Taking the Entrepreneurship course ME2603 of Serdar Temiz at the KTH University in Stockholm was one of the most influential decisions in my life so far. I am incredibly thankful to Serdar for forcing us to step outside our comfort zone and explore new territory. In this post, I will summarize the many things I have learned since the course started and I will mark the tasks actually given to us in class, to clarify how awesome this course is, but also, how much work is expected of you. Many of the lessons learned have already been covered more extensively in some of my other blog posts, so I will link to them in case you want to take a closer look at a specific topic.

Lessons Learned

First of all, I learned that hands-on experience beats everything else. This was impressively demonstrated in the coffee sale, one of our first assignments, where I also learned the importance of customer awareness, which eventually made its way into my first, yet most popular post on “the importance of beeing present“. (Also the 3rd most read article on the whole blog 😉 )
The Marketplace Simulation Game only reinforced that exact lesson: You can have the best product on the market, if you don’t advertise enough or not in the right way, you will not sell.

Next, I learned the immense power of networking, which we were primed to experience through the assignments to attend startup events and to collect feedback on our business ideas. Just exposing yourself to the environment of the startup scene will get you in a different headspace. Talking to a lot of people will force you to express yourself and will also improve your pitch and sharpen your business idea. What I found the most amazing was the fact that everyone whom I talked with immediately started thinking of who they could connect me with to help me with my project.

Furthermore, the elevator pitch, which we had to prepare for our second lecture proved to me that anyone can come up with a business idea. Not having a good idea is really not an excuse to not start your own business. Honestly, the idea is the easiest step of the journey. Just write down a list of problems you encounter in your everyday life, then find a solution for any of those problems, there’s your business idea. That’s how I came up with the Sound Hub project that I’m currently working on.
Also while testing the two startups, I realized, that a service really does not have to tremendously complicated, as long as it solves a specific need in the market.

Serdar’s prototype lecture and the guest lecturers speeches taught me that the first step in starting a startup is to get an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) going. This is supposed to prove that there is actually a demand for the thing you are planning to sell.

The assignment to use Twitter, LinkedIn and this blog to communicate our experiences made me realize the importance of social media for promoting your brand. Also, it helped me getting feedback and practice, which further improved my writing skills.

The presentations of our venture ideas made me realize how important it is to precisely specify what exactly your service or product is supposed to do and which value the customer will get out of it. Also, it taught me to present big shiny visions and not to talk about the nitty gritty prototyping work when talking to investors.

Final Note

Now, I didn’t talk much about what has been covered in the actual lecture itself, because that can be looked up on Serdar’s Slideshare. What I found much more interesting are the things that make this course extraordinary. At some point we heard this quote in class:

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

Well, this course makes you do stuff. It forces you to go out and get your hands dirty and I am very grateful for that because it made me realize how much enthusiasm is in me for the whole entrepreneurship subject. So much so, that I am now taking two more courses in the same direction: “Entrepreneurial Leadership in practice” and “From Idea to service Business”, which are both promising to be very interesting. So thank you Serdar for opening this path for me!

PS:   I will most likely keep writing these blog posts, because I found it to be very useful to structure my thoughts and the lessons I learn during my time here, so stay tuned for more posts 😉

Since direct customer feedback is incredibly important for any upcoming business, we were asked to interview several people about our own venture and also to help two startups by testing their service or product and giving them feedback on it. So here is all of that in one post, to keep it short and sweet.

46elks

46elks is a startup that I got into contact with through SUP46. They act as an interface between the worlds of programming and telephony. Which means that you can send and receive SMS and also send voice messages, in an automated way, controlled by code, written in any programming language you like.

It took me quite a while to figure out what exactly it is that they do, which is basically my first feedback to them: The website could really use a short video, showing the need for their service in everyday life and then also showing how their service can fill that need. They do provide some examples of what other customers did with their service, but I could still not imagine what I could use it for personally.

Also, I was very confused about what I’m supposed to do on their website to get started. They kind of assume that someone reading their instructions knows HTTP, which is not the case for me. So a tutorial video for absolute beginners would be really nice. They do provide sample code, but since I didn’t know where to execute it, I felt a bit helpless.

After some searching, I found a Plug-in for Excel. In that Plug-in you can choose a displayed sender-name, write a message, select a phone number in the Excel Sheet and click send. That worked very nicely, so the service itself is completely functional.

Two more nitpicks I found are that the website does not allow for changing your password and when clicking on “API docs” while in the dashboard it takes you out of the dashboard, which makes navigating complicated. It would be more convenient if the Link opened in a new tab.

I’m sure their service is really useful for many businesses, but as a rooky user, I felt the need for some more explanation and guidance for the start.

