Tinkering with the Business Model

Last evening we had Einar Gunnar Gudmundsson from Arion Bank speak at my Rotary Club, I have been a Rotarian for the past 7 years if you did not know. I have also been the President, Secretary and Treasurer of our club. Einar has been leading the effort to create Mentorship driven accelerators in Iceland, Einar is an entrepreneur himself and really understands the Entrepreneurial journey. I am very happy to say that we have 2 now in Iceland Startup Reykjavik established in 2012 and this year Startup Energy Reykjavik. It was an interesting talk about the journey to establish the accelerators, the process and the background why it was started.picture_business_model_canvas

A number of the Rotary Club members are owners of business but some are professionals in various fields. The questions that they were asking was very interesting, for example they really were amazed that a team could build something of value in 10 weeks, which is the length of time the accelerator runs. In addition to that they were surprised that there is no Business Plan development, and they really did not understand the notion of Tinkering with the Business Model.

Einar and I (given I am mentor in both these accelerators) were explaining to the group that when an Entrepreneur starts her journey, the path usually never clear so she needs to tinker her business model with customers. The Rotary members were also very surprised that the teams just did not spend a lot of time building the product or service. I have realised that the mainstream has so little knowledge of what an Entrepreneur does. Tinkering with all elements of the Business Model is what Entrepreneurs and Startup Founders do until you find the Product to Market fit, then you focus on building the product that is world class and they you scale the business and then you focus on efficiency of running the business. There is no change in this sequence. It is a business principle.

I like the statement that I usually make to those who have never built a business or gone through an accelerator or know anything about a Startup, a Startup is not a small form of a big company, it is an experiment, the entrepreneur has a number of hypothesis about the business model, customer segment, product features and delivery models but all these hypotheses have to be tested. The quicker you can isolate the pass/fail conditions for these hypothesis the better are the odds of continuing the startup idea forward. Doing this in an environment that has Mentors who have experienced this before and are able and willing to help the entrepreneur is a critical infrastructure need for any startup ecosystem.

The next set of question are common, does Iceland have enough ideas or deal flow etc Einar shared some of the data there were almost 73 applications for 7 slots for Startup Energy Reykjavik Accelerator and 253 for 10 slots in Startup Reykjavik this year. I have written about the Entrepreneurial Density before, I have seen it personally there is enough and more people in Iceland who want to take charge of their own careers and run their own businesses given the right environment, support, mentoring and funding.

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Startup Energy Reykjavik

Startup Energy ReykjavikIceland has one of the best infrastructures period. I don’t have concrete data to back up that claim, but I have almost no memory of a power cut or roads not being clean or no hot or cold water in the house. That is what world class infrastructure should be you just use it without knowing how the magic happens behind the scene. I have written about Geothermal energy harnessed in Iceland and also efforts to make more innovation and distruption in that space. I was excited to learn about Startup Energy Reykjavik, a Startup Reykjavik like Accelerator focused only on Renewable Energy based startups. It is fantastic to see many of the ideas that we talk about come into fruition. The program is run exactly like the Mentorship Driven Accelerator concept pioneered by TechStars and it is being applied to a specific industry vertical. It is great to see many mentors from the Geothermal and Hydro energy background volunteer and participate in this. I am really happy for Arion Bank to have taken the lead on fostering entrepreneurship and investment in this important field. I am volunteering as a Mentor, this is a very important vertical for startups to focus on and to create something new and disrupt the industry.

Here is a video of the Renewable Energy program in Reykjavik University, with Startup Energy Reykjavik we can build new sets of companies that can really make a difference. Building these infrastructures is the key building blocks to building an Antifragile Startup Ecosystem in Iceland. Without this infrastructure GreenQloud could not have been created and there are numerous opportunities and I am really excited to see what problems the entrepreneurial community will take on to solve through this accelerator program.

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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.

