Changing the world one beer at a time: an interview with Rob Wilson from ToastAle

By Louise Graham

We interviewed Rob, the CEO, or “Chief Toaster”, at ToastAle about their innovative product, social enterprise and marketing strategy. When we chatted to Toast they were talking about the work they were doing to launch their Crowdfunding campaign. Since then, they have launched their campaign and within just two weeks hit their Crowdfunding target! The campaign is still active for another ten days so make sure to check it out and show your support.

Tell us about ToastAle and why it’s “the best thing since sliced bread”

In a nutshell, we’re brewing an awesome beer from surplus fresh bread that would otherwise go to waste.

There are 4 main reasons why it’s “the best thing since…..!”

First, it’s a great beer regardless!

Second, we’re tackling bread waste directly. There is the equivalent of a slice of bread in every single bottle of Toast. We’re hoping to tackle bread waste by the tonne, to brew at least 100 tonnes of bread in our first three years.

Third, 44% of the bread in the UK is never consumed. We’re trying to raise awareness of food waste, to promote conversation among beer drinkers who might not ordinarily talk about the issue.

And lastly, all of our profits go to an amazing food waste charity — Feedback

Can you tell us a bit more about the company, the founders of Toast Ale, and how you work together?

Our founder is Tristram Stuart. He is the initial force behind Toast and also the founder of Feedback. Tristram is an author and global food waste campaigner, and actually pioneered the whole concept of fighting food waste. He’s trying to tackle food waste at a systemic level with supermarkets, government, and retail in general towards consumer behavior change.

He and I were chatting about 18 months ago and I loved the concept so got involved straight away as an advisor and recently as full time Chief Toaster. We’ve been operating now for about a year and I work alongside two other amazing Toasters, Julie and Louisa, who have been with Toast since the beginning and lead on sales, operations, marketing and finance. We’re also lucky to receive support from some of the Feedback team and several volunteers over the first year. It’s taken an incredible team effort to get us to where we are today.

We’ve brewed and sold 70,000 bottles so far and have had some amazing press coverage. We’ve also won some awards for our beer (International Beer Challenge — Most Innovative Concept 2016).

We also have a small team (Madi and Devin) in New York helping us to launch Toast USA in the near future — watch this space!

When did the light bulb moment come?

Brewing with bread has been happening for millennia. A lot of the origins of beer have come from fermenting bread.

But this particular idea came from Tristram. He was having a beer with the Brussels Beer Project where they had surplus bread as part of the ingredients of their Babylone beer.

Tristram had a light bulb moment that we could build a global beer brand using surplus fresh bread, and could tackle food waste, raise awareness about food waste and make money for the awesome food waste charity Feedback all at the same time.

How did you begin creating the brand?

The name came about through some creative brainstorming with the team at Feedback. We’ve also had fantastic supporters. A few agencies have helped us on a pro-bono basis to get PR and do branding design. We’ve been really fortunate to have support.

Do you think the social focus of the brand helped when it came to asking for support?

I think the idea has captured people’s imagination, and they’ve wanted us to help build a brand and a business.

Now we are at the exciting crossroads of scaling up the brand. We plan to have three beers in our range, including the Pale Ale (already in distribution), and a new Craft Lager and Session IPA.

We are also growing internationally through both franchising and setting up our own operations.

So we are at a really exciting juncture. These developments present whole new opportunities and challenges.

We’ll not just be a UK brand but a global beer brand. We want to be taken very seriously as a reputable beer company.

In terms of marketing: what’s worked and what hasn’t?

We’ve had some great press and PR to date. We have featured on most national TV channels, many Radio stations and nearly all major newspapers. We have also focused on social media. Twitter has been our main focus to date and we have quickly built a following of thousands. Next we want to focus more on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook seems a really good route to market. We have an engaged community on Facebook and want to expand it. We’re also partnering with a fridge company called Grundig to do some #coldtoast promos over the summer months.

Another key thing for us is our new Crowdfunding campaign (live now), which has Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the video. The great thing about Crowdfunding though is that it’s not just about funds (we need to raise money for our two new beers), but it also brings a broader awareness and builds a fan base where the community is committed, engaged and onboard.

What’s your background Rob?

I’ve had an extensive background in social enterprises over the years.

I was working at Ashoka, a global organisation that identifies and invests in social entrepreneurs. I’ve also started education/tech organisations with a social enterprise focus. I also wrote a book about social entrepreneurs in Africa.

I met Tristram through Ashoka. I’d seen thousands of ideas with my Ashoka hat on over the past 5 years but nothing had captured my attention like this: a social enterprise with such a clear message and concept which is win-win-win.

Now I work at ToastAle full time as the CEO, or ‘Chief Toaster’.

Anything you’d like to add about why?

Food waste is by far and away one of the biggest issues of our age. One third of the food in the world is never consumed. If you look at the entire food supply chain it is the biggest contributor to climate change so any inefficiencies in the system will lead to a catastrophic impact.

It is something we can all relate to as we all eat and intuitively we don’t want to see food wasted.

ToastAle is a straightforward and clever solution that people can identify with. People love bread and people love beer and our solution really is win-win-win.

It’s a solution to such a fundamental problem of our time, and I think it’s important to tackle with some urgency.

You mentioned in your previous role you’d been working with a number of social enterprises and that ToastAle was the one that triggered you enough and excited you enough to say ok, this is the one I want to get involved with. What excited you most about the idea?

It was the potential. That’s what excites me the most… that we have the opportunity to truly build a brilliant business that will achieve so many positives. A business that has social and environmental values at its core is a wonderful opportunity.

