The new BBC program ‘Girls Can Code’ features five young women addicted to their smartphones but with no desire to have a career in the tech world. They embark on a 2-week journey to figure out whether they can become tech enthusiasts. The show is part of the BBC’s ‘Make it Digital’ initiative to inspire people to get involved in the digital world.

Here are the seven key lessons that anyone can apply to get from zero to hero:

#1. Get The Digital Secret

Is there any secret to succeed in a Tech venture?

Cait O’Riordan, VP of product and music at Shazam, the app that identifies the music playing around you, reveals the secret: Understand people and the data that explain their behaviour.

At Shazam they are obsessed to create products people will love. They study how people interact and use their app. They want to understand why people love a particular song so they track everything.

They know exactly who is using their app — 120 million users/month, when — within the 10 seconds of a song starting and what that means. With all this number crunching the company can predict what song will chart 30 days ahead.

You have to get dirty with the data and track everything to target the right people at the right time.

#2. Do Not Confuse Sales With Marketing

After the data crunching session at Shazam, the participants are sent to Fulham Broadway to promote a music act. The target is to exceed the average £30/h the band would normally earn.

But right in the heat of the moment  they make a classic mistake and jump straight into action without any strategy or planning and start collecting money from people on the street.

With a lot of hype, smile and energy spent they manage to achieve their goal. Their only focus was to reach the monetary goal but they missed the point.  The assignment was to market the band not to sell! What is the difference?

They needed to find ways to raise a greater awareness of the act  whilst making them more profitable. The band was the product to market but instead they focussed on raising money.

As a result of this operation the band got a bit more money but no promotion. They didn’t raise the level of interest and demand for them.

What could they have done (I admit, it’s always easier to think things through in hindsight)?

  • From the interview with the members of the band find out about their individual stories, how they met and identify any unusual story that will connect with their customers
  • Use the web to promote the band on YouTube, Facebook by filming them and posting it as a competition to raise more money
  •  Find a YouTube celebrity to partner with to promote the band to their fans
  • Create the buzz offline around the band and ask people to take a selfie with them and post on twitter with a specific hashtag.

It was a lost opportunity to set up a quick and effective marketing campaign for the band to leverage in the future.

Do have other ideas that could have been used to promote the band in a day? Share your thoughts below.

#3. Don’t focus too much on a target that you forget to document the process

The non-promotional strategy means that there was no market research and no customer understanding in this task. They didn’t have any factual data to track which demographic (age, gender, etc) gave more money and use the findings for the next promotion or to refine the product.

Measure your success as you go. Find out what works, what doesn’t and improve the process. Data driven marketing does matter.

#4. Do not reinvent the wheel

Eileen Burbidge, founder of Passion Capital  and newly appointed chair of TechCity, strives to provide constructive and honest feedback to the girls. Her suggestion to Tolani, the fashion lover, is to find a partner in the wearable technology for her tech idea rather than going solo.

#5. Do your homework- it’s a though world out there

Belinda Parmar, founder of ladygeek‘s wise counsel is to clearly define which problem you are solving, find who/what is the enemy. Do not come up with a generic high-level vision that does not translate into real achievable goals.

#6. Substance does matter; it’s not only about the hype

Really be clear about the problem you solve and have the data to back it up. Debbie Wosskow, CEO of Love Home Swap wasn’t impressed when Tolani pitched to her without knowing how she will be making money.

You got to know your numbers. Have a solid business model and spend more time in your spreadsheet (or get someone to do it for you).

#7. Enjoy the Journey and get support

There is a difference between having some idea and taking the real journey. The discovery on the ground is always worth the trouble. Regardless all the hurdles and obstacles you might find something you like.

The contestants have learnt a great deal about themselves in the process and have become more confident in their abilities and talent, which open their minds to new possibilities. They were in a fortunate position to be mentored, advised and coached by an all-star cast of successful female Tech entrepreneurs who have opened their horizons, with’s Alex Depledge in the role of chief motivation officer. Such support is invaluable to avoid costly mistakes and increase the chance of success.

All five contestants have presented a project worth pursuing from EdTech, Wearable Tech, HealthTech to IoT (Internet of Things). And even if not all of them end up starting a tech company the learning and discovery have enriched their lives.

You need to be curious and willing to take risks. Be ok to jump into the unknown.

Final word

Inspiring the next generation of female and male with entrepreneurs role models as well as getting them into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to create and design useful and beautiful products that people will love is key.  This is what organisations such as Founders 4 Schools, a charity led by Sherry Coutu, Tech investor, are doing.

People need to see the limitless possibilities that a career in the digital world can offer. If you want to get your feet wet, the Stanford University 8-week Technology Entrepreneurship course, has just started. It’s free and open both to boys and girls!

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