SI2013 – Big Shout Out to our Sponsors


Click on the picture for a larger image

It has been crazy and everything seems like a buzz, but I know Startup Iceland 2013 would not be possible without the support of our wonderful sponsors. Reykjavik University for being extremely accommodating and having a Yes, we can! attitude about anything Entrepreneurial. Icelandair Group for always hearing us out and supporting initiatives. The US Embassy in Reykjavik with the leadership of Ambassdor Luis Arreaga and Eric Green. Siminn our new sponsor this year, coming up with a lot of new ideas to bring entrepreneurship from the largest telecom operator in Iceland. Nasdaq OMX, NSAFrumtak, Eyrir Invest, Arion Bank, Innovit + Klak, Deloitte, WEDO, NMI, GreenQloud, Olgerdin. The theme of this year is about building an antifragile startup ecosystem and community. With the diversity of sponsors supporting Startup Iceland, I think we have a fantastic base to build a bustling startup community. IMHO, Startup Iceland is about the entire community of Iceland and the World, it is not about high tech startups, its not about only the Internet or technology. We live in a connected world, and Iceland has a role to play as does every other country. Given the opportunity that lies before us, it is upto us to make hay when the sun shines (BTW, the weather forecast for the event does not look that promising, but I am an optimist). We have a very strong show of participation, over 217 (counted), possibly we could be adding another 30. We can only count the number of people who have registered but how many will show up, volunteer their hearts and minds and participate remains to be seen. I am forever in dept to many people who have volunteered their hearts and minds to put this event together (will follow up with a post about the organizing team of Startup Iceland). And of course all our speakers and mentors, who have been extremely positive about their participation and Iceland.

I am excited, thrilled, and beyond delirious about Startup Iceland, the event is 3 days away and I am nervous, lot of loose ends to tie up. Make the experience memorable for everyone participating and create a tradition of running events like this in Iceland. I would request all to bear with us, we are a Startup in our own right, if we screw up about anything… please accept our apologies. We mean well and I am eagerly looking forward to meeting each and every one of you and to the coming days. Lets do this!

Startup Reykjavik 2013

Image representing TechStars as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

I started on this journey to build a Startup Community in Iceland right after the Financial Collapse of 2008. What is needed when you need to create a lot of startups is an acceleration platform and I searched tirelessly for it and I bumped into TechStars and the first video I saw of TechStars I knew that is what we needed to have right here in Iceland. Here is that video:

StartupReykjavik-logo-portorateAnd then I started viewing all the videos in the Founders – Techstars – Boulder. I was so inspired 3 years back and I went and met with everyone that I could to get Techstars to Iceland. I was extremely pleased to see that dream come true when Arion Bank took the initiative to launch Startup Reykjavik, which is part of the Global Accelerator Network which is the network of accelerators that is part of the Techstars program. If you have not watched the videos, I really encourage you to check out the TechStars TV channel in YouTube. Go to the videos that were loaded 3 years back. I get really inspired even today when I watch those episodes. What is this got to do with Startup Reykjavik? well there is only 6 more days to apply for Startup Reykjavik. If you are stuck in a dead end job and really don’t enjoy what you do here is a fantastic opportunity to go build a business. It is also for those of us who have always been saying that one day we will be our own boss (actually that never happens because you are always reporting to someone, either your board or investment committee or whatever but thats not the point, its about taking ownership of your destiny).

The 2012 program was the first accelerator in Iceland and I was very happy to see to complete and as far as I know many of the companies are still in existence and trying to create  a business some have actually made more progress than others. It is a marathon and not a sprint, so I am looking forward to seeing some of these companies build a sustainable business in the future.

I volunteer as a Mentor in Startup Reykjavik and in every other Startup or Entrepreneurship related activity in Iceland because I have made that my life purpose. I want to help Entrepreneurs no Serve Entrepreneurs… I think that is a pretty good goal. Anyways enough about me. Have you applied yet? if you have been telling yourself you want to do something this is your chance like Nike says Just Do It.

Startup Reykjavik 2012 – Done!

I was so pleased to see the participation of the investor community in the Investor Day of Startup Reykjavik 2012. It was a fantastic pitch day, all the teams did a great job… it showed how well they had prepared, their message was powerful and there was passion in their presentations. I am also biased because I was one of the mentors and supporter of the initiative, but that should not take anything away from the teams. The organizers Innovit, Klak and Arion Bank really were committed and it showed. I was very proud in the after party to see everyone enjoying themselves… the community came together. A couple of them were suggesting that I should be the first marathoner to run Reykjavik Marathon hung over! I passed on that fabulous and probably painful idea. Now that the program is done, the teams have been having meetings with the investor community. I am eager to see how the local investor community steps up to the challenge. It is quite interesting that I am reading Brad Feld‘s Startup Communities book right now and he categorizes the Investors community as Feeders in the Startup Ecosystem.

