Posted by & filed under Fintech, Interview, Investing, Startups.

”Many startups think they will change the world. But that can make them sidetracked and fail. They should focus on their core instead.”

Johan Lundberg is the founding partner and CEO of the Swedish venture capital firm NFT Ventures – the largest and most active fintech investor in Europe. I got the chance to talk with him a bit about fintech and if he was able to give one advice to fintech startups, what would that be.

Going global is overrated

According to Johan, one of the biggest misconceptions among startups is that you need to go global as soon as possible, especially in the smaller countries like in the Nordics. The local market just isn’t seen big enough to succeed. There is also great external push to becoming a global player; just take a look at the news and you will see how important exporting and supporting companies’ globalization activities are. But according to Johan, that is not the case with fintech.

”In fintech there really aren’t any banking services that have gone global. Regulations, banking systems etc. – all of those are different in different countries. And that makes fintech very domestically oriented industry. Going global is difficult. And at the same time, there is no need. Even a relatively small country like Finland is big enough for fintech companies. Just take for example a look at the volume of all kinds of banking related transactions – there is enough volume,” he says.

Stop trying to change the world – or at least make sure your core is gold first

More than focusing on globalization, Johan hopes startups would focus more on their core business.

”Many startups think they will change the world. It is great and all, but they get easily distracted because of that. The most important thing to remember is to focus on the core business. Getting sidetracked can easily make you forget what really matters and be the end of your business.”

It is common for startups to aim to be “The Next Big Thing”. To get there many startups focus on growing as fast as possible. But as a result, they end up doing many things okay. To be the next big thing your core needs to be amazing, not okay. Okay just isn’t enough.

As for the future, Johan believes fintech is going to go through even more big transformation. But he doesn’t see that there would be as radical innovations like the blockchain coming any time soon. He believes that the building blocks of that transformation are already there. For him fintech is a hot industry and is only getting hotter.

“There will be more money in the financial sector than now in the future but very differently distributed. Changes are coming and that is exactly why fintech is so interesting.”
 

Related post: What’s hot in fintech: new regulations, customer focus, collaboration & China

 

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship, Startups, Team.

To create something new and innovative you need to also be ready to fail and fail the right way. Failing has become such an essential part of the startup world that there is even a day for it.

So, contrary to the popular belief failing isn’t necessarily bad, it might be even good and necessary. But there are also the failures that should be avoided. The common mistakes that cause the whole startup to break down. Here are 5 of the common ones.

 

  1. Bad validation

Not all problems are worth solving. Some startups think they have the best idea ever. But they forget that is not enough: someone also has to want to buy it, or preferably: need to buy it. It is always easier to sell and get successful with products that solve a critical problem instead of ones that just ”could be fun”.

Still, many startups get so caught up in their brilliant solution that they forget that to get money from it someone needs to see it so valuable that they are willing to pay for it. Often those startups are also the ones that say everyone are their potential customers. If that’s you, stop now and think. The only thing everyone absolutely needs is air. Good luck capitalizing that.

Do you really solve a problem and is the problem critical enough for people to want to pay for your solution? Emphasis on the word ’pay’. Lots of people want free stuff, but that doesn’t put food on the table. Here’s a post that can help you out with validating.

 

 

  1. People need to know your product exists to be able to want it

Your product or service might really be amazing, and not just on paper. You have validated and found that you really do solve a real problem, and problem people are willing to pay to get solved. But that’s not enough.

There are still startups who think that as long as their product/service is good the customers will come automatically. Sometimes that is true: companies get new customers through referrals from their old customers. But you still need to get those first customers. They won’t find your product nor service if it’s hidden in your garage… You need to talk to people. Though of course, sales and marketing are not going to save you if your product is bad. But at the same time, it’s easy to sell a good product.

So, unlike many seem to believe, people won’t run to you if they don’t know about you. Most likely they don’t even know you exist! You need to tell them and you need to explain it simply enough.

 

  1. …and you need to tell them about it clearly enough

Sometimes this is the most difficult part. You know what you are doing, but your customers and investors don’t. And unless you are a coder and your customers are coders, using industry jargon is going to do more harm than good. You need to use the kind of language your customers use and what investors understand.

Don’t talk about how amazing the “UX” of your product is. Talk about the things your customers really care about, and do it in a language they understand and would use themselves. The way of speaking of for example a parent and a coder are very different…

And it’s the same thing for investors. Considering the amount of jargon startups want to use in their pitches, they must think investors are geniuses. How else would they know everything about every industry? Well, I have news for you: they don’t. When the investors don’t understand what you are saying, they automatically stop listening. And jargon usually does exactly that. And then you are wasting both of your time.

So, forget jargon and explain things as simply as possible. Pretty much like you were pitching to a child (no, you are not offending their intelligence by doing that ;)). In fact, if a child can understand you pitch, your pitch is probably going to be really good!

 

Great team ensures you will have great execution of your idea

 

  1. Wrong kind of team

As it has been said over and over again, it’s not the idea, but the execution. And successful execution is all dependent on the team. Jari talked earlier a bit about the importance of team on here, and how important it is to build your team well. But it is not just about having the necessary skills in your team, but how your team works as a whole.

It is surprising how often internal conflicts destroy the whole business. In those cases, the focus goes to drama and not building your success. Or it might be that your situation has changed and for example, the CEO you had at the beginning stages might not be the best person now. You need to hire well and know when changes in the team are needed.

Hire with care, nurture your team and the team environment and adjust when needed.

 

  1. Failing to fail early enough

At the beginning of this post, I pretty much called startups the masters of failing. I should have probably said the successful startups are masters of failing. There are still startups who do everything they can to avoid failing. While not giving up is good, you need to know when to say “this isn’t going to work”. Then you can pivot and start working on something that will work.