Simply Events

Also from SUP46 is the Startup “Simply Events“, which is a platform that lets you easily design an event page and set up tickets for sale. You can add images, videos, maps and much more. They charge a small fee on the profit you make. The website is very straight forward and I immediately understood how everything works.

There is really just one thing that might need improvement, which is the fact that there are only two fonts  to choose from for the title and description text. Besides that, the service is super easy to use and does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

Sound Hub

While beeing in SUP46  I also took my time to tell several people about the Sound Hub Idea and the feedback was generally very positive.  The people said they can see an application for it, although some of them did not personally own a Bluetooth speaker. Since none of them were students it was interesting to see that also people outside my original target group are interested in the product. This means that we could also offer it at a higher price since young people who already have a fixed income are able to pay more. Many people proposed to expand the functionality to a surround sound system or to be able to play different music in different rooms in the house. While this will probably not be implemented in the first version of the product it might be a goal that I can work towards in later stages. The price they were willing to pay was somewhere around 60$, which again reflects on the fact that these people earn a good income and are not bound by the financial limitations of a student. I also got advice on which technology to use for my prototype, which was useful since I was not really sure on how to start  at that time.

Thank you to everyone who took their time to listen to me and give me their opinion!

On Thursday 27th October I went to the Startup landscape event at SUP46. There 19 startup-supporting companies presented themselves, in a 2-minute pitch each and afterwards everyone was invited to go and talk to the ones that they found the most interesting. Here’s what I took away from the evening, which might be useful for other early-stage startups.

STING Test Drive

STING Test Drive is a free series of workshops run by business coaches, designed to give you clarity whether you want to pull through with your business idea or rather change it. It will help you sharpen the idea to a point where execution is much more focused and efficient. In the end, you even get the chance to present your venture to a group of investors. You can get more information here on their website.

Venture Cup

Venture Cup is a platform, where you can upload your venture idea and then get feedback from other users on it. You can also rate and comment the ideas of others and in the end of the contest, the 20 highest voted Venture ideas each win 5000 SEK. If you’re curious, you can check it out here on their website. The application is open until November 8th, 2016. So hurry up, you have nothing to loose!

 

MVP Workshop

On Friday 28th October I went to the Toolbox Friday event of the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. This week’s topic was “MVP for Startups”. Very interesting for me, because I have just started working on a Prototype for my Sound Hub.

An MVP is a Minumum Viable Product. Its purpose it to test if there is a market for your service or product before you sink a lot of time and money into it. It is supposed to focus on the core customer value of your product. For example, if you want to see if you can sell shoes online, you can just put pictures of them on a simple web page and if someone orders a pair, you go personally to a shoe store and buy the shoes and ship them.

Here are some common objections to this method and their respective answers.

  • But this a bad product!
    • If this thing sells, then you have a market for sure. If it doesn’t you can still try to improve it. It is much cheaper to get a false negative and cancel a project that might have been successful, than to get a false positive and keep developing something that doesn’t sell in the end.
  • But we need to compete on features!
    • People buy a product mainly for its core features, everything else is just to make the customer extra happy.
  • But competitors could copy my product!
    • Don’t worry about others copying and focus on your own execution. While working on a project you will develop knowledge and intricate understanding that cannot be copied. Secrecy does not pay off and is mostly unnecessary.
  • But it doesn’t scale!
    • It’s not supposed to scale at this stage! An MVP wants to answer two critical questions: Is there a market for this product? Can I reach that market in an affordable way?

Crowdfunding

The best way to find out if there is actually a market for a product is to start a crowdfunding campaign on platforms like Kickstarter, Indigogo or Fundedbyme.

For this, it is recommended to determine the price you want to sell your product at and set that as the pre-order price. Then you need to find manufacturers and figure out how many devices have to be produced to get the price per unit down to the pre-order price. That way you just break even. That amount of pre-orders times the selling price will then be defined as your minimum funding goal.

But before even starting a Kickstarter campaign you should already create a Fanbase of about 200 people that have agreed to pre-order within the first 3 days of your Kickstarter campaign. Because that’s the condition for your venture to get featured on Kickstarter’s front page, which is critical to generating enough attention.

If your funding goal is not reached the MVP has proven that there is not big enough a market for this product. In this case, you can either redesign or abort the project to avoid sinking more time and money into a fruitless business.

Final Notes

The Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship also offers a Fellowship program that comes with access to seminars and a free co-working space right in the center of Stockholm. Applications can be filed here on their website.

One last recommendation is this free online Course on “How to start a Startup”, which contains almost 17 hours of high quality content presented by successful founders of Million Dollar Businesses. Hope you enjoy!

