SYNC is a model for relationship-building meetings between the business community and University students in Uppsala. The event was held at base 10 in Uppsala and was hosted by entrepreneurs Acadamy and Almi.

The event startet with a small informative introduction for all students. Thereafter all attending students were expected to do a short pitch of themselves to arouse interest for the participating companies.
I felt my pitch went really well and that I was able to deliver the message I was aiming for.

Following the pitch parade was a “speed dating” session with all the companies. Over a coffe we had the chance to ask all questions we wanted to the different representatives from the company’s. 3 students and 3 representatives were seated at the same table for 10 minutes to discuss. After 10 minutes the companies swapped to different tables.

I thought the event was very worthwhile and fun. Everyone attending represented interesting companies. It was also good for me to practise my rhetorical skills

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On the 9th of October, I attended an event held by Entrepreneurs Acadamy and Almi called SYNC. The purpose of this event was to enable smaller/newer companies to get in touch with engineering students and vice verse.

The event started with a brief introduction for us students while being offered a light lunch. When this Q&A session was done, we were expected to pitch ourselves in front of all the attending companies. In 90 seconds, we were asked to deliver as much relevant info about ourselves as possible. This was a real challenge, both the limited time and talking in front of 20 unknown persons from different companies.

I have not had a lot of practice talking in front of strangers, which made me nervous. However, I am happy with what I manage to accomplish during these 90 seconds and as a few of the companies actually came to me later showing interest and complimenting the performance I believe it was not as terrible as I had thought. (Even though they probably said the same thing to everyone, it made me glad.)

After the pitch parade, done by the 20 students, it was time to “fika” with the companies. This was done at several round tables where 3-4 students were seated. The companies sat down at the tables, 2-3 at a time, for 10 minutes briefly explaining their product or service and discussed further with the students at the table. When 10 minutes had passed, the companies switched tables.

This way of interacting gave me the chance to interact with a lot of companies during a short period of time. As I sorted out which companies were interesting and not, I could then, later on, grab them to discuss further. I discussed their interesting products more and also the possibilities of doing my master thesis with them and the possibility of employment after graduation.

SYNC gave a lot of good experience. To practice pitching yourself in front of an unknown audience, which I probably will do a lot of times during my career, is invaluable. I also got to know about many companies that I never had thought of before. Not only companies that I knew existed but did not realize were interested in hiring people like me, but also companies that I never heard of that would be interested in people like me.

The SYNC logo as you entered the pitching room.

To summarize the day at SYNC: It was a really good experience pitching yourself in front of an unknown crowd. We got to know a lot of companies and meet a lot of new people that could be valuable contacts for the future.

10/10 would do again.

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Today we were negotiating share prices with the investors, and I learned a lot of things. It was a tough experience with great long-term benefits.

We had 130 as the goal price for our stocks, but we made the mistake of proposing 130 as the initial price. We didn’t realize until too late that the agreed price will be a middle point between the proposed prices of the two parties in the negotiation, and the seller will always try to push the price higher while the buyer will try to push the price lower.

First of all, we shouldn’t have stated our proposed price during the presentation – we need to keep the proposed price flexible across the different investors to ensure that each investor pays the maximal price that they’re capable of – and different investors have different payment capacities.

Second, we should have proposed a price that’s at least twice as high as the goal price. This would ensure that the “middle point” between the proposed prices from both sides will favor our side by being more expensive, and this would even give us a good chance of excelling the goal price.

Third, we should have divided ourselves so that the best negotiator among us does all the negotiating single-handedly while the other three group members are stationed to observe the negotiations of each investor – one group member per investor. This would enable us to use each investors’ negotiation history as an argument to say “you gave them this deal, so we should match it or else it won’t be fair”.

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On Tuesday the 8th October, we had a long lecture starting with Åsa and ending with Serdar. We practiced negotiation with Åsa and I think that was really excellent lecture and I truly learned something useful and I really enjoyed it. I knew in theory the importance of bargain power and which principles I need to use to successfully negotiate – but knowing it is not enough. Then, at Serdar’s lecture, we had a lot of miscellaneous things. For example, we agreed on which date to have our examination for the legal module.

And another interesting thing from Serdar’s lecture is that I learned why people choose Common Stock instead of Preferred Stock when the latter gives higher rate of financial return: if the investor thinks the management team is stupid and that the company will crash without the investors’ advice, and if the company is otherwise very potent, then the investor can intervene by buying common stock (at the expense of somewhat reduced nominal rate of return) to get access to the management board of the company to intervene in the the company’s self-destructive foolishness. I guess the investors we will meet tomorrow on Thursday are indirectly trying to say that we’re incompetent, because they will talk only common stocks rather than preferred stocks.

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Today in the class we had a workshop with Åsa, where we got to practice on our ability to negotiate. This was divided between one being a buyer while the other acting as a seller where this information was divided into three different cases. On the first we worked one on one, on the second we worked two on two and then four on four. I personally think this was very educational, where at some point in life you will have to negotiate either in your work or in your private life. Then this was very helpful in preparation for investor round.

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Today, Thursday, September 3, I had a lecture with Serdar & the class. We were discussing the examination project and the simulation, and we made fun of the broken fire alarm – some compared it to a drilling machine while others compared it to a cat purring.

At the end, I asked Serdar if we were allowed to use negative descriptions of our competitors during the investor round. He said no, and some classmates agreed with him and explained why they thought that way.

