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Monthly Archives: June 2011

International mobility of students and graduates is not the future!

Or at least we were told. I’ll be doing my best not to let my frustrations affect me, since a too biased and exaggerated viewpoint rarely convinces anybody, and only appeals to people who already agree with you.

In order to get you – the reader – up to speed, I’ll quickly set the scenario: We are presenting our business in front of an advisory board, who are to decide whether Graduateland is selected for a Danish incubator programme for Danish start-ups.  The short version is that we were not selected, which it really disappointing, obviously, but since we don’t know who we’re competing against for the limited programme places, we can’t really argue against this decision.

However, we were told that the advisory board doubted the whole concept of Graduateland, and this is where I can only encourage you – the reader – to join the discussion.

“We don’t believe that there is a tendency that young academics are ready to move to another country, in order to pursue an education or a career abroad”, they said.

Stating our perspective is somewhat irrelevant, since it is illustrated via our commitment to the creation of an international career portal. But what do you guys think? Are international career possibilities just not interesting, since nobody is ready to pursue them?

Is providing an overview of universities across Europe not important, since nobody wants to study abroad? Well I did just that, but that may because I’m an extremely internationally oriented person (notice the sarcasm).

Help us prove those conservative advisors wrong! Give the blog your comments, even if you think I’m an idiot, who can’t face a disappointment. Maybe even share the post with your friends, who may be able to contribute to the debate. In these times it’s far more important to have the support of the crowds, so screw you, authorities, you’re so last year.

Peace!

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Posted by on 24 June, 2011 in Entrepreneurship

 

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4 things a Danish startup can learn in Silicon Valley

Be Open
When you have a good business idea the conventional assumption among Danes is that you keep it to yourself, fearing that everybody will copy everything you had planned to create. That whoever is introduced to your new idea will be ready to abandon their own startup, their job, or other activities they were in the middle of, in order for them to pursue something that you have just introduced to them.

This happen very seldom, and the losses are the tremendous amounts of feedback that you will never receive, because you follow through with an idea that you have not tested on reality. In the case that your business idea is to be a commercial success amongst the masses, you will need test it with your future users, and/or customers. You may then experience that you may have gotten most of it right, and you will be able to tweak the features that you wrongly expected to be sparks of genius.

Of course you do not reveal the idea to your prospective competitors, who may have the resources to copy the whole concept, but you must not be afraid to share your thoughts with experts within the industry, or a savvy IT-guy. These could easily become your future co-founders, or the guy who end up being the one helping you create your product.

Be Commited
If you want to succeed you must do whatever it takes. It’s as simple as that. You need to be so commited to what you’re doing so that failure is not an option, and then you will experience that you will not fail. This is mostly due to the fact that you will be open to change you initial approach, in order for it to appeal more to your customers. Napoleon Hill said that you must actively ‘burn all ships’, like in medieval warfare, where the attacking soldiers could not retreat. I don’t totally agree with, but it will leave you with no other option than success.

Commitment also drives your work morale, giving you the strength to work late and get up early with an unaffected devotion to your startup and its associated success.

Additionally, it will affect your team mates, as well as the people you’re selling the product or idea to.

Think Big
If you want to attract talented employees, or the first, second or third round of capital, you have to be able to convince yourself and the people around you that what you’re doing is about to change the world. If you’re a talented guy, are you going to join a team that is only striving towards the mediocre? And if you’re a venture capitalist, are you going to invest in a team (because it to far greater extent the team, rather than the idea, that they are impressed by) that will settle for less? No. That’s the fast and correct answer. Obviously, everybody wants to invest in the next Facebook or Twitter.

This is also where the phenomenon of scalability enters the scenario. Scalability means that you easily can increase the scope of your business, without increasing your expenses accordingly. This is really applicable to IT venture, since the marginal costs of bits and bytes are low. Consequently, it is imperative that you apply the possibility of scalability early in your development of your product and business plan.

Network with Everybody
As an extension to the section of being open, it is pivotal that you exploit your network. This applies to your personal network, where you may find your future partners, or people you can give you the honest feedback you need. But it also applies to the network that you constantly must seek to increase and improve. You never know who may become good and loyal users/customers of your service or product, and you never know who might be able to hook you up with that special person, who can change the trajectory of your startup.

Imagine your former co-workers, who from time to time change jobs. These people lobbying your product may be the easiest access to a potential customer (given you sell to a corporation). Imagine also the benefits of talking to other entrepreneurs. These may not be the most obvious sources of direct sales or rock hard capital, but chances are that they have dealt with your stakeholders in one way or the other, or know someone who does/has. I talked to a guy, whose plan was to develop an iPhone app, that you could measure the calories in the food you took a photo of. Not very beneficial, in relation to my own career portal, but his German friend had been dealing with numerous German universities and this is definitely something I’ll be trying to exploit.

In order not to make this post too long, I’m going to stop here. Did I forget some point, which cannot be ignored? Feel free to supply your thought below.

 
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Posted by on 20 June, 2011 in Entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley

 

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Roasting marshmellows with Steve Blank

How do you end up roasting a handful of pink and yellow marshmellows with one of the legendary entrepreneurs from the Mekka of innovation and (tech) business creation, Silicon Valley? And who is this guy, by the way?

Well, the well-dressed guy to your left is me. The guy wearing the fancy cowboy shirt is Mr. Blank. The name of the lady to your right is Rebecca, an Amerian who was recently thrown out of Denmark because she was, well American, despite being married to a Danish guy. That’s another story, though, with a far more political aspect.

The reason why I met Blank was because the startup I’m the co-founder of, Graduateland, had been invited to Silicon Valley by the Innovation Center Denmark, a governmental organisation helping Danish startups, who find themselves far from home, specifically in the San Francisco area.
The awesome team of Søren and Marie had put together a busy schedule for the bunch of Danish startups, and this included dinner and a casual chat at Steve Blank’s private ranch, just south from San Francisco.

Why is this interesting? Where I come from (Denmark) it is definately not common that the star of the show invites 35 total strangers into his home, and does this with no agenda of getting paid, or trying to convert to his cult (maybe, a little?).
To make a long story short – he gave a short insight of his career path and gave a presentation to his perception of entrepreneurship. This is not where I’m getting with this post. What I think is so positive is the approach towards people whom you have not yet met. It is genuinely positive, and it showed in so many ways during our days in Silicon Valley and in San Francisco. A journalist from The Next Web joined us, and subsequently made this video.

Exiting a movie theatre we’re asked by two old women, who had also seen the movie (which contained discussion about handjobs and teen sex) what we thought of the movie. Nevermind our response, being asked this, by strangers, after a movie has never happened in Denmark. Similar things happen in elevators, coffee houses etc.

We were introduced to a term called WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). This term explains the initial interest in talking to new people. Can I benefit? Can they benefit, and subsequently pay me? Do they know somebody who I wanna meet? This may also be emphasises by the fact that many of the early engineers from Google, Facebook etc have made tons of money. But they don’t look rich. Similarly, many venture capitalists and co-founders of successful companies blend in, but could potentially change the fate of the odd struggling startup. SO, everybody talks to anybody, if just to find out that they are not relevant. But this is alright, and people move along.

This might not a longshot to explain why old ladies talk to us, but the mentality that other people may have something useful to offer, be it only a kind response to a casual question, is appealing to a Dane, whose general approach to others is that they are just blocking the view. This can change, though.

Alright, first blog post must come to an end. Concludingly, my plan is to be inspired by the more open-minded approad shown by the Americans. We may be able to teach them many many things, but talking to strangers, they are way ahead of us.

 
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Posted by on 13 June, 2011 in Entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley

 

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