Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Mentoring, Startups.

Most collaboration between startups and corporations shows very little results. The reason is that they are just trying to improve bits and pieces of, for example, the offering. That’s not enough. The winners will be the ones that can renew their attitude, learn to adapt and embrace the change. Startup collaboration is the best tool for that, but it needs to be done right.

Startup collaboration is not an innovation band-aid

Startups are not innovation band-aidMany corporations still try to filter out the perfect startup candidates before starting to work with them. They usually end up with companies that have a product that can be easily integrated with the current offering. Good for them if they can provide something useful for their customers, but that approach rarely ends up in changing anything. It usually just turns into an incremental improvement.

It doesn’t help you if you do the same thing a bit better than before. Not when in most industries you don’t know how your business will look like in just a few years. Corporations need to break the familiar ways of doing things, break the patterns to get ready for the unknown. Companies need to build skills to be ready for the future. The old skills may not become obsolete, but everyone needs to find new ways of using the old skills in new environments. We need to be experts at finding new uses for the things we’re good at. We also need to become experts in the new things that are needed to solve our customers problems.

While startups can learn a lot from corporations, also the startups can teach the corporations many things. So, why do many corporations go only for the incremental improvements and one-by-one collaboration with startups? Because this way fits their existing way of working. They have used subcontractors and other types of partner forever and startups are no different. Corporations are really good at buying products and services. They have developed efficient procurement models and processes that they want to use also with startups. But that is not enough. In fact, I think that this way of working totally misses the point and the big opportunity.

Turning from individual innovation partnerships to powering the renewal at corporations

Nestholma started with the idea of helping startups and corporations to build new innovations and make deals together. In our accelerator model, we make the startups and corporation work together with clear business goals in mind. That has worked really well in the 20 accelerators we’ve done. Still, over the past two years, we’ve realized that it’s much more than making a few deals happen or arranging a great Demo Day pitching events.

Couple of interesting things have happened: HRD and entreprenership

To make the impact of the accelerators as big as possible, we’ve ended up coaching not just the startups and also the corporation’s employees. Regardless if you talk in the context of change management or broader transformation, our work has been more and more about helping the employees to learn from the startups. This has helped them to become better at facing whatever challenge may lie ahead of them.

Many times the management is a bit worried that the employees may not have enough time to work with the startups. Our experience is that the employees love to work with the startups and find the time if there’s good support for them. Also, we’ve found that it’s not just the innovation people, but everyone in the organization that wants to join from customer care to sales and tech. After working with startups many corporate employees have told us that the work with startups has given them new boost on working with the other things, as well.

The other interesting thing has been the work we’ve done for the ex-employees of Microsoft and Nokia. These companies have laid-off thousands of employees in Finland over the past couple of years. As a Finnish company we wanted to see if we could use our business coaching and accelerator model to help them to find their new path in life as entrepreneurs. In great co-operation with both Microsoft and Nokia, we’ve coached hundreds of ex-employees from these companies. Some have become entrepreneurs, some have gone to work in small companies and some are just using the entrepreneurial mindset to pursue whatever else they want in life (read more in Finnish). Not everyone has ended up being a growth company entrepreneur, but we have found it important give back a little by using our expertise to help them.

Nestholma's startup accelerator and entrepreneurship coaching model.

Business leadership and HR can drive the change with startups

Still, what started out as an interesting experiment and an effort to share our knowledge, turned out to be one of the biggest learnings for Nestholma. This experience in coaching the entrepreneurs has helped us to develop a deep understanding on how to help also the employees still working inside a corporation to change. In fact, we find ourselves increasingly in the same tables with the business leadership and HR. They want concrete business results fast, but they also want to make sure it’s not just what I sometimes call an innovation band-aid. They want to see sustainable impact in the entire organization and business as well as sustainable renewal of the company.

Business leadership and HR want to make sure the entire company is able to quickly

  • adapt to new market conditions
  • find out what are the problems worth solving
  • learn new skills while they are working
  • move effortlessly between different types of internal and external operational models (startups, internal ventures, line organization etc.)
  • reinvigorate the employees to pursue new paths in their personal professional growth
  • turn high level strategic goals into real business initiatives

And we’re very happy to be there. With our two-part accelerator and entrepreneurship coaching model, we can provide the tools to tackle these needs and more. The great thing is that this is also the best way to help the startups learn and succeed.

Topi Järvinen @topij

Start renewing your business today!

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

We are going through huge changes in technology and in the world in general. The future has never been this unpredictable no matter what industry you are talking about. Now is the last chance for big corporations to ditch their stiff structures and slow ways of working. To become agile and innovative like startups. That’s the recipe for success in the future.

Big organizations have a lot of benefits over startups: brand value, funds, knowledge of the industry and so on. But they are definitely not known for agility, disruptive innovation power and all the other things startups are amazing at. Corporations have already understood that working with startups is great PR and a way to get great innovations – way ahead of their competitors. But most are missing the biggest learning experience they could ever get. Startup accelerators shouldn’t just accelerate the startups, but also the corporation in the program.

We have now done 20 accelerators with big corporations. One of the biggest learnings has been that it is not just the startups evolving during the accelerators. The big corporations have also changed. The more involved the corporations have been, the bigger learnings and changes they have seen. In this post, I will talk about some of the key learnings on how you can transform your organization with startups.