What challenges did you face starting up? How did you go about getting foot in the door?

At the very outset, I was involved largely in an advisory capacity rather than dealing with the hands on day to day challenges that my colleagues Louisa and Julie were leading the way on. They had to overcome some major logistical and time-bound challenges to get Toast to market.

We worked through the 3–4 degrees of separation. We asked favours of friends in creative industries and sifted through our LinkedIn networks.

When you are running a beer company it’s amazing what people will do if you offer a few free beers!

We’ve had our challenges but we now feel we have proven our concept and had some incredible PR so we’re ready to grow the social enterprise further. Our limited capacity to date has been one major challenge I would say. We have had logistical challenges such as sourcing the surplus fresh bread and finding the best breweries to partner with. I’ve come on board to help lead on our longer term strategic ambition to grow Toast into an even more successful social business that produces great beer and helps to eliminate food waste, one beer at a time.

What are you most excited about?

It feels like our first year has been a Proof of Concept and Year 2 is about building on the success so far. Developing a range of beers (recipe development) for the UK market is exciting. Setting up in the US is also really exciting.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

I’d say trying to do so much at the same time. Our ambition is a hurdle.

It’s not just a business challenge as there is an urgent environmental challenge at stake. We feel an obligation to build this business as promptly as we can.

Expanding to new markets is also challenging. There are different regulations in each state in the US and multiple markets so it’s a steep learning curve. But we are nearly there and are ready to get brewing around spring.

You mentioned the word ambition. What is in your 3-year plan?

Number one is to establish ourselves in the UK: to grow the business here, and have the delicious beer as widely available to as many consumers as possible. At moment we are a little London and South East centric, however we are quickly building a national presence through the UK and hopefully partner with some larger retail brands very soon so that we are available to everyone.

Internationally we are hoping to franchise to a number of markets. We have brewed our first Toast beer in Iceland recently, through a partnership with a local food waste campaigner and organisation. They saw it as a great opportunity to support their social mission as well. We want to work through a global franchise model to set up Toast operations internationally and support many local food waste organisations all over the world. We want to start having impact wherever food waste is an issue, which unfortunately is everywhere.

About Louise Graham:

London-based (for now) Co-Founder of The Think Collective. A global network of problem solvers helping startups and positive impact brands solve their marketing problems in effective and imaginative ways.

Writing Kick-Ass Confident Copy that Connects: An Interview with Elizabeth McKenzie

By Louise Graham

"I work with entrepreneurs who really struggle with stringing words together in a way that compels people to take an action."

How did you get involved with writing, and what inspired you to set up The Copy Word?

I first got a taste for writing when I was working in corporate marketing. I soon realised that corporate marketing wasn’t for me. I was pretty much a glorified admin assistant. My hate for corporate, coupled with my love for all things communication led to me study speech pathology.

While I was working as a speech pathologist I had an idea to set up an online marketing blog and business. Even though it was hard to admit at the time, my business was where my passion lay, and as it started taking off, I had to make the decision to quit my speech pathology job and follow my passion, which was taking up a lot of my time.

Enter: The Copy Word.

The Copy Word was born because I noticed that every single one of my clients were struggling with their communication.

I work with entrepreneurs who struggle with stringing words together in a way that compels people to take action. It could be buying a service or product, commenting on a social media post, or engaging and building rapport.

So, what services do you offer?

There’s the agency side of my business, where I write the copy and then there’s the online course, that teaches people to write copy themselves.

I find that most entrepreneurs have a very clear feeling inside of what they want to say — which I call their message, but they get lost in translation when trying to put it onto the page.

So that’s what The Copy Word does — we help businesses put words on the page so they can better connect with their audience.

So, that brings us to the question on most of our minds — what is a copywriter and why is copywriting so important?

Copywriting is the art and science of strategically delivering words that inspire people to take a form of action.

Every entrepreneur needs to know how to write good copy because ultimately, every single business needs their audience to take some form of action, specifically it buying a product or a service. I’ve found a lot of business owners aren’t making the most of their copy, and are missing out on opportunities to convert a prospect into a buyer.

What do you notice from the industry? What are the key mistakes entrepreneurs and brands are making with their copy?

The first mistake that business owners make is that they’re super vague with their copy. They use high-level lofty concepts they understand, but that doesn’t mean their audience understands what they’re saying.

If people don’t understand what you’re saying and selling, they aren’t going to buy from you.

For example, in the life coaching industry there is a lot of talk about confidence and self-love, but all these are just lofty concepts that don’t mean anything to anyone until you put a meaning behind the word.

So, if you’re selling confidence, how does having confidence make someone’s life better?

Your client might have the confidence to walk into their Monday morning meeting with their boss without sweating bullets, and ask firmly for that pay rise, and get it.

That’s how you take a super vague concept of confidence, and make it real for someone.

The second mistake business owners make is that they’re trying to talk to everyone. They don’t want to be specific and that fuels their vague copy.

By trying to appeal to everyone, they’re not experimenting with different phrases, or words to disrupt their industry, so they end up sounding like every other person in their industry.

What are the key factors holding people back from creating great copy? Do you think it may be confidence?

Definitely, I think one main reason is confidence.

Many people don’t want to say things that will disrupt the industry as they i) don’t want to be seen to upset people, ii) don’t want to exclude someone, and/or iii) they don’t have enough confidence to stand tall in a crowd.

When it’s time to stand up and be seen, people often shrink down and just want to fit in. The first module I teach in my online course is all about “Growing Your Confidence” because it’s an important part of the process.

When businesses don’t stand out, they only have their price to differentiate themselves by. They become open to price-shoppers, and it’s hard to build a brand and a company based on price shoppers, because price shoppers are never loyal.

