Archive for July, 2013

July 28, 2013

How do you achieve your goals?

English: Albert Einstein, official 1921 Nobel ...

English: Albert Einstein, official 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics photograph.

I have been blogging since 2004, not as active as I have been since 2011. I believe blogging or writing is an extremely positive and leverage activity. I used to take notes in school and I have always wondered why do we take notes, because what is being taught in the class is in the books and other reference material. Doing some digging I found out that writing is a neuromuscular activity that enhances your focus. Even more positive aspect of blogging and writing about goals and ideas, helps you focus on those goals and ideas subconsciously.  I actually have done this exercise and it has paved really positive results for me. I would encourage anyone to start a blog, you don’t have to make it public but have one and document your journey. There are some psychological studies where the difference between keeping a diary vs. journals have been studies and the conclusion is that diary keeping is not such a positive activity. I don’t want to go into the psychology of this, but just putting down what you are thinking and trying to clarify your thought and getting your network to validate what you are writing about is an upward spiral of personal development in communication and leadership. Startup Iceland Blog was started by me because I wanted to learn about Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Building an Antifragile and Sustainable Startup Ecosystem in Iceland. I have written about this before as well, if you want to learn something teach it and then your whole perspective changes and learning becomes a lot more fun and memorable.

My colleagues at GreenQloud were going through a lot of their old business plans and write ups while we were preparing to move the office and we came across a writeup that they had done about their vision. They were surprised how many of the things that they had written about they had accomplished. I was not surprised. I am not a big fan of writing business plans but the process of planning and taking notes on your thinking is a very important exercise. With the Lean Startup and Business Model Canvas methods, you can focus on the most important things while you startup but what is more important is to write about your vision, where do you want to go with whatever you are planning to do. How are you going to execute on that vision? what resources do you need and how do you envision the path. These are important things to imagine. It was Einstein who said that “Imagination is more important than Knowledge”, I think I know why he said that, our knowledge of things are limited where as we can imagine a whole lot of things. Entrepreneurship is about bringing all of that together, your imagination, your discipline to execute and your perseverance to follow through and not quit seasoned with a dash of luck. For those who have walked this path it becomes a lot clearer, it is not the path is any easier but the habit of doing it makes it so.

If you don’t have a blog, start one. Every company has to have a blog and allow everyone in your team to write about what they do in the blog.  It could be as simple as writing about How to use your service or product. It will lead to great benefits.

July 25, 2013

Circle of influence and circle of concern

Deutsch: Viktor Frankl

I was reading a blog post by Seth Levin of Foundry Group on “Handling Rejection“, where Seth blogs about an interaction he had with a 54-year old startup founder, who reached out to Seth and the Foundry Group to see if they were interested in his idea. Seth replied that they have a clear strategy of investing in broad themes and the said founder’s business did not fall in that category, so they were not interested. Instead of thanking Seth for his response and continuing to build the relationship with him, this founder just ranted about how hard it was for a 54-year old Entrepreneur who is on the outside looking in and trying to break into the inside of the VC world, how he did not have a pedigree or from the right family and on and on and took his anger out on his response to Seth’s email. The Founder was blaming everything that was hard about being an Entrepreneur or a startup founder.

It got me thinking, I had written about “The Excuse Department is Closed” and also the material in the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr.Steven Covey where he talks about the Circle of Influence and the Circle of Concern. What do I mean by the Circle of Influence and the Circle of Concern? Well, it is quite simple actually, the Circle of Influence is the space that contains everything that you can do something about i.e you can take an action and the Circle of Concern is the space that contains all the external things that you cannot do anything about like the state of the economy or a financial collapse, response of people to your efforts etc. As an entrepreneur and/or a startup founder it is very easy to get sucked into thinking about everything that is beyond the scope of what you control thereby you can wallow in self pity how the whole world is out to get you. This is the wrong way to look at things. I see the above founder’s behaviour in may entrepreneurs and people I meet, they continually focus on all the things that are outside their Circle of Influence. If you want to win the battle of Entrepreneurship, you need to be laser focused on your Circle of Influence, for most people it is their own actions. If you have not worked on building that internal strength, Entrepreneurship is a very hard road.