Learning from startups organizational learning

 

1. If you want to achieve a lot, don’t settle for too little

Working with startups can be scary for a big corporation. Startups often seem like a completely different species. The way they act, their speed, even the way they speak are just so different. It is a completely new kind of world to operate in. A scary world. And at the same time the corporations are worried about the returns: will it really be worth the effort.

That is why many choose to go for a smaller event like hackathons. And sometimes that can be a great first step. But the expectations should also be appropriately small. That is because no matter how great the startups and teams in the hackathons are, they still only have a couple of days to do miracles. Or some corporations try to get the benefits by working with just one or two startups. But the thing is, you need to be lucky to get the right ones for you.

Those kinds of things can be a great way to get a peek into the startup way of working. But for organizational learning and real change, they are usually not enough. That’s why there are accelerators.

Accelerators are still relatively short in corporate terms (the program itself about 3 months of so), but for startups that is a long long time. They can do real miracles in weeks if not even days. And a couple of months means many many miracles. During the length of the accelerator program, the startups will also get to know you and your challenges so much better. That means they will create ready solutions that are pretty much tailor made for you. Of course, this means that you have to give them the possibility to learn about you; you really need to work with them. But that is also how you will transform your own organization.

2. To learn, you need to do

Your organization is your people, your employees. No matter how great your products or business in general are, they are nothing without the effort of your employees. They often say it’s not the great idea, but the execution that matters. And execution is on your employees’ shoulders. And that is why to transform your organization you need to transform them first. That’s the beginning of changing your whole organization, from inside out.

For your employees to learn and change, you need to get them doing. A lot of organizations send people to seminars and hire consultants. Those have their purposes, but the best way to learn is never to just sit and listen passively. You need to be doing. And when you learn by doing, you have already started making those changes. That’s why you need to get your people as involved in the accelerator as possible. To work together with the startups.

And when I say working together and I really mean working together. Many organizations just have the accelerator’s startups in a corner of the office and encourage their employees to go look at them. But again, like taking a look at a lion won’t make you into one, just looking at startups won’t do much. In practice, that means you should have your employees act as the startups’ mentors & business champions. That’s the way to get them learning. For best results, choose an accelerator that helps with that. Like I said earlier, the worlds of startups and corporations are different, and often a bit of help for joining those two is very much welcome.

3. Help the startups, help yourself

When your employees work with the startups they see first hand how startups work. How completely redoing something takes days instead of months. How they turn their business completely around, pivot when they realize what they are doing isn’t working. And so on, and so forth. When your employees help the startups, they will start to see a different way of doing. They will also see what is wrong with their own organizations, and even more important: how things should be. And as they have startups relying on them to help, they make those changes happen. Instead of thinking about and following all the usual procedures, they just do it. Take the shortcut and break the infamous silos.

In other words: while helping the startups the employees are in fact helping their own organization. They are learning and fixing it inside out. And that is much more efficient than getting an outsider to force their models on you.

For those little changes to become a real transformation, you need enough people to do it. One fish can’t change the waters, but a flock will. You need to have enough of your employees working with the startups. And you have to have your whole organization involved.

4. Make learning (and the accelerator) your organization’s top priority

When the changes in your organization happen you should let everyone know about them. You should use your own success cases as inspiration for the rest of the organization. And in general, you should make sure your people are aware of what is going on. That you have startups on board and you are transforming your whole organization. Not only is it good internal PR, but it also makes it easier to make those changes happen. What you make a priority in your organization is much more likely to happen.

5. The right amount of startups

You need to have enough of your own people involved, but you also need to have just the right amount of startups. Too few, and it is difficult to involve enough of your employees for real change. Too many and you will have too many changes needed to be able to actually execute them.

In our experience about 10-15 startups hits just the spot. Just enough to have a real impact, but not too many to overwhelm you. It is also a good amount from the innovation perspective.

6. Learn to fail

The right way to fail might even be the most important thing you can learn from startups.

First of all, the word failing is wrong. Or at least how we understand it. To most failing means the end, losing. But it really is a beginning: you did something and you learned. And the next time you do something you will be much better at it. That’s why startups have FailDay, and have this whole ”culture of failing”. Some even celebrate each failure AND the learnings from them. And that is what big corporations need. Many even say it is impossible to innovate if you don’t know how to fail. And to be the top player in the future, your organization can’t just rely on innovations coming from outside (or even worse: doing the same thing you have been doing since the beginning of time). You yourself need to have the capabilities of acting fast.

So, learn to fail. If you don’t master the art of failing safely, that’s when you will really fail. And even more importantly: you need to learn to fail fast. In a way, startups are constantly on the lookout for failures, things that don’t work. They learn from them, and pivot, change directions and try again. And they do it super fast, over and over again. When you do it fast enough, it really isn’t failing. Just learning and adjusting accordingly. And as it is done quickly, just the minimal amount of money or effort has been wasted. The faster you fail the faster you learn and start doing the right things.

 

In short:

  1. If you want big changes, you can’t settle for little. The effort you put in and your results are directly related to each other.
  2. Your employees are the key to learning and corporate changes. The change starts from them.
  3. Get involved. Don’t just look, but work together with the startups. By helping them you are actually helping yourself.
  4. Make the accelerator, organizational learning and changes a priority. That helps make the changes happen and make them stick.
  5. Work with the right amount of startups. Enough to have an effect, but not too many to paralyze yourself.
  6. Learn to fail fast.

