Resilience and Authentic Leadership for Entrepreneurs: a Creative Fuse North East pilot

[cross-posted from the dedicated blog – please follow us on Medium]


This post introduces our pilot we’re calling “Resilience and Authentic Leadership for Entrepreneurs”.

In essence, it’s about helping entrepreneurs and innovators learn how to get back up, before they get knocked down (emotionally).

IMHO entrepreneurship is a risky and vulnerable endeavour. We’ve been awarded £5k to run a pilot to investigate how best to bring together a resource to assist innovators and entrepreneurs in bringing their best selves to work.

It’s not a coaching exercise, more of about signposting and self-help. We’re seeking to partner with others and complement what’s already out there, and perhaps assisting in weaving everything together.

We’ll set out more in future posts. This post is to provide a starting point, so please bear with us. If you’d like to get involved and / our be kept up to date, please sign up to our newsletter. Thank you — and onwards!

Who’s “We”

That’s be me, Justin Souter. It’s also Valerie Monti Holland, and Claire Robinson. As described in our proposal below, we have academic partners at the Universities of Sunderland and Teesside.

Creative Fuse North East — what is it?

The project description is thus:

Creative Fuse North East is an action-research project coordinated by all five universities in the region: Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham, Sunderland and Teesside. We work alongside SMEs, freelancers, artists, cultural organisations and large businesses to develop innovative ways of working within the region’s Creative, Digital and IT (CDIT) Sector.

We focus on ‘fusion’ — the combination of creative art and design skills with technology expertise to stimulate economic growth. We combine research and practical innovation support through our activity programme, running until October 2018.

Creative Fuse is funded by the AHRC, Arts Council England, and the European Regional Development Fund. Website:

Our Proposal

Brexit, Austerity, and an uncertain economic outlook put pressure on entrepreneurs regionally and nationally. This directly has an impact on entrepreneurs, business, and the community. This project aims to create a scalable mechanism to alleviate stress and achieve greater productivity for entrepreneurs and innovators.

Anchored at Sunderland and Teesside Universities, the project will draw on their knowledge management infrastructure and local industry advocates to create a framework of support, comprised of educational guidance, an accredited learning model, and a programme of interventions.

The programme will include mentoring and coaching; an online community; a web presence showing pathways to emotional resilience and wellbeing; an entrepreneurial clinic to act as a learning and reflective hub; and a Regional marketing campaign to promote the interventions and ways to engage.

There is limited data about the emotional challenges of being an entrepreneur: they are fragmented and vague. 72% of entrepreneurs report being affected by mental health conditions (versus 48% of rest of the population). Evidence of market demand include a Mental health group at Entrepreneurial Spark in Newcastle: one member stated “As self employed entrepreneurs we all go through moments where we wobble on the edge”; a recent Sunderland Digital meetup about mental health had 70+ signups and 44 attendees; and a Geek Mental Help Week event in Newcastle had thirty attendees.

Other initiatives promote mental fitness in established organisations. We provide a refined framework for the looser community of vulnerable early-stage entrepreneurs. Our proposed six-month action-learning set, organised as sprints, will ‘superfuse’ learnings from dance, theatre, music, and the visual arts with insights from the digital and IT sectors. We will use ‘sociodrama’ techniques to run workshops to engage and transform participants.

Project milestones will include initiation; academic accreditation; a literature review and ‘resilience map’; also validation from our Regional startup ecosystem. We will fuse regional research on positive — and entrepreneurship — psychology into actionable change. Our goal is a Centre of Excellence which could gain National and International recognition.

Combining academic underpinnings and commercial awareness, additional outcomes will be a national conference presentation and an academic refereed journal paper to position North East England as leader in promoting emotional resilience and wellbeing issues for entrepreneurs.

Initial collaboration started in 2016, linking entrepreneurs in our Region with advocates in Yorkshire, Warwickshire, Europe, and North America. We will exploit this network to gain wider recognition of our research, and achieve tangible change. By connecting with business networks such as the Chamber of Commerce, we will partner to maximise our reach and impact.

A recent article in Science reported that teaching personal initiative beats traditional training in business skills. We build on this by investigating whether wellbeing can be thought of along three axes: internal to self; between people; and as team dynamics. Our purpose is to show that people can grow towards the fullest potential by developing across these three dimensions.

Get involved!

Please sign up via our mailing list, and we’ll keep you posted — thank you.

