This was one of the funniest talks in the history of Startup Iceland. Liad has a flare for delivery and timing. I am pretty sure he would have been a great stand-up comedian. He used to write jokes for scripts while he was in school. Of course there is a fantastic lesson in the talk about how to get lucky… no, no I mean with being an Entrepreneur and how to get your business up and going. Hint, persistence and having an open mind is the key. Listen to the talk, you will see what I mean.
I could not believe that I was nominated as a Startup Journalist of the Year in Iceland by The Nordic Startup Awards. You can guess how delighted I was when I saw a tweet last evening that I Won! It was a great feeling but also very humbling. I have been writing about the Startup Community and Ecosystem and Entrepreneurship from my eyes in Iceland since 2009, I never thought this blog was anything but a resource for Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs. I started writing because I thought maybe someone out there might see what we are going through in Iceland as Investors, Entrepreneurs and Startups interesting and could provide some inspiration, knowledge and resource so their journey is easier. Well, not easier but atleast they could relate and say, yes, I understand and I am not alone in this path. This award is a big recognition to the readers of this blog, without them reading, talking about what is being written here and sharing that with their community, it would have not got nominated in the first place.
We all seek connection, a sense of belonging. I almost naturally gravitate towards my tribe, which is the tribe of Entrepreneurs and Startup Founders. I made it my mission to help my tribe and this blog is nothing but that mission coming alive. To be recognized by the Nordic Startup Awards is another testament to the fact that if you are passionate about something and genuine about the mission and work hard at living the mission the recognition comes. I am constantly asked why do I do this? I do this because it could help someone like me struggling to find a path, I remember distinctly when I was fired from my job because the entire financial system in Iceland collapsed… I was searching for an outlet to release my inner voice, to say that it is ok and everything will be fine. I write because I was inspired to write by my mentor Brad Feld and Fred Wilson and Mark Suster and million other blogger who are relentless in writing and using writing as a means to express their thoughts, ideas, action and to build a community.
So, here is a last piece of thought… There is nothing stopping us from putting down our thoughts, there is something therapeutic about writing. Use the tools like any of the blogging platforms like Tumblr, WordPress, Google+, Blogger etc Pick a subject that you are passionate about and be disciplined about writing about it regularly. I used to blog everyday, I do that at times but I also take breaks from blogging to gather my thoughts. I find blogging and writing as my creative outlet, it may not be the best or beautifully written but it helps me think. Brad wrote about this recently. I attended TEDx Reykjavik over the weekend and one of the speaker was Guðrún Ingibjörg Þorgeirsdóttir, and I connected with her talk titled “How writing changed a life”. Get your computers out and start writing.
Here are all the other winners in the Nordic Startup Awards, really proud to be in this list… all of the winners and nominees are doing a great service to the Startup Community in Iceland and I bow to them and I hope more people and companies volunteer their hearts and their minds to building a sustainable startup community in Iceland.
Entrepreneurship is life and life is entrepreneurship. I have been thinking long and hard about what is the one quality that I really admire with all the Entrepreneurs that I work with. And I always come back to Tenacity… despite all odds, they trudge another day and live to tell the tale. I am really inspired by that attribute. I was reading an article about Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group in China and there were some quotes in that article from Jack Ma…
Jack Ma: The 4 main questions the young generation must ponder on
What is failure: Giving up is the greatest failure.
What is resilience: Once you have been through hardships, grievances and disappointments, only then will you understand what is resilience.
What your duties are: To be more diligent, hardworking, and ambitious than others.
Only fools use their mouth to speak. A smart man uses his brain, and a wise man uses his heart.
The first one really stuck with me hence the title of the blog post. Life and Entrepreneurship throws a number of curve balls at you, the best you can do is ask “Is that the best you got?” and keep moving forward. Most times you get bruised, some times you are on your knees and other times you get lucky and it misses you. The more life experiences one goes through one gets more antifragile i.e you get stronger because of the event if you have the right attitude. Here are some thoughts on Entrepreneurship from Jack:
Jack Ma’s advice to entrepreneurs
- The opportunities that everyone cannot see are the real opportunities.
- Always let your employees come to work with a smile.
- Customers should be number 1, Employees number 2, and then only your Shareholders come at number 3.