On Tuesday I went to the Stockholm Hardware meetup, which took place at the “Things” office on the campus of our university KTH. “Things” is the Hardware department of the Startup incubator “Sting”. The topic of the evening was biohacking and med tech.
After the initial mingling with food and drinks the first speech started, which was recorded and can be rewatched under this Link (once it’s uploaded) together with all the past events.

Biohackers

The first speech was on biohacking itself and how people can benefit from modifying their bodies. The biohacking community is differentiated in four groups:

biohackers

DIY-biologists
The Do-It-Yourself-biologists make use of the new democratization of Biotechnology, where anyone can easily do genetic analysis and experiment with bacteria using products like for example the Bento Lab.

Quantified-self
This describes the idea of measuring your own body to get as much data as possible and therefore learn more about yourself. For example, Blood levels, Sleep cycles, Brainwaves, Body temperature… All things that can be measured given the right tools. An example of these measuring tools can be found at the end of this post.

Bodyhackers
People who don’t want to artificially modify the body, but who use methods of the Quantified self in combination with Bodybuilding to bring their bodies to extreme performance.

Grinders
People who insert Implants or other modifications into their bodies, either for looks (see image above) or to gain new abilities. These implants can be for example small magnets that get implanted into the fingertips to give you a magnetic sixth sense. Another widely spread example is a small RFID Chip (radio-frequency identification) that is embedded in Biocompatible glass and then implanted into your hand. It stores information and can be used to open your house door or pay a bill. During an event they had organized, people could get these implants for free and the demographic spectrum was very wide. Some seniors had the implant for not having to worry about losing their keys anymore, and some young people just wanted to transmit their Twitter handle with the swipe of their hand.

Hardware VC

The second speech was by a Venture Capitalist who invests a lot in different Hardware startups. He said that even though there are so many purely digital startups growing out of the ground, the hardware startup scene is still very active. He believes that they can contribute a lot to making life easier and better for many people.

He had spent many years in China and said that moving to the city of  Shenzhen will drastically increase the speed of product development of electronic products. One week in China is like a month in the West because they have the network of electronics suppliers right at their doorstep. This enables them to run three-week iteration cycles for phone prototypes. For more information he recommended this documentary by WIRED.

Diabetes on autopilot

The last speaker was a guy, who had been living with Diabetes for years and still struggled with calculating the correct amount of Insulin needed at the right time. So he designed a small computer that reads several of his bio-signals and calculates the right dose of insulin which is then sent to his insulin pump, that he always carries on him. This development made his life a lot easier in the last few months because he doesn’t have to pay that much attention to his diabetes anymore and he also wakes up in the morning with his blood sugar levels perfectly in order.

 

img_20161018_195815
And here is the promised gadget that uses quantified self technology: A headset with attached cat ears, that measures your brain activity and then display the level of your focus by either directing the ears to the front or have then wiggle around aimlessly.

I feel like this device stands representative for the entire evening: Super nerdy but highly interesting. I will definitely come again, especially because the topic of next month’s meeting will be “Wireless” and I have a direct connection to that with my Sound Hub idea. So signup here and join me on November 16th for the STHLM Hardware Meetup #8.

 

This week was full of entrepreneurship and StartUp events and I will cover in this post the many things I learned from it.

On October 10th we went to the monthly STHLM TECH Meetup, which is basically a networking event that brings big investors in contact with the StartUp base and also lets anyone who is interested get a bit of an insight into the scene. This month’s guests were H&M CO:LAB and Nordic Makers.

Learn the language

The first part of the event was introduction of the guests and a report on how the STHLM TECH meetup has developed over the past 4 years. It was interesting to see the terminology (Angels, A rounds, B rounds, … ), that has just been taught to us during the lecture on fund raising, get a real life application. The entrepreneurship scene has its own language and you’re only going to learn it by constantly exposing yourself to it.

Learn pitching

After that came three pitches that turned to be … let’s say “sub-optimal”, but they got valuable feedback, which I will combine here, with the feedback that we got on our venture project pitches in the Entrepreneurship class.

Make it undoubtedly clear which value your service offers 
Remember that your customers only care about how they can apply your product for themselves. They don’t care which features and functionalities you provide, as long as they can’t imagine it actually adding value to their lifes.

Two things investors like to hear in your pitch:
What I really want to change in the world is …
We’re doing this thing open source …

Story telling
They want you to take them on a journey, so they can feel an emotional relevance to your product. Telling a story always gives more context to how your product can be applied in a real life setting.

