Starting coding at 6 years old, built multiple successful startups, raised a 6-figure investment in my first idea and now spend my days as a Consulting CTO and Developer.
Unlike most answers on Clarity, where the experts share their grizzled, hard-earned experience, and seek to guide others to success... I'm not sure there are many of us with the experience to guide or advise you in such a personally challenging and difficult cultural environment.
That said, we may not be able to guide, we can seek to inspire!
The answer you seek is right there, in your own question, your own words. The opportunity to change the world that you're looking for is right in front of you.
The words I mean are these... "My friends/acquaintances have been subject to similar experiences as well."
It's clear to me that though you may feel down and defeated, you are already in a great place to effect change - With those friends and acquaintances you mentioned. You're already in communication with those people, you have a shared bond of common experience, and you want to make a difference. From such small seeds of determination, great change can be affected.
There is a quote, which I am heavily paraphrasing and I cannot attribute properly, that I want to share... "Great leaders create a space for others to succeed"
I want you to focus on one idea... "Creating a possibility space for others"
What I mean by this is to imagine, discover and create ways for the people around you to feel better about life, to create spaces and opportunities for them to contribute to each other.
This might mean organizing people so they can walk around together (assuming safety in numbers, and not an increased risk of harassment). Or a way for people to get together to share meals, or resources in some way. You might seek out experienced members of your community, who can help teach others to be safer, more secure and self-reliant. And you can help to teach others to do what you're doing and make the world a better place for each other.
I don't know the individual challenges you and your community face, but I know who can fix them... You.
And if you want to make a difference in the world as a whole, to inspire and illuminate others? Do everything I just suggested, and write about it. Anonymously if needs be.
I for one would love to read a blog about how you're implementing change in such a challenging and hostile political climate. The world has enough productivity startups, mobile agencies and clever apps for first-world problems - We need something real, to remind us there is more to life than the latest Apple product, or viral video.
You can do it. For yourself, for your community, and for the rest of us who might often take our lives for granted.
I've been involved with multiple startup teams, and advised quite a few as well. Some teams work great, others not so much, and dependent on the team members themselves, structure can either be a bane or a boon.
One of my secret weapons for helping startup teams get moving without excessive structure is what I call "active triage" > Start pushing the jobs to do, every one of them across the board, into a single centralized list, accessible to all team members (unless there is something super confidential only certain people can address).
The key to this method is twofold:
1) Everything goes in one place, though you could have one list for each key area
2) Everyone is encouraged to actively take ownership of the tasks, by putting their name next to an item, and when it is done, recording the time took and that it is complete.
It sounds simple, but it is very very effective as it increases visibility, accountability and shows very clearly who is actively participating in the company, and who isn't.
You could implement this in a Kanban board, or Asana, or any of the project tools that are out there - It's not the tools that matter, it's the process.
Although this may not immediately solve your startup structure issue, it will absolutely provide you with insights into what is actually getting done, and who is doing it. Both vitals insights to ensure you get the balance right when you do get your structure together.
I'd be happy to have a quick call with you if there is anything I can help with.
I'm a developer, not an investor, so it's difficult to give you specifics on the metrics you mentioned, but from my very hard-earned experience, you want to be able to demonstrate the following, to get an investor interested:
1) Solid product-market fit, in terms of your value proposition and how it is meeting the needs of your audience.
2) Community exposure. Is your app being well-covered by the main blogs and networks in your niche? What are your conversion rates for new visitors or linked content?
3) Can you accurately measure churn? User return rate? Daily active users? Small but consistent user base is what they want, rather than large but sporadic.
4) What feedback you have had. Positive and negative. Negative is good because of point 5.
5) Show how you act on negative feedback. If an investor can see that you are listening to, and adapting to your audience feedback, they know you really care about the end user, not just fulfilling your grand startup vision.
6) Show your roadmap (including historic). In my experience, investors need to know what their money is going to be spent on, how those decisions are being made, and have been made in the past.
I've been involved with a dozen or so startups myself, and have consulted with many more, so if I can offer you and more advice, or if you would like your deck reviewed, feel free to get in touch.
