Posts tagged ‘technology’

November 14, 2013

Marketing trumps Technology…

Mac vs PCI have been having a very interesting discussion with my technology team, and I was made aware of this article in Forbes written by Anthony Wing Kosner with the title “Stanford vs MIT: How Marketing Trumps Technology in Startups“… before you all start sending me flame mail, I am not saying Technology is not important just that Marketing trumps Technology and please read the article and read the argument below. Fred Wilson of AVC.com started a huge uproad when he took a swibe at Marketing here and he corrected himself by saying that his blog post was a bug. I think there is marketing and there is marketing… I believe Marketing is telling a story about your vision, value and why you believe anyone should use what you are making or envisioning. Seth Godin had a very response to the original post by Fred. Marketing != Advertising, lets think about this, when you are building a startup, it is an experiment until you figure out the Product to Market fit, and while you are doing that experiment you still need to tell your story. If you are not telling your story nobody really cares to ask you about your story. Sequencing marketing activities and team buildup is an important skill and IMHO an art i.e when do you scale the marketing team. I believe very strongly that while you are experimenting in figuring out the product to market fit you still need to spend resources ie. time, money, people in telling a story, it sounds extremely counter intuitive to Engineers, how can you tell a story about something you have not built yet… that is the visioning part of your startup. If you cannot envision the value, the problem, the solution and the experiments to find the market that you will serve, you are just pandering to the builder in you. In addition, even if the product you have built is great, without marketing there is no way to scale it to a point where it starts selling itself. This is a tough pill to swallow especially for Engineers and Technologist, who love the building part but don’t really care about the Marketing and Selling part. There is a point in time in your startup life you need to deal with this challenge. What I have found is that European/Scandinavian/Nordic Startups due to cultural reasons do not want to tell a story before they are sure that there is a story where as Startup in the US are much better at this. It is no magic that most successful startups come out from across the pond. I know I know hate me but the data does not lie.

May 4, 2013

Its the Entrepreneur…and the Team

Gunnar, Co-Founder/CEO

Gunnar, Co-Founder/CEO

svenni

Svenni, CFO

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the news that CLARA was acquired by Jive Software (NASDAQ:JIVE) last week. Everyone in Iceland is talking about this deal. It was the first investment my partners and I at Auro Partners made in Iceland. We are very happy to have shared the journey with Team CLARA (a.k.a Resonata). If I am not wrong, this is the first Icelandic software company to be acquired by a NASDAQ listed Silicon valley company. This was a huge win for CLARA, Jive Software and for the Startup Community in Iceland!

Gummi, CMO

Gummi, Co-Founder/CMO

Sverrir, CTO

Sverrir, CTO

I continue to emphasize that the key to success is always the entrepreneurial team. Finding and assembling the right team to drive success is an art. CLARA’s success can be attributed to many factors aligning at once and at the right time. But the core factor in CLARA’s success was its team. Auro Partners was impressed with the technology CLARA was building, but we invested in its founders.

I have written about CLARA before and the team at CLARA. This acquisition effort was led by Gunnar Holmsteinn (CLARA’s CEO), Sveinbjorn Indridarsson (CFO), the dedicated members of CLARA’s team, a committed Board of Directors, and guided by our lawyer Justin Hovey from Pillsbury Law.

Maggi, Co-Founder/Designer

Maggi, Co-Founder/Designer

Jon, Co-Founder/Developer

Jon, Co-Founder/Developer

There were numerous late night meetings, legal documents to review, negotiations, round table discussions and hard work that brought this win home. Like the startup team itself, the people that comprise the Board of Directors of a startup makes a huge difference in the company strategy, direction and opportunity for success. We were very lucky to have had a wonderful and dedicated Board, that consisted of experienced business minds with diverse backgrounds: Egill Masson from NSA, Paula GouldRagnheiður H. Magnúsdóttir, myself and Bjarni Armansson. Together we had the right mix of people with the right backgrounds and the right attitude.

The last 3+ years with Team CLARA has been a huge learning experience for me personally and I would like to thank every member of Team CLARA to have given me that opportunity to be their first investor and the Chairman of the Board.

210317_10150100521859906_8190227_o

Steinn, Developer

Steinn, Developer

Tomas, Developer

Tomas, Developer

On behalf of Auro Partners, I will say we are extremely happy to see Team CLARA get to do the things they love doing, and successfully. We are more confident now than ever about our Investment thesis on Iceland and excited to be part of the Startup Community in Iceland. We will continue to invest time, money and effort into building a much more vibrant business community in Iceland.

Rick, Sales

Rick, Sales

If you are an Entrepreneur or a startup team, you should definitely participate in Startup Iceland 2013. Gunnar Holmstein will be among one of the many exceptional and experienced speakers this year. He will share with us his journey, stories and strategies that worked (and didn’t work) for Team CLARA. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn from someone who fought the good fight to bring Iceland a huge win.