And there you have it: 6 ways to transform your organization with startups.  Remember: when the stiffest of them all, banks, have transformed, so can you.

 

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.

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

 

Posted by & filed under Banking, Corporations, Fintech, Startups.

I have always believed the world will be a better place when we work together, collaborate, instead of pushing others down to gain what we want. Working at Nestholma I have come to realize collaboration isn’t good for just individuals, but also businesses. In some industries, it has even become the only way to survive in the heated competition. That’s the case for example in fintech where customers are becoming more and more spoiled with choice and the whole industry is changing at an incredible speed.

At Nestholma, we talk so much about collaborating that it should be in our slogan. (Oh, wait…) But it just can’t be helped. When you spend every day with startups, big corporations and banks, you are bound to see not only the good parts but also the parts that are lacking. And how well those complement each other. You can’t really help but become part of the cult called collaboration.

When you take a look at our portfolio you will see startups doing exactly that, providing something that helps banks become better banks for their customers. And they are damn good at it (excuse my language…)! But of course they are, they went through a bank accelerator. They found a fault in the banking world and developed their solution further together with a bank. So, it is not just what the customers want but also exactly what the bank needs. The startups have been able to create a solution that is well validated, and banks get an amazing innovation, just for their needs and way ahead of the rest of the industry.

Startups do in days what corporations can do in month, if not even in years

When you are used to the corporation timetables, many questions if it really is possible to do magic in such a short time as the accelerator program is (our programs itself lasts usually 3 months). Well, it is: startups are the best magicians in that respect:

They don’t call accelerators supercharged for no reason. Startups go through incredible transformations and banks get to hand pick from a pool of innovation made with their own requirements. And they get them way ahead of their competitors. At the same time, the banks can’t help but also learn the agile working style startups have. But the real winners are of course the customers – they are the ones whose lives are being made better and better.

So, what kind of startups are these ’bank-validated startups’ then? Glad you asked because I have 4 of them to introduce.

 

Jenny customer service AI artificial intelligence

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about customer service online? If you are a customer, it is probably the long wait. And if you are a bank: the massive amount of inquiries you get every single day. And that is exactly the problem. Banks get so many customer inquiries every day that handling them in a timely manner is pretty much impossible. Out of the mass of inquiries 80% are recurring. That means customer service people spend most of their day answering the same questions over and over again. That is all time away from solving urgent and more problematic cases. Or so it was.

Jenny has brought artificial intelligence (A.I.) into customer service. Jenny teaches their A.I. to think using existing knowledge bases: emails, chat logs and so on. The machine then figures out the common inquiries and the answers for them. It also learns how to answer without sounding like your common bot. In fact, the customer won’t have a clue she or he is not talking with a human, but a machine. The only thing they wonder is how on earth they got their response so fast. And that’s what you call amazing customer service! Jenny also helps its human work mates by providing some of the common answers to the customer’s problem and make solving the that much more efficient. Hello, good customer service!

  • Works on the languages the company works
  • Learns constantly and can thus solve more and more customer inquiries
  • Works on the same tech the customer already has – no money or resources wasted on changing systems
  • Techstars Tel Aviv superstars

 

Collectly loan collecting banking

We all know not everybody pays their debts in time. And that poses a tricky situation: how do you get your money without destroying the relationship with the debtor?

For banks and businesses, this can easily mean you get the money but lose all future business with the debtor. IF you even get anything. Now banks and other businesses send generic and un-engaging letters and make disturbing calls. No wonder the borrowers just ignore them or do the best they can to avoid them. The business is not getting their money and the customer relationship is pretty much lost, maybe forever. Just in the Nordic region alone, that means 16B of lost money. That is if you don’t use Collectly.

Collectly maximizes debt recovery while retaining the customer. To do that they use AI and machine learning. They profile the customer and then contact him or her via modern communication channels with messages that are both personalized and engaging. That is much more transparent, friendly and efficient way of collecting debts. In fact, Collectly has a success rate of 56 percent in collecting debts with their early customers! They recognize the debtors who might have problems in the future and deal with the ones who already do.

  • Collection rate up by 60%
  • 10 x more cost efficient
  • 6 x increased customer retention
  • Just finished Y-combinator, and has been featured in hot publications like Techcrunch.

All in all, you will get what belongs to you AND you get to keep the customer and can make more business with them. You are happy, the customer is happy, a clear win-win situation.

 

Nordigen banks banking loan application

Banks reject too many good loan applicants due to insufficient credit history. At the same time recognizing the bad loans is not always so easy. Nordigen makes the credit decisions easier, more accurate and much much faster than before (in 10 seconds to be exact).

Be it hobbies, shopping, groceries or even gambling, almost nothing in life is free. But the good part is all that leaves traces, transaction history. Using the data from the customer’s account and payment card Nordigen’s machine can identify the customers with riskier and safer behavior patterns – whom the bank should or shouldn’t lend money, even when the credit history is insufficient. Banks can increase their lending while diminishing the risk. At the same time, Nordigen helps segment the bank’s customers, even by their hobbies, whatever would help the bank in its operations.