The earlier you realize the that the less time and money you are going to spend building something that is not going to work. Thus startups should remember that failing isn’t alway the end of the world, but something they can use to become a much better business.

And there you have it: 5 common mistakes startups make and destroy all their hard work. Remember these and you won’t be one of them! ;)

 

You might also be interested in: How to pitch to an investor to get funding?

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Banking, innovating, Product development.

Collaboration. That’s a buzzword that you can not avoid hearing nowadays. But it’s a buzzword that talks about a real need: collaboration between startups and banks. That’s what is needed in banking, both for the banks’ and startups’ sake, but especially for the sake of the customers. But to be successful, collaboration has to be done right.

We at Nestholma engage banks and startups to collaborate. We have done 20 startup accelerator programs so far with companies such as Nokia, BT, Microsoft, Telecom Italia… During the last couple of years, we’ve been working closely with Nordea bank and have run three accelerator programs with them so far. It has been a great learning experience for them….

…but also for us. Here is what else we and our partners have learned about how to get the results you want from collaborating with startups

 

Have the best startups to work with

You achieve the best results when you have the best startups to work with. Now that is quite obvious. But finding the high-quality startups is a problem. A big problem. And an even bigger problem is attracting them to work with you.  

 

Innovations are global

Most likely the best innovations don’t come from the startups closest to you. And this is for the most local and regional banks a huge issue. How to attract the best startups and their innovations from other places to Helsinki or even to Milan.

 

How to work with startups in practice

Once you have managed to lure a startup or startups to start working with them how to do that in practice. Are your processes, your people, and your company culture ready to work with them?

As one bank executive said, ”it takes only one bank to kill a startup”! Banks and startups are like two different creatures. And almost nothing is easier than for an unprepared bank to smother the startup with its processes and ways of working.

 

Work close enough with the startups

Our customer experience tells that the proximity is one of the key things. You really need to work with the startups, not just take quick peeks at what they are doing. Like taking a look at a lion won’t make you one, just looking at startups won’t help you much. And to get your organization to learn, you need to get as many people as possible involved. That is how you will re-energize your people and get them to learn, to learn how to become agile fast accepting failure and capable of pivoting when needed.

When you have enough people who know how to do that, your whole organization has learned and become agiler, startup like. That is why it is so important to really work together with the startups, get involved and have enough of your people involved.

Those are the things we have learned to be key in working with startups successfully. I don’t claim it is easy, but that’s why we created the Global Fintech Accelerator. To tackle these 3 challenges: to get the best startups, access innovations globally, to work with them but not killing them we have designed Global Fintech Accelerator. It is the perfect solution for preparing for the future.

Startup accelerator program for non-competing banks

 

What is it?

It is a program for non-competing banks. To join forces with other banks, to enjoy benefits of global presence and brand but still to have your own local program for new products. Maximal learning and branding benefits.

 

Access to the most disruptive innovators in the industry, globally. Better and stronger startups.

By combining the brands of the 5 banks we’ll be able to attract far more startups than any one single bank could do. From all over the world. They’ll apply to the locations they want and you decide which startups you want.

 

Learning, sharing the common needs and solving them together 

Banks share many similar or completely same challenges. Thus it makes sense for non-competing banks to collaborate. Trying to reinvent the wheel while others are wrestling the same challenges is a complete waste of time. That is why banks learning from other banks is also a key part of the Global Fintech Accelerator.

 

Share, learn, be more competitive. And help the startups to get better and stronger.

 

There will be 50+ bank approved startups graduating from the program. Capable of solving problems that you might have and what the PSD2 might bring. 10-15 is already a huge number,  but it is only the beginning. You’ll also benefit when the other participating banks make their startups better.

It’s about sharing the learnings in a structured way without any unnecessary hassle. We know what fits for your needs, and how to make it all bump-free.

Global Fintech Accelerator in short:

  • Join forces with the other banks
  • Share the pool of the startups & innovations
  • Learning and sharing from the other banks
  • Test your processes, assumptions, business models in a safe environment to be ready for the PDS2 ERA.

Collaboration with startups has become a must now. But a lot of collaboration, if not even most don’t bring the results banks and corporations want. That’s because collaboration isn’t done right.

That’s why we have worked hard with our partners to find out what exactly causes the hiccups. And we used all the knowledge and experience we have gotten from working with startups and big corporations and facilitating the collaboration of the two. Global Fintech Accelerator is the result of all that. It is what is needed to bring banks to the 21st century.

If you would like to get into the Global Fintech Accelerator or hear more about it, feel free to contact me at [email protected] or +358 40 3433352.

 

Related post: Nordea fintech accelerator successful

 

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship, Startups, Team.

Having the right kind of team is one of the key features of a successful startup. Even more important than your idea (read this if that comes as a surprise). There were search engines before Google, social networks before Facebook and so on and so forth. We all know that. What made Facebook and Google be the successful ones was that they executed the idea better. That’s why sentences like ”Execution is king”, ” Ideas are good, but only execution matters” are heard all over the startup world.

Now think about it: what is the difference between good and bad execution? I.e. who are 100% responsible for making your brilliant idea into reality? Your team. It blows my mind when startup founders just hire their childhood best friends, cousins, someone they know who happens to need a job. Noble – yes. Useful – if you’re lucky…

Hiring someone you don’t know means spending hours and hours trying to get people to apply. And then spending much more time on looking through the applications, interviewing and still you can never know what kind of people they really end up being. You just have to take a leap of faith. Or you can just hire someone you know, or at least someone you trust knows. Easy, simple, done. So, hiring someone you know is understandable and even makes sense. But that’s where many startups go wrong. Here are what to look out for.

