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

We have done 19 accelerators mainly for global companies. 1-3 locations at the time. Being inside the corporations’ offices with startups. It’s a must. That’s the best way to deliver co-developed innovations for banks and bank customers. Corporations also buy learning from us. Learning to become like startups. They also want to learn how to cooperate with startups. And it only happens when they work with startups… (well, that’s self-evident =)).

Corporations really value the hands-on way how we run accelerators, but even with us, they face a real problem: how can they attract the best startups?

Solution to Banks: collaboration

Banks need to support each other to attract the best fintech startups. Globally. Best parts of a global and local accelerator. Each bank will have their own local accelerator and after the accelerator, each bank will participate in workshops/boot camps with the startups they see useful for them. And the startups are more bank compliant. That means, they’re easier to collaborate with.

Nestholma Global Fintech Accelerator attracts a large number of startups

Startups will join because they will have a fast track to all participating banks. During the accelerator, each startup cooperates with the bank they are located in. And when the program is done they will have a fast track to all participating banks.

So, we give startups our accelerator support and access to many banks. And that’s a promise they want to hear. And then we get more applications from the best fintech startups. A clear win-win. Yes to global. Yes to local.

Let’s talk!

I would like to have a discussion with all parties about this. Why is this the winning model? Why not? What should we have more/less? Let’s discuss!

Read more about the Global Fintech Accelerator here:

www.nestholma.com/fintech

 

Posted by & filed under Corporations, innovating.

Big corporations are clusters of amazingly smart people. They have resources, vast experience and deep knowledge of the industry. Be it banking, technology or pretty much any industry, the corporations are the rulers of the industry. At least till now.

Now startups with their amazing innovation power are taking over. Consumers are demanding better and better solutions, and big corporations can either learn how to really innovate again, collaborate with the startups or be left in the dust. To understand how you must first understand why. In this post, I am going to explain why exactly corporations are so bad at innovating.

Working together, but not really together

Big organizations do have plenty of smart people working together, but the problem is that they are not really working together. With big organizational size comes the need for structure, units, departments and all kinds of sections. There are departments for marketing, sales, legal and so on. The problem with it is that the employees don’t venture much outside their departments. They work with the same people all the time, and often with similar people. Marketing people with marketing people, sales with sales and so on.

To innovate, you need to have people with different knowledge bases and experiences working together, cross organizational boundaries. Even if people from different departments happen to work together, it is often just for a short time and for a specific mission. Innovations usually require time to just freely bounce around ideas. But with a focus on efficiency and the mission and hand, that is often just not possible.

To innovate different kinds of people have to work together. But in corporations that rarely really happens.  Tweet about it!

Quartile focus & the quest for efficiency

Corporations focus on making the next quartile better than the last. Innovations, on the other hand, require time. And that is exactly what such short-time focus does not provide. At the same time corporations look for efficiency. The same (or even more!) tasks are expected to be done with fewer and fewer employees. That leaves the employees no extra time for free thinking; creating new & innovative ideas. And even if they could squeeze in a bit of innovative thinking, why would they? Their performance score is based on how well they handle the tasks in their job descriptions, and that’s it! Such systems punish for trying to be innovative; ‘wasting time’. Even if the employees are told to innovate, fresh ideas rarely come on command.

Innovations require time. When you just focus on making the next quartile better, there isn’t enough of it. Tweet about it!

short-term focus quartile

Knowing their field too well

Another problem big corporations have is that they are the masters of their field. It obviously has a lot of benefits, but at the same time, they know their field too well. When you are so deeply inside, it is difficult to see possibilities for change. And often times the innovations that do come from within are fairly small. That is why big innovations come from the outside, from people who have a much less clouded view.

Resistance to change

Some corporations get cocky. They don’t realize that what has worked for the past 20 years, might not work at all now. They fail to recognize that with time also their customers, market etc. change and they need to change with them, preferably even lead the change.