Show me the product!
In the first 30 seconds you should show what your product actually is. Show them what you spent all your time and energy on developing. If computer generated renderings of a design are the closest you have to a product, then start your presentation with those. Also DO NOT show your behind the scenes development work. Investors want to be promised big shiny finished products, they don’t care about the technicalities.

To all the collectors
If you’re doing aggregating of existing services into one central service you still need an added value. Simply providing a collecting pot is not enough to draw users in.

Learn networking

During the event everyone had the opportunity to use the Hashtag #STHLMTECH on their Twitter posts, which would then be automatically retweeted to all the followers of Sthlmtech. This gives you access to a massive audience, which is perfect for when you’re looking to grow your followership. I actually gained several new followers that way.

After the event most people left, which always surprises me, because that’s when the really interesting networking parts starts. So we were chatting up all kinds of people including the Moderator and some Venture capitalists who gave us their contacts.

One useful side-effect of speaking with that many people is that you’re basically forced to explain your product idea again and again and you keep getting feedback on it. Trust me, nothing hones your elevator pitch better than repeating and tweaking it over and over while networking at an event like this.

One guy I met called Mikael Lenart runs a company called “Venue”. His service connects artists with venues and lets the audience decide who gets to play by voting for their favorite band with the purchase of a ticket for that band on that day. If their band does not play, no money is transacted. This reminded me of a company that I knew from Germany and I gave him their website, so he could do some research on it. After that we were chatting about the Sound Hub and he recommended me to go to the STHLM Music City event, which would take palace at SUP46 the next day. Since I already knew that place i happily agreed.

See how it’s really done

The STHLM Music City event was an amazing experience with speakers from Spotify and live demonstrations of the new app by pacemaker. Their presentations were really well done and could be described as 70% images, 20% charts, 10% text. That way the attention was much more on the speaker themselves. Also two guys presented their events SLUSH and SLUSH MUSIC which will take place in Helsinki on the Nov 30 – Dec 1.

Obviously more networking followed after the main presentation and I met some more people, which gave me important information about potential future competition for my Sound Hub project.

On the Wednesday after that I went to the Nomination Event for the Bicky Chakraborty Entrepreneur Program which took place at the KTH. It was good to see students from the KTH that followed their passion and finally also got some substantial funding for their further company development.

This is a short story illustrating how networking is so far the most powerful tool to progress I have encountered.

Recently we had a guest speaker in our entrepreneurship class (ME2603) and she mentioned the SUP46 Startup Café as a good place to connect with people. Since I was looking for startup events to attend and also for feedback for my venture idea I decided to follow my own advice and just “be present” there. (Check out the article here)

Putting yourself out there

When I entered the café it was rather empty and i took a quick look around before chatting up someone standing at a table. It turned out, that this person was Lana Kaupuza, the receptionist of SUP46. I explained to her the reason for my presence: to collect feedback and find people who might help me with the development of a prototype for my venture idea, the Sound Hub. (See the website here)

After explaining the idea to her she started coming up with very useful feedback and ideas for improving the business model. She also gave me several tips on how to proceed, which events and institutions to go to and even gave me a tour of the SUP46 office.

While talking to other people and collecting feedback on my venture idea I ended up helping some people from a start-up called “Nosto” in the presentation room to set up their Background screen for an event they would host that evening.

When I articulated to Lana how happy i was to get to meet all these interesting people and getting all this positive feedback she said something that stuck with me:

“There is really just two things that we have control over: Attendance and Attitude”

Networking Success

Shortly after leaving the building I started getting invitations to several Facebook chats…

Turns out Lana had asked on her Facebook if anyone was interested in helping with a project including electronics and Bluetooth and then connected anyone interested with me.

Me with my new partner

Me with my new partner

From one of these chats emerged a meeting with a guy named Shehryar Khan, a software developer at Ericsson. We met today in the Startup Café and had a quick chat about where I was going with the project and how it could be realized before he agreed to help me with the development of a prototype using an Arduino Development Kit.

This result was beyond by wildest expectations and I’m very excited to see the further development.

What can you take from this post?

  1. It’s proof that simply showing up at the right place and talking to many people can yield great results.
  2. It shows the power of networking and creating the kind of connections with people that make them happy to help you.
  3. If you feel like getting ahead with your project, but there is no start-up event happening at the moment; just got to the Startup Café at SUP46, you wont regret it!
Broccoli soup at Startup Cefé

Broccoli soup at Startup Café

PS: The Startup Café also offers very tasty food.

Every day we encounter things that don’t go our way. All the time things happen that make us a bit unsatisfied or slightly annoyed. The natural reaction to this is to complain either to yourself or to someone else. And that’s just fine! Complaining lets you let off steam and it creates bonds between people that feel the same way.  But it’s also easy. Too easy!

