Posted by & filed under Innovation, Organizational learning, Product development.

It is hard to think of a better time to be a bank, insurance company or other corporation who wants to work with startups. Over the past years, companies specializing in organizing hackathons, incubators, accelerators or any other kind of startup related programs and services have sprung up like mushrooms. And that’s why regardless if it is the first time an organization is embarking on the journey to work with startups or already have well-established systems and processes, they can easily find whatever help they need.

At the same time, there are so many players that finding the partner (or partners) for your organization and your specific goals is definitely not the easiest task. And that is why we created this guide to help you find the right partner for you.

Read more »

Posted by & filed under Corporations, General, innovating, Investing, Organizational learning, Product development, Startups.

 

Corporate venture capital has been an excellent way for many companies to increase shareholder value. Research shows 30% better increase of share value with companies with strong Corporate Venture capital activities.  And if you look for example at the biggest Chinese giants, most of that valuation increase is because of good investments, not operative business.

But it’s usually done only with later-stage companies.
Read more »

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

What will the future of banking look like? Just what the innovators will make it be.

Advances in technology, regulatory changes, new entrants to the market… In the past couple of years, banking has gone through big changes and more is to come. They keep saying the ‘future has never been as uncertain as now’ year after year, decade after decade. But in banking, this time it might be true. A lot of things are changing and a lot of things will change. And with it, a lot of challenges are coming. But more importantly: also opportunities. So, what should innovators focus to get the most of it all?

Technology is driving the change

When you talk about the future of banking you just can’t not talk about advances in technology. They are making things possible we couldn’t even imagine just couple years ago. No, even months if not just weeks ago. In fact, behind the success of many fintech startups has been mastering new technologies like AI, big data or blockchain and thus being able to create something completely new and revolutionary for the customers. And that has been one of the key reasons the little and new entrants have been able to challenge the old giants, banks.

For innovators embracing the technological changes and even new technologies is a must. Advances in technology and innovation go hand in hand. Like blockchain and bitcoin. And the first innovation is just the beginning. Just think about the innovations that have come and especially the innovations that are coming because of the blockchain.

While it is impossible to be the master of every single technology, innovators have to keep their eyes open. See what’s out there, what’s up-and-coming. And then use the opportunities that become possible. The players that refuse to adopt the new and/or evolving technologies are the ones who will lose. Just like many banks have noticed.

The future is mobile

It hasn’t been long when computers were huge, the size of rooms. Now they fit in a pocket and can do so much more. So so much more, especially with things related to banking.

Usage of mobiles is growing fast. Incredibly fast. And it is no wonder considering how handy they are, far from just calling and texting. Now we can handle our money usage, savings, investments, pay our bills, transfer money to our friends in an instant, pay for a haircut, do our accounting… and those are just some examples from digital banking. That’s a huge jump from storing our cash under a mattress or going to our banks’ physical location to let the employees do something magical behind the desk. Now the customers have control over everything. We can choose exactly the services we want and exactly how we want to use them, and when we want to use them.

And it is not just about making mobile versions of old services. Smartphones have made completely new things possible. For example, the spread of phones has been the key to fintech’s success in China and India. People who didn’t even have access to any banking services now have a phone, with what they now have access to exactly the kind of banking services they need. Mobile is completely changing the game. And innovators need to remember that.

Technology is driving change

Customer behavior is changing and millennials are ruling

The most hated, loved, talked about generation now is millennials, at least if you read any online news sites. And innovators should take notice.

Millennials are not only the cat video and selfie-loving generation: for example in America millennials will make more than 1 out of 3 adults by 2020 and 75% of the workforce by 2025. And America is not a unicorn. In just few years millennials will be the ones with the biggest consumption power and the ones making making decisions in corporations. If innovators ever want people and companies to buy their solutions, they need to know how millennials work. How they consume, how they make decisions, and especially, how they are different from the previous consumer majorities.

