April 14, 2013
I was at the Seed Forum this year, but I could not participate for the whole day but I attended the cocktail hosted by the British Embassy in Iceland. It was fascinating to see the British Ambassador pitching to the startups to look at UK to locate or move their startups when they scale out of Iceland… he even went to the extent of saying moving to the US was not a good idea I am happy to see different countries pitching to startups and entrepreneurs in Iceland to move to their country, it is good for the Entrepreneur and it is good for the Startup Ecosystem that there is growth path out of Iceland. I got a good impression of all the teams that were pitching. I have written about why Startups should not be focused on raising money. I am going to repeat this until I turn blue, the focus of the startup should be to solve a really itching problem, win customers and raise capital from the customer first. As much as I support the initiatives like Seed Forum, I really believe that it muddles the real issue facing startups and entrepreneurs. The Seed Forum this year had a famous Icelandic Entrepreneur and Cofounder of Opera, Jon Von Tetchner, actually he lived and worked in Norway but he is Icelandic. He had a very good talk and Q&A session about being an Entrepreneur. His advice and the advice given by Brad Feld and every other entrepreneur who has walked through the fire of creating a company and successfully transitioning says the same thing – Delay taking money from Investors as much as you can. Sometimes it is not possible i.e if you need machines, or equipment or buildings you need Capital but with startups in Software you dont need any of that or Capital to get started… that is one of the reasons that I am so bullish on the fact that Software based companies that are building solutions on top of the new Infrastructure of Cloud Computing, Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc will be able to bootstrap much better, faster and get through the valley of death without pledging your soul to the devil, no, not all investors are bad but there are different incentives if you are an investor vs if you are an entrepreneur.
In other news, Klak and Innovit merged into Klak Innovit… I am happy to see some movement in the Accelerator, Incubator and Institutions that help entrepreneurs collaborate and optimize in Iceland. Accelerators are a key ingredient in the Startup Community development and I believe Kristjan Kristjanson the new CEO of the merged organization has his heart in the right place. He also runs Startup Weekend, Startup Reykjavik and has been of great help to many startups since he started working with entrepreneurs in 2007-8 I think.
January 4, 2013
We have started the preparation for Startup Iceland 2013. While the full blow website is getting ready to be launched, I have created a Sign Up page. If you are already signed up for Startup Iceland 2012 and this blog, could you please sign up again and share with your network? We have created an Executive Summary for the Conference, check it out. We are going to have some very interesting speakers and discussion on Building Startup Communities and Ecosystems. Those who are part of the mailing list will get the updates and the journey. I plan to document the journey leading up to the conference just like I did last year.
We have confirmation of participation from:
- Brad Feld Managing Director of Foundry Group
- Jason Mendelson Managing Director of Foundry Group
- Ryan McIntyre Managing Director of Foundry Group
- Helga Waage Co-founder and CTO of Mobilitus
- Angela Jackson, Managing Director of Portland Seed Fund
- Howard Lindzon, CEO of StockTwits, Angle Investor and Twitter personality
- Alex Torrenegra, CEO of VoiceBunny and a lot more check out his LinkedIn profile
- Rebeca Hwang, CEO of YouNoodle
We may have cancelation and updates to this group but we will have more mentors as the momentum builds up. We will have them in different roles for their participation as Speakers, Mentors and other activities. As I mentioned in my previous post, we plan to have an Unconference Event the day before the lectures, where some of these participants will play the role of mentors so everyone who is going to participate in the conference gets a chance to block time with them to ask them any question and pick their brain. So if you are not into listening to lectures then you may want to participate to meet these people one on one and build your network.
As more details role out, you should get updates on a regular basis leading to the conference. We have some wonderful Sponsors already and they are in the order they have signed up:
- U.S Embassy in Reykjavik – Ambassador Arreage and his Team have shown true leadership in signing up to be the first sponsors of Startup Iceland again. I would like to thank them at the outset. I will do a more detailed profile of each sponsor like I did last year in subsequent blog posts.
- Reykjavik University – Rector Ari Kristinn Jónsson, Kristine Helen Falgren, Kristinn R. Thorisson and Björn Þór Jónsson have been extremely generous with their time and resources to support any effort that helps the Entrepreneurship and Startups in Iceland.
- Icelandair Group – Icelandair group has always been a great sponsor for our initiatives. I would like to thank Addy Olafsdottir and Bogi Nils Bogasson and the whole Icelandair team that supported us with travel arrangements and accommodation last year. They have once again shown leadership and have agreed to do more this year. We are very excited to have them as our sponsors once again.
- WEDO – The Web design, development and marketing company is sponsoring the design and development of the website. I would like to thank Gudmundur R. Einarson (GRE), Orri Helgasson and Charles Christie for their support, participation and commitment
- GreenQloud – The Startup Iceland 2013 Conference website will be hosted in GreenQloud. I think building sustainable antifragile startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem should use sustainable energy sources to run the infrastructure. I would like to thank the GreenQloud team for sponsoring and helping with this initiative.
- 2013 – A New Beginning (startupiceland.com)
- Startup Slovenia (startupiceland.com)
- StartupVille (startupiceland.com)
- Tolerance, Inclusion and Prosperity (startupiceland.com)
August 21, 2012
We have a guest post again by Ashwin Bhambri on what the next things the teams should focus on now that Startup Reykjavik is over. I think he has good points and strategies on moving again. It is hard after all the hype and now it is real life, the teams needs to get on the road, meet customersand try to do what I call the hardest of things to do… SELL. I have included the new Startup Curve, which is what typically happens after a big rush of media blitz, everyone wanting to meet with you as the founder and everyone saying how you crushed it in the presentation (guilty as charged!) etc but the reality is that the teams are still in their infancy and they need to go through the Product to Market Fit phase and then through creating a Repeatable Business Model phase and while doing all this they need to build a team culture, develop processes, maintain customer interest and solicit investors if the teams are starting to run out of money. Did I mention that doing a startup is HARD!
