The Value of Roundtables for Startups


The Scottish tech sector is an exciting place to be, with Glasgow now hot on Edinburgh’s heels as being one of the best cities for nurturing tech start-ups. 

As part of this scene, Bird.i is taking a proactive approach to fostering Glasgow’s tech network by hosting a series of ‘roundtable’ discussions aimed at helping start-ups learn from the experiences of more established companies in the community.

We wanted to take the opportunity to explain a little bit about why we started holding these discussions and why we feel they’re so effective, particularly as part of start-up culture.


The roundtable format

The Bird.i roundtables follow a simple format where participants contribute their thoughts and share their experiences on a particular topic. We discuss everything from implementation and workflows, to tactics and challenges. It gives everyone a chance to be open and learn from each other’s experiences which can be so useful, even if we work across different industries or have different levels of expertise. The atmosphere is always inclusive and relaxed (helped by a healthy supply of pizza and beers of course!)

A roundtable is an ideal forum for newer companies to have productive discussions given the three key characteristics of start-ups:

1. The need to move fast
In the early stages of a start-up, there are so many different areas that need to be bootstrapped across the business: product, engineering, culture, recruitment, sales, marketing – this list goes on. One key element to any successful start-up is the ability to be agile, flexible and move fast. With all these different areas competing for (very limited and finite) attention, how do we make the right decisions and how do we make them quickly? Regular stand-ups (we hold ours daily) help to keep everyone in the loop and on-track.

2. Reinventing the wheel is not an option
For software engineering, this notion is already pretty well established: Don’t reinvent the wheel. There is a plethora of open source libraries, frameworks and tools and there is also a dazzling array of products out there that will solve the common product problems. Sure, off the shelf solutions will cost you a bit more in terms of money but the savings in development time will provide immediate value.

3. Decisions need to be well-informed and rounded
For strategy, planning, processes and workflows this isn’t so straightforward. Each business is unique in its own way. Employees will have differing strengths and weaknesses. Focus and engineering will mainly be dictated by the maturity of the product, the current state of the market you’re trying to sell to, and the wants and needs of the customers. There’s no one solution you can pick up off the shelf and take back to the office.

So, how can start-ups make informed decisions about long-term strategic decisions without wasting valuable time getting it wrong? This is where the roundtable shows its true value.

Roundtable benefits for start-ups

The Bird.i roundtable series attempts to solve a lot of the issues faced by start-ups in the early stages. We’ve found there are four distinct benefits:

 • By having more established companies and engineering teams participating together in one space and leveraging each other’s knowledge, you avoid wasting time on methods that have been tried, tested and failed.

• Focusing on a single topic means you find out exactly what you need to do to keep moving fast.

• By including a variety of businesses with a broad range of products and services, you can capitalise on a variety of perspectives with reasoned approaches and – commonly – the data to back it up.

• Finally, (and arguably the most important benefit to come out of such gatherings) you begin foster a much more communicative and cooperative tech community that will collectively move towards a “sharing economy”.

Roundtables’ place in start-up communication

As we know, communication is intrinsic to progress and development in any situation. Effective communication, however is necessary in business – especially startups. By nature, it’s a transient entity and should be continually nurtured, developed and improved upon. Holding roundtables complements our communication processes alongside daily team stand-ups, one-to-ones, weekly company stand-ups and peer reviews to name a few. Our team culture and task management has strengthened as a result of improving our communication processes.

The Bird.i Round Table is attempting to emphasise the importance of great, transparent communication, not only for us, but for our local tech community in Glasgow and Scotland. We see huge benefits to be gained by going back to basics – real people in a room sharing experiences and ideas face to face. No tools. No gadgets. If the question you need answers to can’t be distilled down to a concise search engine query, sometimes there’s no better substitute than reaching out to someone personally and asking for their thoughts.

Join us!
Our most recent roundtable discussion was around the topic of Cyber Security for startups – the key outcomes of which you can read here!

If you’re a start-up and interested in finding out more about our roundtable discussions or would like to join our next one, contact us here.


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