Sometimes the organizations understand in principle that to stay on top of the game, they need to innovate and essentially: change. But to truly do that, you need to have the whole organization in it. But instead many big changes are faced with attitudes like: ”We have never done it this way” or ”We already tried this 30 years ago”. When you have lived too long in the same bubble it can be hard to recognize how much e.g. technology has changed over time. What was impossible before is often very much possible now.

You need to realize that what has worked for 20 years, might not work at all now. Stay current. Tweet about it!

Failing to fail enough

Being innovative requires tolerating failure. Like Ilkka Paananen from Supercell has said: most of their games fail, but they keep doing that to find the game that’s going to be on top. For big corporations, failure can seem daunting. Unlike the failures of smaller companies that often go unnoticed, everything big corporations do is scrutinized. They have a reputation to keep and they need to be careful of bad press and its influence on their brand, stocks and so on. But failures are a crucial part of being innovative.

Being innovative requires failures and the courage to fail. Tweet about it!

Failure failing success

Innovations don’t always seem so attractive

There are also negative sides to innovations, which can make them seem unattractive to corporations and especially their employees. New innovations often mean things can be done more efficiently and with lesser costs. And that often means the corporations have an excess of employees. They need to downsize, let go of people, and that is what no one wants to do. It is horrible for the employees; both for the ones leaving and staying, and very bad for the company’s public image.

Another obstacle is all the legacy systems big organizations usually have. Over the years corporations have invested a great sum of money into IT, machines and real-estate among many other things, and letting go of them often feels like just too big of a waste.

When you look at all these issues, getting corporations to innovate may seem like an impossible task. But it doesn’t have to be. There is definitely hope, but organizations need to take action now. What can they do then? One solution is (surprise surprise) to learn from the innovation masters: startups. In a future post, we will talk more about the different ways big corporations can innovate.

 

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

 

Related post: 7 differences between startups and corporations

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Investing.

…or equally bad. When the head of Y-combinator had invested into 720 startups, he said that he can’t predict which of his investments will be successful. We can’t either. Because these are already the best ones and they all should succeed.

Out of 100 startups I have invested in, 3 are bankrupted and some are receiving XX millions of funding. And I was not able to predict that. The fact is that none of us can predict all of the investments right. So now I am trying to learn from our team’s decision making. I am also making a prediction. Let’s see if I’ll be right with it.

But seriously, we have not yet done single unicorns so Y-combinator is clearly ahead of us. But we try harder =).

We invested in all startups on Nordea Fintech Accelerator and today’s pick is Collectly.co

Their promise: increase effect 3-4 fold and do it 90% cheaper. Not a bad promise for a debt collection company. To do that they use AI and profile the debtor. They do profiling by using many sources and automating it all. Then they approach the debtor with the message and channel most effective for this kind of profile. All this automated. The system also keeps on learning to increase the efficiency. Simple stuff and strong value add.

 

They had relevant experience from the field. They had the tech skills as well as an ability to make people listen. They worked well together. I did not find any red flags. But one. I was wondering will they have the attitude “I’ve been there and done that, don’t tell me what to do”. Because the best teams are strong and skilled, yet able to listen and learn. Almost an impossible combination =). But that fear did not materialize. The opposite happened. They were cooperative and also brilliant in using us. And they still do. They make me talk with investors to share our experiences. And because they deliver, it’s easy to talk about them.

The best teams are strong and skilled, yet able to listen and learn.Tweet about it!

So how do we at Nestholma make investment decisions?

We look for great teams with simple, understandable big value add. So, one should always remember to ask the following questions from himself: are the benefits to customers big enough and will they understand it easily? Can the team deliver it? It’s as simple as that.

Ask: are the benefits to customers big enough and will they understand it easily? Can the team deliver it? Tweet about it! 

And my prediction: we’ll hear from the guys at Collectly. A lot.

Click here for Collectly’s pitch.

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

Social media is often recommended as THE thing to do for startups. But they usually forget to say why. Non-social media people often see the different social media channels just as places where people share silly things about their lives and random cat videos. And with that, they fail to understand what an amazing tool social media can be. That’s why I’m going to share with you 7 reasons social media is a must for startups.