Now that I think about it, I realize that different people have different moral values depending on their cultural background. Honesty and politeness are both important moral qualities – the former is needed to get an accurate idea of what’s happening in the world, and the latter is needed to maintain synergetic relations with others. And most people would agree with that. But in some situations, these two can get in conflict with each other and the question is “which one should you prioritize?”

Different cultures will answer this question differently. The Swedish and Canadian culture will say that politeness takes priority and that those who choose otherwise are “rude, disrespectful & arrogant”. But Russian and American culture will say that honesty takes priority and that those who choose otherwise are “shy, afraid & confusing”.

I realize that when you interact with other people (for example when selling products to international customers, or pitching to investors), you need to closely observe what moral values are incorporated in their culture. If you prioritize ethical & practical goals differently than your counterparts, then the counterpart will dislike you and it will be harder to get along with them and form a synergistic relationship with them. This synergistic relationship could be customers who could have bought your products. And this synergistic relationship could be investors that could have invested money into your company. And this synergistic relationship could be a lot of other things that could have benefited you.

So if you want to maximize business success, you need to get along with others. And if you want to get along with others, you need to adapt your behavior to their ethical & practical values – within reasonable limits.

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Everyone from the School of Entrepreneurship was invited to participate in an interview yesterday with the founder and former CEO och Skype, Niklas Zennström. During this interview I took some notes from parts I found to be extra interesting, where the exact notes said: 

  • Comfort in failure
  • Perseverance
  • Fail fast, learn, do not fail at it twice. Be humble
  • Passion, pursue it

As a student with a background in the field of chemical engineer, most of the time there will always be a right and a wrong answer, and getting a wrong answer is bad. This way of thinking is however not exclusive for chemistry. The same mindset is presented in the surroundings all the time. Never fail, always succeed. That is the dream. 

I started at the School of Entrepreneurship exactly one month ago, and failure is the topic that has evolved and changed my opinion the most. Suddenly, I hear that failure is good and important. It can even be necessary sometimes. Failure is just a part of the process and it will take you forward. Hearing Niklas bringing up this topic, and hearing that failure is not something to be afraid of but rather should be something to be comfortable with, really shows that this mindset permeates the entrepreneurial world. 

It is quite hard to unlearn something you have been told your whole life, but it is definitely not impossible. I have started to incorporate this new attitude towards failure in my everyday life, and slowly I have already seen small changes. I try not to disparage myself anymore and aim to view failure as a learning experience instead of a defeat. What part should I do differently and how can I improve until next time? Perseverance in this will hopefully eventually become a habit, and I encourage you to try this as well. 

Grand Challenges Need Grand Solutions

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I attended a startup event last Tuesday (1 October) from TEMA Biotechnologies. I found the event at a lecture hosted by Serdar, and I found it right in front of me in the classroom. I met with Allan Simpson, Ulf Landgren and Mr. AA. My experience was that they were really happy and enthusiastic – I could see on their body language how passionate they were to help people get cured from cancer. I think it was a fun presentation, but I didn’t understand most of what he said.

Mr. AA sharing his contact info with the audience.
Allan Simpson looking at the audience in a relaxed manner
Mr. AA enthusiastically presents his mission.

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Under introduktionsveckan av Entreprenörskolan hölls en workshop med Drivhuset Uppsala där vi studenter fick i uppgift att utforma och utföra en kort presentation av en idé, en så kallad pitch. Syftet med en pitch är att fånga en potentiell kunds, investerare eller annan betydande persons intresse under en mycket begränsad tid. Detta var något vi skulle få chansen att öva mer på och två veckor in i programmet var det dags att presentera en egen idé med en så kallad ”Elevator Pitch”, vilket innebar en tidsram på cirka 60 sekunder.  

För att förbereda mig inför detta använde jag min familj som testpublik och fick då höra om en passande händelse som inträffade under en skidsemester med familjen när jag var liten. Min mamma berättade om en egen erfarenhet, där hon fått pitcha på ett sätt hon varken tidigare eller senare varit med om.  

Då hela familjen stod i kön till liften var det någon som knackade min mamma på axeln. Hon vände sig om och där stod en främmande man som frågade om hon jobbade med det läkemedel hon hade som tryck på skidjackans rygg. Svaret var “Ja” och han bad henne därmed sätta sig i liften tillsammans med honom och hans dotter. Under den korta tid de tillbringade i liften ville han veta så mycket som möjligt om läkemedlet och om de studier där läkemedlet testats.

Till en början kan detta tyckas vara en märklig situation, men mannen visade sig vara en person som mamma och hennes kollegor försökt få kontakt med under en längre tid utan framgång. Han skulle efter deras oväntade möte bli en nyckelperson för deras fortsatta arbete och det var ingen av dem som hade kunnat tro att en kort tid tillsammans i en skidlift skulle bli starten på ett framgångsrikt samarbete.

En skidlift som symboliserar den plats där pitchen ägde rum.

Den här berättelsen fick mig inte bara inse vikten av att vara förberedd på att pitcha i vilken situation som helst, utan också värdet av att vara synlig. Utan trycket på skidjackan hade situationen aldrig uppstått och utan förmågan att presentera relevant information om produkten på kort tid, hade den värdefulla relationen mellan parterna troligtvis aldrig vuxit fram.

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Today we participated in an inspiring keynote with multi-entrepreneur Niklas Zennström. The keynote was arranged by the Master’s Programme in Industrial Management and Innovation and the keynote was designed as a panel discussion with questions collected from several different students. It was inspiring to hear Niklas tell us about his experiences and what he wished he had done differently. I might have wanted some more practical examples and if you want to be picky some better connection with the audience, but overall really good and inspiring.

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