Why imitating unicorns might not get you where you want.

We’ve all seen the mesmerising titles that promise us to reveal the best kept secrets of the startup unicorns. From Facebook to Uber, and from AirBnB to Instagram.

Every entrepreneurs wants to be like them and understand what’s their secret sauce. Of course media loves to capitalise on this trend.

In this podcast Nav and I give our opinions about how you should approach these lores, and I argue there’s little you can learn from them. I believe you shouldn’t try to apply the points they’re making ad litteram, but see how those can adapt to your specific case.

First of all, since they made it big, many things have changed and most of their lessons might be outdate. Besides, many of them capitalised on unique trends. They were at the right place, with the right product, with the right support, with the right money, with the … well you get the idea.

In his podcast I am joined by Nav Nouhi , an former colleague, a dear friend and data-oriented-no-bullshit-let’s-talk-numbers kind of guy.

I know Nav, from our AVG Technologies days, where as Director of Digital Advertising he managed $25M of advertising budget yielding 125% return on ad spend to the business and transformed AVG’s approach to digital advertising by pivoting to a LTV model.

He is currently a digital marketing  and growth adviser for early to mid stage startups, operating from the beautiful city of Prague.

When he’s not optimizing conversion funnels or creating digital acquisition strategies, you can find him skiing or cooking somewhere in Europe.

As always, I am curious about your opinion on the podcast. So please head to itunes or where ever  you might listen the show and give let us know what you think.

How do you get the media to write about your startup?

You can listen this podcast on your phone via Apple PodcastsOvercast or Pocket Cast. Remember to subscribe if you like it. 

Great question. To answer that I had a chat with Max Tatton Brown, founder and managing director at Augur Communications.

Augur is London-based communications agency which helps fast-growing “unsexy” tech companies tackle business challenges with communications strategy.

Before Augur, Max led PR for Tradeshift from Series A to Series C and has written for Wired, the Guardian and Quartz.

In this podcast you will find out:
• When is the right time to start building your media relationship
• How you should go about creating and maintaining those relationship
• The importance of focusing on your product before doing any PR
• How PR can only amplify what’s already valuable

How Startup Weekend helped Fabio kickstart his idea in two days

Originally from Rome, Fabio is a local in Amsterdam for quite a while now, and given his passion for biking I would say this city is great match for him.

Fabio loves traveling around world, and in part that is why he wanted to launch his own business: more flexibility (and funds) to go and explore the world.

His first step in kickstarting his idea was in 2012 at Startup Weekend in Amsterdam, a 54 h event during which people pitch their ideas, teams are formed and then each team needs to prototype and validate the idea by the end of the second day.

For Fabio this was a great experience and it created the nucleus of a team that continued working on this project for months to come… in their spare time, after work, in the weekends, on vacations. And by working on it in their free time, they allowed themselves more time to further develop the product, before quitting their jobs and doing this full time.

Fabio Tiriticco Startup Maze Amsterdam

In today’s episode we talk about the benefits of using Startup Weekend as a launch platform, the cash and sex theory, why ideas are open source and why you should ask yourself: are you building a product nobody wants?

Fabio’s pro tips:

  • don’t incorporate your startup until you make money.
  • make use of platforms such as startup weekend to validate your ideas
  • mitigate your risk by work on your idea in your free time, before you quit your job and work full time

I hope you guys will enjoy the interview and as always feedback is always welcome, either here on statupmaze.com, iTunes, Facebook or twitter.

Enjoy!

Links to the stuff we talked about in the episode:

Fabio Tiriticco

Customer Understanding as part of the Problem-Solution Fit

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For this interview, I had the pleasure to talk to Douwe Wester and Edouard Dopper, co-founders at leanup.nl and experts in lean startup methodology, agile methodology, scrum management and innovation models for large companies.

Douwe Wester             Edouard Dopper

I met both Douwe and Edouard a few months ago at an event which they organized together with Rockstart Amsterdam and Adam Berk, on product innovation, problem solving, and the customer development process. I remember I enjoyed their energy so I asked them if they would like to share some of their know -how with the Startup Maze community. To my great pleasure they both agreed, so… I got my recording gear and headed up to Douwe’s apartment, which is an amazing place situated smack bang in the middle of Amsterdam, in a building full of character and with a view to one of the many picturesque canals.

We spent almost an hour and a half talking about customer understanding, customer experience, and startup development strategy. I selected the most interesting parts of our chat and shared them in the podcast below. This week we will explore the first part of the problem-solution fit, the customer understanding In the next episode we will dive into early adopter acquisition. Basically how do you find your first customers.

Douwe and Edouard say that one of the most common mistakes in the startup world is to start with building a product without truly understanding the problem to be solved and the riskiest assumptions that are the foundation of your business model. So what is the a better way? Start with the customer understanding

Customer Understanding

  • Step 1: understand the problem you are trying to solve
  • Step 2: understand who has that problem, define the archetype(s) of the customer
  • Step 3: see if you can find more people that display similar archetype behavior
  • Step 4: do market sizing as a reality check
  • Step 5: create and iterate Influence maps

Your turn. What do you think about this approach? Let me know below.

