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.

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.

Winners

Winners are like athletes…

Like a world-class athlete, winners set their goals and milestones high. Not so high that achieving them would be impossible, but high enough to motivate you on your way to the top. I don’t believe that Usain Bolt was attempting to be in the top 10 fastest people on earth. He was targeting to be the fastest!

Also like athletes, winners are confident. Winners believe that they are the best in what they do. They know that what ever hits them, they’ll find a way to overcome the obstacles. However, there is a fine line between confidence and cockynes. Being cocky, probably won’t take you far. Keep in mind that your competitors are confident too and you might get surprised if you lower your guard. So be alert.

And just like athletes, winners work hard to achieve their goals. Winners constantly seek for possibilities to improve their skills and partner up with people who might be able to help them on their way to the top. Improve your skills and be on top of your game. Being humble and open to new influences can take you to an entirely new level.

And for me, Entrepreneurs are winners. Entrepreneurs (you don’t necessarily need to be a company founder or owner to be an entrepreneur) are confident. Successful entrepreneurs are humble and open to influences. They set goals, work hard to achieve them and consult coaches on the way to success.

Men in Black Suits

Today I met a man in a black suit and quite frankly, tomorrow I won’t even remember talking to him.

Who is the man in a black suit? He might come from a prestigious college, he might have several degrees, he might have contacts to several different “important people”. To himself he is the most important and intelligent person around. At first he might seem like a person you would like to be in close contact with. He might even seem to be very valuable to you concerning your interests. However there is an other side to men in black suits…

A man in a black suit will go unrecognized at events. He won’t raise any opinions about himself or the work he does. When you talk to a man in a black suit, you actually realize that there is quite little he can help you with. He is overly conservative, as if he was protecting himself from the opinions of others. He attempts to please everybody around him, but by doing so he doesn’t do good to anyone around him. Sadly enough, if he went away, hardly anyone would realize his absence.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everybody who wears a black suit is a “man in a black suit” or that a person without a black suit wouldn’t be a “man in a black suit”. It goes a lot deeper.

Don’t be a man in a black suit. Don’t try to please everybody around you. Just think about all “the men in black suits” that have gone unnoticed throughout the past. Have a stand and opinion about topics and issues. Be passionate. Disagree with people and challenge the views of others. Sometimes you will make a person around you disagree with you. Sometimes somebody will get angry. But similarly your views will definitely echo with others. People will remember you. People might even admire your courage. You will actually stand out of the crowd. Maybe it is because of something you said or did. Or maybe it is because you have a certain skill or ability.

 

Please FAIL today!!!

Ok, please write a note to your calendar for today. Please write; ” Today I failed!”

Don’t worry. Failing is good. Failing helps you learn from your mistakes. Failing will show what has to be improved. I encourage you to fail. Even better, I challenge you to fail. Finland challenges you to fail!

Today, 13th October 2011, marks the first nationwide “National Fail Day” in Finland. What is it all about? In short the Finnish society hasn’t been very encouraging in the unfortunate situation where a person – whether an entrepreneur, an athlete, me or you, anyone – has failed. Unlike in many other cultures failure in Finland is (soon “was”) personal. From children to adults, from students to professionals, from young to old – we fear failure so much that we don’t even try. We fear that other people will judge us based on our failures rather than our success.

However, today marks the time when Finland began to change its ways. Today, failure is celebrated. Share your failures with all the people you know and encourage them to do the same! Spread the word and visit the official website (sorry, only in Finnish) to see how some of the most prominent figures of Finnish society have failed. Learn from your failures and learn from the failures of others. Remember that when you have failed, you have the chance to learn how to be better the next time. Failure is an opportunity to succeed!