For example, millennials don’t share the previous generations’ love for owning things like houses and cars. They like to share them. And when they do want to own them, it’s usually later than the previous generations wanted. Millenials are diginative and put huge emphasis on companies’ presence online, especially in social media. And unlike the previous generations, millennials are obsessed with corporate social responsibility. In fact, 75% said that it’s either fairly or very important that a company gives back to society instead of just making a profit. In short, they are critically different from the previous generations.

Millennials and their quirks should be in the minds of innovators when planning, when creating, and when selling – throughout the whole journey of innovation.

Collaboration is a must – know how to do it

In banking the past years have been dominated by fierce competition between banks and fintech startups – the old rulers and the new challengers. But now the fierce competition has had to give space for fierce collaboration. Banks and startups have realized joining forces makes a lot of sense. Collaboration is now a must – for all innovators.

But just the willingness to collaborate isn’t enough. Innovators on both sides also need to know how to collaborate. Startups and corporations are after like two completely different creatures – the differences in their pros and cons and how they are complementary are, after all, why collaboration between the two makes sense. But that also poses many challenges to collaborating.

There are countless articles about how banks need to collaborate with startups and especially how they need to change to be able to do that. To not to smother the startups with their processes. But likewise, the startups need to know how to collaborate with the corporation. Many deals have been lost for stupid reasons, in essence, not understanding the other party.

For example, where is the user data stored is a question many bank and startups approach differently. The answer from some startups is ”Not sure, somewhere. Probably in some kind of a cloud. My co-founder might know…”. But for banks where and how data is stored and protected is one of the big things that keep them awake at night.


These are some of the big themes visible in banking now that innovators need to keep in mind. That is why they are also themes in the Yes Fintech accelerator by our Global Fintech Accelerator partner YES BANK. Take a more detailed look here, and see what kind of innovations banks are really looking for. And if you already happen to have an innovation that matches those themes, apply to the accelerator.

 

YES BANK

YES BANK is one of the strongest players in one of the hottest fintech markets; India, and the Yes Fintech accelerator also shows that. The perks will make the participating startups giddy (straight access to the huge customer base and YES BANK’s extensive market knowledge, huge number of APIs, investment opportunities, global fintech market access, coaching…. just to name few), as were the results from the last accelerator (e.g. 9/10 solutions from the accelerator were taken up by YES BANK. 90%! Not many bank accelerators can say the same!). 

YES BANK has adopted a new approach to Banking, called A.R.T – Alliances, Relationships & Technology (A.R.T) approach to Digitized Banking. They are a good example of a major player in banking who has really taken on the collaboration part as they have already partnered with over 100+ fintechs to deliver best services to their customers. And thus the selected startups in Yes Fintech accelerator will be in good, no: great hands! Read more about the accelerator benefits for startups here.

Finding opportunities instead of threats

What differentiates innovators from the others is that innovators see opportunities where others see threats. Instead of shivering in fear and hiding under their blankets when someone mentions new technologies, changes in regulations or any of the usual commonly mentioned boogie men, they start looking for the opportunities in them. What could we do with this new technology? How could this new regulation be used to create new and serve our customers better?

The future of banking is made by the innovators. The startups, the banks and the ones who take on the opportunities instead of hiding from the threats. And that’s why innovators will also be the winners of the future.

Read more about the YES FINTECH accelerator here and apply now! Deadline the 14th of October 2017!

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, Human Resources, innovating, Innovation, Marketing, Product development.

How to renew corporations with startups

A whitepaper by Nestholma

Corporations need to renew themselves, and one of the best ways to do that is by working with startups. But that’s easier said than done. Corporations need to understand what they want to get out of the collaboration. They need to understand what they’re getting into. And they need to understand what their options are.

At Nestholma we discuss with many people from corporations. And very often we end up in the same discussions. Those are great conversations: we get to understand the concerns that people have. We also get to see what gaps they have, when it comes to working with startups.