Source: Amazon.com Startup Communities

At the early stage, raising money is hard, figuring out which deals are good is hard, and everything else associated with getting a company up and running is hard, so what’s the big deal? Rather than struggle with this, investors should recognize that they are feeders into the startup community, play a long-term game, and work hard to help support the development of their startup communities.

So I am going to start lobbying with the investor community to take the plunge just like all the entrepreneurs did, write checks without expecting anything back and see how this turns out. I am confident that this will transform the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Iceland. We are starting to implement the strategies outlined in the book by Brad. We did Startup Iceland a conference focused on Entrepreneurship and Startups, I am committed to make this a yearly event. We have Startup Reykjavik, which is a mentorship driven accelerator program to build new companies. We also have regular Hackathons which was initiated in Startup Iceland and in October we will have Music HackDay. I have reached out to the Reykjavik University and they are very motivated to support more Hackathons. Another weekly event that I would like to initiate is Entrepreneurship Book Club, we discussed the Lean Startup book at the beginning of the year and I want to continue on that tradition to start another book discussion. I believe if we consistently do this with a long term vision in mind we will create an ecosystem that thrives on itself. It takes commitment, vision and participation from all the stakeholders. There are many strategies that I have listed here, each could be a blog post. I would encourage everyone interested in building an sustainable startup ecosystem in Iceland to read the book Startup Communities, as Brad covers the story of Startup Iceland and he was generous enough to allow me to write a couple of pages in the book. Here I leave you with the video of Startup Reykjavik Year 1.

Startup Reykjavik – Investor Day

Today we have a guest post by Kristján Kristjánsson, one of the organizers of Startup Reykjavik and CEO of Innovit. I am going to the Investor day in Startup Reykjavik, if you know of an Angel investor in the Icelandic investor community, they should participate in the Investor Day or if you have been thinking about becoming an angel investor here is your chance to get into the deal flow, you should get a chance to meet with other angel and venture investors to build your network and start investing in your community.

StartupReykjavik Investment day – August 17th, go? #Friday

StartupReykjavik is Icelands first and only accelerator program. Ten teams were picked out of 200 applicants, given 16k, housing and mentorship to go as far as they could with their businesses in ten weeks. Every day they have showed up for work to listen to roughly 50 mentors giving advice in business models, networking and pitching, with hope to get their business going to create value.

Next friday (August 17th, 2012), all these teams will pitch in front of an audience of investors seven minutes each, hoping to find the right investor, explaining why that would make sense and showing of their final products that they have worked on during the period.

There are two ways to attend the event.

1. Reception at Arion-Bank headquarters, Borgartún 5, 101 Reykjavík
2. Online live stream from the event.

If you are an investor and would like to attend or view online streaming, don’t hesitate to ask for an invite and we will send you the invitation and live stream link.

Other reasons you should attend?
1. Are you a runner? Icelands biggest Marathon is on Saturday, August 18th. Sign up here
2. Do you like culture? Culture night 2012 is the country’s largest one-day culture event, with thousands activities for tourists and locals alike ending with big fireworks on midnight.
3. The country has some of the most amazing landscapes known to man. If you like the pure atmosphere, in your in for a treat. (video made by one of the participants http://vimeo.com/44193401)

The teams:

When Gone
First and foremost. WhenGone services people who face premature death, people that are losing their health and people that face risks in everyday life. Through when gone, everyone can leave their loved ones their greatest stories, memories and words in person. Thus allowing people of all ages, races and economic level to leave their legacy for generations to come.

Startupville is a place for investors and start-ups to play the investing game. A social game where investors make virtual investments in real start-ups for virtual equity and in the process they interact, get to know each other better and have fun. It’s also about the investor – startup relationship transcending to a real one where an investor gets to be proactive in the progress of a startup

Mymxlog is a professional online software service for airline, operators and technicians. They enable management of licences, certificates, training and experience necessary to maintain aircraft in accordance with european regulations.

