Posts tagged ‘Mark Suster’

June 12, 2014

Why we don’t need a “Silicon” something in Iceland – Ben Kepes – Startup Iceland 2014

I really enjoyed the talk by Ben Kepes, who travels extensively and participates in various conferences as speaker, evangelist and technology blogger and investor. His advice for Iceland made the headlines in the local newspapers. I think he is right, there is only one Silicon Valley and we should not try to create a community with a name that has “Silicon” in it. I like Startup Iceland :) as a name for the Startup Community in Iceland.

It was interesting to read the Twitter Argument between Mark Suster and Kara Swisher about the story that was written by Nellie Bowles on Silicon Beach to describe the LA Tech Community.


Mark hates the name and it was interesting for me to read that and relate it back to what Ben was saying. I think every community should have the Silicon Valley mindset i.e Anything is possible, failure is another way to learn and people willing to take chances on each other to create value. When there is a lot of money involved a number of these things gets skewed. I don’t know enough about Silicon Valley to comment on it but Ben does. Listen to his talk, there are wise words there.

May 19, 2014

Voted the Startup Journalist of the year in Iceland

NSA_logo-fullI 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.

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March 30, 2014

Getting to Yes

PersistenceI was reminded yesterday of a blog post that I wrote a while back about True Grit, the persistent, relentless push forward quality that I see everyday in Entrepreneurs who get it. I have been talking to some of the institutional investors who have been interested in participating in the “Alternative Asset Class” that is the name used by Banks, Pension Funds and other financial institutions if you did not know. Almost all of them ask me what is criteria for me to invest in companies, I cannot emphasize enough about the quality of Grit, someone how has the Chutzpah, the gump, the courage to boldly continue on when all the natural things begs you to stop. I really got inspired reading the latest article by Mark SusterOne of My Most Frequent Pieces of Advice: Be Politely Persistent“. I am sure there were some Entrepreneur who was being pissed off or arrogant about not getting to an yes with Mark. That happens a lot. Nice thing about Iceland is that there are not that many venture investors that you get only a few Nos :), the important thing is obviously to continue on your journey. But as Mark says in his post don’t be bitter about it or arrogant or be an a#$h%&! about it. The best way to get to a yes, is always hard work, focus on what matters and your circle of influence and move your circle of concern away from what needs to get done.

The above advice by Mark is a classic and comes at the right time, Jason Mendelson one of the Managing Directors at Foundry Group and who attended Startup Iceland last year (Have you bought your tickets yet! we are going to have a sold out event, do don’t wait till the last minute get your early bird tickets) was interviewed by about “18 ways to kill as startup: Bad Teams and Ideas, arrogance…“, do you notice the pattern? Arrogance is one of those attributes that an Entrepreneur needs to let go, you cannot be arrogant in a sphere riddled with high uncertainty and low data. You need to be positive and continue on your journey. I also like the post Brad wrote a while back about an “Entrepreneurs Math:(.9)^10=1 “, you need to be in the deterministic world and not the probabilistic one if you are an entrepreneur. If you do the odds, it will tell you how small of a chance you have for success, but that should not define how you go about doing things. You need to believe that you will succeed despite everyone showing the odds of success at your face. That is how you get to Yes! quiet, polite, persistent, relentless focus on the next step… May the force be with you!

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March 15, 2014

Leadership and Courage

CaptainkirkAs I wrote in my previous blog post, I have been glued to the book “The Hard Thing about Hard Things” and watched the following video where Mark Suster interviews Ben Horowitz in Startup Grind. It is a great interview and I would highly encourage everyone who is a startup founder, CEO or investor to watch it.

One of the things that Ben talks about which I very strongly subscribe to in Startup Founders is the ability of Leadership and Courage. It seems a little touchy feely thing but IMHO this is the most important trait, technical skills you can learn, management skills again can be learnt, leadership skills not that obvious and it takes a lot of practice and mentoring and the more you get to do it the more it demands of you. I have written a lot about Leadership because I believe very strongly that Leadership is the X Factor of Entrepreneurship and if you can couple that with Courage to take bold decision and “Go where no-one has gone before” you have Captain Kirk like leadership. Remember that Courage is not absence of fear, but it is action to do the right thing despite fear. I have walked the path of startup founders in the last 5 years, I seen a lot of challenges that faces a startup and the teams that comprise a startup. The one single thread that keeps everything together is the trait of Leadership and Courage. Cultivate those traits, become obsessed with it and learn everything there is to learn about it, if you are an Entrepreneur or a Startup Founder.

Many of us included yours truly believed that courage is going into battle, but it is far from it. Courage is having the self awareness to ask for input from your friends and co-founder and your team. Courage is being vulnerable to the team with the notion that you don’t have all the answers. Courage is confronting your co-founder or Startup founder when she is going off the rails to give feedback and bring her back to reality. Courage is raising a red flag when whole team is telling lies and courage is raising the mirror and showing the entire team when politics starts trumping hard work, diligence and doing the right thing. These are hard things to do in a team environment. You need to factor the maturity, experience and the leadership capacity within the team to really push the agenda. Once again, I feel validated that my emphasis on leadership around building a leadership culture at all levels in the teams that I work with is the right principle. It may not seem obvious but it always pays rich dividends.