I love the work of Dr.Viktor Frankl on Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, which was one of the big influencers of Dr.Steven Covey in his writings. Frankl’s approach is based on three philosophical and psychological concepts:

Remember between every stimulus that you receive and your response to it, there is a space, in that space lies your personal growth and your free will and your will to act, to meaning and your meaning of life. If you are an entrepreneur, you have to choose to carry your own weather, you have to handle rejection well because deep within you lies the internal security. The internal security of free will, the purpose of why you are doing what you are doing. If you have not worked on yourself to build that internal security, I strongly encourage you to build that first because without that internal strength it is very hard to fight the battle of entrepreneurship.

July 23, 2013

Leadership and being CEO

PandoMonthly - June 2012 - Sarah Lacy intervie...

PandoMonthly – June 2012 – Sarah Lacy interviews Ben Horowitz (Photo credit: thekenyeung)

Instead of writing about what it means to be a Leader, I am just going to link to a bunch of posts that I read about the challenges of being a CEO. The classic one is “The Struggle” by Ben Horowitz, and I found a number of gems in this category in his blog. If you have not read my post about the Struggle, you should. When your startup goes through a metamorphosis of growing up there is always growing pains, there is politics and the team culture challenges. Building a world class team is hard, if this was easy or simple everyone would do it. I have been really digging deep into figuring out what makes teams tick and come together. I guess it is as different as we are as people.

  1. What is the most difficult CEO skill? Managing Your Own Psychology
  2. How to minimize politics in your company?
  3. Making yourself a CEO
  4. Lead Bullets
  5. Peace time CEO/War time CEO

All this being said, what a CEO will be measured on is quite simple actually:

Let’s not bullshit each other —- the most important characteristic of any CEO is to be a moneymaker. It is not particularly dignified to say it that bluntly but you can sugar coat whatever you want and it all comes down to “can you ring the bell?

—  The mighty comment blogger JLM in a comment to this post: A VC: What A CEO Does

July 19, 2013

Mentoring, Teaching and Training

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

I strongly believe anyone can learn any skill given the right guidelines, tools, mentoring and time. It is not easy to help or teach someone to acquire a new skill. Ask your teacher how she got through her day while you were in her class. God knows I am blessed with many teachers and mentors who took the time to show me the ropes and helped me get better at many things. Believe me it was a struggle for them, I was not the sharpest cookie in the room. I get extremely frustrated when people don’t want to spend the time to help or mentor or teach their colleagues, interns and their own customers because it is hard, it is painful and the other person does not pick up the skill as fast as they expect them to. To all those out there thinking that way, I say rubbish. There is nothing more important than building your team and helping your team, there is nothing that a company can do that is more important than training and building a world class team. I understand the frustration of those who have the experience, they focus on the efficiency side of things, it is efficient if they can get a team member who has the same experience or background as them. It is easier to get through the tasks, there is no struggle, there is no conflict or the effort needed to understand, explain and be patient with people. It is hard, remember with People, fast is slow and slow is fast.

While you are a startup, resources are limited, you need to do more with less, you will not be able to recruit the smartest girl in town or the smartest guy because the smart ones are not sitting idle, they are busy with other things and they are usually compensated handsomely for their time… because they are smart and can get stuff done. So, how does a startup compete for talent in a tight market? this is an age old question and I think there is a way. What if you could get people who believe in what you do but don’t have the right skills? well, you get them on-board and give them the mentoring, time and tools to see if they can go through the struggle. I know I know if you are teaching people how are you going to build the startup… well, no one said it was easy if it was then everyone would do it really well. A Startup is an experiment, you need to experiment with people as well. So, the next time you are planning to hire someone, take a chance, wait for the one who believes in what you are doing and is willing to volunteer their hearts and their minds. Give them the tools, methods, mentoring and time, they just might surprise you.