Join us 17/11 for Lean Startup Week 2017 (non) Livestream

Drop in at Campus North on 17th November from 1pm – 6pm


As you know, The Lean Startup framework is an established method for max’ing startup success, and – now – for sorting breakthrough innovation in established organisations / corporates.

The Blurb

Lean Startup Week brings the big ideas from Eric Ries’ books off the page to show how organizations are making them real around the world. At Campus North, we’re fortunate to get the livestream from the two main days, but on UK time!

Join us for a hand-picked afternoon of talks direct from San Francisco. Bring your laptop, keep working, and lend an ear for the latest insights from industry practitioners, advocates from the public and third sectors – along with thought leaders, and the leader of our movement, Eric Ries.

Compered by Justin Souter, drop in to Campus North and hang out with other Lean Startup / Lean Innovation enthusiasts and help Justin get over the fact he’s not volunteering back at SF this year! Whether you’re a player, a newbie, or simply intrigued, you’ll be welcome to the beanbags and good company.

Run your own experiment and find out how the Lean Startup approach, Business Model Canvas, Customer Development, and related disciplines can raise your productivity, bring new product and services to market, and build a sustainable business with less risk.

The Sign-Up

Please give us an indication of interest (our own experiment) by signing up using Eventbrite. Thank you!

Tweet us at @campusnorthuk or @souterconsults with any questions.

Looking forward to meeting on the day – stay as long as you like!

December 2016 event feedback


At our December 2016 reboot event, participants were good enough to give their feedback.

I have transcribed the Post-It notes from the three canvases which were on the Campus North classroom walls.

The text in italics in my / our responses; some things seemed relevant (aka our domain), other stuff not so much… – Justin


Reboot - December 2016//

Value Prop Canvas

Stuff in our domain

  1. Send to the Attendants (attendees) a list of the other’s contact details
    1. Ok, would everyone be happy about this
  2. Expand the event into a Lean Startup weekend. The Speakers are good and the content, very interesting
    1. It’s happened half-a-dozen times in our Region, usually organised by Universities – e.g. Northumbria, Teesside (that I know of re Lean Startup); others seems to have different formats
  3. Create online feedback forms, to learn more from the audience & formulate the right questions
    1. Work in progress
  4. Create Lean Startup workshops
    1. I’ve been delivering these for more than 3 years now
    2. Cf Generator’s Digital Futures have funded – sign up now for February 2017 
  5. Very interesting event, well worth the time.
    1. Feedback: the Eventbrite page did not reflect the content too well.
    2. I came along because I know Justin and his is good, perhaps details the speakers and content with detail?
    3. Ok, will take on board – we wanted to keep things simple

Stuff outside our domain

  1. Selecting / managing Agile contractors

Product Roadmap

  1. Help build up contacts
    1. We have a mailing list – please sign up, and connect us with interested parties
  2. Make case by case basis support
    1. Unfortunately, I don’t really know how to respond to this
  3. Good work – keep it going!
    1. Thank you!

BMC (left to right, top to bottom – cf photo)