April 19, 2013

Icelandic Geothermal Cluster

Had a chance to meet with Hakon Gunnarsson, the Managing Director of Gekon and he has been leading the initiative to bring all the gekonlogoIcelandic Geothermal related companies in forming a cluster. I am not a big fan of these cluster concept, if you have read my previous blog post about the Seafood Cluster. That being said, I do believe creating an accelerator program for new startups in the Geothermal space is not such a bad idea. I think that is precisely what Hakon is planning to do. It was interesting to hear all the work that has gone into mapping the cluster, interfacing with all the service providers and research organizations. I am usually amazed at the amount of time that is wasted in doing all of this and the money that it takes to organize these things but I guess it is cost of engaging with established companies who really are not in the business of disrupting their own business model. Geothermal has always been a fascinating source of energy for me, I got a lot of knowledge about it while I was working for Glitnir.

There is an abundance of this energy in Iceland, Dr. Michael Porter believes that there is an great opportunity for Iceland in this space.michael porter I am not that smart but I believe creating an ecosystem where new companies can innovate and create value in this niche technology is not such a bad idea. I believe this because there is a reservoir of knowledge and experience and experimentable area in Iceland, however tapping it and using it in a responsible manner is always a debate. I think the challenge Geothermal Energy development companies have is the large capital need in the early stage and I believe software and data can solve this problem for the typical engineering challenge. I have worked with Engineering companies like Mannvit who are experts in doing feasibility studies and designing and implementing the engineering solution to tap this energy source. There is so much more that can be done, I think the biggest opportunity is in applying the latest software and data techniques to mitigate one of the biggest risks in Geothermal development which is the risk of sucking the water table below the earth and also predicting the real potential of the source of geothermal energy across the globe. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of work being done in this area and once again there is a huge generational gap in people working in this area. I am excited to see how Hakon is going to take this idea forward.

There is a calendar of events related to this starting to happen in Iceland and I am glad to see an entrepreneur taking the lead on this.2013-minversion If you are in the Geothermal space reach out to Hakon and be a mentor to the new generation of companies that he plans to facilitate through the establishment of Startup Geothermal… an accelerator for Geothermal entrepreneurs. I am starting to see a trend here :) What do you think?

March 18, 2013

Startup Weekend Reykjavik

Startup Weekend Reykjavik happend this last weekend. I volunteered again as a mentor and it was a lot of fun.

Source: iceland.startupweekend.org

Source: iceland.startupweekend.org

This time around the organizing team at Innovit had brought an external facilitator from the UK, and I was also impressed that the organizing team nudged the participants to aggregate around ideas that actually had some meat in the bones. In the previous few Startup Weekend that I have participated in Iceland, the challenge has been that some of the team members were married to their idea but the idea did not have a big enough market or potential of becoming a business. Anyways, the teams that were working on the ideas this time had some programming resources with them and some designers. It was obvious as they could actually develop the websites and have some working apps within the 54 hours of the weekend. There were 13 teams presenting at the end of the day, I met with most of them and talked to all of them and I learnt a lot and I was tempted to write a check to a couple of the teams, but realized that it would be too soon and the teams were not ready for that. I intend to follow up with the teams to see how they are doing and who knows maybe I will invest :)

Here is the coverage of the event in Icelandic, It was great to see a lot more mentors participate in the event.

Source: MBL.is

Source: MBL.is

I think what is missing is if an Angel Investor would show up and write a check at the end of the Weekend to the winning team and get them started on the journey to becoming entrepreneurs. My intention is to be able to do that here and also in Startup Reykjavik. I think we are starting to see the green shoots of yearly activities showing up in Iceland which goes back to the strategy of building a startup community here in Iceland. In my opinion, we are on Year II on the journey to building an Antifragile Startup Ecosystem here in Iceland.

February 26, 2013

Disruption revisited and redefined

The word Disruption has a negative context, the definition according to Dictionary.com is

1. ( tr ) to throw into turmoil or disorder
2. ( tr ) to interrupt the progress of (a movement, meeting, etc)
3. to break or split (something) apart
English: Diagram showing overview of cloud com...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I feel the dictionaries do not do justice to the word. The use of the word Disrupt in the innovation context is more a positive one although it depends on which side of the table you are, are you an incumbent or a new entrant disrupting the established order. Disruption happens due to a number of reasons. I have written about it before, but what is fascinating is that all the things that we use today were disruptive technologies when they were introduced. Think of the Radio, TV, Video, CD Player, Automobile, Air travel etc they fundamentally changed how we perceive the service provided by these tools. I believe we are undergoing a major transformation in disruption, where business models are being disrupted.

Anyone can say what they want about Cloud Computing but it is truly disruptive in terms of the business model. The same is true for Mobile Commerce or for that matter Self Education. All these massive trends are in front of us and the change is not going to be like night and day but it is going to a gradual transition, where one day we wake up and see that 90% of us use Smart Phones not by using the keyboard but by giving voice instructions. I have been very impressed with how good Google Voice Recognition is on my Android. Fred Wilson wrote about it with the title “Simplicity, The Emerging UI and Machine Learning“.