- Adopt and change before any major trends or changes.
- Forget the money; Forget about earning money.
- Rather than having small smart tricks to get by, focus on holding on and persevering.
- Your attitude determines your altitude.
Jack Ma on entrepreneurship
- A great opportunity is often hard to be explained clearly; things that can be explained clearly are often not the best opportunities.
- You should find someone who has complementary skills to start a company with. You shouldn’t necessarily look for someone successful. Find the right people, not the best people.
- The most unreliable thing in this world is human relationships.
- “Free” is the most expensive word.
- Today is cruel, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be beautiful.
I struggle with all the challenges every Entrepreneur goes through every day. It is a struggle and it never gets easier. A wise mentor of mine advised me to handle life gracefully and learn from every event and the attitude to learn from events is a powerful one. I hope we are all learning everyday and better ourselves in the process and maybe, maybe make the world a better place along the way.
Every leadership initiative starts with a Vision, “I have a Dream!” speech by Dr.Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela‘s Vision for South Africa built on equality and reconciliation or Mahatma Gandhi‘s Vision for Free, Democratic and Self Governed India are the quintessential examples. I believe strongly that everyone… I mean everyone, starting from a child to the President of Great Nations need to live by a vision. When the vision becomes clear leadership emanates from it. I don’t believe everyone starts with knowing the path, however having a vision is paramount. I will bring it to the context of Entrepreneurship and Startups. I meet a lot of entrepreneurs as part of the Startup Program that we launched in GreenQloud and because of the work that I have been doing in Startup Iceland. One of the biggest challenges that I pose to the Entrepreneurs is asking the WHY question. Why do they feel whatever it is that they are building is worth anyone’s time? What is the vision behind the effort? Without taking any names I would like to give an example, a very talented individual, excellent at selling and had a very successful career in Media and now wants to do a Startup. He has a very talented partner who is technical and the team behind them is quite good in Mobile Application Development. They had built a framework that allows media or telecom companies to deliver content to the Mobile Device. Not an easy thing to do. However, every time they request a meeting with me it ends up in a discussion where I am challenging their vision. Here is a classic case of a Solution trying to find a problem. One day it is a solution to the Media companies the other day it helps restaurants owners and what not. I believe this is the wrong way to build a Startup. The team is extremely talented and they are able to make ends meet due to their development experience and there are always more Professional Services need for new technology development like the Mobile Platform or HTML5 or whatever else technology that is going to come up in the future.
Entrepreneurs are leaders whether you like it or not, starting anything takes Vision, Discipline and Strategy. I also wrote about just having the Vision is not enough but you absolutely need to have one, otherwise there is no purpose. One of the popular posts that I wrote was titled “My Vision for Iceland“, it got one of the best viewings.
To summarise, Leadership lesson #1 is to Have a Vision, Create a Vision, focus on a Vision.
The annual Startup Iceland Conference on Entrepreneurship and Building Antifragile Startup Ecosystem in Iceland is happening on June 2nd and 3rd, 2014. Mark your calendars. We have started planning and putting the program together. Our focus has always been about Building an Antifragile Startup Ecosystem, this year we will try to bring thought leaders and entrepreneurs to share and discuss the changes that is happening in the world of innovation and how it impacts a startup community.
One of the most intriguing innovation that is starting to make a difference is the world of 3D Printing, Wearable Technology and its impact on manufacturing. I don’t believe that traditional manufacturing is going away the same way people traveling on horses has not gone away, but it is going to be disrupted with the advent of the capacity for every individual to invest, create and participate in the manufacturing economy. I spoke to Jenny Lawton, the President of MakerBot and She has agreed to come and talk about the trend, and she is bringing Bre Pettis, the founder of MakerBot with her. I am so excited to hear them speak about this fascinating change we are seeing in front of our eyes. Someone told me that the future is now, because there are a number of people creating the future as I type this blog post.
As always, we will have a Hackathon before the Conference and we plan to have mentoring sessions and one-on-one meetings with the speakers and entrepreneurs who participate in the conference. More details about the conference to follow shortly. We are updating the website and starting on the promotion of the event this week. I just wanted to give a heads up and blog about what I have been thinking about this year.
