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How did three lads in their twenties raise $250k in angel money for an app? [VIDEO]


WHAT IS A HUMP DAY? According to Anthill’s founder and editor-at-large, it’s the logical name for a Wednesday (also known as ‘hump day’) brain dump. Once a week (or when he can be bothered), James Tuckerman records (often poorly) an unusual insight gathered from the many interesting people he meets during his travels. It’s a Hump Dump!

The Optus-Innov8 Seed Program announced its first two investments this week, Venuemob and 121cast.

121cast raised a total of A$250k led by SingTel Innov8 and co-invested by Adventure Capital, while Venuemob raised a total of A$450k, also led by SingTel Innov8.

As long-time observers of 121cast founders Ed Hooper, Long Zheng and Andrew Armstrong, I’ve experienced the pleasure of watching their model gain focus, lose focus, pivot, start again, then find rapid market traction.

Their first product, SoundGecko, a free service that converts text into spoken words, “allowing users to listen to any news article or web page on the go”, amassed 35,000 users in four months. (Yup. Impressive.)

121cast, due for launch in March 2013, is a personal radio product, designed to “help people sidestep the barrage of digital information available”. Hooper describes it as a personal radio station that can be delivered by smartphone or from your computer.

In many respects, this trio is the epitome of the ‘new economy’ startup mindset.

From the get-go, they sought input from just about anyone who would listen and they pitched at just about any event that would have them. As mentioned, the idea of ‘pivoting’, something that large organisations struggle with, is part of their DNA.

(If you’re wondering, ‘pivot’ is a chess term that has been adopted by business. It’s an exchange sacrifice. You are exchanging the current advantages you hold for a different set of advantages.)

The approach employed by 121cast is counter-intuitive to the ‘old economy’ startup mindset, whereby entrepreneurs are often obstructively concerned about the theft of their idea or, in many cases, are too afraid of eliciting criticism.

(For some people, the potential discovery that their business concept is flawed can be harder than the prospect of eventual failure. I call these people ‘Lotto Entrepreneurs’. The pleasure they receive from the startup comes from the idea that it will one-day make them rich. That dream is better than the reality, so they never seek criticism. They also never launch. Sad really.)

So, how did three lads in their twenties raise $250k? Their answers in this video reveal a compelling lesson.

Listen. And react. (Things move faster than you think.)

[SPECIAL THANKS: Tawnee Rebhuhn, you make an excellent human tripod.]

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