One of the harsh truths of being a startup entrepreneur is that no matter how cool your idea is, that alone isn’t enough. Some entrepreneurs believe that as long as their solution is good the customers will just somehow appear. But that’s just not how it works (shocking, I know). It is not just once or twice when the much worse solution has taken over the market (take for example the case of VHS). You need to get your startup in the minds of the buyers, how else would they know that your product/service even exists? And as a startup, you have to do that without having the budget of a commercial giant. That is where social media comes in. But it is not only that! The benefits of social media start even much before you have even launched. Read on to find out how.

Just having a cool startup isn’t enough. Customers won’t just magically appear: you need to let them know you even exist! Tweet about it!

1. Reach the right people

For getting your startups into the eyes and hearts of people, social media is one of the best ways. That is because most social media channels have amazing targeting tools. That means you can get the content you want in front of the people that are most likely to be interested in it. That means you are not wasting your time and effort on people who have zero potential of being your customers.

The reason social media targeting so great is that it goes way beyond just age, gender and other basic things like that. Every now and then there are articles about how social media channels know everything about their users. And I mean everything. That is usually told as a gruesome horror story, but for marketers: that means paradise. The more you know about your customers and potential customers, the more precisely you are able to target them. Be it their interests, the languages they speak, where to go on a holiday and so on and so forth. And the best part is: you can do it all for a very low cost!

 

2. Get most bang for your buck

Social media gives you the most bang for your buck. In fact, you might not even have to spend a dime and can still get amazing results! Though usually, you have to put a little bit of money in, especially at the beginning. What is a little bit of money? Often people think that means thousands of euros, but that’s not true. You can get a lot done with couple hundred or even just tens of euros. Sounds too good to be true, huh?

Almost all social media channels make money on ads. But at the same time, ads are exactly what the users don’t want to see. At least if the ads are not relevant to them. Relevant posts and ads, on the other hand, usually bring value to the user. And happy users makes the social media channels happy and they want to encourage the advertisers to keep making their users happy. In short: the better you target your ads, the cheaper it is going to be. So, in the end it’s not about how much money you have, but how you use it. And thus social media levels the playing field with big corporations with endless marketing budgets.

Social media levels marketing for startups – no need for a big corporation’s marketing budget to reach amazing results. Tweet about it!

3. Differentiate and show how cool you really are

The competition is getting more and more heated pretty much no matter what industry you are in. Social media is a great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Show who you truly are. What are your values. And why you’re so cool in general. No matter how much we try to think we make our decisions rationally, it is still emotions that play a big role in it. People like to buy from companies that have authentic personalities, companies that just feel good. Social media is an excellent tool to show them exactly that.

Doing social media is also a great way to get positive news about you to the internet, so you don’t have to really on others’ posts (which by the way, might never come). Not only does it help your startup to get know, but when people actually search for you, there is already something good out there.

4. Bypass people’s mental adblockers

Over time we learn to be more and more suspicious about the information we see in ads. ”Of course they would say so, it’s their product. It just can’t be that good in reality”, we think. But in social media, your ads & other posts can look just like the posts your customers’ friends & the people they follow have posted. That again means their mental adblockers are off, and they are much more receptive to your awesomeness.

Another thing is that people go to social media to have fun. They are looking for something to entertain them, something to help them pass a bit of time. And if you do your social media stuff well, that something can easily be the posts (and even ads!) you make. That means your marketing and sales efforts are not seeing as a nuisance, but something they get value from. And that’s a huge difference to traditional advertising!

5. Provide A++ customer service & increase customer loyalty

Social media is a great way to provide A+ customer service. For example, Twitter & Facebook have become THE way to interact and get help quickly from companies (read this post for inspiration). By interacting with your customers and being social you are shedding the image of a faceless corporation and giving them a good feeling about you. And again: it’s all about the feel. When someone has gotten a good feeling about your company through for example talking with you on Facebook, they are much more likely to choose your product over your competitors.