  • Flexible solution, works with all strict local banking regulations
  • Easy to set onto existing infrastructure

 

Fjuul health app tracking

Sports tracking? Isn’t that for athletes and health nuts? Not anymore – Fjuul has brought digital health to everyday people and everyday life; be it a health nut or just your average Joe. Like with foods, exercise about the quality, not quantity. And Fjuul is just the tool to help you. Their app tracks your day and tells you which physical activities have the most impact on your health and fitness. You can then compare and see what kind of activities in your day-to-day life have the biggest impact on your health. And when ’good health’ isn’t enough of a motivator, Fjuul also helps with that. Your movement becomes a currency that you can trade for discounts and goods (= the number 1 reason why I take the longer route home nowadays ;).

But why I am talking about a health app on this post? Because it is nothing but relevant. Insurances aren’t really considered sexy, especially by millennials. There is a burning fight for customers, but making yourself the choice number 1 isn’t so easy. And even keeping the existing customers is hard: insurance companies don’t really have that many chances to interact and engage with their customers – build a real relationship, loyalty. At the same time problems like cardiovascular diseases are on the rise and considering our current lifestyles, fast food, and office work, it is only going to get worse. And that’s what keeps the guys responsible for the health claims up at night!

Those are just some of the things Fjuul can solve. Customer acquisition through their offers, relationship building, activity based insurance products, corporate wellbeing programs, just to name few. And yes, there is no doubt Fjuul is attractive in the eyes of the customers – it is a top featured fitness app in over 100 countries!

Forget competing – the future is in collaboration

Banks and fintech startups have gone a long way from fierce competitors to collaborators. And the same is happening to banks with other banks. Many changes are coming to the banking industry, but one thing is sure: the biggest beneficiary are the customers. Be it the number of options, PSD2 – the customers have the power and the banks and startups need to listen. Or better yet: create something better than the customers could ever imagine.

Personally, I am excited to see how the banking industry is going to evolve through collaboration, and even more excited to enjoy the growing ease of my everyday life as a customer. How about you? What are your thoughts on the new era of banking?

 

Related post: What I learned from talking with 40+ banks from all over the world

 

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship, Mentoring, Startups.

As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably been mingling in startup events. You have probably met knowledgeable people, with experience in areas where you and your team are quite lost. And you should take every chance to talk to them. Many of those events — or accelerators, or incubators — call such people ‘mentors’. They are likely to share with you their opinions on your ideas, as well as give you interesting tips.

But tips are… well, the tip of the iceberg (sorry for the terrible pun). Tweet this. They might be missing context information about your business. They might not know about your market. They might not understand your idea, maybe even because you don’t understand it. Or you might just not have the time to get into the juicy details.
We believe that mentoring shouldn’t stop there. Tweet about this!

You need to build a relationship

It’s much more valuable for both sides — the mentor and the startup — to have a longer discussion, where both sides have something at stake. This makes sure that the mentor understands well the startup. It gives the mentor a reason to look more into the specific market or business of the startup. It gives the startup the chance of knowing the rationale behind the mentor’s thinking, and when and how to apply it to their business.

Of course, our mentors also attend events to meet the startups, but that is often only the beginning of a relationship. At the end of the day, for entrepreneurs, it also pays off to go beyond one-night-stands with some people.

 

When we match startups and mentors, we try to make sure that both of them will benefit, one way or another. And that requires knowing their needs and motivations very well. They typically discuss a few times about the startup’s business, to see of they are a good match. At the end of the day, with a good advisor, you want to make sure that there is some “chemistry” between you. Tweet this.

At that point, both have gotten a bit better, but there’s still a long road to go.

You need to make it stick

If you really want a mentor to contribute to your startup, you need to be serious about it. If you’re asking the person to give you tips every now and then, it will stay like that: tips every now and then. That means that the entrepreneur is treating mentoring as a hobby. Even if the mentor is happy to do that for a while, on a midterm they’re likely to find another hobby.

If you want to be high on the mentor’s priority list, you need to make the mentor be an extension of your team: an advisor. Tweet this.

Our expectation when we match startups and mentors is that, if things work out, the mentor becomes an advisor of the startup. They explicitly discuss how much dedication the mentor will have: it can range from a meeting per month to having a secondary role in the company.

They also explicitly discuss a compensation, e.g. a percentage of shares of the company, provided the advisor stays with the company for a number of years. It’s important to find a level in which both parts feel that the compensation is fair and that the relationship could go on indefinitely. You want to make sure that if the company wins, everybody involved wins as well. Tweet this.

You need to know what you’re getting

Advisors can be very different to each other. There are several roles that they can take. Advisors can be:

  • Great coaches for the founder team, and making them think about the right things. Tweet this. They will make use of their experience to make sure you are considering the right factors, but they will not push you in any particular direction. They are likely to focus on your development — as an entrepreneur or as company — instead of the direction that you’re taking.
  • Great sounding boards: you can tell them what your plans and ideas are, and they will give you a reality check based on their experience and industry knowledge. Tweet this. Everybody believes their own ideas, sometimes you need somebody else to confirm or defy your thoughts.
  • Great door openers. One thing you need in a startup is contacts, and some people are particularly gifted at connecting you to the relevant people. Tweet this. It might be potential customers, it might be companies that can help you grow, or it might be people that you don’t know yet how they will help you.
  • Investors in the company. And some of them help you in funding rounds later on. In any case, some advisors are particularly useful for you to find resources for your startup.