I am starting to watch the entire Star Trek Series starting from the first episode, as I believe Captain Kirk personifies a certain aspect of leadership and courage that is needed in a Startup Founder and Entrepreneur.

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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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Visit Startup Management
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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

April 24, 2013

Disruption in how we learn

Fat Tony

Fat Tony (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always enjoyed being a student and that is one of the main reasons why I wanted to teach… that did not pan out as planned because I wanted to do so much more. There are so many fantastic possibilities opening up with the connected world. Fred Wilson had a post a couple of days back of Startup Grind where Mark Suster was interviewing Clay Christensen. I have written a lot about Clay Christensen’s work around “The Innovators Dilemma”, where Clay talks about why disruption happens. The interview was about the disruption happening to higher education and venture capital. In my opinion the biggest disruption of all is going to happen to how we learn. I have to be honest, I am learning more about Price Actions, Reading Stock Charts and Technical Analysis from a very experienced trader, Dan Fitzpatrick, who is running an education website called and I am hooked I wake up every morning to watch his video analysis of the market, his perspectives on a number of stocks and how he thinks as a trader. This knowledge was usually locked up, but with the advent of the internet anyone can invest the time, learn a new trade or just learn about anything. This is just so mind blowing to me that I am surprise not many people are taking advantage of this. I wish there was more than 24 hours in a day for us to be able to learn all these new things that you always wanted to learn. Do you want to learn to play the Guitar? sure there is, do you want to learn to cook? sure there is, I am not vouching these are the best educational material out there but it makes education accessible to anyone who has access to an Internet Connected display device.

What the internet based education brings is engagement as opposed to watching a video in a TV or something similar. If you could put together a forum where there is interaction of the community, have a daily/weekly video feed of your thought process and a subscription model then you can start an education business. I have been extremely happy to pay $170/month to learn how to think like an experienced Stock Trader. No, I am not betting my house in the Stock Market and yes, I think the Market is rigged to be biased towards Institutional investors but the price action is fascinating to analyze and learn from, what is even more interesting for me is to learn how a stock market trader thinks, the experienced ones like Dan Fitzpartick admit to their follies, are very good risk managers and do not bet their house on what they know. They are nimble, street smart, think survival and usually are not too much into book learning. Much like how Taleb talks about Fat Tony in his books Antifragile, The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness. So, what do you want to learn about? what is stopping you? I am sure if you look hard enough you will find a service on the Internet that teaches you something.

November 6, 2012

Culture of Failure

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

I had a very interesting discussion during the UnConference Event, where one of the participants was telling me how she feared how the community would react if her business failed and that prevented her from taking actions that were not in her comfort zone. This is a huge problem in Iceland. I get the feeling that people think that failure is a bad thing. I embrace failure and I am fearless about my business ventures. There is no other way to look at the abyss of Entrepreneurship. I remember Steve Jobs seminal talk in Stanford and I wrote about it many times.

It is impossible to connect the dots looking forward, it was very very clear looking backward 10 years later. Again, you cannot connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking back. You have to trust the dots will somehow connect in the future, you have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever… because believing that the dots will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads off the well worn path and that would make all the difference.

Almost everyone looks at Silicon Valley as this role model of building a startup ecosystem, and I wonder if Silicon Valley would have become such an ecosystem without the leadership of Research oriented organizations and companies that embraced failure as a way to learn to improve on their experiments. Mark Suster had a post about this where he was interviewing Steve Blank and their discussion is extremely illustrative of the nature of Silicon Valley. I believe a Culture that embraces failure and has the buffer to support those who dare to challenge the norm and improve the community need to be embraced. I also believe those who take chances on those type of individuals need to be embraced because without capital the challenges of experimentation is made doubly hard. Here is the video interview of Mark:

July 16, 2012

Excuse department is closed

As I have mentioned before, guest posts are welcome on the Startup Iceland Blog. We did our first post about a week back. I plan to create a calendar of posts. Every wednesday we will have a guest post, those wednesdays we don’t have a post I will fill the gap. I have been slacking on the blog because of various reasons but as I tell everyone the “Excuse Department is Closed!“, starting this monday we will have a blog post everyday. The title for the blog post is stolen from Mark Suster, he was referring to the sales teams trying to find excuses for not selling products. Anyways, I digress… the blog is going to get back on track. This coming wednesday we have another blog post by Ashwin, who wrote the first blog post. The topic for wednesday is about Angel Investors and how that cohort can dramatically change the landscape of Startups and Entrepreneurship. I attended the open pitch session last thursday in Startup Reykjavik, all the teams are improving dramatically in their elevator pitches, however we need to hit this one out of the park. IMHO, getting the local angel network to participate and invest in the group is the key. I will be working diligently to get everyone who is interested to participate in the demo day.