It also pays off long term. Brands that are active on social media will have more loyal customers. Good feeling about you -> they are much more likely to keep buying from you.

Being active on social media – recipe for customer loyalty! Tweet about it!

Here is another kicker: social media can be an amazing help for you way before you even launch your startup!

6. Get people excited about you before you even launch

Most of the startups I have been working with assume they should start doing social media after they have launched their product/service. But that is completely not true! The best possible problem is having people get excited and ready to buy your product/service before its launch. Take for example Dropbox, who had hundreds of thousands of people on the waiting list (read more here), and thus much smoother start when they finally did launch. So, you should definitely start acing your social media game as soon as you can.

Another bonus is that you learn what works and what doesn’t for your startup and its customers. Especially if you are new in using social media for businesses, starting early gives you time to learn before its too late. Also, the same things don’t necessarily work for all businesses, so you should try and test what are the best ways to use the channels for you.

7. Understand your market better & adjust accordingly

When you engage with your potential customers on social media, you start to understand their needs better. You will see if your idea is really worth pursuing or if you should adjust it a bit, pivot, or just scrap it all together. As people talk about their lives and their interests quite freely on social media, you will also get to see a rare glimpse into their lives. And that again helps see how your solution would fit in there. You can do also a lot of great spy work on your competitors! ;)

 

Any important benefits I missed? There definitely are plenty more! Share in the comments or tweet @TiinaHaapanen or @nestholma. In my next post, I will go more in depth about how to actually rule in social media. See you there! :)

 

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship, Funding, Startups.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and time to start working on those new year’s resolutions (if you stumbled upon this post later in the year, even more reasons to get to work NOW! :)). This post won’t help you lose weight but take care one other important resolution: having your precious startup finances in check. Here I will give you 7 tips on how to master one building blocks of startup finances: cash flow management.

In my previous post, I talked about the reasons 4 out of 10 startups fail (spoiler: it’s also related to cash-flow management). In this post, I will give 7 tips to master your cash flow and NOT be one of the 4. Some of the tips sound very simple & obvious, which they are, but they are still forgotten way too often. 

  1. Make it a habit to stop for a couple of minutes once every two weeks, and check the money coming in and going out – cash flow. Preferably do it with an outsider to get an unbiased view. And remember to do it properly! You don’t want to go bankrupt because of a silly calculation error. Tweet about it!
  2. Understand when the incoming money will really be in your account. If you sign a deal today, it doesn’t mean the money will be in your account tomorrow. It could come next month, next year or even later if that is what you agreed! So, understand when you will get the money, and make sure you won’t be out of cash before that. Tweet about it!
  3. Remember that not everyone pays their bills in time. There also might be other problems delaying the payment like dealing with reclamations. So, don’t count on that one payment too much! Tweet about it!
  4. It usually takes 2-3 years before your company is cash-flow positive. Most first-time entrepreneurs believe they can do it less than 6 months. And that obviously means trouble. So, a bit of pessimism will be a good aid in your journey. It is better to be pleasantly surprised than the opposite, especially if it means you will be out of money and business. Tweet about it!
  5. Pivot fast. Startups usually pivot, i.e. change from plan A to plan B or even D 3-5 times at the beginning. And every time you pivot, your revenues will be further and further in the future. So, the faster you pivot the faster you will get money coming in. Tweet about it!
  6. Multiply your estimated need for funding & time frames by 3 (or π/pi if you want to get precise), and you will get much closer to reality. Why three? You just read the reason for it: pivoting. That makes even the best estimates unrealistic. Based on our experience, multiplying the estimates by three gets startups closest to the reality more often than not. So, if you estimate that your product will be ready in 3 months, it usually takes 9 months in reality and so on. Tweet about it!
  7. Understand what you are selling, to whom and for what price. Before you yourself understand what you are doing, it will be hard to convince others to buy. It doesn’t mean your product/business has to be perfect, but no one is going to buy it if it is only almost ready. Tweet about it!

And that’s it! All in all, it usually takes longer and costs more to get your startups going than you’d think. It all might sound pessimistic, but think of it this way: the better you are prepared, the more likely you are going to be one of the success stories!