 

Danger point 1 – just hiring someone you know without thinking what they can really bring to your team – skills, experience, their network…

The problem is hiring someone just because you know them. That’s what many do and then notice the person doesn’t have the skills they need. Then you face the dilemma: should you fire your childhood friend to be able to hire someone your startup really needs or just stay quiet and not destroy your relationship with him or her. Startups just don’t have the money the keep hangarounds in their team. And sooner or later you will have to sack him/her or risk failing. Thus it is better to hire sensible right away.

Each and every member of your team needs to have the skills and/or experience you need in your team. And of course, fit into your group dynamics.

 

Danger point 2 – hiring someone who doesn’t match your team and/or way of working.

Some startups have the opposite problem. They get so charmed about someone’s skills or experience and don’t care about how that person will fit into their team. Those are the teams that will spend their days ripping each others hair out.

Now, you don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but too many startups fail because they spend their time fighting each other instead of working. A cohesive team is not only more pleasant to work in, but cohesive teams also get better results. That is why it is equally important to make sure the new hire also fits into your team.

Also, make sure your company’s working style fits with the person you will hire. For example, if that person would prefer to have steady working hours but your startup needs lots of flexibility. Or you would want employees to work at your office, but that person would prefer to work remotely, you might have to reconsider.

Again, think before you hire and you will save yourself from many headaches.

Team fighting instead of getting things done

 

Danger point 3 – team full of similar people

If your startup has 3 members who all are introverted coders who only want to code, no matter how amazing they are at coding, your startup won’t get far. Yes, your code will be brilliant, but that’s it. Let me repeat: THAT’S IT. Even if your business idea was to be a coding subcontractor, you would still need other kinds of people in your team. You need diversity and diversity in all areas.

 

Have the right skills in your team

You need a diverse group of skills, complementary skills that make executing your brilliant business idea possible. You all might be coders, but someone also needs to know how to sell, pitch, do marketing, accounting…. When you only have coders who are interested in coding, you end up with brilliant code. But like I said, that’s going to be it. That’s what they call hobbies. If you want to make money you need more than that.

I overheard a mentoring session in a hackathon of such team. The whole session was spent by the mentor asking who would use their product/idea and the team answering ”but the code is sooooo pretty, anyone. It’s just so so soooo pretty.” They were completely unaware that someone would actually need to also buy it, i.e. someone has to want the product. And that they were not even selling code, but something to make people’s lives better. The whole idea of ”thinking from your customers’ perspective” was completely alien to them. The team also spend the first minute (!) of their pitch explaining how they are uncomfortable pitching/selling, how bad they are at this, this and that…. Let’s just say it didn’t go too well.

You need the dreamers, the organizers, the doers, the specialists, the whole package that gets the work done. Think about it: if you all are dreams, all you get is dreams. If all of you are natural organizers all you end up doing is organizing each other and not doing the work.

The best results require different minds

You need people who have the diverse skills and working styles needed to make your idea into reality (and success!). But you also need diversity in experiences, in the minds you have in your teams. You need diversity of all kinds. Of skills, personalities, life experiences, cultures, genders, what have you. Studies say that by having more diverse minds working on a problem they are going to look at it more thoroughly. That is how you will take all the necessary things better into consideration and how you will create more innovative ideas.

So, while it is important to make sure your team is cohesive, you should avoid the trap of only hiring people who are similar to you. When you work with people who are different from you (from a different culture, education, sex, etc.), you will have to put more effort into working together, solving misunderstandings and so on. But also your results will be so much better. So so much better.

TL;DR: Make sure:

  1. you have all the needed skills and personalities in your team.
  2. your team dynamics work
  3. you have enough of different kinds of minds working together. That’s how you will reach the best results.

 

A post you might also find interesting: You need more than mentoring hookups

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Entrepreneurship, Startups.

Sooner or later on your entrepreneurial journey, you will face the question whether you should go for an accelerator. And if, for which one.

Accelerators can really help you accelerate your growth (hence the name). But only if you find the right accelerator for you. And if you are ready for it. Just going with the most famous one or the one closest to you can do you more harm than good. The accelerator needs to fit your startup’s needs.

Here are a couple of things to take into consideration when looking for The One for you, or if you really should even go for one.

1. How committed are you?

If I had to choose just one word to describe accelerators it would be intense, both in good and bad.

During the accelerator, you are going to work hard, probably harder than ever before. Everything is accelerated. And what’s everything? Well, that depends on the accelerator (and you!). But things like learning, making right and wrong decisions, changing routes accordingly, reaching customers, pivoting, maybe even more than just once. In essence: a lot of things will happen and all of it will happen at the same time. Though only if you are there and putting in the effort. Accelerators accelerate, they don’t do the work for you. And intense results require intense work.

So, you need to figure out what is your commitment level, if you are ready for all that. Will you be able to put in your 100% and more during the months of the program? Or would something less intense work better for you instead?

Accelerator = hard work

 

Think about your life realistically.

Are you just testing the waters if your idea has any potential and want to still continue in your day job just in case? Then an accelerator that requires fewer hours might be the best option for you. Or do you have a baby coming, sickly parents to take care of, pet, hobby, anything that prevents you from giving your all during the accelerator?  Most likely you also need to relocate for the accelerator (unless you are super super majorly lucky and the best accelerator for your startup is right next door). Is that possible? Yes, some things may be worked out, but those kind of compromises always show.

