About hannustewart

M.Sc. Student at Oulu University, Finland and Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. I live for new experiences and currently I'm working on some start-up projects.

Get professional

A few months back, in Copenhagen, I had the privilege to work with a team of enthusiastic students and a startup (provided a project for our class at CBS) that at the time was known as Tangerine District. Tangerine District was in private beta for some time but now Tangerine District has now gone publicly live as Worksy.

Worksy is perfect for startups that are looking to manage their work in a professional way. It is an online community of entrepreneurs  combined with all the important tools and services a startup may need, such as CRM, website tools, calendars, e-mail etc. It helps you document and plan your activities as you push your startup forward.

Probably the best side to worksy is that it is free of charge (at least the limited version, which will easily get you started).

Check it out and become more professional.

Words on design (takeaways from Autodesk)

The aim of any company is to create two reactions:

  1. WOW
  2. Uh-Oh

You want to create the WOW reaction in your customers and their customers. You want to surprise them time and time again by being awesome, crazy, unexpected, special, simply great and unbeatable.

You want to create the Uh-Oh reaction in your competitors and their customers. Similarly, you want to take them by surprise time and time again by being awesome, crazy, unexpected, special, simply great and unbeatable.

Mimicking competition won’t create WOW, nor will it create Uh-Oh. What it creates is commodities. We all know that commodities are next to zero in value and there is quite frankly nothing sexy about being a commodity. So why not do something of value? And further why not do something your competitors can’t or won’t do? The catch is that today, features and how you make or do something hardly separates you from your competitors. You need take a closer look at design to create something that is a WOW and an Uh-Oh and simultaneously something your competitors can’t do.

Take for example the iPod. It was hardly the first portable consumer mp3 player and since its launch there have been many attempts to overthrow its position. So what made it a WOW to millions of consumers and an Uh-Oh to all its competitors. I’m sure you guessed already. Yes, I’m talking about design. The iPod was a masterpiece of design. It actually combines several forms of design that makes it almost impossible to copy. It is a product design, a fashion design, a marketing design, a business model design, a manufacturing design, a business system design and so on.

Looking at the iPod it is easy to see that there is a clear distinction between tactical design (making pretty things – design as a noun – attempting to compete with features or looks) and strategic design (form and function from a user perspective – design as a verb – competing by separating yourself from all other actors). This is quite the same as attempting to compete in terms of price, there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper. Similarly there will always be the new model that is prettier, faster, lighter, shinier etc. So be and think different by looking at different forms of design. Figure out how design can make your competitors look like commodities.

Design is to companies what sunglasses are for Neo or what a special ring is to Frodo. You just shouldn’t separate them.

Seed, Startup, Growth, Transition

This trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley has definitely been an opportunity of a lifetime to learn from people who have done it. Before the big finale, Disk 2012- life in 4D, innovation tournament with Autodesk, UC Berkeley Haas Business School and InnoCoop, it is time to reflect on some of the meetings we have had with entrepreneurs here.

We have been fortunate to meet teams that are in different phases of their business. First, Pedicine, a company creating a new and innovative way to manage your medical data globally is working hard with exploring the opportunities related to their idea and developing the company. At this stage it is important to find the right people who can take the company to the next level and attract other people to get involved.

Today we had the privilege to meet with the guy behind Appington. Appington is a company which is revolutionizing the way how advertisers connect with customers through apps. Instead of annoying banner ads, Appington has brought the traditional audio advertisements to mobile platforms by embedding ads into the user experience. The company is currently working with first customers and working hard to create more traction. At this stage, getting as much feedback and insight as possible from potential customers and target groups is irreplaceable. Most founders waste time here thinking about (and creating) elaborate business plans and business models, but the truth is your plans are going to change so rapidly that keeping your presentations and documents up to date is a waste of time. Create a hypothesis, validate it with your target group and iterate when needed.

Betterdoctor, the company I talked about last time, Is possibly a little bit more established than Appington. The company has been successful in creating traction both in terms of getting doctors to join the service as well as getting customers to use the service. Currently the company is looking for external financing options in order to grow the company and secure a larger market share. read more about the growth stage of Betterdoctor from my earlier post.

Finally, looking at a fourth stage of young companies, we can see a transition from being rapidly changing and in some situations chaotic to being established and more mature and structured companies. This is pretty much where Luxus (especially its San Francisco office) is. Luxus focuses on combining a strong knowledge in marketing with their exceptional skill set in different technological and SaaS solutions.At this stage of the company, it is important to bring in people who are able to manage and navigate the company in its transition while continuing to generate growth. Here, finding the right partnerships can help companies avoid hurdles in their attempt to become stronger players in their field. It will be interesting to see how Luxus is able to scale their business with the help of their technological innovations.

Getting back to where I started from, tomorrow at Disk, we’ll be working with collaborative design challenges in order to create new and cool ways of thinking about design and where it can be applied. I’m sure that the past meetings have worked as a great primer for the tournament. I’ll give you all a summary of the outcomes of the challenge later.

Valley Venture Capital

The first few days in San Francisco and Berkeley are almost over and a lot has been going on so far. After having a jet lag day with football and a Finnish sauna in the shady parts of Oakland, we got our first chance to meet up with a local (Finnish) entrepreneur. We had the privilege of talking with Ari Tulla from Betterdoctor. We met him at Foundersden, which is a co-working space / startup hub in the heart of San Francisco.