For those who are mentors and teachers, there is nothing more nobler than providing a service that helps your brother or sister in need. I believe very strongly if you want to learn something or get better at something there is no better way than to teach it. The minute you assume the role of a teacher/mentor you see things differently, your paradigm changes, only if you have an open mind and are willing to volunteer your heart and your mind. Take a chance on yourself, spend the time to teach your colleague a skill that you want to get better at, as I said before you might just surprise yourself and learn something about yourself.

July 16, 2013

S.M.A.R.T Goals or Metrics

Scoreboard FB

Scoreboard FB (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you have a ScoreBoard for your Startup? Well, if you don’t you need to get one. Once you have a scoreboard you need to determine what you are going to measure and there are some time tested definitions for establishing goals for your team, your startup or how you are executing. Remember Vision without Execution is Hallucination. So what do you need to define your team’s Goals? Goals or Metrics need to be S.M.A.R.T

1. Specific

2. Measurable

3. Achievable

4. Realistic

5. Timeframe bound

I have written about Metrics that matter before, but I don’t believe I have written about how to define goals. The above acronym has always helped me when working on defining a goal. Every startup is different but end of the day most of the things relating to a startup is based on serving a human/organizational need. If you can translate that need in terms of S.M.A.R.T goals then you are doing 99% better than most of us out there trying to navigate this thing called Entrepreneurship. S.M.A.R.T goals are not just for your startup, they are an effective tool to define Win-Win Performance Agreement with your team.  As part of building a world class team, one of the most important thing the founders/leaders/executives can do is establish a Mentorship based Win-Win Performance Agreement with each and every team member. We are starting to work on this at GreenQloud. Building a startup is hard, raising money for your startup is harder but the most important thing you can do is build a World Class team. It is well within your circle of influence. If your team is effective then all other things fall into place. I always like to say, you cannot guarantee success but you can easily increase your odds of success. One attribute that can exponentially improve your odds is the time you spend in building an effective team around you. I have written about the importance of Team Building. I am surprised when I talk to startups and even investors here in Iceland, how little weightage they give to the Team attribute. IMHO, it is the deciding factor, everything else can be defined, designed, built, scaled or modified, but you can never execute at world class level without building a trusted, aligned and self-motivated team. I love the Avengers movie, how 5 different people, who don’t always like each other come together to fight a good fight. I don’t see a Startup any differently.

July 15, 2013

Startup Management – Masterfully Curated Resources for every startup

SUM_Logo2Fred Wilson wrote about an AVC regular William Mougayar is building an education oriented community for entrepreneurs called Startup Management (SUM). I wanted to bring attention to this aspect of a Startup, I have written about this before Startups are not a small form of a big company. The management of things in a startup require different sequencing than in a traditional company. This sequencing is not rocket science but harder because you need to figure out what you are doing makes sense i.e creates value to someone and make sure you have enough time to make sure that it pays for itself. There is very visual depiction of this, I say that doing a startup is like jumping off a tall building and making your parachute while you are falling and hope and pray that the building was tall enough or your parachute making skills are so great that you can make the parachute fast enough before you hit the ground. This analogy is visual and clearly shows what every entrepreneur feels when they are building a company, it is not all glamor, glory and pride, it is a lot of hours of blood, sweat and tears. Given that everyone acknowledges that this is difficult would it not be great if we could tap into a resource that gives us the roadmap? like what Fred has been doing with his MBA Monday Series, or Brad Feld has been doing with his Term Sheets series or Mark Suster on Sales and Marketing or building a B2B startup. I am sure there are many resources like this and Startup Management is going to SUM all of this together (did you get the pun?). So this blog post, I am requesting everyone to sign up for the Startup Management and get a curated list of topics from around the web about Startup Management. Fred, Brad and Mark are the first ones to acknowledge that what they share is only a tip of the wisdom that is out there on the internet and I am really happy to see that all this is aggregated by SUM. To give you a glimpse of what the content is going to be I am reposting the first digest that I got in my inbox:

Creme de la creme curation from William Mougayar, Must Read from this week.
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As you start reading, I’d like you to consider forwarding this email to others in your network, promise? If you’re a VC, forward it all your portfolio companies. YES, all;- why be selective? If you’re a startup, send it to your customers, partners and internally. Let it go viral. I don’t mind. There is nothing like this email and Startup Management (SUM) throughout the Tech Startup world, so let’s get the word out. I know I’ve got your mindshare, so now let’s get SUM market share.SUM = Great articles users submit + Original stuff we write, + Posts from the Top 100 Tech Bloggers. And it’s complemented by a Library of content (50 categories), a Wiki of terms, and links to curated Videos and Books. It’s the single best destination for Tech startups and grownups to keep learning on the job and on the blogs.Startup Management is only one-week old, so I’m trying this new Email, a Week-end Roundup from the past week. It’s the crème de la crème from my personal curation of hundreds of weekly articles. This is a subset of what’s on the website, and it’s organized by topic. If I curate the best, write the rest, then you’ll need to read this fest.
CultureWhy it’s important to Create a Culture that Drives Success, Not One That Makes You Feel Good, so here’s the Ultimate Guide to a Startup Culture’s Evolution to get you there. And if Google is Retaining Top Talent Through ‘Employee Entrepreneurial Culture, so can you.Marketing
Do you know The 7 Heavenly Habits of Inspired Inbound Marketers or the Seven marketing mistakes most startups make? If you want more dynamite Marketing presentations, check out the ones from this week’s MozCon.

Sales
Startup Sales is Hard, But Hiring a Successful First Sales Rep is Harder, so you need to know When to Sell vs. When to Market to Customers.

Customer Discovery
How do You Discover What Customers Really Want?  Wait, don’t fall in the A/B Test Trap, so Ask Yourself the 6 Essential Questions before Running that A/B Test.

Product
Here’s why it is foolish to Push for the “Perfect” Product.

Women in Tech
It’s incredible that Etsy Grew their Number of Female Engineers by Almost 500% in One Year, and here’s the story of a woman tech entrepreneur from Mumbai.

Scaling the Organization
Growth solves a lot of issues, but it also creates problems. There is nothing wrong inDeveloping Middle Managers at Startups, because your company will face 5 growing pains when transitioning from chaotic startup to accelerating midsize.

User Experience
Do you Experience Rot? And Is Your Website Guiding Customers To Lowest Effort Resolutions Paths?

Customer Communications
It’s a fact that Entrepreneurs Face Serious Communications Barriers. Be careful how you put your message out: 8 (Easily Avoidable) Ways to Lose Your Prospect’s Trust. Take a refresher on how to Grow Your Business Smarter with Conversion Rate Optimization, and give your users a Seductive Hook, If you can Find it Every Time. Here’s how to create a Create a Useful Value and Good Proposition. 

B2B Marketing
The Convergence of marketing and technology is an ongoing trend, along with the consumerization of the enterprise; so now you can Build a B2B Loyalty Program With B2C Tactics.  And find out How Marketing Can Deliver Qualified Leads, because Email Open Rates Continue to Rise. Are you new to Email Marketing? Find out How to Plan Your Lifecycle Email Marketing Plan.

Competition
Understanding your real competitors is important. Here are Lessons From Successful Entrepreneurs on How to Beat the Competition. 

Failing
Yes, it’s the other F word. Is there a “right” way to fail? Don’t let it get to your head. Head Games: Ego and Entrepreneurial Failure and How One Startup Had Millions In Funding And 100,000 Users — And Still FAILED.

Founder to CEO
You aren’t born knowing how to be a CEO, but you need to Stop being a founder, and start being a CEO. But remember, There are No Shortcuts to Intelligent Founder-CEO Transition. Why Organization is the key Character Trait and Skill of the Successful CEO, and how Drew Houston’s morphed from hacker to hyper-growth CEO. Sometimes, as you experience growth challenges, you have to Divide and Conquer.

Branding
You need to Build Brand Awareness First – Distribution Second, and don’t forget about branding when you’re doing online demand generation, because Growth Hacking is a Bridge to Marketing, so Make Marketing the Third Leg to Success, After Product and Engineering.

Quotes of the week
“I’m more worried about the billion or so people on Facebook every day, versus the 2 million people watching Fox News.” – Jon Klein, President of CNN

Hi, I’m Chris Schultz. You don’t have to be in Silicon Valley, but Silicon Valley has to be in you.”