Take the next step

So why not take it a step further?  Why not try to improve things? Thomas A. Edison already said:

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”

So next time something annoys you, don’t just think “This is stupid”, but also ask yourself “Why is this?” and “How can I change it?”

This will drastically change the way you see the world. Things that used to annoy you will now inspire you to think about solutions. Most people tend to just accept their fate and deal with it. This is called learned helplessness. But it can be unlearned! Start thinking of solutions to your problems instead of just accepting them. That doesn’t mean you have to fix every issue in the world, but simply thinking in a proactive way will make your daily routine much more interesting and will get you brain used to finding solutions.

Make the change

Jay Samit, the author of “Disrupt you!”, recently gave the following advice in an interview:

Write down 3 problems in your life today. Do this for a month straight. After a while this forces you to think deeper, because you already wrote all the obvious ones. So now you start to recognize things that you haven’t thought of before, because you just kept thinking about the same things over and over.

Following this advice will generate you a huge list of universal problems. Because, let’s face it: Every human being is unique in its own way. But on a basic level we are still all the same and most of us will have a very similar experience going through our lives, as long as we live in the same area of the world. So chances are, that many other people will have the same issue as you do and if you find the right solution for it they will be more than happy to pay you for providing it to them.

So from now write down 3 new things that bother you every day on and in one month you will have 99 Problems … and a Business Idea is at least one!

The concept of Presence has been playing a big role in my life for the last few years. I first got in touch with it by reading books on meditation. At first glance, this has nothing to do with Entrepreneurship and might sound like a more spiritual idea, but stick with me here.

The word “Presence” basically just means “The state of being at at particular place”. This can apply to both physical as well as mental presence. In this post I will cover three areas, that are all connected to your personal development as an Entrepreneur.

Physical Presence

If you want to achieve something then go to places where people have the same goal. Your body and mind adhere to the laws of physics. They have momentum and will not start to move unless an outside force is applied. So the easiest way to make your mind engaged in an activity is to start moving your body to places where the primary goal is to do the same things you want to do. That way your subconscious will feel two things:

  1. You took the first step in a certain direction. That builds positive momentum.
  2. All the people around are talking about the same thing. So simply by feeling the social pressure your mind will feel more engaged in that certain topic.

This really applies to anything from Start-up Events to the gym. You become the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most. So choose wisely how you spend your time and do your best to network with people that are on the same path as you.

Mental Presence

Being in a certain location with your body is the first step, but if your mind is not on the same team as you, nothing fruitful will come from it.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who didn’t seem too interested? Maybe they kept checking their phone or something like that? How did that feel? Probably not so good.

This is the mental state most people operate in throughout their lives. The mind wanders and thinks about everything except what’s happening in the present moment. When you talk with someone without fully committing your attention to the conversation the other person will feel it and you will never be able to create a true connection. Keith Ferrazzi sais in his book “Never Eat Alone”:

It is not about how many people you know. It is important to build a connection with them so that you could call them at any time and they pick up the phone with a smile on their face, ready to do you a favor.

With your mind constantly on autopilot and thinking about all sorts of things, your conversation partner will not feel as engaged, compared to if you paid them full attention. Therefore being present to the moment is such an important skill to have and is also why I started meditating a long while ago. It really improves your own experience of the world and also the one others have with you.

Presence also teaches you to be more self-confident and relaxed. A very important trade that can make you unshakable to setbacks and criticism, while still beeing open to feedback. When you are present there is no thought, which means there is no fear. So nothing stops you from going up to any person and introducing yourself. Getting grounded in your own sense of self is very empowering and others will feel it radiating off of you.

Presence in people’s awareness

Which brings me to my last point: Other people’s perception of you. This is extremely important in marketing, as we noticed during our coffee sales. Making people aware of your presence is absolutely key. You could have the best offer in the world, if no one knows about it, they will not buy from you. That’s why companies spend huge amounts of money on advertisement, just to stay in the public awareness. Because disappearing from the minds of the people is deadly for a company.

People feel more comfortable with buying something they already know. It is psychologically proven, that simply having heard of a brand name or product makes people more likely to buy it compared to another product they have not heard of before. Even though they know nothing about the quality of either of them. This is called the familiarity bias.

That would be the reason why Serdar makes us do the blogging and use Twitter and LinkedIn. To teach us to use social media and create our own brand. Because simply having read your name before could make the difference for some HR person to hire you or someone else. And obviously, start-ups also want people who they perceive as active and engaged.

So when you walk through your life today … be present! Go to places that are in alignment with your goals. Bring your mind to the present moment and promote yourself so people know what you have to offer.