Mentor in the Room: Ian Sanders, Author and Consultant


Today, we speak with Women Innovate Mobile mentor, Ian Sanders.


Ian sanders

Ian Sanders is a business storyteller, opportunity explorer, writer for the Financial Times and author.  Since 2000, he has worked independently as a consultant for entrepreneurs and businesses in the creative industries, providing them with marketing solutions.  He has written 4 books, the latest being, Mash-up!: How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Earn More Money and Be Happier.

What’s the worst mistake a founder can make?

To overcomplicate an otherwise good and simple idea.  By listening to too many voices, they can screw up a product or proposition, or add too much functionality.  Keep it simple.  Remember the thing that excited you, and those around you, when you first had the idea.  Capture that and stick to it!

What’s the most common startup error?

Analysis-paralysis.  Don’t get so obsessed with plotting hypothetical scenarios and long-term business planning that you delay executing your idea.  Launch in beta and test; adapt your idea in front of real customers.

What does “fail fast” mean to you?

Making a mistake is fine; just make sure you recover quickly — and learn the lessons.

If you could fix one thing in the startup ecosystem right now, what would it be?

I think we need to make the startup world more accessible, getting rid of the jargon that confuses people and get back to basics.  We should make the world of startups more accessible to the “I have an idea” folk scribbling down ideas as they sit in the corner coffee shop and show them that you don’t need an MBA to launch a startup.

What should startups be focusing on right now?

In terms of ideas and products, focus on fixing a problem.  Your startup idea should fix a problem, preferably a common enough, or big enough, one that others will happily pay to have fixed.  Again, keep it simple.

For example, look at the entrepreneur Tina Roth Eisenberg.  She developed her TeuxDeux to-do list app for herself, because she wanted to fix the headache of organizing her to-do list.  The app that she designed for herself was made available to others and quickly got hundreds of thousands of users.

When’s the right time to seek funding?

I’m not sure (I won’t pretend to be an expert in something I’m not).

Thoughts on crowdfunding?

It depends on your idea or product.  Funding aside, it can be a good way to build a loyal group of supporters that is incentivized to make your startup a success.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Marketing your startup product or business relies on one thing: your point of difference.  And if you don’t know your point of difference, you have a problem.  Harry Drnec, marketing expert for several beverage brands and former CEO of Red Bull UK, told me that.

Guess who’s coming for dinner.  Who would be your dream dinner guest(s) and why?

1. Tom Peters, management writer/thinker.  Tom’s work has influenced me for over 20 years and has helped to guide me when I’ve gotten “lost.”  His advice is still valuable today.

2. Anita Le Roy, Founder of Monmouth Coffee.  Anita is the founder of one of my favorite independent coffee shops in London.  She’s a wonderful entrepreneur, who almost started the business by accident back in the late ‘70s.  I love her understated style.  You can learn a lot about management and leadership from her.

3. Billy Bragg, singer-songwriter.  Billy, along with Mrs. Thatcher, helped politicize me when I was a teenager.  He was also one of the first people I interviewed when I worked in local radio and, to this day, I still buy his records.  He’s got some interesting lessons about how to survive the changes in the record industry, and hopefully would bring his guitar to the dinner table.

4. Maria Popova, brain picker.  I’m driven by curiosity so I love Maria’s work as curator of Brain Pickings.  I’m interested in not only what she’s learned on her own journey of curiosity, but also how’s she turned it into a one-woman online business.

5. Lena Dunham.  Lena is so talented.  To devise, write, direct and appear in a show like Girls is very smart and I’d love for her to be at the table.  I’m a big fan!

6. Ben Drew aka Plan B, singer, rapper, filmmaker.  We should be investing more time and energy in helping young people achieve their ambitions and dreams – how to turn their ideas into businesses.  But the press is full of pessimism about young people today.  I saw Ben speak at a TEDx event, about how the young working classes have been demonized, and I think he can help us focus on helping school-leavers fulfill their potential.

Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Women Innovate Mobile

Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) is the first startup accelerator focused exclusively on launching and accelerating the growth of women-founded companies in mobile technology. Through its network of mobile experts, mentors and investors, WIM provides women entrepreneurs with the tools, feedback and connections needed to launch and scale their mobile ventures.

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