Cloud Engineering is a developing advanced techniques to extract data from a wide range of web-pages and other data sources quickly, reliably and robustly, without requiring any specialised knowledge of programming concepts, HTML structure, or regular expressions. And all within your browser ö no installs required. Our customers will be able to extract online market intelligence which will give them a competitive edge in an ever more competitive world.

Designing Reality
A solution based company specialising in Imaging technology and custom solutions. Offering highly accurate and realistic looking three-dimensional models from photographs.

Live Shuttle
Live-Shuttle is a service for smart phone users to share their experience live. The service allows the user share live footage from his travels around the world and friends and family to stay updated on his current location. Upon returning from a trip the user has a photo or video map of his travels. All incoming media is geo-tagged and sorted to provide the world with live footage from every possible location simultaneously which allows Live Shuttle to broadcast live from interesting events like Music Festivals, Natural Disasters or protests to name a few.

RemindMe is an automatic medical dispenser. For medication to be effective people have to take them according to their doctors advice. Unfortunately only 50% of people take their medicine correctly. Remind me intends to increase medical compliance and people’s quality of life by using a new reminding service for the elderly and forgetful.

Provide high quality lyrics, lessons and guitar tabs to users. One stop shop for lyrics, chords and lessons.

No one is more aware of his health than the individual himself. People should therefore have the opportunity to access their own health related data and be able to make informed decisions regarding those matters. Heilsufar.is will be the portal where you can request your data to be sent to, where you can add your own information and analyse and compare your health situation to others. Heilsufar is about modernising the area of personal healthcare information

Stream Tags
Stream Tags make more value out of the movie experience by giving viewers the opportunity to tag movies and provide information and buying opportunities relevant for the viewer.

Startup Reykjavik – A Perspective of a founder from India participating in the program

We have a guest post from Ashwin Bhambri, founder of StartupVille and one of the teams accepted into the Startup Reykjavik 2012 program. I have offered to open up the Startup Iceland Blogging platform to the community in Iceland. This is the first post and I would encourage all the startups to reach out to me if you would like to use the Startup Iceland Blog to promote a message. The requirement is very simple, it has to be something to do with Startup ecosystem or Entrepreneurship or Startup Community here in Iceland or anything that you feel would help Entrepreneurs and Startups.

StartupReykjavik is Iceland’s first startup accelerator program however quite different from the run of the mill accelerator programs. First of all the investor is institutional, Arion Bank who is also a chief sponsor of the program. Secondly, the program has the right mix of mentoring and coaching with mentors from varied industries across Iceland and in-house coaches from the Innovit Entrepreneurship Centre and Klak an innovation catalyst initiative. The coaches are actively involved in setting deliverables for each startup and helping them achieve the deliverables within the timeline and towards the end of the program lead mentors take over who have repeated sessions with start-ups they feel they can help

It is interesting that the start-ups in this program are not the ‘usual suspects’ and are quite different from the lot you would generally find at accelerators, all have well defined revenue streams and some are even making money. The diversity here includes a hardware device startup, enterprise applications, subscription based services, search technology and social gaming.

The accelerator here also offers the Icelandic advantage – it’s a flat society here so getting an appointment with say the Director of a Large Airlines and pitching your product is relatively easy and fast also you get a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ quickly. It’s a small place so you can cover ground fast, just amazing for business development and most of all it’s about the people here who are very enthusiastic about the place becoming a startup hub. Also, the accelerator is open to applicants from all over the world

