Everybody has a dream

Photo by: Adam Rifkin

My friend Christian once said: “entrepreneurship is about taking control of your own life”.

Of course there are many definitions of entrepreneurship but for the individual actually doing the work, taking the step, rolling the dice – and not studying entrepreneurship on an academic level – it is close to the truth.

I talk to a lot of people about entrepreneurship. I have started a few companies, had some minor successes and some failures, I’m not playing the big leagues in any kind of way as an entrepreneur but I have more experience in entrepreneurship than most people (even studied it on a master level). At the very least I have a strong passion for it and for what it can do to individuals and society at large (one reason we launched the Startup Dojo and why I’ve been doing various startup events).

So I often end up talking to people about their dreams.

What they really want to do if they didn’t do what they do now.

Most people have this dream of an alternative life. A different life. A better life.

It’s almost never about money or luxury, it’s more about a different lifestyle or being able to have an income doing what your passionate about.

But it almost always remains a dream.

This is what Christian referred to in the quote above. Taking control. Making the dream a reality.

Here’s the thing: entrepreneurship is about introducing (making) change and that always starts with yourself.

Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it requires hard work. Yes, you may have to take a financial risk.

But the way I see it, living your entire life without trying to fulfil your dream is the biggest risk of all.

The incredible Mojang and the acceleration of disruptive innovation

Photo by: Elias Gayles


It’s not every day you see a news article in Swedish on Hacker News, but the latest profit numbers from Swedish indie game maker Mojang came in yesterday and the startup community of Hacker News jumped in to discuss them.

It’s simply amazing that a small one man company can grow so rapidly. It wouldn’t be possible without the disruptive power of the web behind it. Everyone has a global audience by their fingertips (although it’s not easy to reach it).

If you’re working in a larger, more established business there’s an important lesson from the team at Mojang AB: your most fierce competitor may not even have moved out of the garage yet, but they can overtake your market faster than you can say “TPS report”. They can hit you where and when you least expect it. The only remedy is to embrace change and become an innovator yourself.

That’s the thing that fascinates the Hacker News community. Everyone (well, almost) in that community wants to be the one taking down a large company and disrupting their market. There are thousands of smart people out there working on something that may totally change the rules of the game YOU are playing right now. Watch out for the Mojang of your market.

The trillion dollar startup

By: Antti Kultanen




Steve Blank recently wrote a blog post about how Facebook is killing Silicon Valley. His argument is that too much money is “wasted” by being invested in startups with relatively trivial ideas and designed to make you click ads. The huge and rapid growth of social media has created enormous wealth in record time and the money is following at the expense of more long term investments like the cure for cancer.

While it can be argued that social networks that connect people really do add tremendous value to mankind, Steve has a point that we as a startup community can do better than generating clicks on ads.

Because, honestly, he’s right. You didn’t become an entrepreneur to sell ads. You want to change the world. Make it a substantially better place. Let us all aim higher!

The recent successful launch of the SpaceX vessel Dragon is a reminder of the fact that Big Ideas are still possible. The company Planetary Resources is another example of thinking big as are the driverless cars that Google is working on.

Technology provides us with so many potentially huge innovations. Somewhere out there is the first trillion dollar startup. Maybe it’s yours?

What do you think are trillion dollar startup ideas?

The Uncompany

By: Ryk Neethling

All the posts about the unconference Social Sweden Web Camp (SSWC) got me thinking. If there are lessons to be learned for every business from SSWC, then what do you call a company that already knows these lessons and lives by their rules?

An uncompany, of course.

An uncompany has a community of ambassadeurs, fans and followers, not customers.

An uncompany sees itself as a platform for others to create on.

An uncompany lives by an ethos and values that its community shares.

What else does an uncompany do? Any thoughts?

Take a step back


Photo by: F Delventhal

As an entrepreneur working with a startup at the early stage it’s easy to get fixated on one particular idea. The problem with this is that you’re basically laying all your eggs in one basket. If the idea doesn’t work, you lose the drive and the passion to move things forward. The startup dies before it even had a chance to get the wings in the air.

It is often a good idea to take a step and see the bigger picture. Your idea can be part of something much bigger.

For example, let’s say you have an idea for a location based game. You work hard to get the mobile app built and after months of work you finally release it. Soon you discover what most entrepreneurs discover when they launch after months of work.

Nothing happens.

No customers come running downloading your app.

No money come pouring in.

Don’t lose your spirit over this. Take a deep breath and a step back. Accept the fact that what you have done is just tested one possible direction out of many. What you need to do is find your larger mission. Maybe someone likes the app and tells you: “hey, I was looking for something like this for a birthday party for kids I was planning“.

This is an opportunity cloud! Making mobile apps for kids birthday parties – that sounds like a good, bigger mission. Now place your current app inside this box/cloud and treat as a part of a larger portfolio. Now you have a bigger arena to experiment in. Your goal is no longer to a build one app based on one idea but to become the leading provider of apps for kids birthday parties.

Of course you have to keep your focus and give the app some time to grow its user base but by having a larger mission you can go back and forward between different focus areas.

Some day you may have to pivot and choose another Big Mission, but until then, keep experimenting inside your opportunity cloud. And don’t let the disappointing user numbers of one particular app bring you down.

A new kind of web

By: Claire Thompson

This guy is getting it

After a few months with AngularJS and REST-APIs, I have to agree with this blog post. Yes, we’re in a new era of web development.

It’s funny how technology moves in cycles and this is apparent in how the center of gravity moves between the server and the client. For a few years now the center of gravity has been on the server. The client (the web browser in most cases) was just a dumb document viewer for HTML and media files.

