From web junkie to startup website owner: what to expect

by Denis Semchenko
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Salad Social co-founder DENIS SEMCHENKO recounts his experience with the blog and shares the startup knowledge he has learned so far.

A ‘hack-for-hire’ journalist for a number of years, I have basically lived on the internet ever since I finished uni, yet I’ve only fully entered the digital world several months ago when my friend Amber Dermoudy suggested we join forces to work on a website. It wouldn’t be just another WordPress blog, either – we would be running a site that would be both informative and entertaining, provide funky tech news and app reviews and not have an equivalent in Australia.

Our own online publication that we’d constantly update with relevant digi-news? Sooner than I could say “very cool”, Amber and I came up with an action plan and set about the business. In May, we rented a desk at a Brisbane co-working space called River City Labs and plunged headfirst into the startup world. All of a sudden, startups were everywhere around me – people glued to their computers all across the room, generating and working on ideas on a day-to-day basis.

Not long after I started at Salad, the magazine I gave three-and-a-half years of my life to – Rave – closed down sans prior notice. No matter how shocked and saddened I was, I realised it was the end of one chapter and a start of another, no less-exciting one. Working in a startup environment has both stimulated me into being even more productive and taught me some truths – which I’m keen to share with you.

What I’ve learned from working on Salad Social so far:

  • Brainstorm – and be prepared to brainstorm – ideas all the time. They often happen at inconvenient times, too, so make sure you write them down.
  • Brush up your knowledge of modern technology: apps, gadgets, smartphones, tablets etc. You don’t want to sound like a n00b when talking to tech people or writing stories tech people will read. Likewise games and software.
  • Keep reading major digital news sites – Mashable, Digital Journal, Gizmodo, TechCrunch and the like – on a daily basis. It’s always a good idea to be “in the know” of what’s happening in the digital world.
  • Learn how to use social media to promote your business in a non-obnoxious way. Even if you’re a self-proclaimed Facebook/Twitter expert, make sure you come up with short, snappy, entertaining status updates relevant to your business.
  • Manage your social media effectively  don’t overdo it. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a “shameless plug”, yet nobody wants to come across as being overly aggressive in their promotion strategy.
  • Attend seminars, talk events and pitching sessions happening in your area and use the opportunity to network afterwards. You never know if you meet a potential connection, be it a client, an investor or a mentor.
  • Write, learn and practice your elevator pitch. It’s not as easy as you think, but it will come naturally once you’ve trimmed down the essence of your business to several short, snappy, memorable sentences and are able to recite them convincingly.
  • Also write, learn and practice your company pitch. Naturally, more detail should come into this one. There will come a time when you’ll be plugging your wares in front of an audience at one of the events I’ve mentioned earlier – and it may be sooner than your think, you never know.
  • Be polite and courteous to fellow startups. I think this one goes without saying. Wear a smile whatever the occasion.
  • Your project is your intellectual property – make sure you protect it. When you meet new people, only initially give away as much info as your elevator pitch would contain.
  • Be patient. Determination and persistence pay off in the long run.

With the above points in mind, get out and about and do it!

by Denis Semchenko
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