 

Most of them end up being some combination of all of those. It’s important for entrepreneurs to understand the value that different advisors are bringing (and to look for the right ones). At the end of the day, your advisor is part of your extended team, and that’s one of the most important success factors in a startup.

In short, the best mentors are the ones that will become advisors of your startup if things go right. 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!

 

You might be also interested in: One-night stands, dating and marriage – 3 phases of working with startups

 

 

Posted by & filed under Customer development, Customers.

Guest post by Kasper Souren of B2B Pay.

MICE –  is the industry acronym for huge conferences and trade fairs. Travel, Auto, IT conferences attract hundreds of thousands of participants and industry leaders. But are you ready to get the most out of them?

There is nothing like getting out of the building to get a buzz going: get the team excited about the fantastic life of a startup, build on that sales strategy and getting out there and talking to potential customers and partners. MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) events are a must for a startup as you will get a lot more customer feedback and partners in 1-2 days that would have normally taken you months. People are there to do business, and you need a strategy to make it happen for you.

We recently attended the ITB conference in Berlin. The ITB conference is the largest and most important Travel conference in the world. Our aim was simple: We believe travel agencies are a good customer segment for us, so let’s get out there and sign up as many as possible. We will be closing deals with about 10 with another 20-30 potentials. This is a great outcome as that’s 5 times more that what we had previously, but if we knew what we know now we would have been able to close more deals and with 1/10th the effort.

Now it is time to plan your approach. In this blog, I assume you are going as a foot soldier with your army tagging along instead of having a booth. I also assume you and your team will be splitting its time between pre-booked meetings and freestyle meet & greets.

 

1) Plan meetings in advance:

The pros at these events organize meeting months in advance. We definitely noticed a huge difference in the response between people we just chatted up on the spot compared to the people we had contacted before the event.

  1. Talk to partners and friends that will also be attending and try to build a referral book. With it, network your value proposition and see if you find any synergy.
  2. Identify – from the attendee list – your core customers and book meetings with each with the correct team members assigned
  3. Add everyone that you have a meeting booked with on LinkedIn.
  4. Have a list of names ready and of course, arrive early.
  5. Try to set up meetings with the best-ranked decision maker in the firm.
  6. Book meeting with 30-minute slots: 15 minutes for the actual meeting and 15 for moving around the conference.

 

2) When walking around and talking to owners:

You are going to spend a lot of time walking around and approaching people who don’t know you at their booths. We did a lot of this as we didn’t do enough of step 1 :) Here is what you need to remember.

  1. Always go in twos. I don’t know why but they tend to listen to you more and spend more time with you. It’s easy to dismiss one person.
  2. Be polite and ask if they have time. If they don’t ask for an appointment or walk away. There are hundreds of people out there, don’t waste time on one.
  3. Understand what “mental mode” they are in. if they just want to sell they won’t be interested in you and it’s better if you walk away rather than pushing them. You need them to be responsive.
  4. Change your story. Some of the best results I got was when I asked them about their product, build a rapport, then after 5-10 minutes, they asked me what I did. And when I told them about our startup and they went “ahh, that sounds awesome, can I have a card as I am interested in this service”. 
  5. Collect cards. If they are busy, tell them you will drop them an email, and remind them in the email that you met them in person.
  6. Always ask to talk to a supervisor, 4 out of 5 times they will go get them.

 

3) During the face to face:

  1. Do not waste people’s time: pitch in a few minutes and gauge the level of interest. Ideally, let them talk more than yourself.
  2. Do not waste your time. When the time comes, make sure you are on your way with a sincere request to your lead.
  3. Take notes; what every client said and your reactions as well. If you don’t have the time, use the voice recorder on your phone.
  4. Brochures are a waste of time, people get a 100 and most of them end in the bin.

 

4) Keep yourself fit, healthy and motivated during the event:

It’s exhausting. Make sure you are mentally and physically up for it.

  1. Take a break every 2 hours to meet the team and exchange notes and get some general feedback.
  2. Try tackling a series of booths as a team: each person taking sequential booths of similar business types and do some instant note comparison.
  3. Get food. There could be long lines. If you’d like a beer, have it and relax.
  4. Have snacks ready.
  5. Keep the team motivated: a bottle of good wine for whoever gets the most cards.
  6. Try to get the most important meeting in the morning. Everyone is exhausted by late afternoon.

 

5) Plan:

  1. Assign somebody with the task of organizing this whole thing. It is much harder to make this happen without someone taking the lead on proper preparation.
  2. Conferences are big. Allocate time to a section. Most important in the morning as you will get tired and less convincing as the day goes on.
  3. Clear message and questions: make sure you have a clear message and 2-3 key questions to get the information you are looking for.
  4. Ideally, you will do some practice within the team to get your questions and pitch correctly.
  5. Use some of the not so important chats in the conferences as testing for your pitch and questions strategy.

 

Other tips:

  1. Your phone will ring. So, put it on silent, please.
  2. Have business cards! Ideally a card with your own name for each of your team members.
  3. Folders are good, for sure. The more the better.
  4. Know who not to talk to. We have experienced for example, that certain cultures do not like impromptu meetings at all, or at least require a person with a certain level of cultural familiarity.
  5. It is best to avoid more than 2 people per meeting.
  6. Dress up. Especially if you’re at a conference with a mixed business/consumer audience, it’ll be much easier to get people’s attention if you dress properly.
  7. Remember where you parked your car. It is a silly exercise to realize that because of the excitement of entering a conference for the first time, you run around like a crazy monkey for 30 minutes looking for a black car in a sea of black cars. Fortunately, since then Google has added a feature for this in Maps

 

Afterwards:

After the event, you need to follow up. Ideally, you have a CRM ready to handle the many emails you are going to send and receive.