For some accelerators, it is even a requirement to work full-time on your startup. That’s because they know how big of an effect it is going to have on your results. And not only does it show that you are committed it also proves you truly believe in your idea. If you don’t believe in your own idea enough to work on it full time, why should they?

So, think about your day to day life and be realistic about how committed you can and will be. If you put your mind into you will find the accelerator that is going to help you the most. AND can actually work with your life, even if it means joining an accelerator a bit later in your startup journey.

 

2. What kind of network do you want to build?

Accelerators are great at helping you grow your networks and be known where you need to be. But only if you choose an accelerator that makes it possible. Not all networks are made equal. If you go to an accelerator where you can grow a good-sized network, but of the wrong kind of contacts or in the wrong market, does it matter? No. You won’t really get anything out of it. At least when compared to if that network was filled with contacts that were actually relevant to your business.

Let’s say you are a fintech startup and big banks are your potential customers. Then a fintech accelerator that is done in collaboration with bank(s) is probably your best bet. But if you are a biotech startup, going to a bank accelerator will not the best choice for you. No matter how close it is to your home or how great the people behind accelerator are. Accelerator is great for you only if it helps achieve your goals.

 

So think: What is your industry? Are you a B2B or B2C startup. Where is your target market located? Who are the people, the influencers you need to reach? Can the accelerator give you direct contacts to your customers? Accelerators will not only help you create networks with your alumni but also with the key people in the industry, customers, investors, advisors and much more. That is why it is important to find the accelerator that matches your goals.

Ask yourself: which accelerator can connect you to the people and create the networks you need?

 

3. Your preferences & musts?

Every startup has different needs. After you have figured out your realistic level of commitment and what kind of networks you want to build, there are still many many things to consider. Things that are specific to your startup. Some of the key ones include:

Accelerator’s style:

What type of accelerator are you looking for? Do you want more hands on approach where you get help specifically for your startup? Or would you rather just hear tips from the ones who have already done it?

There are as many kinds of accelerators as there are accelerators. There really isn’t an official definition of an accelerator. That’s why the spectrum of different accelerators is also quite wide. When we talk about accelerators we mean intensive, time-limited coaching and business development programs that offer investments. Some accelerators offer investments, some don’t. Some accelerators emphasize building networks, some coaching, and more hands-on workshops. Figure out what would be most helpful for you.

Mentors & mentoring:

Different accelerators have different kind of people as their mentors. They even mean different things with the word mentor. Are the mentors they have relevant to you? Knowledgeable of your industry, issues you struggle with, do they have knowledge from your customers’ side?

And what does the accelerator mean by mentoring? Is the big name mentor going to give a lecture and a short Q&A or will he or she sit down with you to work on your startup? How important it is for you to have that one-on-one time with the mentors? What do you really want mentoring to be like?

After accelerator:

Do you want to get help from them also after the accelerator program itself ends? If you do it might be better to go to one that invests in the startups in its programs. That is because they probably want to make sure their investment is doing well and are much keener on helping you, their investment, also after the program. Or would you rather just get the learnings during the accelerator and not be bothered with keeping in touch with it? Also, what does it really mean get help after the accelerator ends? How much effort is the accelerator willing to put into helping you after the program?

Funding:

Do you need funding and how much? How much of your equity are you willing to give away? Do your numbers match with the accelerator’s? When thinking about the investment from the accelerator, you need to consider the overall package: for example, the coaching and other support in addition to the invested money.

Though remember that you should never do it just for the funding! It is not going to take you far, far from it. Though I am sure you are one of the smart ones and the thought didn’t even cross your mind ;)

 

4. Are you coachable?

I.e. are you ready to learn, accept others’ advice and in general, know you cannot know everything needed in this world. In short: your attitude.

If you already know everything, attending an accelerator might not be for you. I mean, accelerators are for learning, why would you go to one if you already know it all? You’re just going to waste your own and the accelerator people’s time. Though of course, if you do it to build a network then accelerator might still be worth your time (but are you worth the accelerator’s time, that’s a different story…).

 

Being coachable is also the very same thing investors are looking for. Nobody likes the know-it-alls that only want money, especially not investors.

TL;DR Do your research. Think what are your needs and what you can give, and apply to the the accelerator(s) that matches those. And remember: there is no one ‘best accelerator in the world’. It is different for everyone!

What are the ‘musts’ you are looking for in an accelerator? Share in the comments, we’d love to hear!

 

Related post: How to build the next startup unicorn?

 

Posted by & filed under Customers, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Social Media, Startups.

They say social media is amazing for companies, especially startups. A must even. But in your experience, it’s just a waste of time. Usually, the reason is that you post the wrong kinds of posts, but also that you are on the completely wrong channels.

Here is a lesson that could not be simpler and even more obvious. But a lesson I want to share because, in practice, it seems to be nothing but obvious. Startups know they should be on social media, but they waste a lot of their time on wrong things. And surprise surprise they don’t get the results they want. It is about what they post, but many if not most startups get an even more basic step completely wrong. They don’t use the right social media channels, the channels that would really bring in the results. Meaning no matter how amazing posts you are putting out none of it matters if your customers don’t see them.

Only the channels where your customers are matter

What startups usually do is that after deciding they need to be in social media, they think which channels are hot and start creating accounts. The end result is they will have too many accounts and they don’t have time to do them well enough. And most likely they are wasting their precious time on channels that will bring them no results no matter how well they do on them.

The only channels that matter are the channels that bring you results. And usually, that means the channels your customers use. Like everything your startup does, also marketing and social media should all start from your customers. Let’s say you have a fashion brand and your customers are females in their 20s. Then Instagram is probably your best bet, probably also Facebook. Linkedin? Not so much. But if your customers are professional males in their 50s or 60s Linkedin (or nowadays also Facebook) is just the thing. And then Instagram, probably a complete waste of time.

