Startup in the sticks – Top 10 tips on how to be an isolated Entrepreneur in the UK

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10 Days of CrunchGear: Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun

The following is a guest post by Richard Marshall, founder and CTO of Rapid Mobile Media.

London may be the sprawling heavyweight centre of the business universe, but not everybody wants to live there. There are sound economic factors for locating your business somewhere with lower costs and less pressure on staff. Yet the sad fact remains that most of your customers and best contacts will be in the London area.

Until recently the only tools for those remote from the centre were telephone, e-mail, virtual offices and easyJet. The explosion in forms of communication has changed this fundamentally, but you still need to follow some rules. Here are my top ten tips for using them:

  • People still work with people – so concentrate on building contacts, and sustaining them when they are made.
  • Do this by being visible – publish yourself via a blog, Twitter, IM, LinkedIn and other appropriate sites. Facebook and Bebo don’t count. Make sure you post comments on other people’s blogs to draw attention back to yourself and show off your knowledge and wit.
  • Ensure you are using the right channels – Twitter is great for letting people know you are around, blogs are great for showing your thinking skills, but nothing beats a phone call for direct contact.
  • Do this by defining your communications goals – do you want customers, guru status, consulting gigs, a job? Each needs the right comms style.
  • Ensure you pick your core audience to match these goals and don’t spread yourself too thin.
  • Establish a rhythm, don’t post five entries one day then none for a month – it’s better to post infrequently but regularly. Keep some topics in reserve so you always have something to say.
  • Don’t get into flame wars; keep it cool and professional. Remember that distance means that your readers miss the non-verbals and context. They’ll just think you’re rude and that’s a great way to lose respect.
  • Judge the required intimacy of contact – Twitter is great for open chitchat, but if you need to deal with a customer project or remote worker, use Messenger or similar to keep the discussion private. These offer great support to regular conference calls.
  • Remember that if you are an entrepreneur your goal is to make money, not to spend all your time posting and commenting. That’s being a professional blogger and you’d better make sure that you are getting enough ad revenue to pay the bills. Remember to keep the real work flowing as well.
  • Face to face meetings are still important. Take the train or plane and go to the big smoke and attend some networking events and press the flesh. Always hold project kick-off meetings face to face, and if things go wrong, make sure you are on the client’s doorstep as quickly as possible. Eventually, when your business grows, you can hire a local permanent representative.
  • These tips can help you maintain a profile remotely, and hopefully have the best of both worlds – quality of life, commercial success and the respect of your distant peers.

    • Michael Wolff

      if you’re a network entrepreneur, looking to sell and deliver your services online, and looking to increase the value and scope of your projects, i recommend you look at “ki work”.

      ki work is creating the underlying platform and organizational infrastructure that will enable you to become a player in the emergent market for virtual business process outsourcing.


    • Nicola Robinsonova

      I’m really curious to know where UK startups are. Where is the most isolated entrepreneur in the UK? On a Scottish island somewhere? Cornwall?

      Conversely, how do those based in London manage? You need to be making a tidy amount just to keep a roof over your head.

      We’re running mostly from South Bohemia, though the business is based in Britain.

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    • Jens


      for a map of isolated start-ups in the UK, have a look here:

      This shows you are they literally everywhere…

    • Richard M Marshall

      Hi Jens

      Interesting map – I wonder if someone at Library House could update it? Knowing Scotland I can almost guess what most of those companies are doing in each cluster, eg Aberdeen will be oil exploration, mobile clusters in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

      What I find fascinating are the ones out in the western and northern Highlands – brave souls indeed to operate so far from the invested mainstream.


      (Cross posted on Jens’ blog)

    • David Langer

      I would add one more tip:

      Find at least 1 or 2 other entrepreneurs nearby whom you respect and can learn from. Then meet these same people face-to-face on a regular basis (at least once per month). Even though being in London will mean you’ll meet other entrepreneurs with greater frequency, it’s the quality relationships where people feel safe enough to talk about the uncomfortable stuff.

      One key characteristic of great entrepreneurial buddies (and great advisors/investors) is that they ask you the questions you find most difficult to answer.

    • Jens

      Hi Richard,

      as you may know, I am no longer with Library House, so, no idea whether they are planning to do a 2008/20089 UK venture-Backed report.

      They definitely have the data…

      I suggest anyone who wants to make an updated map like the one above contact Sam Snelson at Library House. I am sure he would be very happy to help out with some postcode data points.

    • Roman

      Started a few months ago, building up a steady reader base and I am following most of the tips above. I would like my readers to let me know what topics they want me to cover, although.

    • Richard M Marshall


      Absolutely agree – I did this a few years ago when First Tuesday was dissolving into drunken disorder here. I started a lunch group as I find that a more positive vibe and a break from being at the keyboard.

      You really need people to ask those difficult questions; working on your own it’s too easy to believe your own line.


      Good point – gathering requirements on what your audience wants.


    • Martin Owen

      Some additional suggestions:
      1) Check out the support from your regional (or Scottish/Welsh/ NI) economic development agencies. They will have funds, advice, low rent well supported premises, trips on trade missions, access to further finance….
      2) Look to where the poles are – they may be slightly out of your domain – but may talk the same language eg serious games in Coventry or electro-optics in Saint Asaph or eco-business in Baglan-Port Talbot.
      3) When you have sufficient local contacts try to organise your own social events (John Bradford has support of Bristol Park st. Starbucks for his open coffee events) Publicise this in your local paper…. but also in the climbing/surf/sailing shops – whatever makes geeks hang out in your area.

    • Chi-chi Ekweozor

      What a fantastic piece of advice:

      3) When you have sufficient local contacts try to organise your own social events (John Bradford has support of Bristol Park st. Starbucks for his open coffee events) Publicise this in your local paper…. but also in the climbing/surf/sailing shops – whatever makes geeks hang out in your area.

      Good stuff.

      I second checking out support from your regional development agencies.
      Don’t miss out contacting local universities as they often have training and support programmes for start ups.

    • John

      Hi Martin, Chi-Chi,

      Everyone’s been very supportive in getting Open Coffee going in Bristol; but I made sure I’d done my homework first. Getting a balanced core interest group together to support the network and having a clear purpose has kept people coming back.

      The added value has meant that people are introducing people to OpenCoffee in Bristol so it’s no longer just my contact list.

      Bristol’s a great city (I would say that) but there are active communities pretty much everywhere (Plymouth, Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, etc). A bit of time on Google will find them and then you just need to get involved and figure out your comfort level of participation.

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    • Stuart Glendinning Hall

      I’d like to plug Leicester in that it also has a Creative Coffee Club network, has entrepreneurial support from the DMU, has cheap rents & nice Victorian factory conversions if you want to buy, only an hour by train from London, and has a nice local produce market. But it’s not as glam as Bristol;-)

    • Matt

      Any online start-ups in Birmingham (my home town) ?

      I’m normally based in London, but I would love to meet up with fellow entrepreneurs when i’m up in Brum.

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