 

Related post: Why 4/10 startups fail: the realities of cash-flow management

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, Startups.

I believe there are three phases of startup and corporation collaboration (all of which are needed by the way!):

One-night stands, dating, and finally marriage.

One night stands are the first contacts between startups and corporations. Mingling at startup events, arranging innovation competitions, hackathons and the like. These are needed for people to get first experiences with startups and learn how different, yet lovely they are.

Dating phase is an accelerator program. There corporations get to experience the startup way of doing things. Iterating fast, focusing on the user experience, and providing customer care that is beyond just words. They also get feel what it is to truly share information and work without silos – things that are essential for creating real innovations.

Research shows that such programs work when they are outsourced to a party that understands corporations, and even more importantly: follows “lean startup” or similar methods. Coaching in the program also has to be focused on designing the businesses so that it create value to customers, not pitching or scaling them too early (unfortunately that is what most, but not all, accelerators do). Dating may or may not include investments into startups, but at least it should include some kind of business deals with the most suitable ones.

To make all that happen, it is crucial to have commitment from the top management and resources allocated for collaboration. It is also important to be flexible to learn and adjust processes so that you can actually get the innovations from the startups.

Marriage means getting even more serious and committed to working with startups. In the startup world, marriage has to be polygamy as marriage with just one startup seldom works. There is a high risk of killing the customer orientation/speed of startups with corporate processes and rules. That is why you need to systematically work with enough startups to achieve the critical mass and also make sure the corporation learns to benefit from startups.

And that’s it, the lovely world of startups’ and corporations’ love life.

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, Fintech.

Altogether 13 startups, 3 months. And in addition, we had one startup from Industrial Bank of Korea accelerator. We have learned a lot. Nestholma has now done 21 accelerators for large corporations and we are reaching the level that we know how to start the change in corporations. I would also say that Nordea has been an amazing partner. They accept the facts and start changing when needed. The guys working for Nordea have the right attitude for cooperation. Really professional gang, but also cool to work with.

But Nestholma has a bigger mission. We are saving corporations. They need to be saved. From themselves. And startups are great tools for that. Corporations learn how to be agiler, they learn how to make decisions fast and how to design products and services with customers; and fast. But the best thing on accelerators is that startups deliver the innovations, at the speed of light…or night. I usually say that it takes a year to iterate by a corporation and a night by a startup. It is almost true =). But often corporations are also lean. Well, at least some parts of them and yet still many projects just stop. For no reason, they just are undone.

The best thing about implementing our mission is that the startups gain so much. They get the support from our partner corporation and Nestholma team, they need and they can start scaling their businesses. And for investors, we provide “bank tested” startups. Of course, some of them are better than others, but all of them are much better than they were 3 months before.

So amazing 3 months done. Not to mention Slush week; I was on stage 4 times talking to corporations as well discussing the change at Bank of Finland event. We also did investments at Slush and Ultrahack hackathon. And last week I was named on the list of TIVI top 100 most influential professionals in Finland. I guess that is also a prove that corporate startup accelerators are here to stay.

I finally got some rest during the weekend and now I feel gratitude for the amazing entrepreneurs at Nordea accelerator startups, for Nordea guys and mentors and my colleagues at Nestholma. All this happened only because of you. My sincere thank you to all.

See the startups pitching in the Demo Day

Antti Kosunen @anttikosunen

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

All communities have their jargon, and startups are no different. Probably one of the most used terms is Minimum Viable Product, MVP for short. It’s considered one of the core messages of Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup. If you hang out with entrepreneurs long enough, you’re likely to hear the acronym used for almost anything that people patch together.

According to Eric Ries, MVP is a “product which has just those features [that solve the core problem] (and no more) that allows you to ship a product that resonates with early adopters; some of whom will pay you money or give you feedback”. It’s necessary to learn quickly whether your idea makes sense to your customers. And if it doesn’t, you want to “fail” quickly, when you haven’t yet invested lots of resources! You build an MVP with the purpose of learning from your customers and understanding your market.

