Free advice for your startup, from me

Hi there,

I’m looking for people with projects in the pre-launch or early post-launch phase that would need help with their overall strategy, marketing, user acquisition, or product development. And I’m willing to help you for free as part of the Startup Maze Coaching Program. 

Why? Because it’s fun, I’ll learn new things, and I would like document the work and publish it on startupmaze.com, as a lesson for other people in your exact same shoes. This means I would use your questions and my work as a study case for others. So make sure you’re ok with that.

How would this work?

 You apply for the program via the survey below and let me know a few things about your startup/project.Then:

  • I will select the projects I think I can add value to. Don’t want to waste your time or my time.
  • We will then have a meeting/skype call so I can understand better where you are (I might record that btw)
  • I will go research and come up with the best solution I can think of
  • I will send that to you & and we will have a meeting to walk you through the thought process
  • I will publish a study case on my blog about the project
  • Depending on the complexity of the problem the whole thing could last a few days or a few weeks. Also depending on my work schedule, as I will do this in my spare time.

Who am I?

  • Initiator of this awesome meetup group
  • Founder and editor of startupmaze.com (blog and podcast)
  • Working in startups and startup like environment since 2008
  • I have an MBA in marketing form Rotterdam School of Management
  • Passionate about innovation and early stage projects
  • Full info on my linkedin profile

Interested

applyhere

Keep in mind that I will be able to work on only 2-3 projects at the same time. So it will pay off to be among the first to apply. 

 

IoT is here, better get in at the ground floor

We are on the verge of something really cool: things around you will start coming online, get a life of their own. Well, at least in Amsterdam… for now.

Soon everything around you will have a sensor and you will be able to know things like:

  • Your front door will tell every time it was opened and closed
  • Your bike will tell you at all times its location or if it’s moved
  • Your boat will report back as soon as there is water inside
  • On a farm, the animal feeder will tell you when it needs to be refilled and which animals stopped eating in the last two days

And these are just a bunch of scenarios I can think of. As soon as this technology is widely available it will create a wave of amazing applications. Just imagine what problems you would solve if you could track in real time things like: movement, acceleration, temperature, humidity, air pressure, location or air composition among others.

Why now and how does it work?

The sensors aren’t new, but there’s a brand new way to connect to them. Presenting LoRaWan, a sort of Wi-Fi network for sensors/ iot which:

  • has a huge coverage – up to 10-15 Km
  • is designed for transmitting really small amounts of data (not 4k video streaming)
  • can listen to a large millions of sensors simultaneously
  • enables sensors to consume very little energy -> battery life in excess of 10 years

In more scientific (and more accurate) terms LoRaWan is “designed to provide Low Power Wide Area Network with features specifically needed to support low-cost, mobile, secure bi-directional communication for Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M), and smart city, and industrial applications. It is optimized for low power consumption and to support large networks with millions and millions of devices. It has innovative features, support redundant operation, location, low-cost, low-power and can even run on energy harvesting technologies enabling the mobility and ease of use to Internet of Things.

To function a LoRaWan network needs three parts:

Enabling world wide mobility for the IoT image 2-1

  • a gateway – a receiver that listens constantly for signals from the sensors around it
  • a node – a sensor that transmits the signal
  • a platform (network server with app server) that takes the information received by the gateway, decodes it and sends it further via internet to our smartphones and computers.

So why in Amsterdam?

Because Amsterdam is already covered in LoRaWan. So, if you buy a humidity sensor tomorrow and set it in your boat, it will be able to alert you as soon as you have water in your boat. At the moment the data is in raw format, but here’s where you come in. You can build a smartphone app that uses that data to trigger a notification. You have a white canvas!!

When was Amsterdam covered?

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 22.17.48

Amsterdam was covered in LoRaWan by TheThingsNetwork (THN) a few months ago. They did that in 6 weeks with only 10 gateways. And unlike any other similar initiatives this effort was crowdsourced by the citizens of Amsterdam.

Get in at the ground floor.