What do you suggest for entrepreneurs who struggle with depth of vocabulary?

The goal of copywriting is connection.

To get the connection, you need to hold someone’s attention.

So it’s not about ‘finding a big, fancy word’ to use.

It’s about saying something in a way that’s a little different to the stock standard, because the way we get someone’s attention is to disrupt the constant stream of thoughts in their head.

I’m on thesaurus.com all the time. It helps me say things in a different way.

The questions to ask yourself as a business owner are: How is it different to what everyone else is saying? What’s my opinion on this? How does what I’m saying make someone feel?

One exercise I do with people to get them out of their vocab rut is to try to write ‘I’m going to get a beer’ in twenty different ways.

It’s a great exercise to use on your tagline too.

The thing you need to remember is, no one’s going to come up with twenty compelling, amazing and intriguing taglines, but it forces you to say the same thing 20 different ways, which is a great catalyst for creativity and change.

From a brand perspective who do you think is doing the best work in the industry, and what qualities do you think they have that others don’t? I noticed a great campaign from Spotify recently. They had billboards around the country with messages like “Dear 3,749 people who streamed ‘It’s The End of the World as we Know it’, the day of the Brexit vote, hang in there”. I found that really compelling.

I don’t follow the industry, but the people who do the best work are specific.

Spotify is insanely specific. Apple also does amazing copy. They get really specific. For example, every Christmas, they sent out an email which says ‘do you have an artist, musician, or gamer in the family? Click here for gift’. They then had three specific sales pages for the same laptop.

It’s also about humanising your copy writing. You have to remember that you are essentially talking to someone at the other end — you are writing to a human being.

THE NITTY GRITTY

Copy is not about being clever. It’s about connecting with intention. To get a desired outcome. The question you want to ask yourself when you’re reading your copy is: am I making someone feel something?

When sitting down to craft copy is there a proven formula for success? What questions should we be asking ourselves?

I am 100% against secret formulas, but there are definitely some guidelines for writing copy.

The biggest one is around being specific. To get specific I suggest going through your copy line by line and asking yourself ‘what do I mean by that?’, and see what else comes to you. If you can answer that question, then you’re talking in high level concepts. Take that answer and find the example that highlights what you’re trying to say, and use that.

The next thing to consider is: am I making someone feel something? Am I making someone feel that they are missing out on something if they don’t buy from me?

Those are the two guiding principles.

A lot of copywriters talk about psychological tricks. How do you get your head around this if you’re not a psychologist? Is this just trying to be too clever?

You don’t need to get too technical about it. Psychology for me all comes down to humanising the copy.

It’s not about writing to win awards. It’s about the experience for one human being, and you need to remember that this human being is full of emotions.

This human being, who’s reading what you are writing wants something, needs something, and is desperate for something.

All you need to do is connect with that and write from that space.

All this psychology stuff is just about understanding the one human being at the other end who is going to read it. If you understand that we make purchasing decisions based on emotions, and that the person you are writing for has desires, then you are naturally writing with this whole idea of using psychology. It’s not about being clever, or being an “advanced copy writer”.

On this psychological note, we’ve been learning about the copywriting trends of minimalism (saying a lot without saying a lot), humour (when done right), transparency and disruption. Do you have anything to add from your perspective of what trends you are starting to see?

I’d love to see more people writing with the mantra ‘smiling is selling’.

If you make your prospect smile while they read what you have written, then you are naturally being humorous, transparent, disruptive, and you’ve got their attention.

They’re enjoying it, so they are going to keep reading it.

I don’t think there is any need to be insanely humorous or disruptive. It all comes back to delighting your readers, and everything else will fall into place.

We all have the innate ability to delight someone face to face, but sometimes we struggle to take that into our writing. I suggest you read your copy out loud and write as you’d speak, as if it was a normal conversation. Then edit it.

You could set yourself a little interview?

Sure. Why not record yourself talking and transcribe it as a starting place? When I work in my copywriting agency, I begin with a questionnaire and an intake call. On the call, I’m typing every single word that comes out of the clients mouth, and I use a lot of that in their copy.

A lot of blogs and entrepreneurs use the term “storytelling”. What does “storytelling” mean to you and how important is it? What qualities make for good storytelling?

Storytelling is huge right now.

The reason is because when you tell a story, you’re naturally connecting to your audience emotionally.

You’re telling people what your main character is experiencing, what they want, what they need, and the struggles that are going on for them. In storytelling mode you naturally can describe the environment, the thoughts that are going through their head, and where the character is. All the elements are there.

Storytelling is such a buzzword. The reason it gets spruiked a lot is because every story needs emotions, you must be specific, and those are the key elements to copywriting, and getting people to purchase your offerings.

It’s about the concept of what the story does vs. the construction of the story. It’s not the length that matters. All that matters is that you convey to your audience that they’re missing out on something if they don’t say yes to you.

Good storytellers show people rather than tell people. For example, by saying “you’re anxious” you are telling people vs. if you say “you wake up, you’ve got butterflies in your stomach etc..” you are showing people.

You talked during the interview about your copywriting course. You’ve also got a lot of really useful free content on your website. Where should our readers start?

I have two free guides on my homepage at the moment: thecopyword.com. “The Copy Hit” is a guide that outlines the main elements you need to write great copy. The seven elements include: storytelling, emotions, specificity, outcomes focus, the truthbomb, the hook, and using your client’s language. There are examples and exercises for each of those. I also have a “Disrupt Guide” which outlines how to position yourself as an expert in your field without losing your personality.