 

Finally:

Whatever business you’re building, there are always great events to go to and test your assumptions. The above should give you a good head start with this. And if you manage to build up your business thanks to the above and you’re in need for a good international payment solution we’ll be happy to help with that!

 

Other posts you might be interested in: Should you be afraid to talk about your idea?

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Startups.

An old story; Plato asked Socrates to educate him. Socrates pushed Plato into the water and kept him there without oxygen. He punched and kicked to get free, but Socrates was a strong man and held him down. Finally, Plato blacked out due to lack of oxygen. Only then, Socrates pulled him ashore and resuscitated him. When Plato regained consciousness, he accused Socrates of trying to drown him. But Socrates explained, “If that had been my intention, I would not have pulled you ashore.” “Then why did you do that?” Plato demanded. Socrates calmly replied, “When you desire my knowledge like you desired that breath of air, then you shall have it.”

So that is how we’ll start our next accelerator. Startups be warned =)

But seriously that’s the thing we are looking for. We are looking for the smartest ones that want to learn and want it just as much as Plato wanted oxygen.

I started thinking about all this when I was visiting one of our portfolio companies (and the northernmost startup in the world) YeyNey at Spitsbergen. There we were transported with dogsleds and I was admiring the eagerness of dogs to work. It was the same kind of eagerness that Socrates wanted Plato to have.

We are looking for startups who want to learn the problems of customers as eagerly as Plato and are as keen as the huskies to solve them.

 

You might be also interested in: What I learned from talking with 40+ banks from all over the world

 

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

So, you have realized that nowadays being social media is a must for your business. Awesome! But now you’re thinking: what should you post to get those paying customers? Or maybe you are already doing it but it’s not really working out. If so, it’s probably not social media but what you are posting. But fear not: this post is made just for you!

No matter how cool you think the bells and whistles of your product/service are, they are only worth the value they bring to the customer. And the same thing applies to social media marketing. But usually when businesses start doing social media they either just sell, sell and sell, and are the opposite of value. Or if they have realized that is not going to work, they share things like behind the scenes shots, selfies of themselves at a fair and so on. But the thing is: nobody cares. Not even your mother, if she’s really honest. And that’s the opposite of what you want to achieve. The whole point of social media marketing is to get people excited, eager to get their hands on whatever you are selling. So, how do you do that?

Stop being so pushy, it no longer works

Before the companies that put the most money on ads to sell sell sell were the most successful. But that just doesn’t work anymore. Marketing has moved from pushing products to everyone who has eyes & ears to pulling just the right people in with value. On social media, this is even more clear. There people have all the power to decide exactly what they want to see on their feeds. In fact, to see your posts, i.e. your marketing and sales efforts, they have to click follow. They need to decide they want to see you on their feeds. And they are not going to do that if you are just the annoying company who just sells themselves 24/7.

Think about it: what do you do when a commercial break comes between a tv program you are watching? Do you perk up and make sure you hear every word they are saying? Or do you go get snacks, take a toilet break etc – basically do everything you can to avoid seeing the ads? Let me take a wild guess: it’s the latter. So, why would anyone voluntarily want to get ads, something annoying, to their feed? Well, they don’t. Thus you shouldn’t be the commercial break, you should be the most exciting tv show people can’t get enough of. And you definitely should not spend your money and efforts on people that will never buy from you. Value is what brings the right kind of people in.

On social media people get to choose who they follow. Companies can’t just shout to sell anymore. Tweet about it!

How to create value and get customers?

”That sounds all nice and dandy Tiina, but how do you do that then?” you ask. Don’t worry, I got you covered. Value depends on the people you want to reach and also what your business is about. It is different for all companies and their customers.

Step 1: know your customers

While building your business you have already learned a quite much about them (if you haven’t, marketing is not going to be your biggest problem). The more you know the easier creating value and getting them as your customers is going to be. You need to know the basics, their age, gender and so on, but especially their interests, life & family situations, values and so on. Talking to straight your customers and potential customers is, of course, the best way. But also things like the persona exercise can be of great help in creating your customer profiles.

Step 2: Think how your business is related to those interests, worries, interests etc.

Let’s say you provide banking services. Then you shouldn’t give tips about house plants, no matter how interested your potential customers are in them. That would only grow your credibility as a plant expert, which has nothing to do with your business. Instead, you should talk about something that brings value AND is related to what you do. For example, if they want to buy a house someday, giving tips on different saving methods and related ‘how to’s would make sense. That is why it is crucial to know your customers; their interests and pain points. When they feel like not only do you know your stuff but also truly understand them, they are much more likely to actually become your customers.

What to post on social media

Post something that brings your customers value AND is related to your business. Tweet about it!

Should you then never post anything about yourself or sales material? No, as long as about 80% of the things you post are value, the rest can be more sales-y. And probably even should be. After you have grown your audience and your credibility in their eyes, you should give a bit of a push to translate all that into action. And posting customer reviews, interesting articles about yourself, etc. will help with that. Just don’t do it all the time; value first.