At the moment everything is at the very beginning. If you want to be part of something exciting, this is the time to get on board.

Last week I was sitting with a bunch of geeks, in basement with no windows, with devices all over the table, listening to the very basics of what this network is capable of. For a second I felt like I was in the at the first Twitter meetup, when nobody knew about it yet. I felt like I would look back one day and say: “I was there when that happened”.

TheThingsNetwork Kickstarter tips

I see a great opportunity in this and I definitely recommend to anyone to check out the full potential of this.

Where to start?

As product manager you should start by understanding the technology.

As a developer you should start tinkering with the devices.

And here are some useful links to get you started:

TheThingsNetwork Amsterdam Meetup – Celebrating a successful Kickstarter

Check out the full picture gallery on Facebook

Last Firday, I had the pleasure to attend the ending ceremony of TheThingsNetwork Kickstarter project. With ˜300K raised, they got twice the amount they were aiming for. Not bad for such an ambitious project, which doesn’t come from SF but from the heart of Europe.

IMG_3996 copyAfter we all counted down the last 10 seconds before the end of the campaign, Wienke took the stage to thank everyone involved. And a shortly after that Johan gave us a demo on how to setup a gateway

and a brief introduction on how to set up a node on the TTN.

I also had a chance to talk to Marcus and found out a few important things that contributed to their Kickstarter success. Here is what I remember:

 

TheThingsNetwork Amsterdam Kickstarter tips

    • Before the campaign, Wienke and Johan were talking at events and getting people pumped about it; thus in the day of the campaign they had a big email base they could contact. Crucial!!
    • 30% of the funding came in the first 2 days
    • The majority of the backers came from NL, but they had a very international crowd in the long tail
    • Pledges stayed pretty constant/flat during the campaign, except the last day when they saw a big bump.
    • Trick: they told their backers the campaign starts at 2pm and the press 3pm, so when the journalists dropped by, they already had a massive amount of support.
    • They transformed interesting acker in study cases:

IMG_4003 copy

Grants (aka non-repayable funds) for your startup – the what, how, who, and where

Last week I had the pleasure to organize a Startup Maze Amsterdam meetup about: Grants (aka non-repayable funds) for your startup – the what, how, who, where.

Our speaker was Rik van der Wel, the owner of De Subsidie Informatie Groep, a cooperation of independent entrepreneurs specialized in government grants for Dutch SMBs. Rik started his organization in 2010, when he saw a lack of support for businesses that wanted to file for grants. His mission is to spread the word on what grants are available and making it easy for entrepreneurs to get the most out of them.

Below is a video I recorded during the presentation and underneath it you can find his Prezi slides. (sorry for the video quality.. it should be 1080p… but my gopro does not do low light…)

 

And here’s his presentation:

Dutch grants: how do they work?

Basically Dutch government will give you money as long as you ALSO make an investment in your business. Most of the times the grants allowed are in the shape of tax reductions, percentage wise from your total investment. So if you invest €10.000 you could get X% back from the state, or you don’t need to pay it in the first place. As far as I understood all the available funds come from the EU.

Dutch subsidies: who can get them?

These funds are available for both SMBs as well as for large corporations. There are interesting ways of getting money back at any level.

Dutch grants: why do they exist?

The Dutch government is willing to give grants in the form of tax reliefs and allowances to business because it helps boost the economy. The funding is available for both small and medium sized businesses but also large corporations. The Dutch government is willing to give non-refundable funds to companies because this effort helps boost the economy overall.

Companies can use the financial aid to launch their businesses, grow their businesses, hire more employees, make their business more sustainable.

Dutch grants: what are the most interesting grants for startups?

The most interesting thing for starting entrepreneurs is that you can declare your time as an investment and you can value your hours at a max of €60 per hour. So if you invest a full week of your time in your startup (remember you also need to invest in your startup) you can say you invested €2400. In a month €9600.

What is the official website for Dutch subsidies?

http://www.rvo.nl/ – good luck with it.

