How did a once-anonymous Londoner become a successful speaker and content entrepreneur who helps other startups succeed?
By Noy Shani
One day in 2012 Vincent Dignan woke up after having a dream. The then-average man, far afield from any spotlight, had a vision to start an online magazine where the writers are the stars, instead of musicians.
Vincent, 29, has always had passion for music. He previously reviewed and interviewed bands for a living as a journalist for the Daily Star.
Desperately wanting a name that ‘Little Wayne’ could wear proudly on a t-shirt, he called his website, Planet Ivy.
“It’s about getting young peoples’ voices out and providing content about what’s happening in the world. A bit like Vice in a way. We had a lot of off-beat news.”
It was through this playground that Vincent brought all his journalism, PR, sales and obsession for startups, to full acclaim.
“I rang every university in the country and said I am forming the coolest online magazine in the UK, do you want to come and write content for me? I cannot pay you but we will give you editorial feedback and a platform that is bigger than your own blog.”
— Sabrina McEwen (@sabrinamcewen) September 23, 2015
The birth of a startup
Very quickly afterwards, Vincent and his co-founder had a writer base of a few dozen people including Barney Guiton, who took on becoming the editor. Suddenly the lot found themselves having a constantly growing circle of writers. “We got a place in free space in Google Campus and at one point we had 15 people around the table and within one year we had over a million visitors a month.” Riding on their wave of momentum, the team raised £150,000 in venture capital and launched a second website, calling to the name Screen Robot, a film and gaming content website, which became an instant success.
“We had over 1 million visitors a month after just 100 days,“ recalls Vincent. Their startup was on a role. They got chosen out of 1500 teams into the prestigious business accelerator TechStars. “We then realised it makes more sense to write content and social media for other people and do growth hacking to start getting us revenue.”
Momentum called growth hacking
This in July 2014 gave birth to Magnific, an agency that is aimed at finding customers and providing quality shareable content for startups. Vincent started giving paid talks about growth hacking where he realised not all talks are created the same. “I realised most people don’t give good talks, they talk too much about themselves or about paid marketing that most companies can’t afford. “Startups don’t have the money, but want to grow fast. This is how you write engaging content, do email marketing, Instagram or Twitter. People loved these talks.” And ‘loved’ could well be an understatement. A talk Vincent gave in Last Vegas in a similar conference has been voted the best talk of the event. All over, people have been raving and truly excited by the opportunity to learn more about growth hacking.
Or simply taken by Vincent’s wardrobe choices?!
— Lizz CC (@LizzChoi) October 6, 2015
The trend has been so successful, that Vincent organised ‘Secret Sauce’, a growth hacking conference in London last month, lining up experts from the startup world, propelling thousands of tweets and after parties after after parties.
“Everyone who attended got really actionable practical advice, it’s about doing everything you can to get more users and traffic,” he emphasises.
“My background is real unremarkable”
Everything about Vincent, from the website he runs, the content he writes, to the tone in his voice, communicates someone who knows what he’s talking about and with a catching personality.
“I lived a kind of a normal life. I went to university, I worked dead end office jobs. My background is real unremarkable, I was on welfare and benefits up to two and a half years pretty much to the day I got a cheque for my company,” admits Vincent.
Remaining modest, he insists that people do not look up to him or think he is special in some way.
“Anyone can do growth hacking, and this is the vibe I am trying to put across. What it takes is the mindset of winning at all costs and taking risks.”
Always fearing stagnation, Vincent still keeps making sure he constantly invests in himself and learning new things, as well as tuning his talks.
It led to him turning down what others may describe as golden opportunities, all in the name of developing his skills.
“This year I learned the power of saying no to money. I turned down contracts worth thousands to keep learning,” he says.
In a world that moves so fast, where everything on the internet looks like the Wild West and nothing is set, it is sure to be interesting to see where Vincent is heading in the coming future.