While I write this blog post my brain keeps coming back to the saying Excuse department is closed. I have been thinking about Annie Thorisdottir, the 2012 Crossfit World Champion from Iceland. She is a huge role model for Iceland and what can be achieved if one is disciplined and trains with a goal in mind. I have not met her or know her but she has put Iceland back on the map for the right reasons. Imagine the odds, the same ones that gets thrown at me when ever I bring the notion that world class startups can be built from Iceland. She was a nobody before last years event, and she was only 22 years old… impressive to be a world champion at that age. I am wondering what excuses she gave herself for training so hard.

June 10, 2012

Why you should be optimistic about the future

Dr. Randy Pausch

Dr. Randy Pausch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image representing Mark Suster as depicted in ...

Image by GRP Partners via CrunchBase

When I started on the Venture Capital education 4 years back, I started following Fred Wilson, Brad Feld and Mark Suster. I encourage all the entrepreneurs whom I interact with to do the same. Fred for Consumer facing web/mobile businesses, Brad for glue technologies and Mark for enterprise related startups. Although the lines blur when you look at their investment portfolio, each of these 3 individuals have a specialization and long term perspective on their respective cohorts. In addition, all of them are super super smart and regular contributors so one always learns reading their work and does not have a long hiatus between their blog posts. I finished reading an excellent analysis by Mark Suster with the title “Its Morning in Venture Capital” on why he believes the Venture Capital industry is not dead as is proclaimed by a number of organizations and pundits. I agree with Mark, the bad and inexperienced players will loose their credibility and/or their shirt when there are big market corrections… however the general trend to be optimistic about the Internet and the 3rd Wave of innovation is prevalent with many who are looking into the crystal ball everyday like Mark and his partners. I have had the previlege of interacting with Brad Feld and Brad Burnham, or “The Brads” as was called by the participants in the Startup Iceland Conference. Again there is enough evidence to go long on this thing called the Internet. Read the whole post by Mark to understand the entire dynamics of the interplay of the micro and macro, demographic and economic trends. I cannot image being in any other industry or applying these new infrastructure to traditional industries to disrupt them. It is going to be an awesome decade or two, if you have the stomach for it. It is going to be hard, bumpy and tough ride but whoever said this was going to be easy, nothing worthwhile is easy. I am big fan of Randy Pausch, the author of a fantastic book “The Last Lecture” where one of the chapter he talks about Brick Walls, basically all the hurdles one faces when you are trying to pursue your dream, ambition whatever… I love the way he puts it “…The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people“. Being an entrepreneur or part of a startup team is hard work, and a lesson in patience and perseverance. If one does not have the never give up attitude, it becomes doubly hard. If one wants instant gratification fugedabouddit… There is only one way to win in being an entrepreneur, have a long term vision about your goals, work with people you enjoy spending time with and do it in a place where you love living. To quote one of Brad Felds post “People Place Thing

Spend as much time as possible with PEOPLE you love in a PLACE you want to be on a THING you are passionate about.

All the macro challenges, Euro Crisis, US Government Debt etc will not matter if you followed the above simple advice and read Marks post on why you should really rethink where the world is going if you are stuck on a dead end job.

February 10, 2012

Strategies to implement Validated Learning

The meetup yesterday on the Lean Startup was very inspiring, so I am following up the post with some more thoughts on how can we implement the validated learning concept on various businesses and scenarios. I strongly believe that the Internet and all the applications that have been built on this global network provide us with valuable sensors to touch, feel and understand the dynamics of human behavior. We can conduct experiments, collect data and learn from them. This is precisely what Validated Learning is from my perspective. The classic example is the concept of selling a car through the internet, when someone floated this idea 13 years back, the conventional wisdom was it will never work but I know various examples from Steve Blank‘s book as well as Bill Gross’s interview on This Week in Venture Capital with Mark Suster show how they experimented and did validated learning. Bill Gross is a fantastic ideas guy, check out the full video but if you want to skip to the part about the Car Selling example it is at 0:31:41 in the video. The summary of it is they had just put a landing page with some images of Car with a price tag on it, they had no inventory or distribution or management team or any infrastructure to support selling cars but they did it anyway to learn if anyone would click on the “Buy” button and their idea was if anyone click on it they will have validated the idea a car can be sold on through the Internet, they followed that link to test further hypothesis will a user actually give their credit card information and personal details like address, phone number etc sure enough they put up a form that takes in the information of the buyerand the credit card information. They were surprised to see the orders start to come in, and when it did they physically drove to a Car seller bought the car and deliver it to the buyers. When you think about this, the buyer really does not care whether you are buying it from another seller or not, all he cares about is the convenience of being able to buy a car from his office. They found out that there were many buyers and once they had validated that hypothesis, they built the infrastructure to support growing sales. Actually, I think they took down the site in a day because they could not fulfill the orders that poured in, thats what I can a luxury problem.


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