For more info you can always get in contact with Rick via Info@dsig.nl or through his LinkedIn profile.

 

The often-overlooked, but essential habit of successful entrepreneurs

“I was leading, but they were not watching me. They were looking down the road. Instead of their faces, I was seeing the backs of their heads. So something at Tabac was more interesting than the leader – and then I remembered the photograph and braked as hard as I could.”

As Juan Manuel Fangio was approaching that corner he was leading the race, so in theory all cars should have been behind him. It made no sense to hit the breaks before that corner. However, the day before the 1950 race, he saw a picture of a similar accident, which happened a few years before on the same track. That made him realize something is wrong. In an instant he acknowledged the situation, recalled the picture, connected the two and hit the breaks as hard as he could, avoiding a crash that could have been fatal.

I find this to be an inspiring story for all aspiring entrepreneurs out there. You see, we all love to talk about the success of people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and so on. But few look at the mistakes people have done on their journey to success… and more importantly learn from those mistakes.

Just like that picture that prevented Fangio to crash at full speed, entrepreneurs should find their own pics of people that “crashed” before them. I believe that in order to become a great entrepreneur you need to understand journeys in their totality, with both mistakes and smart moves.

Good luck in the startup maze,

Andi

Growth hacking, supercars and the anatomy of fast

What makes a fast car? A powerful engine, light body, aerodynamic design, turbocharger… That’s all good to gain speed, but to maintain it you’ll need something else: good brakes.

Seems rather counterintuitive right? But you see, in a supercar good brakes don’t slow you down, they put you in control. Good brakes let you turn corners faster and avoid crashing the car in front. Mere speed without control is an accident in the making.

For me growth hacking is similar to driving a super car at high speeds. We all see the sexy part of it: acquiring users, gaming the system and creating clever shortcuts. But we often forget of something essential: we need a product with an amazing user experience.

If you don’t have a product that people love, you have no control over your growth. You can add users at insane rates, but those same users… will churn faster than you can say growth hacking, and that will lead to an inevitable crush.

So yeah, we all like to talk about sexy terms, magic solutions and shortcuts. But remember that’s only part what of what you need.

Many things in life seem counterintuitive, but that doesn’t make them less valid.

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

How to solve difficult tasks

Many of the things we consider to be difficult aren’t. The key to solving them is to break them smaller pieces and then keep working on those tiny pieces. Tiny steps can take you very far. 

Let’s take my case. I would like to write over 100 quality blog posts per year. Seems a lot, but if I break it down it means that I only need to write 2 blog posts per week, for a year. The key is to break the task in bite size pieces and create a steady rhythm.  54 weeks per year X 2 blog posts per week = 108bp/year

Or let’s say you would like to make $1000 per month as passive income. If you break that down, it means you need roughly $250 a week. That means you need to get ~$36 per day. If you create a valuable online product, priced at $17.99 you need only to convince 2 people per day to buy your product. 2ppl X $18 X 30days=$1080

And the great thing is that you can apply this to anything to make it more approachable. Now think about your startup. Big task ahead of you? Maybe you haven’t started yet, because it’s so big… Well, I challenge you.

Define the tasks, the effort and the frequency. Then keep going at it. Keep a steady rhythm and you will be amazed of how tiny steps will take you far.  

Fail fast, fail often, fail early – clay pots, startups and perfection

Fail fast, fail often, fail early – words we inevitable hear when talking about startups and entrepreneurship. But what does it really mean? What kind of failure are we talking about?

A few months ago I stumbled across a very interesting story about failing, which might explain the obsession with failing culture and it’s hidden benefits. This story is from a book called: “Art and Fear” and it goes like this:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

In other words, when people say fail fast, fail often, fail early what they actually mean is practice, practice, practice because getting good at your startup is not different from any other capability. Making mistakes at the beginning is normal, but the more you practice the better you become. And the earlier you make those mistakes, the faster you learn.

And let me leave you with this awesome quote from Thomas Edison:

Thomas Edison Photo Quote 2

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.