So, creating great content is the number 1 thing that will make or break it whether you will get something out of your social media efforts. But if you are doing it all on wrong channels your effort is 100% waste of time.

How to find the right channels for your startups

Like I said earlier: be where your customers (and other important stakeholders) are. The best-case scenario would be that you know what those are for a fact. If you don’t, you need to start making educated guesses and change accordingly when you get more information. Also, just ask. You are talking to your customers and potential customers anyway, so why not ask about where they are active.

If you have no idea, you can start from thinking about your customers’ demographics. The Internet is full of information about who uses what social media channels. Then you can start using facts like your customers’ gender, age, income level, interests etc. help you make an educated guess. Here is one website to help you out.

 

Social media demographics age

 

These are just some of the most popular channels. …which is why it makes no sense for startups to try to be on all possible channels.

Demographic factors usually help you a lot, but don’t be blinded by them. Let’s say your target group is photographers, male and 35+ years old. Then just by looking at demographic factors alone, you wouldn’t go for Instagram. But that would be a grave mistake! What is Instagram? A photo sharing app. It’s filled with people interested in photography and pro photographers.

Also, remember not to focus only on the buyer, the one who actually makes the decision of buying. Think about the people who have an influence on that buying decision. A clear example is toys. An adult is the one who pays for the toys, but it’s kids who say ”I want that!!! Buy it!”. Then you should be active where the kids are, and of course, not completely neglect the parents either. Or if you are selling something to the government or bigger organizations. The decision makers are important, but so are the assistants who actually scour through the options and present them to the decision maker.

Be realistic about your resources and what even is possible

Think of your resources and what makes sense. Even if your customers use ’all’ social media channels, you probably shouldn’t be in all of them. Unless your startup is strongly tied to social media, you just won’t have time. That’s coming both from personal experience and seeing what happens with startups. It’s better to focus on the most useful channel(s) and do them well than to do poorly on many channels. Doing social media well does require time and effort, so don’t spread yourself too thin.

Another thing to consider is what even is possible for you. For example, let’s say your customers use a lot of Instagram and quite a lot of Twitter. Instagram would then be an obvious choice. But for some companies, it might be harder to create good content on that platform. If you have a fashion brand, it is easy to take good photos that create value, something that makes people want to follow you. If you do IT consulting, not so. Then it is a safer bet to focus on the number 2, Twitter. Though of course, if you can actually figure out how to do Instagram super well, you will reach your customers where they are AND where your competition isn’t.

In short:

  1. Only be on the channels where your customers are
  2. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Start only with the most important channel(s). You can always take over more later.
  3. Create value. Just pushing your products and services will not work.

And that’s it for today! Do you have any learning about choosing the right channels? What worked, what didnät?

 

You might also be interested in: How to talk to your customers and build better products?

 

Posted by & filed under Customer development, Entrepreneurship, innovating, Product development, Startups.

How to be a successful entrepreneur? How to create the next Airbnb/Uber/Dropbox/startup unicorn? Hands up, who hasn’t googled something like that even once? Or at least clicked once on those millions and millions of articles about creating the ‘next big thing’.

But if that’s what you are asking you won’t succeed. Might sound harsh but it’s true. Hey, I do understand; who wouldn’t want to be the founder of the next SpaceX. But the thing is that if you just want to have a successful startup for the sake of having a successful startup, you are focusing one the wrong things. You are focusing on the fame, money or whatever fancy thing you are imagining, not on what can get you there. And that is having a startup that is actually worth it.

All successful startups give people something they are dying to get. They are solving a problem, a crucial need people have. The more people your startup can help, the more desperate they are to get that problem solved, and the better you solve it the bigger your success will be.

So, how do you create a successful startup then?

Didn’t I just tell you to stop thinking about it!?!? …juuust kidding. In all seriousness:

 

Have an idea (well, duh)

Often what happens is that the founder(s) sees a need. That something could be done better and figure out a solution for it. They start thinking ”why is it like this. Why can’t it be like that.” Boom: an idea is born! (in a very very simplified form).

 

Validate that idea

Ideas are an essential part of founding a startup. But we all have ideas and only a few of us are successful entrepreneurs because of them. That’s because not all brilliant ideas really are brilliant. You need to validate your idea. Is it something that would make only your life better? Is it crucial enough and for enough people? Or just ’nice to have’?

Is the need big & crucial enough?

I.e. are people actually willing to pay for you solution and are they enough of them. If they want your solution but not to pay for it (=the need isn’t crucial enough for them), you won’t make any money and your business will die. Or if only a few want your solution (=the need isn’t big enough), you won’t make enough money and again: your business will die.

 

”But everyone needs my solution…”

 

Stop you fool!

 

If that’s what you think, stop! Stop, sit down and think again. You might still be able to save your startup.

Unless you have found a way to capitalize air, there is nothing everyone needs. ”Everyone” is the easy answer many go for, and the answer that will ruin their all chances of success. When you think that everyone will be your customers, you try to please everyone. And that doesn’t work. You will end up doing compromise after compromise and then your solution fits no-one. Or you just don’t even try and create a solution that only solves your problem and nobody else’s.

Bad validation is one of the most common reasons startups fail. They get so blinded by their ’brilliant solution that everyone in this world will buy’ that they forget to check the facts. Don’t be like them. Validate, and do it properly. Here’s an excellent post from Startupgrind to help you with that.

The best case is when your product is not just a ’nice to have’, but a must to have.

 

Execute it awesomely

”Ideas don’t matter, only execution does.” – pretty much every successful entrepreneur.