About Startup Management
Startup Management is a single destination for the best content on management, strategy, organizational and marketing topics, including business models, revenue models and go-to-market approaches for startups and grownups. We mix curated, aggregated and original content, a tagged library of knowledge, a wiki, and links to videos and books, allowing you to quickly find what you need to know on-demand, on-the-job, and on the blogs.

What are we working on, next?
A single RSS feed for the whole site, an improved homepage, more articles in the Library, and a better mobile experience.
We migrated to a dedicated virtual server this week-end, so no more php memory errors, yeah! Thanks to AVC’er Dale Allyn who volunteered to help me figure things out.

That SUMs it up! Don’t forget to FORWARD —-> VIRAL is the way to Grow. If this email touched you, let it touch others.

William Mougayar
Founder & Chief Curator
Startup Management

July 12, 2013

Startup Reykjavik 2013

Source: GreenQloud Share

Source: GreenQloud Share

Startup Reykjavik the mentorship driven accelerator for Startups organized by Arion Bank and Innovit+Klak announced the new batch of companies in Startup Iceland. Last evening, I participated in the Pitch and BBQ event organized by Startup Reykjavik. It was incredible to see the energy and the number of people who participated. The Startup Community in Iceland is starting to really get formed and this is a great feeling. I dreamed of this day and I am so impressed that it is happening right now. I had written about the strategy to reboot Iceland on December 15, 2011, it is amazing to see how the Startup Community in Iceland has risen from the ashes and is rebooting. It was exciting to see more than 150 people, I know this number because the Startup Reykjavik team ran out of hamburger buns and they had bought about 150 buns :).

It was awesome to hear the pitches of 5 teams that are part of Startup Reykjavik, the positive energy, the optimism and a sense of building something new was all there. I was even impressed that the new British Ambassador to Iceland was participating and seeing the energy. Met with a team from Copenhagen that is part of the Startup Community in Copenhagen and a lot of new faces. I am pretty sure we are moving in the right direction in Iceland, there will be bumps along the way but I am lot more optimistic about the prospects of startups coming out of Iceland from now.

There is still one thing that is bugging me, while we are creating the infrastructure to build new companies, it is painfully obvious that the investors are not present in these gathering. I saw a couple of them but I am pretty sure if you go to a similar event in Silicon Valley or New York or Boston or Austin, half the room would probably be filled with Analysts from Venture Capital firms. We still have a scenario where Entrepreneurs are chasing Investors in Iceland rather than the other way around i.e Investors chasing Entrepreneurs. That is the change I would like to see in Iceland, when that happens we are on solid ground.

July 10, 2013

Startup Iceland 2013 – Done!

It has been more than a month since Startup Iceland 2013 got done! I took a sabbatical from writing and a couple of weeks off which I had not done for the past 5 years. Once again, we pulled off a great event, more than 13 speakers, over 280 Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 5.39.10 PMparticipants, a hackathon, UNConference and just all round positive energy around building antifragile startup community in Iceland. There was so much to learn and got a number of items validated through out the session. I want to take this opportunity to thank Nyskopunarmidstod Islands, who sponsored and managed all the video production of the event. We have a Startup Iceland 2013 video channel setup in Vimeo for those who were not able to attend the event. Here is the President of Iceland opening the conferene:

Startup 2013 – Mr. Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, presedent of Iceland from Innovation Center Iceland on Vimeo.

The event would have not been possible without our great support of sponsors and patrons and the Startup Iceland Team that basically volunteered their hearts and minds to pull off a great event. Now that we have done year 2, I am confident that this event is going to be a main stay for the Entrepreneurial community in Iceland. In addition to all the great speakers and the learning, Startup Iceland was also the platform where we announced the new batch of Startup Reykjavik Teams for 2013. 10 new startups going through the bootcamp for 3 months. I am very excited about all the positive developments in Iceland supporting entrepreneurs and startups. As I have said before, this is a long journey and the community needs to continue to invest, participate and contribute to build an antifragile startup ecosystem. I am confident that it will happen.

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