially in the 9th most popular destination for Brits… Germany. (nearly 1,000,000 expats)

Although many will boast about the ease of getting a job, many public holidays and luxury train system many people have had major legal issues over seashells that brought to Germany. We’re not just talking shells off the beach. I know someone who was heavily fined for travelling back with a shell bracelet from Mexico.

How to avoid this?

Declare, declare, declare.

Avoid getting left high and dry

There are some places were corruption is common so if you breach the custom regulations you should expect to pay unofficial extra charges. Countries where I know this has happened include: Thailand, Kenya and Nigeria.

Watch out for your DVD collection

Especially if you’re moving to any middle eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia or Dubai or the United Arab Emirates being the 15th most popular destination for Brits in the world with nearly 40,000 expats.

Although it’s a popular expat destination for us Brits due to its high disposable income, good working environment and excellent career prospects, if your DVD collection has not been censored to their satisfaction there could be a serious problem.

Even if it’s a PG but has some cheeky cleavage, watch out!

Of course, alcohol is a no go.

A less obvious one is anything remotely military.

Avoid military uniforms at all costs.

That goes for some camo trousers, no matter how fashionable they’re at the minute.

Just remember the common restrictions are food, alcohol and medicine and also be conscious of the potential religious and politically sensitive restrictions.

There are some places were corruption and bribery is common so if you breach the custom regulations you should expect to pay unofficial extra charges. Countries where I know this has happened include: Thailand, Kenya and Nigeria.

These are only a limited insights for a few places all but the reality is the customs regulations vary greatly all over the world.

Want to avoid these traps?

Do your homework.

Every country is different. So the customs regulations will be different too.

Want some help?

Get an international moving company through Buzzmove.

Buzzmove only works with reputable, international moving companies that all have the accreditation in place and are even underwritten by a guarantee fund in case something goes wrong.

For instance, if the removal company goes out of business whilst your belongings are out at sea on a big container ship what will happen?

They’ll get stuck in the depot and maybe even deported back!

But with a guarantee fund (kind of like ATOL for holidays) FIDI will see that the customer is not left high and dry.

>>> (Related) Need to book an international removal company for your move? Find and compare international  removals quotes in under a minute…

To avoid any unnecessary destruction of your possessions just get a packing service with your international move.

Leave it to the professionals.

They know what is and isn’t allowed.

It’s worth using them to avoid any unnecessary mess ups.

You can prepay for potential problems with customs.

In this case: do chance it because you won’t get a refund if in fact it does go well.

If you want a smooth sailing move abroad I recommend using the packing service.

International moving quote

What should be included?

  • Dismantling of furniture

Be aware that most companies do not consider IKEA (or any flat pack) normal furniture because its not designed to be taken apart and put back together again.

  • Making the inventory
  • Loading furniture onto the container
  • Transport to port of exit
  • Local terminal handling charges
  • Preparation of shipping documentation
  • Freight to arrival
  • Destination terminal handling charges
  • Transport to point of delivery
  • Unloading
  • Placing of all items in rooms as directed by you

Please note that there will likely be an extra charge for delivering above the first floor (even if there is a lift!)

  • Unpacking and debris removal on day of delivery

If you want to unpack in your own time the removal company may charge extra if they need to come back later to collect the removal boxes

  • Reassemble of furniture

Not flat pack furniture.

This can be quite time-consuming as it can often be easier to dismantle than it is to reassemble.

>>> Compare up to 6 international moving quotes in less than a minute. It’s that’s simple.

I hope these questions and tips helped but I hope what I have made most clear is no two moves are the same.

When moving internationally, don’t chance anything. Get as much help and advice from the professionals as possible.

For some extra expat tips go to Expat Exchange or click below on the Easy Expat badge.EasyExpat.com: Information for Expatriates, Expat Guides



5 ways to cope with the uncertainty of Startups

How to Tackle the Inherent Uncertainty of Startups

As a kid I was always intrigued by the epic explorers and adventurers of history. (Yes, I may have been somewhat of a geek, which was definitely not very cool at the time!). My imagination was fired up by Columbus’ discovery of the New World, the travels of Marco Polo, Sir Edmund Hillary’s first successful Everest expedition and Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.  

So it’s probably not surprising that I eventually left my safe corporate legal career to take the entrepreneurial route instead. Much to the understandable horror and disbelief of my friends and family.

Insane in the membrane…

“Are you insane?”