The disruption occurs because of the ability of some entrant to see a new light to an accepted problem. I had a very interesting conversation with a buddy of mine who is in sales for very large network gear company, he was telling me about the conversation that he has with large organizations who basically dismiss the Cloud hype and how he disagreed with that argument. I agree with him, obviously I am biased because of my neck deep involvement in GreenQloud, where we were able to implement a small disruption in how you share and listen to music you own through our StorageQloud offering, it is so simple to do even my grandma can do it, mind you, she was a very very intelligent women. But the facts are facts… these technologies provide tremendous value to those who can embrace them and make the technology work for them, for those who are happy with the status quo it would look like a hype until that day when their competitors have moved over to this new technology and are eating their lunch in the marketplace… think Blockbuster vs. Netflix or Kodak vs. Digital Camera or Nokia vs. Apple, I can go on. You know who else is disrupting Volkswagon… I am sure you have seen this ad

February 7, 2013

Startup Renaissance

Reykjavik

Reykjavik (Photo credit: natematias)

I was invited to give a talk on Career Day in Reykjavik University. I wanted to drive home a message that Entrepreneurship is a viable career alternative. I led with the question “How can we make everyone from being a Job Seeker to Job Creator?” were we not born as entrepreneurs? Is that not our legacy? Anyway. The presentation was a disaster as my Mac refused to work with the projector and I had not done the necessary practice run to learn about all the challenges of winging it on the fly when you had just made a presentation in Keynote and exported it to Powerpoint, I had a bunch of videos embedded in the presentation and none of that worked because the computer connected to the projector did not have the video player or whatever and when I tried to pivot by running the videos from YouTube Firefox crashed on Windows so pretty much anything that can go wrong went wrong! Lesson learnt. The only consolation is that my presentation was not about the slides it was about driving home a point that on Career Day one does not need to get dejected that there are no jobs… there are plenty of jobs out there they have just not yet been created by you yet. If I was able to convert 1 person to that way of thinking then my job was done, I got validation by one who was attending as he tweeted exactly the question that I led with.

I have been spending way too much time trying to embed the presentation to this post and I finally got it to work it still has some audio issues but you can download the presentation from here.

January 4, 2013

Startup Iceland 2013 – Building Antifragile Entrepreneurial-Startup Ecosystems

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:

  1. Brad Feld Managing Director of Foundry Group

    Brad Feld

    Brad Feld

  2. Jason Mendelson Managing Director of Foundry Group

    Jason Mendelson

    Jason Mendelson

  3. Ryan McIntyre  Managing Director of Foundry Group

    Ryan McIntyre

    Ryan McIntyre

  4. Helga Waage Co-founder and CTO of Mobilitus

    Helga Waage

    Helga Waage

  5. Angela Jackson, Managing Director of Portland Seed Fund

    Angela Jackson

    Angela Jackson

  6. Howard Lindzon, CEO of StockTwits, Angle Investor and Twitter personality

    Howard Lindzon

    Howard Lindzon

  7. Alex Torrenegra, CEO of VoiceBunny and a lot more check out his LinkedIn profile

    Alex Torrenegra

    Alex Torrenegra

  8. Rebeca Hwang, CEO of YouNoodle

    Rebeca Hwang

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:

  1. U.S Embassy in ReykjavikAmbassador 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Icelandair GroupIcelandair 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
November 28, 2012

Open Source Entrepreneurship

Logo Open Source Initiative

Logo Open Source Initiative (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Steve Blank has been one of the bloggers, Entrepreneurs and Gurus who has been writing about and teaching entrepreneurship in Stanford and a number of universities all over the world. He has compiled a blog post that has all the resources that any entrepreneur can use in this blog post with the Title “Open Source Entrepreneurship“. I am a big fan and I hope we all can use the wisdom and knowledge that has been aggregated in this blog post.

via Open Source Entrepreneurship.

November 28, 2012

Are you Antifragile?

Have I mentioned to you that Nicholas Nassim Taleb was the man responsible for me to jump into the world of Entrepreneurship and Startups? well, he did. He is by far the most brilliant mind and thinkers that we have in the world today. He has a new book out and I could not wait to get my hands on it, and thanks to Technology and Kindle, I got it the first day it was released. I love the Internet. The title of new book is Antifragile. I have not been able to put the book down, I can really see where he is coming from and his conclusions about Risk and calculating the odds of rare events (which all Risk Managers and Banks tend to do… even today!) is a fools errand. You cannot predict or calculate the risk of failure, the world was not build that way. What is the property that can enable systems to flourish and grow under uncertainty and risk?

Source: Amazon.com

We live in a world that we don’t understand, but we act like we do and that causes the fragility of our systems. I could not agree more to the main theme of the book. I see a lot of lessons for Entrepreneurs, I think as an Entrepreneur one needs to be Antifragile which is an opposite of Fragile. The definition of Antifragile is a quality that I believe every entrepreneur needs to build just like building muscle or fitness or endurance. So what is Antifragile you ask?

Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance… even our own existence as a species on this planet. And antifragility determines the boundary between what is living and organic (or complex), say, the human body, and what is inert, say, a physical object like the stapler n your desk.

I am halfway through the book but had to write this post. Do yourself a favor and go get the book and read it. Here is the man himself describing the Antifragile:

July 8, 2012

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.
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