Stuff in our domain

  1. Real case studies with guest speaker
    1. Startup
    2. Scale up
    3. Corporate
    4. Charity
    5. Govt.
    6. [Yes, working on it – suggestions v welcome]
  2. Video (short) each session from Steve Blank or Eric Ries
    1. How about a Saturday morning which features the key talks from Lean Startup Week 2016 – with a couple of discussions?
  3. Create a Lean Forum of Peers in North East – share and collaborate
    1. Great, very good idea
    2. What would be the objective?
    3. Need to tackle challenges, or else won’t get traction
    4. Perhaps coordinate with Design Thinkers locally?
    5. LNE can ‘hold the space’; someone would need to organise – volunteers anyone?
  4. North East? North England? UK? How far can you go?
    1. Other orgs
      1. Lean Startup Yorkshire
      2. Lean Startup Summit London
      3. Leanconf – has been in Manchester, expected to be in The Netherlands
      4. I’ve volunteered twice at the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco…
      5. Lean Startup Circle
  5. Reach out to key NE Businesses
    1. In progress – but needs to match their business challenges / pressing needs
    2. I.e. needs to be ‘pull’ from them, as well as ‘push’ from us…
  6. Idea for next quarterly sessions
    1. Someone who has used Lean Startup model through search to execute (“proper case study”)
  7. Great blend of Lean Startup and examples
    1. Thank you!
  8. Next Lean Startup workshops – ‘mashups’
    1. Mmm, not sure sure what this means
  9. How do VCs react to this approach?
    1. Some get it, other don’t
    2. “Justin, we work those who get it, those who don’t – we leave them where they are” – as told to Justin at Lean Startup conf in 2015
    3. Bill Morrow –
  10. How can this group link into other geographies
    1. Northern Powerhouse
    2. London
    3. See above re other orgs
    4. Also – Lean Startup Circle
  11. How do you engage with Corporates?
    1. Public sector
    2. Charity
    3. See #3 above – need to solve challenges, key is to use business language
      1. Product & Service development
      2. Breakthrough innovation
      3. ‘Disrupt yourselves’
  12. Stories – where it didn’t go well and why
    1. Agree, this would be in case study talks
  13. Success stories
    1. As per other case study talks
    2. Alternatively, there are plenty of videos, podcasts, articles etc. out there
      1. Lean Startup Conf videos
      2. Moves the Needle podcast
      3. Leanconf videos
  14. What tools help formally to identify the value proposition?
    1. Value Prop Canvas – cf Stratgyzer
  15. When do you call it a day?
    1. Have regular Pivot or Persevere meetings
    2. Your early adopters (or lack thereof) will guide you
    3. When you run out of cash…
  16. WRT (with regards to costs)
    1. How do you avoid costly mistakes in defining the revenue streams?
    2. Go out and talk with your early adopters as much as possible
    3. Go out and test, and pivot your revenue streams as feedback direct
  17. What is the role of continuous integration / feature backlog in shipping versions?
    1. Mmm, don’t know – ask the people at DevOps NE, Agile NE
  18. Best way to get website feedback?
    1. Ask people
    2. What Users Do service
    3. Put chat on your site
    4. Put pop up on your site asking for feedback
    5. Crazy Egg – heatmaps
    6. A/B test
  19. Google forms and prize draw [<unreadable word>]
    1. Umm, don’t know how to respond / what this means
  20. Analytics (do’s)
    1. Cf MeasureCamp
  21. Is “the web” sufficient to consider as the sole channel?
    1. No
    2. ‘Discuss’…
  22. Take wider remit to business innovation
    1. Agreed, although need traction via solving business problems
    2. Anyone willing to have a word with the LEPs, business support organisations?
  23. How do you reach out to your important customers???
    1. Pick up the phone
    2. LinkedIn
    3. Ask them when you next meet them
    4. If they’re not interested, find people who are
  24. Question
    1. Which features *In* the MVP
    2. Which features *Out*
    3. How do you know?
    4. Ask your early adopters
    5. Ask them for a PO to develop features

Stuff outside our domain

1. Liked JR’s cards and have been keen to buy a set for > 2 years

  1. Would like to learn about Lean Manufacturing
    1. Go on courses
    2. Work for Nissan
    3. Read books – e.g. The Gold Mine, The Machine That Changed the World

Join us at our event on 6th Dec at Campus North

… and we’re Back!

Join us for an exciting evening with the (re)launch of Lean North East, on 6th December at 5.30 pm (for 6) at Campus North.

Lean Startup for Business Innovation

The focus of the evening is ‘Why are we Using Lean Startup for Business Innovation’?

The evening consists of early drinks and networking, a number of speakers doing short talks, and then an interactive session to get you engaged and talking to each other.

The aim of the evening is to spearhead business innovation activities in the North East, with a focus on early stage startups and corporate sector growth.  Keep Calm and RebootDeveloped and created for our local community in the North East to inspire new ideas and practically discuss tools and models to use within a dynamic, fast growing environment, involving a blistering pace of change. Learn, grow and develop new insights into the latest business innovation techniques. This will be part of a series of events across the year, so join us to be part of it. Go ahead and sign up now, and please feel free to share as widely as you like using the buttons below.

Speakers to look forward to

Where we’ve got to…

Dr. Janette Young of NUBS will recap the Lean Startup message, explore the emerging ‘Lean Innovation’ theme, and introduce a student report from Stanford University.

Applying Lean Startup principles in a global engineering business

Tom Willshare leads R&D for the local division of an industrial services company. He will tell us how Lean Startup methods are being used to measure the performance of their latest equipment, the role of innovation as competitive advantage, and the potential move to closer customer relationships by pivoting to more of a service model.