The problem with this is that most people get the meaning of MVP’s completely wrong! And probably the biggest reason is that every single word in that term is misleading. No wonder people misuse it!

Firstly, it might not be a product.

This word is loaded with meaning that does not apply to MVPs. We generally understand products as something that is manufactured or refined for sale. Even if you extend this to a service, the purpose of the MVP is not sales, but rather learning. And MVP is a tool that we use in order to experiment, to find out if the market really behaves like we assume it does. Of course, part of the assumptions we need to validate are whether people would pay for our product, but the mindset is completely different. What you build to validate that people will pay clearly does not include all the things that a final product would.

Using the word “product” makes people think that they have to build something that looks like the final product already, which might not be the case! Later MVPs will indeed be products (or product-looking), but early ones are likely not to be.

Think about the case of Buffer. They built a landing page to test whether people were interested in the product at all, and after that they modified to check whether people would be willing to pay for it. That was before they wrote a single line of code! Most people would not call that a product, but rather an experiment. You can read more about the story here.

Secondly, it’s only viable for the purpose of learning.

This is probably the most criticized word in the MVP term. Andrew Chen proposes to focus on a Minimum Desirable Product instead, to make the “product” more human-oriented. This gets a bit closer to the real purpose of an MVP: to test whether the value proposition is powerful enough to engage your early adopters.

The word viable tends to make people think of whether the business model holds together, and whether the product is technically feasible… which are not the first assumptions that you’re testing! If you’re testing your value proposition, early MVPs might not have a business model behind them. Most of them do not work as a complete business model — for example, if you’re building one side of a two-sided market-place — and are likely not to be viable… except for the purpose of testing your value proposition.

An example of this is Angellist. To test whether people would be interested in a service that connected startups and angel investors, they started by introducing them through email! That would definitely not be a scalable business, but thanks to that they found that there was quite some demand for it. You can read more about their initial launch here.

Finally, it’s not about the minimum set of features, but rather about the core value that it provides.

Don’t get me wrong: MVPs must be minimalistic and beyond. So much that you should be embarrassed about them when you show them around. But because of using the word “minimum”, most entrepreneurs tend to think about the complete product, and then start cutting things off. They often try to boil down their final product — their idea — to the minimum version they’d be happy with.

This is because the purpose of an MVP is to learn as fast as possible. Therefore, the train of thought should not be “what is the minimum set of features” — to which startups add all sorts of stuff — but rather “what’s the quickest way I can find out if this is good business”. As Steve Blank says, a minimum viable product (MVP) is not always a smaller/cheaper version of your final product. It’s something that helps you validate the core.

If the entrepreneur is thinking about several value propositions at once, they will be convinced that the “minimum” set of features is… well, a lot of things. And all of them are important, therefore they’re “minimum”. Instead, it pays off to ask the question of “where does the customer get the core value from”, and then build something that validates only that.

One often mentioned MVP is that of Dropbox. To validate whether people would use their product, they created a video showing the product. They didn’t have a product with any features when they put the video out, but the video went viral and they realised they had a really good case ahead of them! You can read more about their story here.

Even if the words we use to describe MVPs are not accurate, the concept of MVPs is clearly useful. So what would be a better way of calling it? Some have even proposed calling it Minimum Viable Experience. Some others, as we mentioned, favour the term Minimum Desirable Product. However, they only address part of the problems.

We think that we can correct each one of the words. And we think we can even do some word juggling so that you can continue using your acronyms comfortably!

Enter… the MVP: Main Value Proof! It’s the entity (product, service, experience, you name it) that lets you test the core value of your business. It’s not only minimal: it focuses on the main ideas, and only on those, so that you can validate them — or disprove them. It revolves around your value proposition, and not around other technicalities that you business concept might have — unless you’re in a later stage, in which you’re testing the value of those technicalities. You can have different MVPs to test your value proposition — which will be far from products — or the way you plan on delivering it — which will actually look a bit more like minimalistic products. But we’re not calling it product, since that could make you fall into innovator’s bias!