The online copy course I run is called “Cash Copy and Cojones”. It gets launched twice a year, and the next one will be launched in February. The courses consist of 6 modules over 7 weeks and it’s all done live. I love the live format. After that there are ongoing monthly coaching calls and personalised feedback.

A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOU….

How would you best describe your copywriting style?

I would describe it as being disruptive and delightful!

All I want to do is make people laugh. I truly believe that smiling is selling. You really want to make the purchase and the experience a pleasure, and not a pain or a punishment that people are spending money on you.

What excites you most about the work that you do? What do you love most?

The writing! Sure, I get stressed when I’m staring at a blank page like most people, but once I let the brainstorming process happen, ideas start to form and then it’s a roll from there.

That’s the thing about writing, knowing that the idea and feeling is already there, inside you, and it’s just about experimenting with how you want to say it on the page and out into the world.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Hollywood. I love how Hollywood entertains people. I love watching comedy.

Also, getting off the laptop. As entrepreneurs we often forget to live, and living is what inspires everyone.

TELL US A SECRET…

Do you have any copywriting secrets to share?

Copywriting is the final thing that you do. It’s the icing on the cake, but first you must bake the cake. There are a lot of things to be done before you just show up on the page and write copy. It all starts with understanding your audience’s worldview and how they perceive what you’re selling.

Once you start to understand their perception, you’ll know what to say that will connect with them.

So for me the biggest secret is about having that solid foundation, and copywriting is the top layer of the cake really.

What’s your favourite copywriting book?

I’ve never read a copywriting book in my life! But I follow The Middle Finger Project. When she talks about copy, connection, or communication — I listen.

Do you have any last minute piece of advice?

I’d say that copy isn’t about being clever. It’s about connection. The question you want to ask yourself when you are reading your copy is: am I making someone feel something?

About Louise Graham:

London-based (for now) Co-Founder The Think Collective. A global network of problem solvers helping entrepreneurs solve their marketing problems in effective and imaginative ways.

Insights into Crowdfunding campaign success: an interview with Chris Buckingham

by Louise Graham

We interviewed Chris, who has over 8 years of experience and has contributed to over £2 million worth of Crowdfunding activity. Chris is the passionate and enthusiastic author of Crowdfunding Intelligence, and has three new books in the pipeline this year. We spoke to him about his experience and what constitutes a successful Crowdfunding campaign.

GETTING STARTED

A question on many people’s minds is: “what exactly is Crowdfunding?”

It’s very simple. It’s asking the crowd for permission to create your vision. In my book Crowdfunding Intelligence I call it ‘crowdconsent’.

And, how does a start-up, brand, or entrepreneur know if Crowdfunding is the right strategy for them?

Firstly, I’d say that Crowdfunding is not the be all and end all. There is a lot in the entrepreneurial press about alternative finance, and Crowdfunding being a saviour, but that’s not necessarily the case.

If you are looking for finance, some key questions to ask yourself are:

i) is it just money that I am looking for? In which case traditional financial institutions may be a better option

ii) am I looking to engage a community, or build a community around my vision? In which case Crowdfunding is an ideal way to move forward

iii) have I already got a community or vision? Then community shares or a co-operative model may be a better way to go.

There are so many Crowdfunding platforms these days. How does a start-up go about choosing the right Crowdfunding platform?

Good question. If we look just in the UK alone there are over 100 Crowdfunding platforms. This includes all models of Crowdfunding: donation, reward, equity, interest, and mixed models. We list all the platforms on our Minivation website.

Auditing is key. Take time to assess all the options. Start by looking at the campaigns on each platform, the type of successes they’ve got, the seasons when they are being launched, what are they asking for, and rewards and promises that they are making. So take all this into account, the pitch, what are they saying, what kind of language they are using and the amount of money coming into each campaign. From that you can start to gauge if that is likely to happen with your campaign and if it is an appropriate platform for you.

If the auditing process becomes just a little bit too much, and someone wants to be handheld through that process, what questions should the consultant be asking?

They will need to understand your vision more than anything. They need to ask about the finances, the team and the product. Be mindful. If the consultant jumps straight in over-enthusiastically and promises you the earth then be very suspicious. A real consultant, someone that really wants to add value for you, will want to know those details first before there any sort of commitment on their side. If they can’t help then they should be able to pass you on to someone that can.

Do you have any tips on the amount to ask for with Crowdfunding?

My advice is to always ask for the top amount. For example if you can create your vision for a set level of 1000 pounds but for 5000 pounds you could create “wow”, then go for the 5000 pounds. It may not work, but you will get valuable feedback from the crowd on your vision. Armed with this you can always make another attempt for the lower amount.

What minimum level of investment do you feel is needed for a successful Crowdfunding campaign?

I’d say anywhere between 500 and 1500 pounds. Most of the time you need a polished video and a polished message to engage the crowd. It’s rare that you can get away with not having that.

What do you think the biggest mistake that companies make when opting to run a Crowdfunding campaign?

That’s easy. Lack of planning, without a doubt. A lack of preparation and a lack of awareness of Crowdfunding. These are the two key reasons that campaigns will fail.

BUILDING AND LAUNCHING

At the start of the interview, you mentioned the definition of Crowdfunding is “crowdconsent”, that is, asking the crowd for permission to create your vision. Can you tell us a little bit more about this ?

With any campaign that you are launching you are making a promise to the crowd. It’s all about taking the time to assess who those individuals are, if they match your campaign, what can you offer them in return, why would they invest and give you their crowdconsent?