Kick Cards – James Rutherford

Startup Kick CardsThe Startup Kick Card Deck is a tool for startups and agile teams. They help you innovate. They help you identify business strengths and weaknesses. They can be used for team idea sessions, to sharpen your thinking as an individual or as a facilitation and mentoring tool. James will be giving a brief demonstration, and asking for feedback.

The State of Lean Startup 2016

Catch up with Eric Ries’ Opening Remarks at Lean Startup Week, SF Nov 2, 2016 – which are his thoughts about where next [up to 9mins]

Future plans

A key goal is – as ever – to spread the benefits of the Lean Startup framework to a wider audience.

Hopefully to keep tabs of the various strands of the movement, which – whilst getting richer in depth – need a bit of thought about how to implement and make the most of…

There are more folk applying the insights here, so perhaps running an event once a quarter would be something to aim for, e.g. featuring local speakers re Lean Innovation and thereby connecting business folk interested in this domain. Maybe also looking more closely at developments relating to the business model canvas etc.

How you can get involved

We’re grateful for any support and / or assistance!

It would be great if could please fill out this form or tweet us if you’d like to be involved, and recommend LNE to your Friends.

You could also send an e-mail to us, and we’ll get back to you as soon as I / we can.

Sponsor us | Max our reach

Please get in touch via the contact form or Twitter if you’d like to promote yourselves by supporting our voluntary group.

Thank you!

Lean North East [gradual] re-boot – please stay tuned!


Keep Calm and rebootFounded and led rather brilliantly by Emma Robinson, Lean North East had a burst of activity a while back. Perhaps no Lean Startup Machine touch-down, but startup weekends featuring our friends from Evolv / Startup Foundation (and many others) have become normal in our Region.

Things went quiet for a while (ok, a couple of years): us Organisers all have been doing day jobs – in my case, bootstrapping Dynamo North East, a social enterprise.

Much has happened

Lean Startup is still very much current – many books have been published; several conferences attended (San Francisco, Manchester, Canary Wharf, Edinburgh); there is greater use of Lean Startup in established organisations.

Lean Innovation

‘Lean Innovation’ is one term used to describing applying Lean Startup in corporate environments. Eric has written a book outlining his experiences, raising $588k on Kickstarter in the process[!]. Although I’ve got a copy I think there will be only one print run.

This seems to be a growth area for the ‘Lean Startup movement’: aka a straightforward innovation process. I’m planning a series of posts on this topic over the Summer #fingerscrossed

Steve Blank coming to the Netherlands?

I think Steve is a legend. My friend and associate, Otto Freijser is working to attract him to Europe for a masterclass:

Prepare for a Full-day Keynote with Steve Blank & many others! Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and professor is recognized for developing the Customer Development methodology, the foundation for the Lean Startup movement. We want to connect all who are interested in executing the Lean Start-up methodology. We welcome everyone from corporate to start-up to join this event. So join us and let’s get Steve here! Learn from this expert, but also connect and learn from each other. Take the Lean movement to a next level!

At the time of writing, there are 38 ‘golden’ tickets left for 18th November – you can join me in Amsterdam here!

Founders Network

Interestingly, this popped into my mailbox this morning from Tech North.

The schedule includes events in Newcastle, Sunderland, and Teesside / Middlesbrough. I’ve signed up for more info!

I also attended the recent Tech North roadshow event in Gateshead this week, and I like the solid plans that the Tech North team – led by Richard Gregory – have lined up.

My ‘School of Tech’ workshop – learn about Lean Startup

You may be interested in my two day introduction workshop to Lean Startup: it’s an open-to-book-on course at Campus North – click on this link to get to the booking page. Enter ‘summerschool’ at the checkout for 10% discount!

About School of Tech

School of Tech is a subsidiary of Sharpe Recruitment. As recruitment professionals specialising in the creative and digital industries in the North East of England we noticed a demand for a long list of tech and creative skills where the only option for working professionals to get them on their CVs was to go online.

School of Tech wants to take you back to school and fill your noggin with the most up-to-date and in-demand programming languages and creative practices. Everything from Python and Ruby on Rails to Javascript and UX.

We want to put you or your staff in front of an expert, in a classroom just like the old days. We’ve hired some of the best tech and creative gurus in the country to come and spill their beans all over Campus North in Newcastle Upon Tyne. So, grab your satchel, your pencil case and don’t be late.

Future plans

A key goal is – as ever – to spread the benefits of the Lean Startup framework to a wider audience.