That’s why we decided to put together this whitepaper. In it

  • I dive into what makes working with startups worthwhile for corporations.
  • Take a look beyond the flashy surface: corporations can benefit in branding, innovation and learning.
  • I also explore different ways that corporations engage with startups.
  • I finally dwell into what makes some accelerators more successful, for a particular corporation.

The whitepaper is packed with insights. You can skim through it quickly, and discover new angles for your collaborations. Or you can peruse it. In that case, prepare for a lot of content. You’ll understand what makes some collaborations successful. You’ll also understand why others end up a mere stunt.

Download the Nestholma whitepaper

Corporations need to renew themselves. One of the best ways to do it is by working with startups. This white paper explores the benefits of branding, innovation and learning. It also reviews alternatives and best practices on collaboration.

Click here to download the whitepaper.

This text is born of many discussion. Many of them within Nestholma, and many with our customers and potential customers. But publishing a whitepaper is not the end of a discussion, but the beginning of many others. I would love to hear from you! Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] and let’s talk!

 

Related post: 4 ways working with startups can make your organization more agile and innovative

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

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

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

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

 

Have the best startups to work with

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

 

Innovations are global

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

 

How to work with startups in practice

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

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

 

Work close enough with the startups

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

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

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

Startup accelerator program for non-competing banks

 

What is it?

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

 

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

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

 

Learning, sharing the common needs and solving them together 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Global Fintech Accelerator in short:

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

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

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

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

 

Related post: Nordea fintech accelerator successful

 

Posted by & filed under 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 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, 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!

 

Beyond startups hype: how collaborating with startups can improve your organization in three key areas

Posted by & filed under Corporations, Customers, General, Product development, Startups.

If you’ve dealt with both, you know that startups and big companies behave very differently. You can hear all sort of stories, from people moving from a corporate job to a startup, to entrepreneurs trying to deal with their corporate customers, to the same corporations trying to make business with startups.

What’s considered best practice in startups or in corporations is dramatically different… sometimes contradictory! And all those best practices make sense if you understand the context in which each one of them operates. In this post I try to make sense of the biggest differences between the two:

Startups Corporations
Value CUSTOMER
They are normally on a quest to solve some big problem from their customers. Something is good if it increases that impact — and turns it into a good business. They make quick prototypes or MVPs to show it to customers, to decide about changes.
PRODUCTIVITY
To beat competition, they need to focus on productivity. They need to be efficient: get the best impact with the least resources. They work with budgets to understand how the company spends. They might calculate the Return on Investment to decide about changes.
Product Development DIALOGUE
They develop the minimum version of their product —focusing on the core — and show it to customers (a few of them, the early adopters) as soon as it’s possible — sometimes before. Based on customer feedback, they take the next steps.
STUDIES
Investing at the beginning of the product development project makes better products. They normally invest resources in market studies to understand demographics and big market niches. They develop requirements to coordinate big teams.
Decisions TEST
Everything is uncertain around them, the only way to find out and decide is to test. Data in consulted, but intuition and gut feeling play a big role in decision making. Decisions are kept small and validated with customers.
ANALYSIS
In big companies, there is much at stake. In-house experts exist and are consulted for decisions. Many people are involved in the decisions. Effects are measured and tracked, and the decision process is as rational as possible.
Pace FAST
The most precious resource for startups is time. They have limited runway — the time until they run out of resources — and they have to be quick to figure out a good business model. The shorter the iteration the better: they focus on speed rather than fine tuning.
STEADY
Predictability and control are seen as positive. Coordinating is difficult, because of the size of the company. Changes might impact many people, who might have their own agendas. It’s important to limit the uncertainty in decisions and changes, and because of that, they take a long time.
Way of working GET-IT-DONE
Startups have small teams that are not very hierarchical. People tend to be a jack-of-all-trades with some specialisation. Everybody learns a bit about everything since there are no in-house experts. The way of doing things is mostly defined ad-hoc.
PROCESSES
People and departments have clear roles and responsibilities. Most of the activities have clear processes that have been optimised. This creates clarity and uniformity in the quality, but can also create bureaucracy. Everyday tasks work well and are predictable.
Communication TRANSPARENT
Communication is mostly clear, short and simple — both inside and towards the outside. New ideas are shared with the outside as much and as quickly as possible, to get feedback. Communication to customers is focused and bold, to validate assumptions.
CAREFUL
Communication is very carefully planned. Towards the outside, there is often a specialised department supervising it. Product information is normally kept secret, to keep competitors away. Internal communication is written with generalist terms so that it applies to all stakeholders, and sometimes has an internal political agenda.
Mistakes FAIL FAST
“Fail fast” has become almost a mantra among entrepreneurs. They normally pivot their business model several times, so it’s good to test assumptions, and to have them fail as soon as possible. They take risks and learn from the experience. This makes them more likely to succeed at radical innovation.
AVOID
There is so much at stake for them, that they can’t allow themselves to fail. Plans are made to minimise the chances of any mistake hitting the market. Employees have areas of expertise, in which they’re expected to have the right answers. Risk are detected and managed. This makes them good at incremental innovation, but generally not at radical innovation.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to all startups or to all corporations. Each company is different! But in our experience organizing corporate accelerator programs with Nestholma, we have seen a lot of them behave like this.