Startup Rekyjavik has been an amazing experience and it’s now come to an end. As startup founders we are faced with the question where do we go from here and what should be our next move. This is a typical scenario faced by every startup exiting an accelerator around the world
Startup’s move on with investor liaison, completing the product and the tons of other things start-ups do nevertheless there is a one thing that is a must do for every startup exiting an accelerator program. Start meeting customers and focus on sales, I repeat start selling whatever you have built in the last three months irrespective weather its good, bad or ugly
Sales and getting customers is the reality that’s hit me in the face today. I am still hesitant about our MVP and think it’s not refined enough however I do have to take into account that I have just few days left in Iceland and if I dont make an attempt to sell this is going to be a lost opportunity. Secondly, talks with investors are going to be futile if you cannot demonstrate customers interest and last but not the lest you wont believe how big a motivator getting customers is. Taking a page out of the ‘Do more faster’ book authored by Brad Field & David Cohen refer to the ‘Be Tiny Until You Shouldn’t Be’ chapter where a startup failed to raise funding but started selling and got cash flow positive
I have a few sales tips that could work for whatever its worth
- When you meet investors, ask them for sales leads. This would build their confidence in your startup
- All start-ups share the noting that their product is not ready so engage potential clients by asking for feedback and you can sell to the interested ones down the line
- Invite potential customers to attend focus groups. This might be a tough one to pull off but works amazingly well
- Contact you mentors and ask them for references
- Email marketing works
- Don’t forget approaching friends & family
- Use LinkedIn, it’s amazing
Would it not be amazing to connect with an investor with the alibi ‘we got customers and need money to service them’ maybe you can help us with that.
April 24, 2012
Here is an excerpt from the column by Thomas Friedman of New York Times with the title The Start-Up of You – “Hoffman argues that professionals need an entirely new mind-set and skill set to compete. “The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone,” he said to me. “No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.” he is referring to LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Garrett Hoffman, one of the premier starter-uppers in Silicon Valley — besides co-founding LinkedIn, he is on the board of Zynga, was an early investor in Facebook and sits on the board of Mozilla — through his book “The Start-Up of You,” co-authored with Ben Casnocha. Friedman says the subtitle could easily be: “Hey, recent graduates! Hey, 35-year-old midcareer professional! Here’s how you build your career today.” How relevant and valid are these statements given the discussions we have been having in Iceland? I cannot imagine a better place to be having this discussion, Iceland does not have a huge market, it is an island, if we are to rebuild this country for the future what should it look like? Those were the questions I was asking myself after the Collapse of the Financial System in Iceland in 2008. I am biased towards action and I invested in myself and Entrepreneurship, the jury is still out if that was the right decision or not, but I have never felt more energized, motivated and passionate about what I am doing (you can tell from the daily blog post, 24-7-365 on Twitter, Facebook, Email et cetra et cetra).
Startup Iceland Conference is a fantastic way to be inspired, connect and start on the Entrepreneurial journey. The word Startup has been hijacked by the technology based early stage companies and initiatives but I believe otherwise. Here is the definition:
The word is about setting things in motion, Startup Iceland Conference is about setting Iceland in motion. It has to be a community effort, and it is about the Ecosystem. When a single group of people in a community try to move things we have seen it always leads to sub-optimal results. The entire community has to contribute to make the initiative really make a difference. So what are you waiting for? what action have you taken to take charge of your career? your life? Startup Iceland Conference is an event created to celebrate this spirit… so go register for the workshop and take charge of yourself. You owe it to yourself.
March 2, 2012
Here is an interesting article about “How to make a region innovative” by Strategy+Business portal of Booz & Company. Why am I writing about this? well, because there is all this talk about Innovation Clusters
in Iceland around Geothermal Energy, Seafood etc In My Humble Opinion (IMHO), it is a waste of time! this is old school thinking that never works. Don’t take my word for it go and read the article. I am not the only one who thinks this way, there is a need for new thinking on innovation and entrepreneurship all around the world so how does one go about creating this new value i.e new equity. We are here because of our over indulgence in Debt which has basically eaten away all the equity in the world. I am sure we all can agree that is the case in Iceland, but more and more countries are starting to feel the pain of this… hello! have you seen the news about Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal… and the USA? So, here is a thought start hyper growth companies that can innovate at the speed of the internet and it can be done only by small teams because of many things especially team chemistry, mechanics, change management etc. There is enough evidence to support that Bigger a company gets the smaller their rate of innovation, I am sure there are exceptions to this, but the majority of large companies fall into What Clay Christensen calls the Innovators Dilemma. If you have not read the book I highly recommend it. The only way to innovate out of crisis is to start small, start at the grass root and change the entire paradigm of thinking and radically make traditional businesses obsolete. There is only one sector that is good at this and that is the Internet based companies in the the Startup Nation! Actually I would go one step further and say… you better be thinking about a Startup Of You, no wait Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn just wrote a book with that title. People these days, always stealing ideas just kidding. Go and read that book it is fascinating to think about the fundamental changes that are happening right in front of our eyes, but we need to be aware to see or suddenly you become obsolete. Are you getting obsolete?