I had no idea what to do when I first decided that I wanted to invest in Entrepreneurship and Startups. It all looked so crazy and uncertain to me, however I had a background in Software Engineering and Management Consulting thanks to my 7 year education in Ernst & Young and Capgemini. I searched all over the internet and read all the books that I could get my hands on to learn about Venture Investing, I have written about what Fred Wilson wrote to me when I asked him what advice he would give to a new Venture Investor… it was quite simple, he said “Hold onto your money, it always takes longer and more money!” I took that advice to heart. It is rather futile to go into Venture Investing if one does not take the time to learn the sequence, apply strategies, tinker/pivot and skill required to be an venture investor. As an Entrepreneur it is also very important to take the time to understand the total capital need to build a sustainable business. I meet so many entrepreneurs who don’t take the time to really understand the actual capital need to build businesses. Even worse are those investors who are doing this for the first time but are totally unaware of the total capital need. They jump in with some money and then decide we will figure it out along the way, not a good idea. I have noticed experienced investors know how long it takes a startup in the B2C or B2B or any other service sector to get to scale. Me and my partners got lucky with CLARA, but we knew the business we were investing in. I cannot say the same to a number of other investors. I wrote a blog post titled “Organic Growth vs Get Big Fast” on a talk that Joel Spolsky did on Y Combinator Startup School. Knowing the total capital need and the strategy to acquire it is paramount. Not knowing will push you to the poor house very quickly. There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path… it is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
It is exciting to see the developments in Iceland as it relates to Entrepreneurship and Startups. There has been a number of developments right after Startup Iceland 2013 that I think are watershed moments. I believe the Startup Reykjavik program has come of age even in a very short history of only graduating 2 batches. We still don’t have big funding or acquisitions right after Demo Day yet but I am pretty confident the teams that have gone through the program feel a sense of believing that they have a fair chance to win or atleast reduce their odds of failure. And it was great to see that Jon von Tetzchner has just launched a Co-working space for Startups right here in Iceland. He should know a thing or two about building a Startup and building an environment that is conducive for Startups and Entrepreneurs. There is more and more support for startups and I believe the community is starting to believe as well. Carbon Recycle International another startup that has been in existence for quite sometime now just got a big cash injection from a Canadian listed company. The startup ecosystem is starting to diversify. All this being said, I still think that we need more policy support to ensure that companies at the early stage can really get a fair shot at breaking out. And obviously we could do with more funding options. There is just not enough people wanting to invest their time and effort to really get their hands dirty at building companies from an investor perspective. I think I know why… there are so many easier options to make money than to invest ones time and effort and everything else in a startup or an entrepreneur. My partners and I believe that it is worth it and we continue to invest our time, effort and money in the Entrepreneurs in Iceland. We have some ideas brewing so watch out for more news coming from us.
- Iceland walks out of EU accession talks; dissolves committee (politics.ie)
- Startup Reykjavik 2013 (startupiceland.com)
- Startup Iceland 2013 – Done! (startupiceland.com)
- Founder of Opera software to open co-working space in Reykjavik (oliorn.wordpress.com)
- Startup Iceland Panel Discussion (ryanmcintyre.com)
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.
- 3 Ways to Practice Writing Even If You Don’t Feel Like Blogging (whitebeltblogger.wordpress.com)
- The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Personal Blogs (grasshopper.com)
- How to Choose a Life Project That You Want to Do #1 (skillcode.wordpress.com)
- What is the importance of blog writing service? (academiccategory.wordpress.com)
- Blog Challenge – Day 12 – How you found out about WordPress and why you made one (kittysjournal.wordpress.com)
- Learn to Build & Learn to Sell: The 2 Concepts You Ought to Learn If You Are Running A Startup (bobbyong.com)
- Startup Reykjavik 2013 (startupiceland.com)
- Cloud Computing: Information technology’s answer to sustainability? (ecoseed.org)
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.
- This one shift can help you make a GREATER IMPACT when pitching your product/service. (slocumbandcompany.wordpress.com)
- Stephen R. Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (potencialmillonario.com)
- Your Words Should Match Your Actions (feld.com)
- Developing the right company culture for your small business (hiscoxusa.com)