So next time you read the acronym MVP, think about the main value proof instead!

Dr. Daniel Collado-Ruiz, @ErCollao

What did you think about 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!

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Fintech, Nordea, Technology.

Feelingstream was part of our first Nordea accelerator last year. They are currently working on 4 paid pilots, and are also well in their way of conquering the banking industry. They continued working with Nordea after the accelerator program, and now that collaboration has taken a big step forward: Feelingstream and Nordea have just signed a big deal. Soon they’ll start a live pilot together. Click to tweet about it!

Nordea Group CEO Casper von Koskull with Terje Ennomäe innovating the future of bankingBig companies get a massive amount of messages every hour. It is hard if not even impossible to figure out which of them need immediate attention and which of them can be dealt with a bit later. That means lots of lost potential and angry customers; things that companies just cannot afford anymore. New competitors pop up every day, and having the best customer experience is more important now than ever. It is a huge problem for companies, but maybe not for long.

Feelingstream has created a machine that understands the actual content of text, and then uses that knowledge to organize inquiries from urgent to less urgent. This means critical issues can be found and dealt with much faster. And that of course, means much better customer service and no lost sales potential. For employees, it doesn’t mean any extra work as Feelinsgstream’s solution is invisible in the companies’ systems.

Feelingstream sees great potential in the banking industry. That’s why working with Nordea has been agreat experience for them. Fitting the startup way of doing thing into the highly regulated banking industry hasn’t always been a breeze, but they say it has been all worth it. They have not only gotten an invaluable reference from Nordea, but also the knowledge of what is required to succeed in the industry.

“Having Nordea as a reference is an incredible advantage considering our target markets. We have also gotten market access and been able to work with real data and situations, which is the most important thing for startups!” says Terje Ennomäe, the co-founder of Feelingstream.

Feelingstream has a lot of cool things ahead of them, and we can’t wait to see what kind of superstars they will become!

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Nordea, Startups.

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This is a guest post by Levon Brutyan from Collectly, Inc.

Collectly is one of our portfolio startups (Collectly.co). Collectly helps banks and businesses minimize losses on bad debts while keeping the customers loyal.They are part of the second Nordea and Nestholma Startup Accelerator batch. Originally posted here.

Collectly is a web application that helps all types of lenders ease and maximize bad debt recovery with few clicks. The tool utilizes deep learning algorithms that help resolve one of the biggest problems in debt collection industry (Read here) and return more money to the lenders.

Today I will share with you what is Nordea Bank Accelerator about and why it gives us a value comparable with the one non-fintech startup become from YC or 500 Startups. Currently, we have survived 1 month of the program and I believe that makes sense to kinda share our experience with you.

By the way, for those of you who don’t know what is Nordea Bank, please see this. Simply put, Nordea is the largest bank in Scandinavia and one of the largest banks in Europe.

(a) How to get in?

Getting into Nordea Accelerator was a long, challenging, but a rewarding experience for us. The application process starts with F6S and is pretty straightforward (comparing to the one of YC, e.g.). After about two month of waiting we got the invite to participate in the Training & Selection week. Considering the fact we got accepted into Plug’n’Play FinTech, StartupboothCamp and Fintech Innovation Lab we were a bit surprised with not just being invited to one-time interview but a whole week of training and selection. The good things about this week were: traveling to the beautiful Oslo, Norway and actually getting reimbursed for the tickets and lodging ($1,800).

We have compared the values that might give us all of 4 accelerators and for rational reasons we’ve picked up, thinking of Nordea Accelerator not only as an accelerator, but more as as an access to Nordea Bank as a customer/partner. Nordea Accelerator looks for promising startups all over the world in fintech or any other industry that might be strategically aligned to the business of Nordea (you have to think about it in advance). For instance, in our batch we have three different startups that do insurance (Fjuul, D-Vision, and Tickkr) or even some HR related startups that might be beneficial internally for Nordea. Important to mention Nordea Bank acquired two startups right away from the previous batch.