A startup that helps students and graduates to startup, with Mirena and Svilena

For today’s interview I had the pleasure to talk with Svilena and Mirena, two great girls that are on a mission to help others start their own business. Based out of Rotterdam, their platform combines business strategy and marketing coaching with crowd funding. So as pre-entrepreneur you get the knowhow and funding support.

Mirena RadulovaI think this is a fantastic platform for young people in university or recently graduates. Especially for those that don’t have a background in BA. I’m thinking art, sociology, IT, biology, …

At the moment weshape.nl is looking for new projects, so if you have an idea for a business or a big project that you want to undertake, you can get in contact with them and pitch your story. Mirena and Svilena will asses your idea, and if they think they can coach you and help you with the funding this could be the stSvilena Mateevaart of something awesome. And the cool part is that you will pay for the service only if you reach your funding goals.

In this interview we talk about their platform, but also about their journey to start a business together as expats in The Netherlands.

You can get in touch with Svilena and Mirena through their Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/weShapeit , via email info [@] weshape.nl or website www.weshape.nl .

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From army officer to successful entrepreneur: Holger Breukink

While serving as an Officer in the Royal Netherlands Army, with 43 people under his command, Holger realized that this is not what he wants to do with his life. Work was good, salary was good but he just wasn’t satisfied.

So he quit, went aboard to learn Spanish and ended up working in a bar. But being a true entrepreneur at heart, he immediately spotted an opportunity. He saw a very cool looking discount pass for students and thought: “I should create one in The Netherlands”. So he came back to NL and spent 3 years building, pitching, selling and convincing everybody, including his family, that he was not crazy and this product will be successful.

Holger BreukinkKnaek logo

Even though few people believed in his idea at the beginning, now his student discount pass is available in 25 cities, in both The Netherlands and Belgium, he employs 32 people, works with and is respected by top consumer brands like Apple, Jupiler, AlbertHein and Philips, and students can’t wait to get their hands on the discount pass at the beginning of the year. Kanek distributes ˜350,000 Cards per year, has ˜50,000 app installs per year and at the moment they have a database of over 1.5 Million young people.

How did Holger manage to achieve that? His story is truly inspiring and it was a great pleasure to talk to him.

Below is the full interview with Holger Johan Breukink, of Kanek.nl.

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And here are some cool lessons I distilled from our conversation:

In the beginning nobody believes in your idea, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be successful. Very few people believed in his idea but that didn’t stop him. You should not be discouraged by what other people think it would work or not. You should test your ideas and trust the results not the opinions of others.

Learn how to bluff. In the beginning you have to appear bigger, stronger, faster than you actually are so you have to project that image in the eyes of your clients. At times you will have sell your product first and build it later. In the interview Holger tells how he applied this to get his first customer.

Focus on bringing value to your customers, money will come from that.

These are only a few of the learning points. Make sure you listen to the full interview to hear them all.

KickStarter tips and tricks from Lola Akinsiku

For this interview I had the pleasure to talk to Lola Akinsiku, an aspiring entrepreneur that absolutely loves to work on her own ideas. With a full time job on her hands, she has to dedicate extra time so that her ideas can come to life. However, she told me this energizes her rather then draining more energy.

In a way Lola represents so many people out there that have this idea in there mind, a full time jobs on their hands and are not sure what is the first step or where to find enough time to work on their own venture. I think there are quite a few things we can learn from her.

Looa Utility Fabric

Her product is dedicated to those that like to read in bed, like good design and hate clutter. So far she had 2 KickStarter campaigns and even though she didn’t get the funding yet, she did learn a lo from the experience. In this interview you will find out more about those key-learning points.

With that in mind here’s the interview with Lola Akinsiku from LOOA Utility Fabric.

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Inspiring advice for aspiring entrepreneurs from Nick Waller of Global {M}

Global {M} LondonFor the first Startup Maze podcast I had the great pleasure to interview Nick Waller, the founder and Director of Global {M}, a fast growing London based startup that aims to improve tech recruitment around the world. Nick and his team bring a brand new vision to global recruitment. Instead of finding the right person for the job, they will help their clients find the right team for the job.

They will put together a team of pre-vetted individuals with proven track record that can work harmoniously together and bring the best results. This approach saves valuable time and significantly reduces administrative costs. And so far it seems to work. Among their clients you will find big international names like HP, Booking.com, KAYAK or BARCLAYS.

Nick is full of energy, very passionate about his company and a true entrepreneur at heart. I found it very inspiring to chat with him and I hope you will also find value from listening to the interview.

Among the key takeaways from are our discussion are:

  • If you want to start something, put the first foot on the ground. Stop postponing things.
  • Stop overthinking things. Act, make mistakes and learn along the way. It’s doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to your destination. You will find all your answer on the way.
  • Keep your clients in mind. Understand who they are, what they need and where you can find them. Have an extreme focus on your clients.
  • You will need to take risks and move out of your comfort zone.
  • You should see problems as opportunities.

You can listen to the podcast below or you can listen it via you preferred podcast app.


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For more info about Nick’s vision and Global {M}, you can check out:

Nick-waller

Also you can also find Nick on LinkedIn and you follow Global {M} on Twitter or Facebook.