Betterdoctor is a company that is solving the problem of finding a doctor near to you that fits your insurance plan. the problem is that no service combines the data for, doctor specialty, accepted insurance plan, quality verification and availability.

We talked about several topics but an interesting discussion was about VC-money around here. Basically what makes a deal is a good idea, a great founding team (with advisors, lawyers and partners) and basically having built your company in a reasonable way from the beginning. Technology isn’t the key and nor is your idea. Up to 70 % of good teams end up doing something different from what was planned on day 1. Also what Ari thought as crucial is your first VC. If he/she is good, other VC’s will follow.

Guy Kawasaki has similar insight. Below is his VC wish list but do check out his blog for more details.

  1. Build a real business
  2. Get an intro
  3. Follow the 10/20/30 rule
  4. Show traction
  5. Clean up your act
  6. Disclose everything you can’t clean up
  7. Acknowledge / create competition
  8. Tell new “lies” (Be original)
  9. Don’t fall for old tricks
  10. Under promise and over deliver

HEL – SFO

I promised you all some coverage from my and my friend Matti’s trip to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. We’ll the first leg of the journey is completed. We have safely arrived at Helsinki-Vantaa airport despite all the car wreckage on the roads (yet another whiteout in Helsinki and Finland). Apparently all flights are departing normally thanks to Finnish snowhow (smart eh). Looking forward to all the meetings and events that have been scheduled for the next two weeks. Several lunches and dinners with Finnish entrepreneurs and a couple of innovation events to come.

I’ll try to dig up some nice thoughts about being an entrepreneur in the big league and share the comments and insight here. So stay tuned.

Sales Sales Sales

What makes a good salesperson? How do some sales reps become real sharks for deals where some fail to deliver results? What is it that separates the great from the good, the good from the average and so on. Sales is not easy and it will never be a walk in the park. You have to have guts and a quick head but even the best of preparations will never guarantee you a spot in the top league.

Here’s some stuff I find important when talking about sales.

Understand your customer and their business.

Knowing what your customer is about is key when attempting to do business with them. The only way to understand your customer is to work with them. Ask the right questions, listen and learn. Figure out what are the challenges for them and find a way to help them with those challenges. Do what ever it takes to get the foundation right because you probably only get one shot at this.

Attitude.

It is likely that no customers will walk through your front door. It is your job to go to them and make it happen. Sales in not easy. It isn’t for everyone. There will be times when closing a deal feels impossible. However, these times are when the winners are separated from the not so successful. Don’t give up. Challenge yourself. Go the extra mile and get out of your comfort zone. You might have to pull some strings but in the end it will pay off. Make it your goal to learn something new each day and truly believe in yourself and in what you are doing. Doubt will show, and your customers will see it immediately, killing your deals.

Action.

Understand your numbers. Doing the right thing in the right place is key to getting your hit rate high. You might have to call 100 cold calls for every 10 meetings and from 10 meetings you might make one deal. Knowing your numbers will help you look at your sales activities and figure out where you must improve yourself. Be hungry for your sales and get your activities high. However, keep in mind what your business is about and don’t just make cold calls for the sake of cold calls. Rather, at the end of the day, concentrate on delivering.

And last, Always Be Closing.  Yes I know, it is a cliché but it is more than true. Being successful in sales calls for being active.

Going to Silicon Valley (update)

Just a quick update on my trip to Silicon Valley.

So as I said earlier, I’ll be traveling to Silicon Valley early this year. The trip has now been booked for 28th February – 12th March. Me and my friend will be visiting some start-ups, getting to meet some cool people and also taking part in some innovation activities that will take place during our stay. Of course we will have some days off too (we will go to hockey games etc.)

I’ll be covering the entire trip right here on my blog. I’m not promising updates every day, but for sure there will be a couple of posts during the trip.

Stay tuned…

Join a start-up

A new chapter in my life is right about to begin.

I returned to Finland from Denmark and Copenhagen Business School just before the holidays. My studies at Oulu Business School are now complete and it is time to move forward. I will be joining a start-up company in Espoo from the beginning of February. For me, this is one of the greatest opportunities. The company is growing rapidly, the people there are young and enthusiastic and also they appreciate talent. “A people” hire “A+ people” and later “A+ people” “Hire A++ people”. I hope the company also follows this rule of thumb that was closely followed at least at Apple.

For my fellow “soon to graduates” and “recent graduates”, seriously consider joining a start-up. These are the companies that are actually creating something new and exiting each and every day. You’ll certainly receive all the responsibility and opportunities you can handle. Also you have the great opportunity of growing with the company. Growth brings in new employees and these new employees will need new managers. Compared to large corporations where you might only be a number on the pay cheque, in start-ups you’ll certainly have a large role. Most of all, your work will leave a mark.

So instead of joining a corporation, join a start-up and be a part of something exiting.

Happy Holidays!

I would like to take this chance to wish all of my friends, family and readers a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2012. Thanks to all of you who have taken a minute or two of your time to read through some of my scribbles. I would especially like to thank those few who have commented and joined the discussion.

There’ll be some interesting posts coming up in early 2012. For example I will be covering my trip to Silicon Valley, so stay tuned.

See you all next year…