What’s your experience? Leave us a comment below!

 

What is the best way to collaborate with startups for your organization? [FREE whitepaper]

Posted by & filed under Customers, Funding, Product development, Startups.

4 out of 10 first-time entrepreneurs fail because they forget one of the basics: following their revenues and expenditure – cash flow. In established companies balance sheets and income statements are king, but for startups, it is all about following the numbers in their account: money coming in and out. It sounds very simple (and it is!), but still, I have seen way too many startups to fail because of it.

Here are the 3 common reasons this happens:

 

  1. Not checking your revenues & expenditure often enough

Looking at your finances is a tedious task. It’s quite boring, and you already have so many other important things to do. And let’s be honest: only a few of us are excited to look at the row of minus’, which is usually the case at the beginning of the startup journey. Thus we often decide to do it “tomorrow”. And more often than not, the startups notice the warning sign too late.

  1. Being too optimistic

You need to have a bit of crazy optimism when you are an entrepreneur, but not when you are estimating things like your expenses, funding needs and time x, y and z will take. Startups tend to make their estimates only a small portion of what they really are, which makes them very ill-prepared.

But why that happens? It is partly being overly optimistic & part not understanding how startups work. Things rarely work out how and when you want them to, and there are many variables you just can’t predict. The market, competition, and even the customers’ needs will change. As time goes by, you will also start to understand your customers better. All this means you will have to make adjustments to achieve better product-market fit. Startups usually pivot, i.e. change from plan A to plan B (or even to plan Z!) 3-5 times at the beginning. All this take time and money and push the time of your first sale forward. But expenses still start from day one.

That is why it is important to constantly check your cash flow and be realistic about the ‘whens’ and ‘how muchs’. When you do that, you know when you are going to be out of money and still have time to do something about it. It takes 3-6 months to get funding, investments, etc. so I can’t stress enough how important it is to knowing when you are out of money early enough. Too many startups come up to me less than a week before they were out of money and still believed they would magically make it. You can guess what really happened.

  1. Not understanding when the money is actually coming to your account

For some reason, many startups believe that when they sign a deal, their money-related problems will fly out of the window. But that is not how it works. It might take weeks, months if not even years before the money is actually in your account! It all depends on what you agreed. Also, not everyone pays their bills in time. Trust me, it happens more often that you’d think. There also might be other problems delaying payments like dealing with reclamations. But again: your expenses won’t wait. So remember: even though money is coming in, sooner or later, you might be out of money and bankrupt well before that! Ask yourself: when exactly we will get the money, and will we survive till then.

In my next post, I will give you more concrete tips on how to get your time frames and expense estimates close to reality.

 

Related post: 7 tips on how to ace your startup finances – cash-flow management