With modern Javascript-frameworks, this is changing. The browser has become a first class citizen of the web stack, fully capable of managing state and most of the logic that used to be on the server.

What this means to people who are not geeks developers: expect richer, faster web sites much more like desktop applications than just documents. Expect an increased innovation tempo. Expect the web to come alive. Everyone working with the web (and that means basically everyone who does business in some way) need to grok this.

Look for cofounders, not ideas.

Dancing
It takes two to tango.

One of the consequences of the 5P-model for startup evaluation (Product + Problem + Profit + People = Potential) is that finding the right people is much more important than finding the right idea. So important, in fact, that you might as well begin with finding the right people before you even know what to build!

Why? Because of the 4 Ps that make up the potential (Product, Problem, Profit and People), the people P is the hardest to change once you get going.

You can (and should) iterate and improve your product.

You can (and should) validate and test your problem.

You can (and should) experiment with different business (profit) models.

But once you start, you can’t change the people.

Of course you can always fire co-founders but it is a painful and expensive process, much more so than pivoting on your problem definition.

So, instead of waiting for the right idea, go look for someone that complements you and is equally passionate about building something.

Then find out what to build.

(Discuss on Hacker News.)

The Five P Model for Rapid Startup Evaluation

TL;DR: Product + Problem + Profit + People = Potential. Does your idea have what it takes in all five Ps?

Simon Klose presenterar
Simon Klose presenting at the hackathon TBD Malmö held in February 2012.

Recently, me and a couple of friends in Malmö have started The Startup Dojo, where soon-to-be-entrepreneurs can come and pitch their idea and get feedback on how to move forward. (It’s a very simple concept and you’re more than welcome to organise one in your own Town!) I have been part of organising a couple of different startup events like that over the last couple of years.

Organising these events have taught me a lot about quickly building value at the super-early stage of a startup. If you only have a weekend to build something, what do you focus on? How do you decide what’s the best idea to build?

For example, the latest batch of entrepreneurs at the Startup Dojo were very interesting in how different they were from each other.

The first gentleman was an excellent speaker and pitcher and had no worries about breaking in to a new market through sheer selling force. He also had identified a clear problem with a big market. However, his product was a little unclear and he lacked the skills to actually build it.

The second entrepreneur was a true inventor. He had designed a new type of shower meant to be used outdoors. He had made drawings and even 3D videos showing how it would work. But, it was unclear if there actually was a real problem on the market that needed to be solved.

The third entrepreneur had a proven product and solved a real problem on the market by saving money for farmers. A winner, right? Well, the problem was that the money it could save was far less than the cost for the product. So the business model didn’t hold and he asked the Dojo for advice on how to proceed.

IMG_9249.jpg
Hackathon Startup Sweden, Stockholm. December 2011.

As you can see the three different entrepreneurs had challenges in different areas.

One had identified a clear problem but lacked the product to solve it.

The other had a great product but was looking for an actual problem that the product would solve.

The third had a good product AND a clear problem yet lacked a business model that would unleash the full potential of the idea.

It seems a good and quick way to evaluate startups is to look on them through the same lens that we just looked at the these three potential startup projects.

You need a strong product that is technically feasible, sufficiently easy to use and scalable.

The product must solve a real market problem that sufficiently many people have.

The price of the product must be such that it leads to profit when costs are deduced.

Finally, and probably most importantly, you need the right people to execute the project.

Only when these four all work together will you reach the full potential of the idea.

So there you have it: the Five P Model for Rapid Startup Evaluation. The next time someone tells you they have a “great startup idea”, in 30 seconds you can pinpoint any holes in the idea and hopefully help the entrepreneur make it even better.

PS. The next Startup Dojo is December 13 in Malmö. See you there?

Five different flavors of a digital strategy

ice cream [1081]
Yummy. Digital strategy!

Wikipedia defines a “digital strategy” as:

[…] the process of specifying an organization’s vision, goals, opportunities and initiatives in order to maximize the business benefits of digital initiatives to the organization.

What does that mean? I have seen many different flavors of a digital strategy over the years. Here are a few. Do you know any more?

A community (social) strategy. How to build loyalty amongst customers. How to make customers help each other solve problems. How to make customers extend and complete your products. How to make customers love you. Skills needed: community management, social media.

A multi channel strategy. How to make sure the mobile, tablet, desktop, TV and whatever else experience of your digital presence fits together, both from a technical standpoint but more importantly, how your organisation can manage it. Skills needed: change management, IT architecture.

A media strategy. How to use video, blogging, microblogging, live streaming, Facebook etc. as media channels to build on online presence. Every company is a media company – but how? Skills needed: content marketing, (low cost) video production.

A conversion and growth strategy. How to make sure that you get as many visitors to your web site as possible and that as many of the visitors as possible do what you want them to do, like buy your products. Aka “growth hacking“. Skills needed: agile development (for speed of changes), search engine optimization, web analytics.

An innovation strategy. How to make sure you keep pushing forward and explore new business models, new products and new markets that digitalisation enables. Skills needed: customer development, business model canvas, lean startup.

Selling is about framing it right

365 day228 Bubbles

In order to make a sale, you need to frame the product or service in a way that makes the benefit and value clear to the buyer.

An example, from real life. Trying to get my 2 year old daughter in the bath.

– Honey, do you want to take a shower?
– Noooooo!
– Do you want to take a bath?
– Noooooo!
– Do you want to bake foam-cookies?
– Yeeeeeaaah!

Sold!