Through our ongoing work with cyber security startups, such as on NCSC For Startups, creating a cyber community has always been something we’ve taken seriously at Plexal. And the National Cyber Security Strategy’s first pillar, to strengthen the UK ecosystem – through partnerships, networks, skills and growth – validates our work.
As innovation partner to the National Cyber Security Centre on the NCSC For Startups programme, community is a key fixture. From the moment a startup joins us as part of a new intake, they’ve entered a network of like-minded individuals working towards the same goal and that continues even when they graduate to become part of the NCSC For Startups alumni.
In keeping with this, we recently held our inaugural NCSC For Startups Alumni Week. We invited alumni founders to Cheltenham for a series of sessions hosted by peers in our network, covering everything from raising capital and scaling internationally through to achieving a successful exit and beyond. And of course, we had afternoon networking moments of tea and cake and evening socials with some slightly stronger beverage options to really let the founders connect.
Plexal’s Jessica Moffatt-Owen and Illyana Mullins from Hub8 led an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion session, on which Jessica notes: “EDI should be an integral part to your business and not just a tick box exercise.”
This eye-opening and engaging session saw conversation around subjects such as the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 and drew on some of their own experiences. “EDI is sometimes deemed as a taboo subject but given the right tools and a safe space to speak openly, I think we can all make great strides to educate ourselves on EDI,” Jessica added.
Elsewhere, Janice Sanon from UK Innovate Edge London was on hand to discuss the subject of internationalisation. With many companies she works alongside desiring expansion to the US, there are typically the same things involved that founders will overlook. To that end, Janice noted: “You want to open in the US, but have you considered – (1) How much it will cost? (2) Where specifically in America your business is likely to thrive? (3) Testing demand remotely before moving physically?”
If you couldn’t make it to NCSC For Startups Alumni Week, don’t fear – here’s a round-up of content you missed that will help with your new year planning.
Our session covered so many areas, but our key takeaways include:
(1) Nailing your value proposition concisely is paramount to an effective sales effort.
(2) When, who and how you develop your sales capabilities needs to be in sync with your wider client acquisition targets and business growth model and will take time to perfect.
(3) Finally, the owners and directors of high-growth scaleups should be the most effective sales people. But what investment in training and self-development are they making to ensure that, when they book that key client meeting, they can effectively identify a key client need which their product can meet?
(1) People power
Ensure the people you have in the company and go on the journey with are people you like, respect and trust – without that, you’re making a tough road a lot tougher. There will be times when it gets gnarly and words will fly but, if that’s with people you like, respect and trust, then it’s a whole lot easier.
(2) Shared responsibility
Delegate as soon as possible. Early on identify the future leaders and people to replace you and prepare them to let you step back from the day jobs to lead the business. Yes, you’ll lose some revenue, you may need to pay someone to do your job and impact on margins but, to grow successfully, this must happen and it’ll be paid back in multiples further down the line.
(3) Get advice early
I wish we’d brought in a board advisor or a NED who’d gone through it before. I believe it would have prevented us making some costly mistakes and we would have grown quicker and with less pain. We didn’t bring someone in for two reasons: The first was money but, again, that would have been repaid in multiples. The second was imposter syndrome and fear of being found out by a ‘real’ businessperson which, with hindsight, is laughable.
Intellectual property is essentially anything that’s created by the mind, which means you must avoid sharing your IP with anyone until you’ve planned how to protect it. This may change over time but having a simple plan from a very early stage is far better than waiting for the “right moment” at a later stage. An early plan (or IP strategy) could be just a few bullet points, but it’ll get you thinking and learning in easy, incremental steps, about how to manage the IP of your company. At TNN, we’re on call to help in this respect and offer a free one-hour consultation to all technical startups – email email@example.com for more information.
Alumni Week was a good chance to briefly step back out of the business — reconnecting with fellow cyber entrepreneurs as well as meeting new ones. The content on the agenda had a lot of variety, relevance to challenges in the business and I was pleased to gain some fresh new perspectives, share news of achievements and learn from others.
I was most excited by the progress of CyNam and seeing the growth of Plexal’s innovation team (thanks Manchester folks for coming out to meet us!), which matches up with “walking the talk” of the UK’s investment in cybersecurity and innovation. As a citizen and entrepreneur, it’s exciting to see and live this now.
I really appreciated the research summary on diversity and inclusion based on latest legislation and statistical facts. Small businesses don’t have time to research these topics, so the insights were very informative and useful. Other standouts were Deloitte’s session on proposals and the talk from TTN on understanding why patent strategy is so important.
If you’d like to learn more about NCSC For Startups and how to get involved, here’s everything you need to know about our challenges.