There are three layers of what I call “ties” to consider. First are the strong ties, which are your friends and family. Second, there are the weak ties, which are the friends and family of your friends and family. The third are the tertiary ties which are another level of investor that may not have any face to face contact with you but they may like the campaign and see you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever. Outside of this you’ve also got satellite influencers, and these satellite influencers may prevent others from investing in you. Of course, they don’t pop-up until you’ve gone live, and then it can be a bit late.

It’s really making a judgement call on who the crowd are, what they need and what platform they are on, and matching all this up — that should lead to crowdconsent.

So, once you have the crowd, how do you maintain it?

Part of it is actually asking for help, what we call supplication — simple impression management. You need to impress on the crowd that you have the desire to create this vision, but that you need their help to create it.

It’s part of the ‘updating’ process. In Crowdfunding Intelligence we talk about the “push” and the “pull”. The “push” is about you pushing out information — the pitch. The “pull” is the comments and questions being asked by crowd. These are both really important as is it is through them that you are engaging with the crowd, which gives you an opportunity to tell more of the story behind the product.

How do companies share their vision while at the same time making sure that their ideas are protected?

This is a major issue that nobody has managed to resolve yet. I’m currently writing about issues of Intellectual Property in a new book called “The Dark Era” which should be out by the end of 2017.

AFTER CAMPAIGN

How do you measure the success of a Crowdfunding campaign?

It depends on what you are going to measure. There are many different ways to view success. I would say that primarily it’s about exposure. You have to ask yourself: what is “success” in your vision? I think it’s important to determine this quite early, as those that focus just on the money quite often won’t succeed as they aren’t creating value or being authentic.

What top tips do you have for after a Crowdfunding campaign?

Number 1. Keep talking. Keep communicating with the people. Keep telling them what’s going on.

Number 2. Be open to ideas. The crowd might have ideas, a skillset, input that you might want to use, and why not?

How long do you recommend between one Crowdfunding campaign and the next?

It really depends on the campaign and on the vision. It’s all about evidence. If you can: prove to the crowd that it’s a serious business; that you’ve moved from being an idea to something concrete that works; and are coming back to offer equity to achieve something together as a community, then you are ready to launch the next campaign. It’s all about making an impression on the crowd and not coming across as greedy.

Where do you see Crowdfunding going in 2017?

My personal view is that I think technology Crowdfunding will increase. I think we are still at the very early stages of the IOT (Internet Of Things), and in the future we will see more connected devices, connected clothing and wearables coming out.

In terms of financing, I think the trend will be towards a reward model for early phase start-ups and businesses, especially in the technology industry. Based on the trends that our trackers see at the moment it looks like the market for equity will reach a plateau and possibly decline slightly by 2020.

Can you tell us a little bit more about Minivation and the work that you do?

Minivation is the educational side of Crowdfunding. On Minivation we have the CPP — the Crowdfunding Planning Page, which includes 5 essential segments available for download: i) pre-campaign, ii) live, iii) pitch, iv) promises, and v) ‘post’. ‘Post’ is important segment, as once you’ve crowdfunded you’ve got a community around you ready to leverage.

Among the creative industries there’s a tendency to think you don’t need a business plan as you aren’t selling a product, but actually you are. Business planning will help you focus on your vision, and those intricate grey areas and how it all connects together.

These are all presented in easy to watch video formats. The idea being that viewers can gain insights and tips for building a more robust campaign.

What other services to do you offer to assist start-ups?

We have a series of consultants here in the UK that we can pass people to.

We’ve also developed a brand new framework for Crowdfunding and are looking to gamify this process. Towards the end of 2017 we should have our first series of games coming out. The idea is that the entrepreneur can step into the game, play the game, and then be able to conceptualise problems and see the issues that they may encounter in their campaign, meaning they should be much better prepared.

At the moment we have a series of board games that we are working on and we hope to digitise those towards the end of 2017 if the games work. We are just at validating the framework, so if you know anyone that’s looking to Crowdfund, we are looking for entrepreneurs and experts like yourself to tell us what they think. It means they also become part of the research we are doing with University of Southampton (Call to action below).

GUEST QUESTIONS

The Think Collective were sent some questions by Manta Watch Camp: a grassroots marine conservation and ecotourism project based in Papua New Guinea. They are considering using Crowdfunding as an innovative way to fundraise for a rehabilitation and education centre, that primarily focuses on protecting mantra stingrays and sharks.

Manta Watch Camp: What advice would you give for choosing tempting incentives for backers if the campaign isn’t product specific?

Yes, this is always a problem. For example if you have a sanctuary like this, then vision is not that specific; the problem could be that you have a nebulous entity that you are seeking crowdconsent for. I would suggest the creative strategy for the campaign would be to focus on one shark or one particular aspect of the centre. For example a shark within a family that maybe has an illness, or needs a bit of special extra attention, or hasn’t developed friendships as much with the other sharks, or is vegetarian…

It’s about finding that emotional tie. Then it’s all about finding your consumer tribe. In this case you can’t sell to them but can offer them something as a support mechanism in order for them to grant you crowdconsent in return. For example, Dartmoor Zoo ran a campaign a few years ago where they offered sponsorship of the animals as a reward. That was the deal. That particular campaign had over 40 rewards, way more than we advised at the time, but they received more than £300,000 for the campaign.

Call to action: If you are interested in participating in the research at the University of Southhampton reach out at louise@thethinkcollective.com and we’ll make introductions.

Books:

Crowdfunding IntelligenceThe Crowded Cases , Crowded Comments: Equity , Crowded Comments: LoansThe Dark Era (covering issues of Intellectual Property), and the Crowdfunding Readiness Assessment (currently in early stages of development).