Here’s a look at the start-ups,

  1. Mymxlog – Mymxlog enables the management of licences, certificates, training and experience necessary to comply with European Aviation regulations.
  2. Cloud Engineering – Cloud Engineering provides data extraction technology. We create tools which will revolutionize the way you gather content from the web
  3. Guitar Party – GuitarParty provides music enthusiasts with a way to learn their favorite songs using a unique user interface,  songbooks and video lessons
  4. Live Shuttle – Live Shuttle is a free service for smart phone users where they share their experience Live with their friends, family and the world.
  5. StartupVille – StartupVille is a place for investors and start-ups to play. A social game where investors make virtual investments in start-ups
  6. Stream Tags – Watch movies online with friends via webcam. Now, you can get information on anything onscreen you see or hear and buy it.
  7. Automatic 3D – Creation of high accuracy three-dimensional models using standard two-dimensional photographs and computer vision.
  8. Heilsufar – internet health-bank for individuals. All your health related data in one place including diet and fitness
  9. When Gone – WhenGone is a web based tool to record messages where people leave their last words/advice to their loved ones, to be viewed after passing.
  10. Eski Tech – We are developing RemindMe, an automatic medicine dispenser. Many people struggle with their medicine intake and RemindMe is aimed at making that process easier.

Startup Iceland Conference – Go/No Go decision April 28

I have been writing about all the challenges of hosting a conference. We have the speakers lined up, we believe this is a conference that would be a nice platform for us to showcase Iceland and Icelandic startups and celebrate Entrepreneurship. But I am faced with the brutal fact today… our main sponsor pulled out!

I am left with no other option but to give it a couple of more days before I can cut my losses and move on. There is only one way to host this conference and that is if there is participation. There are 294 people who signed up, 161 who have said they are  going to this conference but there is no ticket sales I have no recourse but to call it a failed show. The current ticket sales is obviously embarrassing… I have experienced the challenge every entrepreneur goes through. I have reached out to other businesses in Iceland who could sponsor this event but I am not holding my breath. I am hoping to get some good news to move forward but I also don’t want to wait too long to do this then I would have no recourse to gracefully manage expectations with the other sponsors who have committed effort into the conference.

If there is any way you all think you can help, please reach out to me. I know what would save the conference and the workshop and I think you know it as well.

Golden Egg, Seed Forum, Startup Iceland… a lot happening

The last couple of weeks have been incredible to watch, I truly believe Spring is in the air. First of The Golden Egg Competition

was conducted and the winner were announced. Second, Seed Forum has gotten a face lift and is happening tomorrow and some bird told me that there is going to be some major announcement… ok, I know what it is… Startup Reykjavik is going to be announced. So what is Startup Reykjavik? I have written a lot about this, lobbied with many people for it and I am extremely happy to see it take shape. I am very impressed to see Arion Bank is taking the leadership role in this effort. If you are a startup or want to do a startup I highly encourage you to apply to Startup Reykjavik. The deadline is May 7th, and it is not much involved. The requirement is NOT to build a business plan but to focus on how you are going to form a kick ass team focused on execution and building your Minimum Viable Product.

I know Kristjan and Eythor are going to work really hard to make Iceland the best place to incubate and accelerate a startup. My hope and vision is that Iceland becomes the magnet for early stage European companies and Startup Reykjavik becomes the best in the world for accelerators…

well, if you are going to dream at all dream big! Right? There has been an explosion of Accelerators around the world, I believe Iceland offers a unique advantage, once again I have written about it here, here and more recently here. With the Global Accelerator Network link established through Startup Reykjavik, there is absolutely no reason why Startups cannot build companies in Iceland that can scale, expand and solve problem around the world. It is one of the steps to build a sustainable startup/entrepreneurial ecosystem.am focused on execution.

The second piece to this puzzle is Startup Iceland the Conference focused on Entrepreneurship and Startups. We need to have a yearly event focused on Venture Investing, Entrepreneurship and Startups which kicks off ideas, initiatives and themes. This year it is going to be about building sustainable startup ecosystems. We will start marketing the conference soon given it has taken a little longer that we anticipated to get the website up and running. If you have not booked your ticket I highly recommend you do, it is well worth it. It is from 9:00 to 15:00, opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs not just from Iceland but from around the world, Matt Wilson, of Under 30 CEO is marketing a packaged trip for Entrepreneurs in the US to participate in Startup Iceland. The cost includes lunch, refreshments, coffees etc and it is going to be in Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre. Did I mention we are going to have very prominent speakers like Brad Feld, Brad Burnham, Dr.Ted Zoller and Alexander Osterwalder participating? As part of the conference we are going to have a Whole Day Hands-on Workshop conducted by Alexander Osterwalder on Business Model Generation. Here are the workshop details… It is jam packed day where you get the same benefit of attending an MBA program in a year.