No matter how brilliant your idea is, the idea that is executed the best will win. After all brilliant idea is just an idea, still a long way from becoming reality. And rarely there are any truly unique ideas (there have been search engines before Google, social networks before Facebook and so on). We now ’google’ things because Google had the best execution of the idea, same with Facebook and many many other businesses.

No-one will see the brilliance of your idea if the reality of it just screams bad execution.

And a key thing to remember is that execution is 100% up to your team. It’s about their skills, experience, connections, everything. Many entrepreneurs just hire their relatives, friends, old acquaintances who need a job. That’s very noble of them but only works if they have the qualities needed to make that brilliant idea into reality. And if you ever dream of getting investments, you better have the kind of team that gets them. After all, investors usually look at the team even more than the idea itself. More about that here.

Learn from the unicorns – real-life examples

Let’s look at Airbnb. The economy was (and unfortunately is) tough, and many were looking for extra income. They also had empty space in their homes. Unused rooms, or whole apartments due to traveling. At the same time, people wanted to travel but not spend that much money on their accommodation. There was a demand and then there was a solution: Airbnb.

Or Uber. Again tough times. People need an extra income and they have an idle car. At the same time, others need convenient transportation, like taxis but without the price tag. Again: big need many really want to get solved.

In short: they had a great idea, an idea crucial for many and they knew how to execute it well. And now Airbnb is worth 31 billion dollars. Uber 62,5 billion dollars (as of March & April of 2017).

 

Related post: Startup mistakes to avoid

 

Posted by & filed under Banking, Customer development, Customers, Fintech, innovating, Startups.

The digital revolution has happened. And now it’s banking’s turn. Fintech are here and banks can lose up to 60% of their retail profits in the next decade. But will they? And why would they? What is going to happen in banking and fintech?

About a week ago I attended MoneyFintech-seminar and got to listen to the brightest minds of fintech and banking. Here are the four big things that are hot now and in the future of fintech and banking.

New regulations

When talking about banking and fintech, regulations are a topic you just cannot ignore. The hot potatoes of the industry: PSD2, open banking, and many others are wreaking havoc in banking.

PSD2, open banking – new regulations level they playing field for fintechs

One key goal of the new regulations is to level the playing field between fintechs and banks. It means more opportunities for more new fintechs. And that means new opportunities, new companies, new jobs and so on. The industry has been booming and the new regulations don’t seem to make it any slower, the opposite.

 

Bad news for banks: half of consumers are open to 3rd party providers

Source: Kevin Poe, CGI

Consumers don’t feel connected to their banks and half of consumers are already ready to try 3rd party service providers. While consumers still prefer their current bank to provide new services it is greatly declining. All this is great news for fintechs but not so good for banks. Banks can no longer just sit on their asses and wait to see what happens.

 

It’s up to banks to decide the role of fintechs in the ecosystem

An interesting point in the speeches was that in the end, it is up to the old masters of the industry, banks, to decide what kind of role fintechs will take. Will banks refuse to change with the industry and let fintechs take over? Will they re-invent themselves and fight back? Or maybe the most beneficial for all: will they learn to collaborate with the other players in the ecosystem?

Not everyone can nor should do everything. Instead of wasting time on trying to win everyone on every battleground, banks should collaborate with the ones that would give complementary value to your offering.

 

“Fintech will bring lots of opportunities for everyone. But it is true only IF collaboration happens.” -Annukka Paloheimo

Like Lars Markull said: “PSD2 is not THE solution for banks, but something that pushes them to the right directions.” It forces them to act instead of just watching passively in their ivory towers till they have become completely obsolete.

 

Customer focus

The regulations are changing and fintechs have the opportunity of a lifetime. But the biggest winners will be the customers. They are the ones who will have all new kinds of financial products, their old services will be much simpler, and for every product and service they have been forced to get from one provider, now they will have an excess of options. And as we know, options is never bad for the customers. But for banks and fintechs it means fiery competition.

 

“Thanks to fintechs and technology houses customers are aware of their options, that there even are options. That has shifted the power from the banks to the customers. Now customers are in the driver’s seat.” – Kirsi Larkiala

 

The winners will be the ones who serve the customers the best. The ones who don’t just focus on the customer but what the customer is focusing on. If you can bring something great to the things matter most to the customers, that’s the recipe for success. Or like Jarle Holm put it: “If it’s going to increase your customer’s equity, it’s going to grow your equity.” And the key to that is to stop thinking about customers as customers and start thinking about them as humans.

 

Illogical, obsessed with social relationships, i.e. your customers 

The biggest winners will be the companies that understand what customers essentially are – humans. Beings who think they are rational, but in reality are far from it. Beings to whom social relationships are more important than almost anything else. That’s why customers’ losing the feeling of personal connection to their banks is such a big deal. And that’s why the companies who also serve the social relationship needs of their customers will succeed. Companies need to understand how their customers make their decisions (not as rationally as you’d think), and how to build strong relationships with their customers. And to think about their future customers already today. For example by 2025 millennials will make 75% of the workforce. The ones who will start building relationships with them then are way too late.

Collaboration

 

The future is not ‘ready’. It needs to be innovated together with the whole ecosystem.” – Kirsi Larkiala

In fintech, one as often mentioned topic as the new regulations is collaboration. In fact, 82% of financial institutions expect to work with startups in 3-5 years.

 

82% of financial institutions expect to to work with startups in the next three to five years.