About Louise Graham:

London-based (for now) Co-Founder The Think Collective. A global network of problem solvers helping entrepreneurs solve their marketing problems in effective and imaginative ways.

The Think Collective’s Top 10 Global Trends for 2017

by: Louise Graham

“2017 will see brands move to more specialization, visualization, personalization, and humanization in their content marketing programs and approaches”.
Michael Brenner— CEO of Marketing Insider Group, and co-author of The Content Formula.

At The Think Collective, we keep a keen eye on TrendWatching, Forbes and the latest global trend analysis. This ensures that we keep ahead of the curve when giving marketing advice to entrepreneurs and startups.

2016 was certainly a year that will go down in history. In response, customer expectations in 2017 will favour innovations that have a positive impact in a world of political and economic turmoil; simplify complexity; and give consumers a better sense of stability and self.

2017 is going to be an exciting year as brands disrupt markets by creatively harnessing and streamlining major advances in technology (AI, AR, VR, live streaming and cloud adoption).

Let’s look at some of the predicted innovation/technology, marketing and consumer trends for next year.

INNOVATION/TECHNOLOGY TRENDS

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)

“AI stands to become one of the most disruptive forces in the IT world” (Forbes, 2017)

AI can now collaboratively work with human professionals to solve complex problems. Tractica, August 2016, predicted that users of virtual assistants are set to rise from 390 million to 1.8 billion worldwide by 2021. Our last blogfeatured another impressive example: the futuristic Taiwanese product GliaStudio which automatically creates video summaries of text articles using artificial intelligence (AI).

RENAISSANCE 2.0

The New York Times Bestselling Author Roger James Hamilton, recently posted a series of top trends for 2017. The rise of Renaissance 2.0 is all about customisation of products, services and experiences. With the rise in conscious spending, customers are increasingly valuing quality over quantity. He explains: “All of our online experiences, from our social media platforms to our mobile apps to our video and music playlists are already customized. With the growth in co-investing, co-purchasing and co-working, we’re going to increasingly see customized dashboards and interfaces extend far beyond our current co-creation. From personalized learning, to personalized medicine, to personalized art — the paradox is that more powerful technology in AI and big data is allowing us to become more human”.

THE VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE ECONOMY

Undoubtedly the hottest topic at the moment is the mainstream shift to VR and AR experiences. We could almost write an entire blog about that subject alone!

The overwhelming success of PokemonGo has shown that consumers are ready for AR and that there is major earning potential for marketers and innovators. Forbes predicts a flow of AR games, ads and apps. Workplace gamification is predicted to become a core business strategy, with employers shifting their understanding of digital experiences. Both VR and AR will improve employee engagement, retention and customer experience.

MARKETING TRENDS

VIRTUAL REALITY

Using VR for content marketing is also a predicted trend. 360 videos make users feel as if they are immersed in, and connected to, something unique and memorable. In July 2016, online e-commerce giant Alibaba made history, launching a shopping experience driven by VR for Singles Day (China’s anti-Valentine’s Day) that netted USD 17.8 billion in transactions: nearly 8 billion more than Black Friday 2015! In 2016 long established Australian retailer Myer worked with ebay create the world’s first online department store. Customers can purchase to their heart’s content using “shopticals”.

NEW CONTENT FORMATS — LIVE STREAMING

Live streaming video will be a major driver for building an audience. Text based content and talking head video will be a thing of the past. In 2016, the US presidential debate was live streamed for the first time, and Facebook and YouTube rolled out live streaming capabilities. IBM’s analysis of digital marketing trends (and a bunch of other articles) highlight it as a main trend for 2017. Whether it be live-streaming an event, product launch or behind-the-scenes look, being creative with live-streaming content will keep your business ahead of the curve next year.

CLOUD ADOPTION AND DATA VISUALISATION

New formats in data visualisation will enable marketers to perceive consumer patterns and key messages in deeper ways. Organisations that upgrade the tools they are using to analyse and predict consumer behaviour will be at a huge advantage. Cloud models for business/data analytics (and data storage/data management) are envisioned to “lead cloud adoption in 2017 and beyond”.

FALL OF EMAIL MARKETING

Consumer preference for social media and instant messaging has created a tidal wave that’s sweeping away the use of email. So much so (author, educator and entrepreneur Hamilton points out) that over 90% of customers are now unresponsive to email lists. The future lies in harnessing social media: remarketing and remessaging through Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter; collecting phone numbers and setting up WhatsApp and WeChat groups, taking advantage of the 150 million instant messages sent per minute (and typically these days checked before emails); and/or creating an app for consumers (voice command, AI, VR or mixed reality to jump ahead of the curve).

CONSUMER TRENDS

THE QUINTESSENTIAL SELF — LUXURY TREND

“Because my self-actualization is faster, smarter and more exclusive than yours”. Trendwatching, 2016.

A Trendwatching report on the global luxury market sees the temporary lull in growth as an opportunity for brands to make an epic shift towards more “varied, complex, individualized, and meaningful forms of luxury consumption”. A key to creating disrupting innovations in this market is understanding the shifting definition of status from ‘what I have’ to ‘who I am’. ‘The Quintessential Self’ is typified by shareable content about taking self-improvement to another level, in a way that people are not yet aware of.

SUSTAINABILITY MEGA TREND AND BEYOND

“I literally predict within 4–7 years if you don’t have a true genuine impact in your business you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage” Yanik Silver, Evolved Enterprise.

Sustainability is a major consumer trend amongst predictions for 2017. Trend Watching expects that brands will expand their thinking of sustainability in 2017 to explore Capacity Capture “finding and unlocking exciting new sources of value, or finding creative new ways to eliminate any wasted resource”. Case studies include : Nissan owners selling excess power from electric cars back to the national grid; and the Integrated Waste Exchange (online portal) in Capetown.