Giving up the security of a safe job to pursue a different path of building a startup is disturbing to most people. And that’s because startups are inherently uncertain. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. If not downright unacceptable. People told me I was insane. And yet was it not Einstein who said:

Einstein was a pretty smart guy, so I reckon he had a point. Yet many of us join the herd, commuting to work daily, and I would guess that most are unhappy. What stops them from trying something new? The fear of the unknown.

Creative destruction

It’s ironic that the two industries my startup has chosen to disrupt are removals and insurance. Everybody moves at some point in their lives. No real uncertainty there. And insurance is all about buying security and protection from uncertainties like death, car accidents or fires.   

Now let’s examine entrepreneurism. Entrepreneurial innovation is all about taking big risks. Big risks that can have completely unknown outcomes, which is radically opposite of all the insurance policies we surround ourselves with.

The history of business is the history of dreamers and entrepreneurs. Those rare individuals who cast aside the security of a paycheck, mortgaged everything they had, and chased a dream that ended up creating our futures. From Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Karren Brady, these people all took risks. And all have left their mark on the world.

The great economist Joseph Schumpeter referred to this process as the “perennial gale of creative destruction”. The tempo of business is not one of stability, order, and a level playing field, but rather of disequilibrium and instability. Stability and equality only exist in graveyards.

Both the insurance and removals industries are traditional and predictable. They’ve seen very little change in the way of digital innovation. This means that any startup attempting to bring technology to these industries is thrown automatically into the hairy realms of uncertainty.  

A startup is a laboratory

What is a startup anyway? We obviously all understand that it’s a nascent business. But is it really in any way comparable to an established company? Neil Blumenthal, cofounder and co-CEO of Warby Parker made a pretty smart comment:

“A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.”

Adora Cheung, cofounder and CEO of Homejoy says:

“Startup is a state of mind. It’s when people join your company and are still making the explicit decision to forgo stability in exchange for the promise of tremendous growth and the excitement of making immediate impact.”

According to Steve Blank, a startup is “an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” In other words, during the early years of a startup everything is uncertain. The whole purpose of a startup is to go from uncertainty to certainty – or from nothing but an idea to a repeatable and scalable business model, to use his words.

So a startup is effectively a laboratory. A giant experiment. Execution therefore should revolve around a series of interlinked mini experiments with the view to figuring out a solid value proposition along the way and to arrive at a repeatable, scalable business model. Period.

Navigating the jungle

There is a analogy I often use to describe what it’s like running a startup. Imagine being in the middle of a jungle, with no map. The destination is clear to you – it’s a specific location on the other side of the jungle. How to get there, however, is unclear. You may have an idea. Hell, you may have many ideas on how to get there. But ultimately, you do not know for sure.

The very notion of the above scenario quite naturally freaks lots of people out. It’s human nature to want structure, a step-by-step plan or a clear path. I’ve lost count of the number of people who thought it would be ‘cool’ to work at a startup, only to return to the safe environment of a corporate, with its staff policies and pensions and career plans. And that’s ok. Start ups are not for everyone.  

But you’re not everyone, so you’ve decided to find a way. So how do you go about navigating the jungle? Most would agree that simply plowing your way through the jungle in one direction, never stopping to reassess your chosen path, would not be sensible. You would most likely run out of steam and get eaten by a tiger somewhere along the way!

The same applies to startups who stick to their initial hypothesis and scale way too fast, before proving that their model works at a micro-level. This phenomenon is called premature scaling, and it is to be avoided at all costs. It’s like betting all of your chips on one number on the roulette wheel. Not a good idea.

It’s much smarter to start your journey mindfully. And that means carefully assessing the situation each step of the way. Looking for clues to support the direction you take. Maybe you find some footsteps to follow or a small trail. You may even find a trickling stream which, when followed, flows into a river that will help you get to your destination quicker. The latter metaphor can be applied to a situation where you may unearth a surprising source of revenue which was not part of the original business plan – but when fully exploited turns into a healthy, consistent revenue stream.

The lean startup cult

Ok, enough of jungle references already. The point is that, although your path is unclear, there are proven methods to help you arrive at your destination (bearing in mind that your ultimate destination may be different from what you had originally thought!).  

One such method is the oh so popular ‘Lean Startup Methodology’. Many people in Startup World preach the gospel of Lean Startup and treat the idea’s creator, Eric Ries, like he’s some kind of god.