I work closely with an events agency in the UK, and have helped them manage the digital side of some massive events for clients like Samsung and Oracle.
I'm also an official TEDx organizer, so I know a bit about the non-digital side as well.
I've not come across many social media accounts or blogs that are platform-agnostic - The vast majority out there are product related and are always seeking to push the agenda and worldview of that particular product, business, agency or organization.
Considering that at this stage, I know nothing about the size of your event(s), the potential audience, your admissions/attendee model and ideal target income for your sponsorship budget - My advice to you would be to research events agencies in your local area, or in your audience space, that could help/advise you.
Here is the approach I would use:
1) Start small. In the events space, even small agencies can pack a big punch, and they are usually friendlier and more flexible.
2) Ask them for advice. If you're serious about organizing an event, they should be biting your hand off to advise you on what to do, and what to charge.
3) Offer them whatever you can to get the to buy-in. They might halve or waive their fees entirely if you can offer them an opportunity to speak, present or sponsor themselves.
4) Do a beauty parade. No matter how much you like an agency, always talk to more than one when you are planning and researching. You need to compare like for like.
5) Seek independent guidance. If you're new to the events space, then you run the risk of being taken advantage of. Once you have some options on the table, and you are looking at making a decision, run it past an independent advisor (like me) to get validation of what is being discussed.
I'd be happy to discuss this with you on a call, if that would be of benefit - I have a few more negotiating tactics up my sleeve that may prove useful.
When considering the future of marketing, with an eye to the year 2020, I think you are close to the right idea. Marketing as a business initiative will most likely cease to exist, and product placement and promotion will happen seamlessly in an immersive, highly personalized experience that bridges the real and the digital.
As a serial techie, a massive sci-fi geek and entrepreneur, I can see clearly that the future of any initiative to drive awareness - be it marketing, promotion, direct sales or driving brand recognition - Will be entirely driven by 3 factors:
1) Mass-market adoption of the technology required to access the new experiences - e.g. the internet in the "old days" and mobile in recent years
2) The social acceptance of that technology. Mobiles are ok, but currently Google Glass (potentially more immersive) is not socially accepted
3) The ease at which people can create and publish content within the new medium - If creating immersive 3D experiences requires expensive equipment or skills, it will always struggle to get mass adoption and social acceptance.
Well done on being so much of a forward-thinker - I'd love to offer my opinion in more detail via a call, but it is very much a speculative topic at this stage.
As a developer, especially one with experience in the startup world, I get approached all the time by people with ideas they would like to take over the world with :)
The single most important piece of advice I give all of them, and that I would like to offer you is to find a technical co-founder or mentor.
You can get all the advice you want, and there are some incredibly smart and experienced people out there who can help and guide you, but what you really need is someone invested in your success - Either in the business, or invested in you.
In my experience as a Consulting CTO, and one involved with multiple investment rounds, what you need to attract investors is:
1) A technical co-founder or mentor who can help guide you in how best to spend your investment, and who will spearhead the development of an MVP
2) A clear-cut go-to-market strategy that shows your product-market fit, and how you will get your idea to potential customers.
To be absolutely clear, just submitting an app to the app store and hoping it will be a hit is not a GTM strategy - You need to build a community of interested parties who will come into the app store from outside and drive downloads.
I'd be happy to have a quick call with you if you have any specific questions.
I learned the hard way that this is a very difficult problem to negotiate, and have lost out on investment deals because a co-founder was looking to take money out of the business.
If this is an unavoidable necessity for you, and an obstacle to potential growth, then you might be able to frame it in such a way that it is less of a negative - For example, if you can get some cash out of the deal now to clear a debt, it means the salary you need to draw from the startup can be reduced by 25% over the next 2 years.
The key question comes down to the potential investors - If they have been introduced to you, and the investment is being sought on the back of an existing relationship then this type of negotiation might be OK. However if you're dealing with VCs or angels with multiple competing investment offers, limited time to pitch and no complementary relationship then a need to withdraw cash from an investment round will raise red flags.