Environmentalism. As we all notice the effects of climate in our local environment, environmental sustainability is an ongoing trend. Showing a real commitment to the environment, and positive action (also with local social initiatives) with your brand will take you a long way giving consumers a sense that they are contributing, and also a renewed sense of place. Although Euromonitor pointed out that in marketing products, it is good to keep in mind that consumers are more likely to pay for “good for me” features ie. organic or non-GMO than good for the environment features.

“WORLDS APART”

In the current political and economic climate, consumers are looking for stability and solace: “purposeful brands will find renewed opportunities in helping people understand their changing relationship to home — be that their nation, city or neighbourhood”. Trendwatching, breaks this down into the growth of “New global citizens” and “Nation Nurturers”. “New global citizens” such as those represented in the viral Momodo video in which interviewees discovered they were a combination of genes, show that we are all part of a growingly interconnected world and have more in common than we think: we are all just humans trying to do our best on the planet. “Nation nurturers” is typified by campaigns that have a real commitment to the local area — ie. through charity donations to the underprivileged.

Trendwatching’s Global Head of Trends and Insights will be hosting a (free) exclusive webinar on Tuesday 13, December. Sign up and receive insights on game changing trends for 2017. We’ll be there listening in and taking notes too!

Register here.

About Louise Graham:

London-based (for now) Co-Founder The Think Collective. A global network of problem solvers helping entrepreneurs solve their marketing problems in effective and imaginative ways.

The Think Collective’s Most Innovative Startups of 2016

By: Louise Graham

One of my favourite phrases is ‘inspiring the inspired’. It’s the core philosophy of a new initiative I’ve co-founded — The Think Collective. Our vision is to help entrepreneurs across the world bring their dreams to life. A global network of the world’s best problem solvers and creatives, we help inspired entrepreneurs and startups solve their biggest marketing problems in effective, imaginative and original ways.

It’s a transformative time in the digital world. This was the impetus for the creation of The Think Collective, which is essentially an online and global version of our bricks and mortar business Think Frog Marketing.

Governments are starting to recognise the economic impact of the digital revolution. In 2015, one quarter of the 90 European startups that raised more than $20 million were cloud-based software companies.

Government ministries and task groups are being set up to create policy and infrastructure that supports entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial networks, and business growth. France and Poland both now have a Minister for Digital Affairs.

We are living in exciting times that support digital innovation and initiative.

It’s also a highly individualised and competitive world, and it’s really hard work getting startups off the ground. According to a number of sources, over 90% of online startups fail. I believe it’s important to collectively celebrate and recognise people worldwide who have successfully chased their creative dreams to solve problems, and who have taken real risks with tenacity.

Here are eight of The Think Collective’s most innovative global startups of 2016, and an eye on startups to watch in 2017. They represent a global breadth of (largely digital) innovative ideas that have come to life, pushing boundaries and disrupting markets.

LONDON

Fromigo

Fromigo is a travel startup with a unique vision that offers carefully curated experiences made by London locals. Founders Tim Elder (Google, Skype, Rolls Royce) and Diego Jenzer (tourism industry expert) recognised that no travel business currently exists to connect tourists directly with locals offering truly authentic experiences of a location. Also, the size of the London tourism market is over 850m (USD) and expected to double by 2030! Fromigo is a marketplace of authentic experiences ranging from “London essentials” — visiting the Tate Modern with a local artist (!), to “Hidden Gems” — immersing yourself in the untold Muslim history of London. They are also the first and only travel company currently offering immersive 360 previews of experiences on offer.

www.fromigo.com

Milkman Energy

There are over 50 energy suppliers in the UK offering a range of options with vast discrepancies in pricing. In October 2016 alone, over 600,000 people changed their energy suppliers. Milkman energy brings the age-old process of collective purchasing to the energy market. They organise groups of people to sign up to “collective switching”, so that they can save money on gas and electricity bills together. Energy suppliers bid for the business of the crowd, and the cheapest supplier wins. Each person is then offered a contract by the supplier. It’s a win-win initiative.

www.milkmanenergy.com

AirPortr

How often have you found yourself discretely trying to find a place for your heavy suitcase of backpack in a crowded coffee shop, on your way to or from the airport? Airportr is a service based startup with a solution for London’s visitors. The company has recently obtained a 3.3m GBP investment. Available at all London airports for British Airways customers, AirPortr arranges pickup and check in (!) of your luggage or delivery of bag to your hotel for as little as 20GBP.

https://airportr.com/

SYDNEY

PH360

Sydney based PH360 (Personal Health 360) is a revolutionary tool that has recently received global attention. The team is led by Matt Riemenn. Diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, Matt was disheartened by his medical prognosis and travelled the world consulting with geneticists and health specialists. The result is a tool for optimal wellness that will now positively impact millions of lives. “Intuitive, Interactive and Personalised”, the virtual PA/app “Shae” provides individualised insights into fitness, food, environment, and lifestyle based on your own epigenetic makeup. A client of the Think Collective, the catchy company slogan is “Siri for health”.

www.ph360.me

SAN FRANSISCO

Mastly

Initiated by founder of Couchsurfing Casey Fenton, Mastly is the first online platform that allows US business owners to allocate a part of their company to their employees for equity. Casey had worked with a tireless group of volunteers to launch Couchsurfing, but was unable to reward them with equity. He began envisioning an alternative ecosystem with a team including a high profile lawyer who played a key role Facebook. The result is Mastly. The innovative initiative is a client of The Think Collective, and helps companies save over 70K on legal costs alone.