Hopefully to keep tabs of the various strands of the movement, which – whilst getting richer in depth – need a bit of thought about how to implement and make the most of…

There are more folk applying the insights here, so perhaps running an event once a quarter would be something to aim for, e.g. featuring local speakers re Lean Innovation and thereby connecting business folk interested in this domain. Maybe also looking more closely at developments relating to the business model canvas etc.

How you can get involved

Our steering committee is planning to meet in August to plot our next steps. We’re grateful for any support and / or assistance!

It would be great if could please fill out this form or tweet us if you’d like to be involved, and stay tuned / recommend LNE to your Friends.

You could also send an e-mail to us, and we’ll get back to you as soon as I / we can. Thank you!

Our next Event – The Legend of the MVP

The MVP (Minimum Viable Product) has taken on almost mythical status in recent times but just what is an MVP, when should you use an MVP and what are the benefits?

Join us at our next event on Monday 10th March when we’ll be discussing MVPs in more detail, hearing from both local and international entrepreneurs on the what, when, where and how of their MVP experiences.

Thanks to our generous friends at NCFE we’re holding the event at NCFE’s snazzy new offices at Quorum Business Park and there will be tasty pizzas and lots of opportunity to meet and chat.


Tristan Kromer

Tristan KromerTristan Kromer pokes, prods, and questions startups. He’s spent 10 years in the music industry, worked 5 years in IT security, lived in 5 different countries, studied philosophy and business (separately), and generally made a nuisance of himself for the past 5 years in Silicon Valley as a lean startup advocate.

Tristan runs and helps implement lean startup principles at innovation centers and companies with anywhere from $0 to $5 billion in revenue. He blogs at @TriKro

Glenn Morrill, Director at MyMoneyPA

Glenn MorrillSimplifying personal financial management isn’t easy but that’s just what MyMoneyPA is aiming to do and they’ve been on quite a journey so far.

After pivoting they created the MyMoneyPA mobile app that helps you keep track of where your money goes.

Glenn will talk about how the company, working with RyanFosterDesign, prototyped, coded, tested and improved an MVP of the mobile app over an intense 2 week iteration. @mymoneypa

Tony Short, Founder at StudioAlt

Tony ShortStudioAlt was founded in late 2013, with the objective of being the UK site of choice for Digital, Tech and Startups to purchase physical toolkits that will both empower and aid collaboration.

Tony will talk about starting a new venture in your spare time and how the use of an MVP, testing and setting success criteria can help you manage the risks involved in getting a new venture off the ground. @thetonyshort

Ryan Hoover

Ryan HooverBased in San Francisco, Ryan is the Co-Creator of Product Hunt, Creator of Startup Edition, an EIR at Tradecraft, and former Director of Product at PlayHaven.

Ryan has written over 150 essays on startups, entrepreneurship and lean methodology, many of which have been featured in TechCrunch, Forbes, PandoDaily, Fast Company, The Next Web.

In November 2013 Ryan wrote an article for Fast Company called ‘The Wisdom of the 20 Minute Startup’ ( describing the initial MVP he created in just 20 minutes for Product Hunt.

Ryan will join us to discuss the thinking and process behind the 20 Minute MVP, the results and what happened next with Product Hunt. @rrhoover

Book your tickets now

If the widget above doesn’t work for you, please head over to Eventbrite and grab yourself a ticket asap.

Join our Tweet Chat on MVP vs MDP

An integral part of the Lean Startup methodology is developing an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). But is viable enough? Should we be aiming for desirability over viability? Join us next Tuesday (18th) 8-9pm for the first of a new series of Tweet Chats hosted by Lean North East where we’ll be discussing MVP vs MDP.

What is a TweetChat?

A tweetchat is a pre-arranged discussion on twitter using an agreed hashtag (in this case #leanchatne)

How do I join in?

You can simply follow the #leanchatne hashtag on Tuesday 18th at 8pm using your twitter client of choice, but don’t forget to add the #leanchatne hashtag to any discussions you take part in.

The easiest way to participate is to use a tweetchat app such as where you can login using your twitter account and set the hashtag you wish to join. Tweetchat will filter all hashtagged tweets and automatically add the hashtag to any tweets you post using the app. Simples!

How often will tweetchats take place?

We’re starting by running a tweetchat once a month, every third tuesday of the month.

Feel free to tweet us if you have any other questions or suggestions for topics for future chats.