So, the requirements are simple: great team, bank related business, promising business model, traction (non paying customers do count). Well, there are some startups that didn’t have any traction and were invited to the Selection Week, but they still have tested their technology somehow.

Selection Week

The Training & Selection week is a short, but very intensive MEA-kinda (Master of Entrepreneurial Arts:))) experience mentored by a great, brutal, and very experienced entrepreneur Antti Kosunen and his amazing VC Nestholma team. I guess the Selection Week deserves a separate post, but here what we have done during it: showcasing our products, business models, working on lean canvases, talking to customers, talking to real VPs of Nordea (many of them like almost 15–20), and of course pitching, pitching, pitching. I believe we’ve been tested by both Nordea and VC Nestholma not only how good we are as entrepreneurs, but also how good we can sell, and how likely Nordea Bank can be interested in doing business with you.

At the end of the Selection Week from about 35 different startups 12 have been selected and offered to sign a standard convertible notes non-negotiable (I personally think depends on your stage) agreement to get a funding of EUR 12K in exchange of 4% of equity. You will say, WTF?!? Only EUR 12K?!??! Yes, and I’ll tell it’s really worth it in case banks are your strategical partner/customer/channel/supplier. It’s really one of the most smartest 12K I’ve seen so far.

(b) The structure of Nordea Accelerator

Nordea Accelerator is a separate entity of Nordea Bank (at least seems to be). All the investments are done by VC Nestholma. Most of the sessions, learnings, contacts are provided also by VC Nestholma that is a partner of Nordea Accelerator. The guys at both Nestholma and Nordea Accelerator are very friendly, helpful, and brutal to startups. They will provide you with powerful connections inside and outside the Nordea Bank, but limited to Nordic region (that’s definitely a downside for some of the startups).

(c) Nordea Bank as a customer/partner (APIs, data)

As a customer: I believe, Nordea Accelerator is the best way to validate your business model and actually get a pilot with Nordea Bank. I do believe, from every batch about 4–6 startup will get their pilots, sooner or later. The fastest you can do is 1 month.

As a partner: Here the things become a bit harder. The majority of startups need some kind of integration and especially the data. Nordea Bank has started the program of Open Innovation and it’s actively developing its APIs, but as of today almost no kind of APIs are accessible from the outside.

In case you want to distribute you services to 300K of corporate customers that Nordea is servicing it’s possible, but of course you have to find a viable win-win model for both you and the bank.

(d) Routine

I personally haven’t participated in neither YC or 500 Startups programs, but as I do have a lot of friends who participated in either of the programs and based on their opinions I can imply Nordea Acceleration program is closer to what 500 Startups offers nowadays. There will be a lot of lectures, workshops, team work, mentoring, i.e. learning. The program is an ideal fit for the teams that don’t have any kind of entrepreneurial experience, a good fit for the teams that still struggle with the product-market fit, and still somewhat useful for already experienced team that grow rapidly.

(e) Location & Facilities

Nordea Accelerators runs the program simultaneously in both cities: Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. Helsinki has a lower living costs (what is really nice, considering EUR 12K, which are enough for 2 members for the whole program), great office, many conference rooms, working desks etc. Stockholm is definitely the most beautiful city among the Nordic countries, but with a higher living costs (still way cheaper than SanFran or NY). It also has a great office (not as fancy as Helsinki) and amazing places bars, cafes, restaurants (relax, you won’t have time for that (ha-ha-ha)).

1st Month Conclusion

Collectly is a pure fintech startup that utilizes deep learning algorithms, aka AI, and is definitely b2b focused one. The first month of the Nordea Accelerator was amazingly efficient for us. I can’t share any results with you, because they’re confidential, however I can assure without this particular accelerator we would never achieve any of the goals in that amount of time.

So, guys, go to http://nordeaaccelerator.com follow the page and mark your calendar whenever the application period opens again. Oh, yeah, and definitely wait for the second report on the accelerator in a month:)

Levon Brutyan CEO/Co-founder Collectly, Inc.