Why just buying ads doesn’t work on social media

A common question I get is: ”can’t we just bypass all this by just buying ads?” Of course, you can push your posts to people who don’t want to see them. But the thing is, by doing that you are quite likely just wasting money. The precious money that startups rarely have too much of. On most social media channels ads look just like any other post (the only difference usually is the small ”sponsored” marking). And you still have to create value with them.

But why? Even though advertisers are what bring the social media channels money, it is all about the users. If the users disappear because of annoying ads, the channels are going to die. No matter what the advertisers do. So, social media channels need to do all they can to please the users while getting revenues from the advertisers. And that is no easy task to please both. In fact, that’s often the number one reason new channels die; failing to monetize their business without losing the users.

The solution with many big channels have come up with is this: the more relevant and useful your ads are to the people you have targeted, the cheaper it is for you to advertise. And the more your ads are also shown. But if the users see your ads as irrelevant and annoying, the channels will stop showing them even if it means they won’t get as much revenue from you. The users are the most important thing for them. So again, it’s not so much about money but value.

The more valuable to your potential customers your ads on social media are, the better your money is spent. Tweet about it!

 

But ads do have their purpose, especially when you are trying to get more people to know about you. It is a great way of growing your visibility and using those fantastic targeting features. But you shouldn’t do it before you know what you are doing. Again, you don’t want to waste money on things people don’t care about. First, you need to see what kind of posts your customers are interested in and what really works. Is it videos, pictures, tips, what is it that they are interested in. Only when you have a clue about that, start using your money.

In short: create something that brings the viewer value. It can be useful information, laughter, beauty, whatever matches them and your business. And yes, even those behind-the-scenes photos I slightly mocked earlier, can be that. So, be informed and use your creativity! That’s how you get yourself into the eyes and hearts of your potential customers (i.e. your new customers ;)).

Thanks for reading! If you liked the post, remember to share!

 

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

Posted by & filed under Banking, Fintech.

Over the past two months, I have been discussing with almost 50 banks from all over the world: from Asia to North America and everything between. By doing it I believe I have gotten a good look into what is going on in the heads of major banks; what do they think about the future and especially the rise of fintech startups.

First, you can forget the image of banks as dusty corporations that fail to admit the world around them has changed. They are very much aware of it and working hard to keep themselves relevant in the eyes of their customers. It has been truly striking to see how smart the people in banks are. They have such a vast experience of banking they know it like their own pockets. But not only that: many have come outside the banking world. And all that shows. The banks know both the worlds inside and outside the banking bubble. At least the banks with whom I have been talking.

Great advances in technology & changes in regulations make predicting the future difficult

Regardless of where the banks were located, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics, and the PSD2/open APIs came up over and over again in our discussions. It is clear these are the things that are going to have a great impact on the future of banking, but how – that is what banks are just starting to grasp. It is no easy task: before you could predict the future by looking at the past, but that doesn’t work anymore. Things like technology are developing at an exponential rate, and it is close to impossible to imagine what banking or even the world in general will look like in 10 (or even in 5) years. All that makes developing the banking industry a challenge. But it is not a challenge only for banks: investors and startups are all facing the same issues. And that is something banks have also noticed.

startups banks and banks collaborating

From competitors to collaborators

Another common nominator in our discussions was that the banks are not thinking about fintechs (or even other banks!) as the enemy anymore. They recognize the industry is under such big disruptions that they have to work together to stay relevant. Both banks and startups have their advantages, things they do and know better than the other. Using those together is going to bring much better results than them trying to just figure it all out on their own. Banks also understand that startups can bring them the kind of innovations they would never be able to create by themselves. Startups are free of many of the innovation limitations banks have, and cooperating with them is definitely a good idea.

Banks & startups both have their own advantages, thus working together is definitely a good idea. Tweet about it!

One rising trend is collaborating with other banks. Before working with your competitor was almost unheard of. But now banks are looking to join hands with other banks and tackle the challenges of future together. It is a smart move as a lot of the challenges they are facing are the same. They want to work with other banks in different environments, development phases and so on to get a more complete picture. For example, banks in cashless societies have very different experiences than banks in cash-strong environments. By combining all that knowledge, banks are much more equipped to stay relevant to their customers in the rapidly changing environment.

By working together banks are much more equipped to face the challenges of their rapidly changing industry. Tweet about it!

Another point supporting collaboration is scaling up the new innovations banks create. Even if one bank created the greatest innovation since the beginning of banking, it is hard for it to become a success, if it is not widely used. When banks work together it is much easier to scale that innovation. Of course, the innovation itself is also likely to be better when done via collaboration.

Overall, there is a strong momentum to reinvent the traditional way of banking. Banks are not only changing because they are forced to; they want to lead the change. That momentum is going to bring great possibilities for everyone, especially the ones that are in it together.

If you like this post, remember to share!

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Nestholma engages banks and startups to collaborate. We are currently setting up a Global Fintech Accelerator and we are looking for partners to it. If you are interested in hearing more please email me at [email protected] or give me a call to +358-40-3433 352.  

Posted by & filed under Customers, Entrepreneurship, Startups.

You’re an entrepreneurial individual, and you have an absolutely brilliant idea. Should you talk to others about it? And how much should you tell? Of course you should! At the moment, your business idea is only in your head. And everything makes sense there. You need to cross-check with reality. It’s going to be hard… but also necessary.

