2013 in the life of an entrepreneur in Europe

It’s been a roller-coaster of a year, being so closely tied with the Cypriot economy, seeing through a crisis and launching a phoenix-like project which has now become the first step in the realisation of a goal I set as a 16 year old entrepreneur.

So without delay,  here’s the milestones of my year and what they taught me as an entrepreneur building up companies in Europe.

Ektagon’s Planned UK Lab

The year started well with projects for large international firms and strategic plans coming together to start setting up a UK Lab for Ektagon.

Lessons Learned: Always write down plans, don’t over think them, but write them down. Seeing the process required, I knew whether or not to proceed as the markets changed around me.

Live Blog of Cyprus Economic Freeze

Being in charge of the technology behind OnThisIsland.com (and being oversees evaluating the UK market) it was crucial to setup a live feed of blow-by-blow updates throughout the Banking Crisis in Cyprus.

Lessons Learned: If something is not being done, and you need it, there may be others that need it too. You never know who’ll be following along. It’s kinda nice being thanked by complete strangers for helping them get a grasp of a bad situation.

First live TV interview

During the economic freeze in Cyprus, and before flying back to consult clients and partners (on how to lock down their PR and online marketing with regards to the unfortunate forthcoming redundancies) I was asked to appear on Sky News for both a Live interview and some recorded segments.

Lessons Learned: Live TV is strange when you’re in a remote studio and you don’t know where to look. It also doesn’t help when breaking news is released a few seconds before you go live. But I didn’t explode into tears or anything, so there’s that. Seeing yourself on TV is also pretty funny.

Launched RentADeskCyprus.com

Whilst in Cyprus, I took the opportunity to bring together my network to test whether ‘co-working’ or renting desks could work in a country where every single small business notoriously throws thousands of euros in capital at sunk costs before their first ever sale.

Lessons Learned: Move fast, especially in a crisis. Find ways to connect your network through mutually beneficial relationships. Also, stand your ground during the trial process, nothing distorts a prototype like an unsteady leader.

Moved to Manchester and in with my Girlfriend

Knowing the situation in Cyprus and realising that RentADeskCyprus could become the trial for a vision I’ve had for a long long loooong time (since I was 16 actually), it was time to move more steadily to Manchester, for work and it’s effective travel networks. The fact that my lovely girlfriend took a decision to leave the ‘golden paved roads‘ of London to be able to be with me, where I needed to be for the next phase of my business, truly leaves me feeling blessed.

Lessons Learned: With a vacuum forming below you, find stability. I found this in the Mancunian startup, tech and business community. Having had a reason to go home, means I had to work harder and more efficiently whilst at work too.

Rebranded RentADeskCyprus as Desk&Co

During the ongoing chaos in the Cypriot economic market, more and more talented people were finding themselves without jobs and sources for startup capital previously available, mirroring previous results of austerity in Spain, Portugal and Greece. I found that RentADeskCyprus was being mistaken for a franchise of coworking spaces. The ‘Cyprus’ in the name also limited the extend to which the project could scale.

Lessons Learned: Test rapidly, but be ready to react to whatever the results are. Rebranding earlier was far easier than rebuilding reputation later. The new name didn’t have to spell it out, but it should still offer a bit of mystery and opportunity for growth.

Live Blogging of Hackathons in 2 Countries

Searching for a way to delve deep into the ecosystems D&C would be aiming to empower, I loaned the lessons learned from Live Blogging the Economic Freeze in Cyprus and the Mari Explosions in Cyprus a few years ago. It’s a great way to meet inspired/motivated, whilst perfecting the platform for a more scalable approach using the growing but distributed team. I went on to live blog at more tech events and hackathons later in the year too. With some more already scheduled for 2014.

Lessons Learned: Don’t recreate the wheel. Entrepreneurs have the benefit of learning from every experiment, and then tweaking it to their next business/project/plan.

Web Summit 2013 in Dublin

The decision was made to travel to Web Summit as a part of the Alpha Program for early-stage startups. Knowing fully well that there would be investors and media there, my team instead focused on the other startups. We went through over 300 startups, finding out exactly what they needed to grow (excluding funding and media attention, obviously).

Lessons Learned: Dublin is pretty awesome. There are many awesome ecosystems around the world. Many many startups have very similar needs, all of which validated the hypothesis behind D&C.

Wound down Ektagon into semi-hiatus status

With Desk&Co becoming the first step in my vision to truly be able to empower entrepreneurs and their local ecosystems, the decision was made to wind down the marketing consulting services of Ektagon. Prototype releases were also paused or delayed temporarily.

Lessons Learned: Sometimes you have to be able to say no to short term profits to put focus into longer term projects. Will it pay off? Let’s see in 2014…

Relaunch of OnThisIsland.com

Last night I took the decision to push out the first sneak peak of the new OnThisIsland.com, an interactive sample of what is coming throughout 2013, and sticking to my promise to the several story tellers I talked to on the island to provide them with a platform to get their opinions read and shared. The idea that I can help them generate revenue from it too, whilst boosting the local ecosystem is something I could not resist to push as hard as I can.

Lessons Learned: Stick to your promises. Testing out the hypothesis that: “Helping others grow successful,  their success will rub off onto you too.” Results will be shared in 2014’s review.

Have a great year everybody! Believe in yourselves and keep a foot on the ground, unless its collapsing… then jump and adapt as fast as you can.

I do apologise for any typos or grammatical errors, I’m going to be publishing this on the way out for a NYE dinner. Please notify me via twitter if I totally messed something up.

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