Northern Stars one year on… catching up with my2be

6 Sep, 2016

Adam Mitcheson is CEO and founder of my2be, an online platform that connects students and professionals with mentors to help them with their career choices and progression. My2be took part in last year’s Tech North Northern Stars competition. Here, Mitcheson tells us how the company has progressed in 2016.

It’s been ten months since the inaugural Northern Stars competition, and also ten months since I took my2be full time. A lot has happened in that time! It was around this time that the first version of my2be was launched and I soon learnt that the infamous quote from Reid Hoffman was quite apt:

“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”

Despite the initial joy of launching the first version, we quickly learnt that it simply wasn’t good enough. We spent the next few months testing, re-developing, and re-designing the site taking on some of the feedback from users. Now we’ve launched our MVP.

Entrepreneurial Spark

In February we were also part of the first cohort to enter Entrepreneurial Spark‘s Manchester Hatchery. This has been a fantastic experience for us, mainly because of the other people in the space that we were surrounded by.

There is always someone on hand to tap into for advice or to add a different perspective on something you’re working on. They often draw from their own experience of whatever it is you are currently going through.

Business Rocks

April saw Business Rocks take place in Manchester. It was fantastic to see it grow from a small initial event in 2015 to this year’s extravaganza. The conference will now only go on to bigger and better things.

It was here that I managed to deliver an actual elevator pitch in an elevator to an angel investor who has now agreed to be part of a group to make up our seed round. We now have the task of bringing that group together.

Lessons from America

Literally the day after Business Rocks, I was off to the US to exhibit at the Collision conference in New Orleans as part of their Alpha program. I also visited Silicon Valley and New York in what felt like a whirlwind trip that was truly inspiring and eye-opening. The biggest lessons from this trip were about attitudes and scale.

At the Googleplex.
At the Googleplex.

When talking about businesses, there is no romance to it. It is just that; business. They simply get things done. No bullshit, no messing around, they just get things done. ‘Fail fast’ is an American phrase and is very apt to how they operate by not dwelling or overthinking anything.

In terms of scale, the very idea of seed investment of £500,000 in the UK is absurd, yet in the US, you look ridiculous if you are not looking for at least $500,000. You wouldn’t even get a conversation with an investor if you are asking for less than this.

From what I observed there are two reasons for this:

  • They have the experience and have been doing this for a lot longer than the UK. The infrastructure is newer here, which is why accelerators and the like pop up on almost a weekly basis. Over there everything is much more established.
  • The culture; in the US they are happy to take a punt on an idea. People get valuations of $1m+ on just a business plan and often won’t be getting asked for five-year projections, a very common stumbling block here. My favourite example of this is Snapchat who still don’t make money, and to many would seem the most ridiculous idea ever, but people use it, Facebook wanted it, and they are raising another round at a $20 billion valuation!

Overall, there are great things being done here in the UK, and there is a lot of potential. In the next few years we can become a greater force on the global scene. But we need to stop restricting ourselves, collaborate more, and take a few more chances if we are to achieve this.

Looking ahead

There are many other lessons we have learnt since last year’s Northern Stars and we are certainly looking forward to entering the event again this year. We took a lot of inspiration from last year’s winners, some of which we now know very well.

The North as a whole has an amazing tech ecosystem. We have seen it become more cohesive thanks to Tech North and other initiatives.

There’s still time to apply for Northern Stars 2016.

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