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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Can anybody start a business?

Some people say that whether you are entrepreneurial or not is defined by your DNA. What does that even mean? That if you do not have the entreneurial gene then you cannot start you own business? Or that you’re just not going to be a good at it?

Commenting on the last answer first: Defining a startup as a success or a failure is easy if you only consider the extremes. If you get acquired for a any amount of money that you’re satisfied with, and that your shareholders are happy about, then it’s difficult to argue that the startup was not a success. On the contrary, if you go bankrupt and shut down production, it’s easy to conclude that it was a failure.
However, what about all the companies in between? The definition of success depends on who you ask. According to the movie SHINE (embedded at the end of this post) some don’t really need anything else than a happy life, where there is no asshole boss, and that their lifestyle business generates just enough profits for it to make sense financially.
Actually, there was not one single person in the video, who said that (s)her was focused on the money, but I imagine that those people are out there anyways, so let’s just assume that many entrepreneurs start up in order for them to make the big bucks. Consequently, there are different perceptions of ‘good at it’, thus excluding the causality of DNA and entrepreneurial skills.

I read some article, where Sir Richard Branson gave a handful of advice on how to become a billionaire. He said something like: Spend time with people, who are better than you. Meaning that this should inspire you to improve your skills, and become better yourself, no matter the field. What I take from this is the notion that social environments matter a lot, and in in the discussion of entrepreneurship, it then means that if you spend time with good (successful) entrepreneurs, you become better yourself. It could be your friends, family or role models.
If this is true, then it doesn’t really have anything to do with your DNA. Unless of course, that your DNA determines who you hang out with? Did that put my argumentation back to square 1?

Anyways, check out the movie (it’s 24 minutes long). A few clever quotes to convince you:

We all see opportunites all the time, every day, but we say ‘that would be nice if somebody would do that, or somebody would create that, or somebody would make that or market that’. The entrepreneur does it.

One of the biggest myths about entrepreneurs is that they actually know what they’re doing.

I have these ideas, I get excited about what I could do in the world and I see no reason why I shouldn’t try it, because I believe that I can do pretty much anything that is doable, so why wouldn’t I try to do it?

I ran the world’s largest online dating company with over 250 million people registered on it. And I’m single. And it’s just a testiment that you gotta be super focused.

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Posted by on 28 August, 2011 in Entrepreneurship

 

Think, learn, improve. Debate.

Imagine a world where two disagreeing sides engage each other´s arguments, weigh the underlying principles, evaluate the practical outcomes and shake hands afterwards. Imagine a platform where all nations meet in order to discuss (and not just prevaricate about) the most pressing issues and their delegates are treated equally irregardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, country of origin and religious beliefs. Finally, imagine an activity which enables people to develop almost all relevant skills for their future career. Does it sound like a perfect utopia to you? Believe it or not, this utopia is spreading and you can help it shape the future.

Academic debating started in English-speaking countries many decades ago. Since then it has massively spread across all continents to more than fifty countries and affected the lives of millions. But what is it, actually?

A competitive debate involves two teams that have to argue (on the international level in English) either for or against a given motion, however, these teams cannot choose the side they want to defend. The side is usually assigned by a draw. Each team consists (usually) of three members, each member has to deliver an argumentative speech of a certain length that has to react on what the other team has brought up to the table. Judges decide the debate on three criteria: Content, style of delivery and strategy. Every debate ends with a handshake between the opposing teams.

The unique thing about debating is that it challenges people´s original beliefs and offers an alternative point of view. It forces not only the debaters, but also the judges and even the audience to think critically about the arguments which were presented by each side. Apart from that, debating is one of the fastest ways to learn a foreign language, develop public speaking and leadership skills and boost confidence, all of which are becoming extremely relevant in a globalized, multicultural world. Not only do these help during job or university interviews, they also prove invaluable at work, no matter which career one pursues.

However, debating is not just about facts, arguments, skills and winning or losing: Importantly, it is a great opportunity to meet people from all around the globe, make long-lasting friendships and get to know various cultures. It is not unusual to see Australians, Qataris and Japanese dance together at a disco, Slovaks, Pakistanis and Chinese make math jokes and Swedes, Americans and Romanians play the guitar. A couple of years later, these people meet again. This time they are respectable doctors, CEOs, economists or scientists. They return to debate competitions to teach others what they had learned. Forget Nokia: Debate is connecting people.

Despite its educational and social value, the best thing about debating is that it is free to everyone. It is not an exclusive world that does not grant access to certain groups of people; it is perhaps the greatest manifestation of equality, free speech and the victory over prejudice one can imagine. It is not “just” a hobby, it´s a lifestyle. Thus, if you are looking for something that would not only “look good” on your CV, but really deliver the benefits it promises, join a debate team or become a judge. The world is yours.

 
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Posted by on 25 August, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Men want to be Bill Gates, not David Beckham

According to a recent survey men want to be entrepreneurs. Apparently it seems more appealing to men to build things and be the boss of something selfmade rather than being paid millions of millions for kicking a football, or being the lead in the current blockbuster featuring Sandra Bullock or Mila Kunis. Actually, only 8% of the men asked see the actors or entertainers as their role models, which may be the result actors and entertainers being categorized as a group, and not via specific names. Granted, who the f*** sees Adam Sandler as their role model?

YES!

However, entrepreneurs as a group are represented by the succes stories, because these are the guys that you hear about. You rarely associate the people behind failing startups as entrepreneurs, at least not of you’re not part of the entrepreneurial eco system. And you don’t really the see the guy opening up his kiosk on the corner as a real entrepreneur. You see the Steve Jobss, Mark Zuckerbergs and the Reid Hoffmans as real entrepreneurs, and these are the individuals that men see as their role models.

