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

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

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

Only the channels where your customers are matter

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

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

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

How to find the right channels for your startups

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

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

 

Social media demographics age

 

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

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

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

Be realistic about your resources and what even is possible

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

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

In short:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

So, how do you create a successful startup then?

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

 

Have an idea (well, duh)

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

 

Validate that idea

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

Is the need big & crucial enough?

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

 

”But everyone needs my solution…”

 

Stop you fool!

 

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

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

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

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

 

Execute it awesomely

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

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

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

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

Learn from the unicorns – real-life examples

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

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

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

 

Related post: Startup mistakes to avoid

 

Posted by & filed under 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!

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

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 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.