Source: PwC

1 in 2 banks expects to partner with fintechs later than in two years, which is pretty slow (even too slow?). They see the benefits, but at the same time they have a huge responsibility. Banks spend on regulation and compliance 321Bn (inc fines). Having customers’ trust is more important than pretty much any other industry. And if something happens because of the 3rd party, the bank’s partner, that trust is lost. The customers see that the bank is responsible of their partners. But regardless banks know they can’t not collaborate with startups. Why? They need the innovations & to learn.

 

“Innovative companies seeking aggressive growth are the future of Finland and Europe.” – Eeva Grannenfelt

 

Working with startups to get innovations

There are many reasons corporations aren’t the kind of innovation powerhouses startups are. One of those is the fear of failure or losing their reputation by putting out something that is not ’perfect’. That is why the startup-like use of MVPs might sound absolutely horrifying. And they do have a point. Like Pekka Puustinen from insurer Ilmarinen said, corporations have a whole different kind of reputation to keep than startups. Putting out ‘almost ready’ products is not as easy for big corporations like it is for startups. ”Porsche can’t put out a car that almost works”, he said.

As banks have their constraints they go for startups for innovations. And it makes sense. Startups are innovation powerhouses without the constraints they have. They don’t have such a big reputation to upkeep, and they are the masters of using failing as an innovation tool. Eeva Grannenfelt even said large companies have outsourced the R&D partly to growth companies. Startups definitely can be a tool for banks to meet the new expectations of their customers and do so without risking their reputation.

 

Working with startups to learn

But none of the above means the banks can just sit around. While startups can be an amazing way to find the much-needed innovations, they themselves need to change for the future. While Porche can’t necessarily put out ‘almost ready’ cars, there are multiple ways more ‘startup like’ approach would work wonders for corporations. That’s why they should learn from startups. Learn to be faster, agiler, more innovative. And even fail. Like Topi Järvinen said: “Failing isn’t necessarily bad. You can learn a lot from it and thus do better the next time.” Failing (the right way) is an essential part of innovating and by no means automatically means PR disasters.

Based on the talks banks gave that’s exactly what they are looking for. Most of them talked about how they need to reinvent themselves and learn from the startups. That’s why banks should use accelerators and startups just for innovations, but as something to change their entire organization. The ideal situation would be getting innovations from outside the house (startups) but also being able to innovate in-house. And at the same time be more agile, fast, more startup like and less stiff like corporations usually are.

 

Accelerators shouldn’t be just tools to get innovations, but tools to change the whole organization

Source: Topi Järvinen, Nestholma

 

China: the promised land of fintech

An old Chinese professor of mine joked in China copyright actually means the right to copy. China definitely has been an excellent copier of all innovations big and small. But now China has gotten far from that: they have changed from copycats to copy tigers. In China, fintech is booming.

China is a great breeding ground for fintech. The country is going through rapid urbanization, they have regulations that support the growth of inland fintech innovations, a massive and underserved SME market, rapidly growing of e-commerce and also explosive growth in online and mobile penetration (read more here). Technology is changing so rapidly that they are skipping many of the unnecessary steps like landlines, dial-up internet and so on, and going straight to mobile payments innovations like that. And the people are more than willing to do so. For example, 40% of Chinese consumers have adopted mobile payments, which is massive. China truly is the perfect breeding ground for fintech innovations.

 

“Fintech in China is delivering the promise of fintech – making changes of unimaginable size” – Ronit Ghose

 

China is coming and the West better listen

China’s policy was to forbid Western services like Google, Facebook, Youtube, and many more to have their own versions instead. There are multiple reasons why one of them being giving the business opportunities to Chinese companies. The Chinese not only copied the service but also evolved them further (e.g. mobile wallet in their social media services like WeChat). Before you could just think ”oh well, the Chinese have their own versions, so?” and move on with your day (unless, of course, the Chinese market was important to business). But now that is not possible anymore.

The Chinese consumers are the fastest growing segment in the world. Now there are 300 million Chinese consumers and by 2022 there will be 600 million. And it’s not just the massive amount of them, but also their great purchasing power. McKinsey estimates that by 2022 the upper middle class will account for even 54% of urban households.

 

The upper middle class will account for even 54% of urban Chinese households

Source: McKinsey & company

In short, there is an every growing amount of wealthy Chinese who want to spend. And they don’t just want to spend it all home. They want to travel and spend it on foreign (premium) goods.

 

Chinese outbound tourism growing strongly

Source: Johan Andrén, Handelsbanken

It may sound like the Chinese are taking over the world (and maybe they are), but in our current interconnected world, all that spending is going to mean more jobs all over the world. And that’s great (if you are not an avid tin foil wearer ;))! But that also means the so-called Chinese versions of everything are now also relevant here. Or they should be. Like Ronit Ghose said: “When the mass of wealthy Chinese tourists come, Western companies have to accept Chinese payment methods or they get nothing.” On the streets of my home city Helsinki, there are more and more signs in Chinese. Talking about the Chinese payment methods the shops now accept, wishing happy Chinese new year and so on. The Chinese are coming and you should be ready.

…or should I say Asia is coming instead? China definitely is ahead, but other countries like India are catching up fast. You should keep your eyes peeled.

 

Antti Kosunen ended his portion with the following quote, and it seems like the perfect quote to end this post: “If the rate of change outside your organization exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is near.” – Jack Welch

 

Posted by & filed under Corporations, innovating, Startups.

Go f.... disrupt yourself!

Many startups say they are disrupting something. And they might, we live in one of the most uncertain times in history. But how can corporations know what to expect? How can they know what the big changes in the industry will be?

The bad news: you’re not as good as you think figuring it out on your own.