Since role models tend to influence you in your pursue of your career, I see as very positive that entrepreneurs are seen as the new super heroes. And what’s not cool about starting your own company? You get to decide everything yourself, you get to work on what might have been your hobby anyways. And once in a while it actually becomes quite a rewarding business.

NO!

Anyways, it’s good that men (and this survery was with men only, I suppose all women wants to be Carrie Bradshaw?) are acknowleding the coolness of entrepreneurship. Let’s get to it, and start some businesses!

YES!

 
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Posted by on 20 August, 2011 in Entrepreneurship, Random

 

The Usain Bolt of public speaking

It is not the first time I see this incredible presentation by Gary Vaynerchuk, and as I was browsing around TED.com, I [accidentally] stumbled across the ‘Do what you love’-speech. Even though I knew exactly what he was going to say, I had to finish the video. Talk about a charismatic speaker!

Do yourself a favour and watch this video. And follow his advice:

There is way too many people in this room right now, that are doing stuff they hate. Please stop doing that! There is no reason in 2008 to do shit you hate. None! Because you can lose just as much money being happy as hell.

15 minutes well spent!

 
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Posted by on 14 August, 2011 in Entrepreneurship, Random

 

Sun-blogging from Greece

Back on the blog after a few weeks in sunny Greece. Right now I’m sitting on my balcony on the island of Naxos, right smack in the middle of the Cyclades.

My friend and I were initially planning on staying a few days in Athens but due to the revolution-like news footage we had seen the weeks up to our departure we decided to skip the capital and head straight towards one of the islands.

For brief moments we had talked about the risk of the default of the Greek economy, the reinstatement of the drachma as the national currency, about strikes within the tourist industry (ferries etc.), even about being kidnapped and ending up on a gyros-stick but we have seen nothing of its kind. Only eaten many gyros, that’s a given.

Macro and flying horses
There are many reasons for the bad economical state of the country. These include its extremely low average of workers’ output, which the country was not able to correct with monetary tools due to the adoption of the Euro. The rising national debt was throughout the process kept hidden by the Greek officials, which at the same time was suffering from high levels of corruption (second in Europe, after Poland). These factors led to a general mistrust, understandably, by the international money-lenders, and the perception that the debt would not be repaid. Consequently, the Greek government bonds now yield around 33% p.a., which is really high, but I would recommend that you steer straight for the window, jump out and expect to land on a flying unicorn made of gold and diamonds and your odds of success would be better.

Anyways, I’m not a macro guy, and I’m kinda writing these things from the top of my head (and this is how to explicitly neglect your own work!) and it’s more interesting to talk about the things you see on the streets of Greece – or at least what WE see where WE go.

Supermarkets
One of the first things a Dane recognizes when setting foot in one of the Southern European countries is the inconvenience of paying with a credit card. Even in Athens Airport the guy selling us two Pepsi Max’s (which we then mixed with our travel sized Malibu) and the two pain au chocolat, didn’t accept our VISA cards, which didn’t really surprise us as much as it was just really annoying as I had to run off and find an ATM, knowing that my heated pastry would cool off. Granted, in Athens many people have a stack of Euros since they arrive from a country within the European Monetary Union. But come on, try and internationalize the hub where all foreigners enter, if not just to sell a few more croissants.

On a side note it should be mentioned that we now carry with us all the time currency amounts that would impress any coke dealer and have quick access to any snack and cool, often alcoholic, beverages. We also found a large supermarket, which actually does accept credit cards, however she has to leave her counter and the people waiting in line, in order for her to use the single machine, which is located in the supermarket office. Jeez!

The problem that one faces in French supermarkets, where the check-out counters are so short, that the cashier has to wait between each customer, until they have safely packed their goods into the pain-in-the-ass difficult-to-open plastic bags does not occur here, because the scanning, payment, and subsequent small talk with the chubby friends who have situated themselves on stools next to the cashier takes most of the focus.

However, the food coupons and the like are still there. I wonder how much cheaper they could sell stuff if they cut the crap and trained their staff to serve customers quicker, as well as created some check-outs that would allow people to pack simultaneously with the next person’s items being scanned. Have these Southern European supermarket designers never been grocery shopping in Denmark?

Too much of the good stuff
Secondly, the extreme heat we’re experiencing at the moment does have its say, and it’s difficult to blame people that do not bust their ass off in 35 degrees. However, as this is the peak tourist season in Greece, lasting approximately two months, this is the time to be efficient. This is the time that the golden goose has landed and has planted its pale butt cheeks in the beach chair, in the restaurant chair, or on the rented scooter. Tourism accounts for 15% of GDP (this has been checked, Wikipedia-style).

Throughout the last 10 days or so, and the following 4-5 days my plan is NOT to do anything and just enjoy the heat, but I’m here on my first vacation in two years, the locals are not.

It should be noted that we have experienced efficient and service oriented people here. The hotel mama of Pension Irene II (Irene, of course, and funny enough all the hotels we’ve visited have been owned and run by women) is the sweetest person, and she offers us ice cones whenever we pass the reception.

This we like. The small gestures that visitors remember.

Actually these are the main observations we have made, but the supermarket scenario, and the fact that no supermarket has challenged this by opening a quicker shopping alternative, shows us how inefficient the Greek people are. If people could get get their grocery shopping done quicker they would have more time to be industrious and create the next General Electric, Google or Graduateland.

Feel free to share other stories of inefficiency, or tell me that I’m too harsh on Greece!

 
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Posted by on 4 August, 2011 in Random

 
 
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