www.mast.ly

IRELAND/PHILIPPINES

First Circle

Irish founded and Philippines based First Circle, tapped into the growth of SME’s in Manila. Business growth is at 6% p.a. in the Philippines and traditional institutions are finding it hard to keep up. It takes over a month to get a loan and there is a lot of bureaucracy holding SME’s back. First Circles provides efficient loans, with risk and document assessments, and quick online transfers. Clothing retailers, architects, manufacturers and business owners from a number of different industries have already benefited from this technology.

www.firstcircle.ph

STARTUPS TO WATCH IN 2017

TAIWAN

GliaCloud

Taiwan based GliaCloud is a massive market disrupter. Over 80x more people click on video compared to text, and publishers are starting to realise the power of video, however not all have the capacity to produce content. Launched by David Chen (one of Google’s cloud developer experts), and his partner Dominique Tu, GliaCloud’s product GliaStudio automatically creates video summaries of text articles using artificial intelligence (AI). The product has already won international awards at Evernote Hackathon, Google Cloud Developer Challenge and the Baidu Hakathon.

www.gliacloud.com

IRELAND

Pulsate

Founders of Pulsate recognised real-time marketing as a major growth industry, and set up the “All In One Mobile Marketing Software”. The result is a cloud based platform for mobile that interacts with customers and drives brands at the same time. Clients so far include Schwartzkopf and Brown Thomas. The sector is projected to grow from $28.6bn in 2016 to $98.8bn in five years time. Definitely a company to keep an eye on.

www.pulsatehq.com

About Louise Graham:

London-based (for now) Co-Founder The Think Collective. A global network of problem solvers helping entrepreneurs solve their marketing problems in effective and imaginative ways.

More insights at www.facebook.com/thethinkcollective.com / Tweet us @TheThinkCollect

Start-up Weekend: Creativity and Business

by Fiona Barrows

I didn’t intend to take part in Start-Up Weekend. It was something I’d heard a great deal about but had filed away in my mind under “not for me”. But I did, and my team ended up winning.

The night before Start-up Weekend I was kept awake by flash-backs to not being picked for school teams. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, that my skills wouldn’t be suited to the task. Yet over the course of the weekend I realised that the exact opposite was true, and I began to understand the real value of creativity, and creative thinking, in starting-up and running a business.

I’d been working from Hubud, a co-working space in Ubud, Bali (a town affectionately known as Silicon Rice Paddy) for about five months when the first of their two Start-Up Weekends this year came around. Start-Up Weekends are held all over the world, all year around. They were founded on the premise that the hardest part of starting-up is starting-out, so they bring together a group of smart, passionate people to give ideas a forceful kick-start. Over the course of fifty-two hours ideas are pitched, teams are formed, and businesses are born. The aim is to get your MVP (minimum viable product) by the close of the weekend.

And this was the source of my anxiety. Before the weekend began I had no idea what an MVP even was, let alone how you got one. Eighteen months ago, after six years working in book publishing in the UK, I quit my job to live the life of a digital nomad, working as a freelance copywriter, ghostwriter and just plain writer. I’m a creative. I’ve never studied business, and know nothing about process flows, business models or cash flow statements. Nor am I particularly technical, and I don’t know how to code. What was I going to do? Despite being around plenty of start-ups at Hubud, I saw them as inhabiting a completely different world, and speaking an entirely different language, to the one I was in. I had presumed that in order to start-up a business you needed to a very specific skill set, and one that was totally different to mine.

Yet I decided to give it a go, thinking that I may as well try and even if I didn’t have anything to offer, I could still have fun and learn a lot, right?

The theme of our start-up weekend was “Social Innovation” which meant that our businesses were not just judged on their viability to generate revenue, but also on their potential social impact. I was part of a team working on “Bali Earth Box”, a subscription based service for ex-pats living in Bali using products from little known farmers and producers around the island with strong social values. It was about providing these companies with a larger market, and helping them support the communities they operate in.

The biggest lesson I learnt wasn’t what an MVP is (although that is indeed very good to know), but that a good business essentially identifies a problem, and then solves it. And you get your MVP by pin-pointing potential pitfalls and possible problems, and then solving them. And as a creative, solving problems is something I’m good at.

For example, on the Saturday morning we were led through a truncated version of the Google Sprint method, a process used by the tech-giant to quickly ascertain the viability of a new idea. Part of it involves creating a massive chart of all the actors, actions and outcomes in your potential business, then covering it was post-it notes of possible problems and things that could go wrong. You then go back over the chart sticking a fresh load of post-it notes on top of “How Might We” solve these issues. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know any of the technical business terms, I just pictured what each stage of our business would look like, and thought through how we could make it run smoothly. It was an exercise in imagination as much as it was in business.

Before Start-Up Weekend I saw creativity and business as polar opposites, as two totally separate entities with each one able to kill the other. Yet the weekend showed me how wrong this assumption was. Businesses need creative thinking, as much as they need someone to hack out the numbers and develop the actual products. Starting-up a business is an act of creation, and constant creativity is needed to keep it alive and thriving.

About the Author:

Eighteen months ago Fiona quit her job as a literary agent and life in London to travel solo around Asia for a year. She scrambled up ruined temples in Myanmar, bathed butt naked in Japanese onsens, and ate indeterminate street food as standard. After a year of such adventures, London no longer held any appeal, so she turned her dedication to words into freelance creative copywriting services for The Think Collective. She now writes shiny and engaging web copy from the tropical paradise of Bali; in-between sipping coconuts from hammocks.

https://startupweekend.org/