People love talking about “disruption”. Fintech startups with the banking industry. Autonomous and electric with the automotive industry. Peer-to-peer with real estate. TechCrunch has even named its conferences “Disrupt”. Welcome buzzword, let’s all go disrupt something! And is disruption even a good thing for startups? According to Peter Thiel, not at all. It doesn’t say much about your business if the biggest thing about it is what it displaces. Tweet this

Disruption is what the big players call an innovation that they didn’t see coming. Tweet this

A hammer is not a disruption to a video casette. A streaming service is.

And why would you not see it coming? It turns out it’s more difficult than most people expect. I’ll give you one example. A technology that is getting a lot of buzz lately is Artificial Intelligence. We have a few startups in that field in our portfolio. I’m sure you’ve also heard claims about how it’s going to displace a lot of jobs.

What was your answer to that?

Let me guess… was it close to “poor guys, I’m so lucky it won’t displace my job though”?

I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this topic, and let me break out a sad truth to you: everybody thinks that. Tweet this. Doctors, consultants, teachers, drivers! “Oh, it’s going to get a lot of people out of their jobs. But for sure not in my area. We do different stuff. There’s still a lot of things they don’t understand about what we do.”

And there’re two reasons (at least) for that.

The first and most obvious is that the closer we are to something, the more assumptions we have about it. Tweet this. You have assumptions about how your job “should be”, based on how it is. You have the assumption that everything that you currently do is necessary.

The second one is that what disrupts a market is not an improved version of what you currently have. Tweet this. What will displace your industry is no necessarily a substitute of your current offering. It will be something that makes your current offering irrelevant. But by definition, it will be very different.

 

Sometimes new innovations don't seem like they could replace the old thing because they seem so different.

 

Take the case of the ice factories in the 1920’s. It was one of the biggest industries at the time. On 1927 came the refrigerator. Many people in that industry though “oh, sure, but that’s not the same thing”. Still, most ice factories closed down. The disruption didn’t come from better ice. It came from something else, that made selling ice almost irrelevant. And they didn’t know how to renew themselves.

Let’s bring the example to the present time:

  • Think about the automotive industry. Will the biggest disruption be better or more efficient cars? Probably not. We will move towards something that will make cars less relevant. It might be advances in shared economy, better-shared transportation or communications. It might be all the above.
  • Think about fintech and banks. Will the biggest disruption be a startup that is a better version of your bank? Probably not. It might be a swarm of little startups. An open architecture. A different way to deal with information. It might be all the above.

The good news: working with startups will help you.

A couple of weeks ago the Nestholma coaches took part in Tony Robbin’s seminar Unleash the Power Within. We heard much about human nature and about beliefs. In particular, we heard about how self-limiting some of them can be. To get rid of those beliefs, you need to break existing patterns and create new ones.

If you want to understand what’s coming, you need to do more than knowing the context. You need to be ready for change and renewal. Need to be agile. You need to know how to work with the change. You need to know how to work with startups.

You even need to be part of the change. You need to disrupt your own business. If you don’t, somebody else will. You need to be working on the things that will make you obsolete before somebody else does. Tweet this.

This can be scary. But instead of fearing those changes, you need to embrace them and turn them into actions. The world is going to change anyways. If you renew yourself, you’ll stay on top, and the change will be good for your business. Tweet this. If you use startups only as an innovation band aid, you might see it coming… or not.

 

Working with startups will help the people in your organization in many ways:

  • It will make them think bigger, and raise their standards towards innovation. If working with startups becomes part of their DNA, they will be more likely to think innovatively, expect shifts in the market… and dare be part of those shifts!
  • It will make them think in a sharper way. Tony Robbins says that complexity is the enemy of execution, and any lean startup will agree. In corporations, things can become complex very fast. Even when things are not complex, they are sometimes made complex. Startups are good at cutting through the clutter. They can’t afford to make things too complicated. They have to be sharp and lean.
  • It will make them think like intrapreneur change agents. Change requires champions. Entrepreneurial thinking is a great tool to plan for uncertainty. It’s a great tool to even understand that uncertainty. It’s a tool for making things happen.

In short: be ready to renew your organization by working with startups… or somebody else will! Tweet this

Dr. Daniel Collado-Ruiz, @ErCollao

Do you like the content? Do you disagree? Are you interested in hearing more about other related stuff? Drop us a line in the comments or on Twitter, and let’s chat!

 

Start renewing your business today

Let’s talk how Nestholma can help to renew your entire company and find new businesses with startups and beyond.

I want to hear more

 

You might also be interested in: Why are big corporations so bad at innovating?

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, innovating, Startups.

Renewal of the companies is on the mind of every CEO. Not to learn more but to break the patterns. It´s easy to learn new stuff, but difficult to unlearn. We go back to our habits unless something becomes a habit.

Break the patterns

All Nestholma coaches took part of Tony Robbins 4-day seminar in London. We are here to learn how to become better coaches. Tony Robbins made us experience. He made us repeat. Breaking our patterns and repeating new ones, so it becomes us. And that´s what corporations also need.

Active waiting

I also had a pleasure to listen to professor Liisa Välikangas earlier this week. She talked about “active waiting”. It means that people have to be learning to be ready for the unknown future. When I listened to her I realized that a startup accelerator is an active waiting tool. You don´t learn how to play soccer by analyzing it from the distance. You have to play it. And you have to play it when the game starts. Most of the times organizations don´t understand that the new game has already started. Some key players understand the importance and the urgency to change, but most of the people don´t.

Fast

Nordea`s CDO Ewan Mcleod answered with one word why startups are good for learning purposes: “FAST” and he continues: “we have to be fast”. And that happens only if the patterns of the old behavior has changed. And when people have been “actively waiting” they can act when needed.

 

Happy labor day! Let´s change the patterns of the labor, wait actively and act fast.