But, when you dig beneath the surface, there are not many startups that truly employ it. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup – how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere and grow a business with maximum acceleration. It is a principled approach to new product development.

Now, I may risk getting some angry responses with what I’m about to say, but, like all theories, lean startup methodology is not perfect. You should tweak and adjust in accordance with individual situations. That said, the foundations are sound.  

The theory is basically this… Too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want. They then spend months, sometimes years, perfecting that product without ever showing it, even in a very rudimentary form, to the prospective customer.

When they fail to reach broad uptake from customers, it’s often because they never spoke to anyone to find out whether their product idea was useful – or even mildly interesting. When customers ultimately show, through their indifference, that they don’t care about the idea, the startup fails.

The backbone of Lean Startup thinking is validated learning – and it’s a rigorous method for demonstrating progress when you’re embedded in the muddy gloop of uncertainty. Once entrepreneurs embrace validated learning, the development process can shrink substantially.

And that’s not all. By testing rudimentary forms of your product with prospective customers – by getting their feedback and buy-in before the product is perfect – you can develop something for which there’s a market. Something people are more likely to find useful or appealing.

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable  

The secret to being an entrepreneur is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just as Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis towards the West, they had no clue where they would end up. They just went west! They were comfortable with not knowing what they would encounter during the journey or where they would end up. Lewis and Clark were explorers, but they were also the epitome of an entrepreneur.

Coming to terms with the fact that thousands of decisions lie ahead in the future and are totally unknown today is the #1 thing founders need to do when starting a company. And the 2nd most important thing for them to do? Focusing on the two most important decisions they’re facing right now – whatever those may be.

Tomorrow, two more challenges will need to be addressed, and you will focus your attention on those. Outside of establishing a vision and plotting the direction of how to get there, most other aspects of building and growing a company will fall into place as you make the day to day decisions that present themselves.

Those that don’t watch House of Cards (where have you been??) will not understand this reference.  But when overwhelmed by the journey ahead of you, it’s worth remembering Frank Underwood’s advice: “How do you devour a Whale?  One bite at a time!”

Coping with uncertainty

Let’s be honest. It’s easy to say that you need to get comfortable with uncertainty. But in reality, this is a major challenge. We naturally crave safety and security, and operating in a startup environment often doesn’t provide that.  

Anyone who has studied occupational psychology in some form or another will be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Often represented as a pyramid with five levels, this is a motivational theory in psychology that argues that once people meet their basic needs, they seek to meet successively higher needs.

The unique nature of early stage startups is that it actually fulfils more of the higher order needs than the lower order needs – which often feel under threat as a result. It takes a robust psychological approach, or a solid sense of self-security, to excel in a startup.

To conclude this article I will share 5 coping strategies that have helped me along the way. I hope you find these as helpful as I have:

  1. Believe in the vision

The company’s vision is your North Star. You have to believe that what’s at the other side of the jungle is worth all of this effort, otherwise you might as well just sit down on the jungle floor and be eaten by a giant python or wait to be helicopter rescued by Bear Grylls!

  1. Get comfortable with failure

I’ve said that a startup is a giant experiment. So it’s helpful to see your own job within a startup as an experiment too. That doesn’t mean you don’t take your job seriously, of course. It means that you approach your job as a series of hypotheses, the results of which you measure constantly. You then use these metrics to analyse what works and what doesn’t, and then you adjust. This way you keep progressing. The added bonus is that you can celebrate small wins along the way. When you fail, take heart. You’re supposed to fail as part of this process, but when you do it’s important to reframe that failure as feedback that a given approach did not work and that you need to find another way.

  1.  Measure everything you can.

See point 2 above. Measurement drives progress and is the anchor of reality. When you know what does and doesn’t work, you can learn from the small failures you’ll inevitably experience. If you don’t measure, those small failures will compound and destroy the business.

  1. Find a way.

The difference between those who are successful and those who are not is not failure. We all fail at some point. The difference is that those who succeed persevere and ultimately find a way. So be solutions-oriented in everything you do. At Buzzmove we have a rule that every problem that is identified and reported should be accompanied by at least three suggested solutions.  

  1. Seek guidance from a wise sage.

I’m a great believer in mentors. And I’ve been very lucky to have had an excellent coach guiding me along my way. So if I’ve ever been completely befuddled as to whether what I’m doing is right then I will talk to her. Find your wise sage – whether from within or outside of the business – to help guide your journey.