I know what you’re thinking — many people ask it in our workshops — “what if somebody steals my idea”? But… really, is that a risk at all?

In the early stages of your startup, people are not likely to understand your business idea at all.

NDA product startup idea

 

Sure, they’ll get a general vague idea. And they’ll tell you they understand. Because they’re nice (or IF they’re nice). But they’ll be missing the big picture. And why is that?

  • Firstly, you’re probably hiding most of the information. There is so much you take for granted. So many assumptions. All the know-how that you need to make sense of the idea. All those things that seem so obvious to you, that you have problems articulating. Talking to others, you will find out what your assumptions are. Tweet about it!
  • Secondly, you probably don’t have such a clear idea as you think. You’re probably quick to imagine details of your solution. But that doesn’t mean that you know about your business, that means you can imagine very fast. Others won’t. It’s a good sign if others they believe in your startup idea half as much as you do! Tweet about it!
  • Finally, they’re not going to drop everything to pursue your idea. Everybody’s doing something, be it our job, starting our own company, etc.. If somebody is so inspired by your business idea, you might be better off getting them to be a co-founder before they get busy with something else. People don’t have the time, the understanding or the skill set to steal your startup idea! Tweet about this!

Think about it: if after talking with you for a couple of minutes, somebody can steal your idea and beat you, you don’t really have such a great idea. Tweet about this! As Mark Cuban said, ideas are overrated, it’s the execution that counts.

This doesn’t mean that you should be that annoying guy that keeps constantly blabbing about their business. That won’t get you anywhere. The person talking can only learn from him or herself (and they rarely do).

So, how should we talk to people?

The whole purpose of talking to a lot of people is to get to listen to a lot of people. Tweet about this!

Entrepreneurs have the tendency to explain their business, to try to prove how smart they are. By doing that, they defeating the purpose of the conversation. Instead, try to really understand the person in front of you. How do they feel the problem that you’re solving? Do they know people who have that pain? How do they currently deal with that? What experience do they have? What ideas do they have?

Listening talking to your customers your idea

You’ll soon also run into the question:

Who should you talk to (or rather listen to)?

I personally think you should listen to many. Take any chance to get more understanding about anything related to your business. And worst case scenario, you’ll be training your skills in asking questions. Don’t look for confirmation of your own ideas: you’ll only end up tricking yourself. Instead, ask questions and understand how the person in front of you thinks. You’ll be surprised how much information you get. Tweet about this!

Now a different thing is how many people you should listen to. You should only pay attention to some. If the person in front of you is your customer, then you should definitely listen to them. If they know your customer, you should listen to them a bit less (and go to the original source instead). You should end up speaking your customer’s language fluently.

And if they’re not at all your customer, you shouldn’t care too much about their opinions. Tweet about this!

They might give you some insights, or some pointers to interesting stuff. But their opinion is no better informed than yours (and often worse). Even if they’re friends or family. Especially if they are. The fact that they’re related to you doesn’t make them an expert on your startup. It only means that they care about you, which is likely to bias their answer in one way or another. Even if you listen to many, you should follow the advice of very few. Make sure you always check for yourself and go to the source: your customers. Tweet about this!

 

Millenials talking to your customers idea false information

 

In short: listen to many, pay attention to some, follow the advice of very few. Tweet about 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!

 

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

 

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship, Startups, Team.

An often undervalued part of building a successful startup is the team. Many entrepreneurs just hire their friends and people around them without giving much thought on what they can really bring to the table and if the combination of skills, experiences, personalities etc. is right at all. They forget that it is an important if not even the most important part of becoming a successful startup.

Like Guy Kawasaki famously said: “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” And successful implementation is all dependent on the team. It does not matter how great the idea is if they cannot pull it through. Actually, it often is better to have just a “good enough”  idea and a great (or promising) team as a starting point than the opposite.

It doesn’t matter how great your idea is if your team cannot pull it through. Tweet!

 

Even more important than the business idea?

You are going to hear the same gospel about the importance of the team also when talking to any VC investment professional or experienced serial entrepreneur. In fact, it is often seen even as the main asset of the startup. You might even get the impression that the value of the” obvious” core i.e. the business idea or product, is downplayed. This is not the case, but the team is as much core as the value proposition and product.

Building the team and company is like institutionalizing the right thing to do to do things right. You build an engine to do and repeat what seems to resonate with the real, validated market need. Steve Blank talks about startup as “ … a temporary organization looking for a repeatable and scalable business model.” Building a great team is one important step in getting the engine working. Unfortunately for many entrepreneurs, it is not that obvious.

Why the importance of teams is so misunderstood?

One of the reasons for that is that many (if not most) of the commonly used business tools don’t cover the team properly. Take for example the Lean Canvas. From it, we learn that a well-functioning business model with all the ingredients in place calls for the right balance: value proposition and solution resonating with the real market need, channels built to paying customers and so on. However, the Lean Canvas only regards the team as cost element. But why? Don’t they see the importance? Yes, they do, but you must keep in mind what the canvas is about: helping to iterate and find the right product-market fit. So, it does not downplay the role of the team, you just need to remember to cover it separately.

So, remember to not only focus on building the business model, product and what have you, but also building a team that can execute it all. After all, it is all about execution.