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Working With Nova, Tech Startups Are Over Six Times More Likely To Succeed

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Below is our recent interview with Andy Davidson, CEO at Nova:

Q: Andy, what is Nova? Can you tell us something more about your services?

A: In its simplest form Nova partner with talented, entrepreneurial people, to build great tech startups.

We provide mentorship, investment and experienced startup teams that can take founders from often nothing more than a good idea, to a successful tech startup. We’re doing this by guiding our founders through our ‘cofoundery’ process, which is a framework, a set of tools, a set of principles that have been designed to specifically address and nullify the biggest reasons for startup failure.

It’s often quoted that the failure rate for tech startups is as high as 90%, which is an unacceptable level of risk for all involved. By reducing the risks it allows us at Nova to build startups in a more sensible and sustainable way, giving them all the best possible chance of success.

Q: Tell us more about your process, and how is it different to the other options available to startups?

A: Our process is quite different to the other startup support options available. We couldn’t be described as either an incubator, accelerator or investment group, our approach, and process, combine what we feel are the best elements of each of these things, creating our cofoundery model including some additional features that make it unique.

One being that we start early; we’re only interested in partnering with early stage startups. A founder can come to us, often with little more than an idea, and a thorough understanding of the problem area that their startup lives in. If they’re accepted into our process we will then put them through our startup school, during which founders are taught the fundamentals of how to start a tech startup.

Another difference is that we don’t want founders to quit their jobs to work full time on the startup, until the time is right. We prefer founders to stay in their current role, giving us a day a week of their time and using this to leverage their domain expertise and business network, focusing on outside of the building activities such as understanding the problem and their potential customers. This works as we provide an experienced team who focus on all of the ‘Inside the Building’ activities that a startup requires in its first year.

Also we don’t ask for any financial investment from founders, we connect founders with our investment partners, when required, throughout the exploration, validation, growth and scale stages of their startup. Ultimately we’re sharing the risks involved in starting a tech startup, our model involves taking equity in the startup rather than a fee, and that way we have a vested interest in our startups doing well.

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Our success rate to date demonstrates that this model works, by working with Nova startups have proven to be over six times more likely to succeed.

Q: Is money enough for startups to succeed? What else is mandatory?

A: Unfortunately money alone is never going to be enough, it can actually be quite dangerous for startups to be overly focused on this as a success metric. One of the big reasons for startup failure is that founders spend too much time, in the early days particularly, chasing investment as opposed to users and customers. Money and investment is important, but it needs to be delivered in the right quantity, at the right time.

Some other things I’d class as really important to stack your chances of success would be to find the right co-founders, and build an experienced team. Having a strong team with startup experience, who have been there and done it, will stop you from making the typical mistakes that causes most tech startups to fail.

Also a strong passion, understanding and experience of the problem area that your startup is attempting to improve or solve, will certainly stand you in good stead. And possibly most importantly is that you’re working within a process that allows you to fail fast, learn and improve as much as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Q: What advice do you have for early entrepreneurs who hope to scale up quickly and successfully?

A: For me It’s always a bit of a warning sign if entrepreneurs are focused on ‘scaling quickly’. Whilst the two, speed and success, aren’t mutually exclusive I think it’s more important to scale at the right time – which might not necessarily be, in fact it rarely is, quickly or early into a startups life.

It’s understandable that a lot of early entrepreneurs will want to get to what they perceive to be their key milestones for success, whether that’s a million users or £1,000,000 in revenue, in as quick a time as possible. However there’s a lot of hard work, learning, testing and iterating that needs to happen before you should think about scaling. You’ll need to have built the right team, fully explored and validated the problem and solution, grown a solid user base, proved that you have traction, and a business model that’s working, before putting a plan in place to scale.

It’s worth remembering that it took airbnb 8 years to get a significant user base and turn a profit, there’s similar stories with Skype and Twitter, and they’re not unusual, the majority of startup unicorns have been in existence for years before achieving fame, mass market acceptance and real scale.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: We’re planning to launch a further 56 tech startups throughout 2019. So we’re currently in the process of recruiting and screening founders, as well as the teams required at Nova to service these.

Looking further than that I suppose it’s always been our goal to empower more people to successfully start a startup. So wherever we can, we’re contributing to build a healthier startup ecosystem across the UK, and from there I think the natural progression will be to reach more founders by expanding our offering into different international territories.

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