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Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Can you ‘tinder’ your career to the next level?

tinder_matchIt’s no news that the dating app, Tinder, is highly successful and that it’s more the rule than the exception that singles are using it to kill time, date hunt, and/or boost their egos. Since so many people have started using it it has obtained the momentum that the creators of any online products are dreaming of and the positive spiral where many users generate more users becomes reality.

Why did Tinder succeed in the rather established industry that online dating has become. Well, the element of gamification made the app equally entertaining as it is useful. There is much less investment from the user, both in terms of creating a sufficient profile, as well as vulnerable exposure of the state of singleness and consequent search for company. When I signed up the first time it was done in less than a minute while accompanied with rum and cigarettes and convinced by a friend who claimed that he hadn’t signed up due to an outdated OS version on his iPhone – jeez (!). So because it had to be on my phone that we tried it out, I was the one signing up. Within minutes the first match was made, and quickly the first chat was received. That is efficient stuff. And since it’s possible to claim that its only a game there is no risk of finding friends amongst the faces that pop up.

Dating vs. job searching
So why the link bait headline? Well, since I’m contemplating whether it’s possible to transfer this gamification element to the recruitment industry. It’s no news that a substantial part of job searching has moved to mobile, and even job application via smart phones is gaining momentum. Additionally, companies and recruiters share job opportunities via social media like there’s no tomorrow, so summing up evidently results in the conclusion that engagement between employers and candidates is everywhere, and consequently never further away than those 85 cm down to the smart phone in your hand.

Could we imagine that candidates (I’m not using the term job seekers, since this may even appeal to passive job seekers) would ‘swipe’ career opportunities, with similar possibilities as on Tinder, where you can see a few key characteristics on the first page, tab on the suggestions that seem relevant, and get a bit smarter, perhaps with the full job description distributed across 5-6 subpages? Would these candidates be able to make a meaningful choice as to swipe right or left?
Of course this depends on the amount of info that’s put into the job post, so let’s imagine that they would do this.

Kickstarting a yin yang dependency
As with any two sided market place we need both parties to engage, and if one part initially does the other one has to follow quickly in order to avoid any ghost town feeling. So I’m pretending I’m a recruiter, and I can browse candidates that fit my criteria – education, degree level, certain universities, language skills, work experience etc. Only profiles that match will be shown to me, and initially I’ll see their business portrait along with a tagline. If I tab them, I can see a summary, and if I read on I can see a limited part of their CV. If I like it I swipe right. If not I swipe left. And nobody ever knows, unless I swipe right, and they swiped right to my job ad, and it results in a match. If I were to recruit for my company right now that actually sounds pretty interesting.

Recruitment as entertainment, entertainment as recruitment
Okay, so where are you guys going to attack this concept? That it’s extremely superficial and that the candidates’ looks become pivotal in getting matches? Yes, but I’ve seen plenty of job posts, where pictures are requested upon application – and don’t a lot of recruiters search on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn to get a glimpse of the applicant anyway?

Is this idea idiotic since no employer who takes itself seriously would use anything resembling a game in its search for potential employees? Well, L’Oreal, Danone, and Thales have each made computer games where you among others things play a virtual trainee at the company, and solve puzzles [see videos]. Furthermore, many companies arrange case competitions where hopeful candidates compete for the chance to impress the HR staff of the host company – there are several annual event at my old business university, Copenhagen Business School.
I’m aware it’s not the same, however recruitment has become entertainment, and vice versa.

Perhaps recruitment staff are too busy to ‘play’ the recruitment game, as their time is spent sifting through piles of applications since we are currently experiencing a major youth unemployment. That would make sense – however I would claim that if the ‘swipe feature’ was not necessarily a fancy mobile app (for the employers, that is, it should still be for candidates) but integrated into the existing application tracking system (ATS) it could easily be a funny little feature that was actually used, as opposed to overflowing our LinkedIn news feed with algebra puzzle answers and posts of clever quotes. Voila, the second part of the ecosystem is activated, and the viral element could kick in [fingers crossed].tinder match2

Matching that pretty girl
I definitely think that the concept holds, and if the user experiences for both recruiters and candidates are designed well enough, with the preconditions that each part naturally has, the feature could succeed. As the hunt for talent forces recruiters to move as fast as the candidates in relation to the preferred platforms and tools, all that matters is wether qualified candidates pick it up. And as Tinder shows – even the pretty girls have profiles, simply because they want to know what the fuzz is about and BAM – there’s a match!

 

The Tragedy of TeamWork

Continually do our professors lecture us on the importance of teamwork. The whole theory that “if you learn how to get on with others while doing a project, you will have it easier at work” however, hinges on the assumption that teamwork is actually carried out by the whole team. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

Do not get me wrong. I am not against the idea of teamwork. I actually think that – in theory – teamwork is much more efficient than the same number of individuals working on their own (preparation sessions of the Czech National Debate Team before debate tournaments come to my mind with a touch of nostalgia…), but needs one specific prerequisite: These individuals have to be (at least roughly) motivated to the same extent and equally skilled.

Why? Consider a situation when one ambitious control freak who is used to doing everything perfectly is forced to work with five other people who a) do not have the slightest idea what to do, b) do not care about the issue at all or – worst of all – c) are both clueless and careless. The result is that instead of sharing the burden, the control freak does this assignment more or less on his or her own (or redoes parts done by others because they are of inferior quality), resulting in frustration on one side and plain free-riding on the other. And now imagine that the result of this assignment is directly tied to grades or pay, i.e. when feckless people get benefits for simply being lucky in having someone to do the project for them…

Real-life example: For one particular course we were supposed to submit papers in pairs. My “teammate” sent me a “draft” of our “paper” (quotation marks intentional) that horrified me. I was nowhere close to an argumentative essay: He just randomly mentioned some points (who cares about structure, obviously), wrote a feeble conclusion and failed to mention his sources of information. Needless to say, I was furious and had to rewrite the whole thing. So after we get our grade, he will get the same one as me, although his contribution will be close to zero – and the professor will never know who actually wrote the essay. If this is not unfair, I wonder what is.

A daring question: Shouldn´t a university degree be awarded to individuals who managed to not only pass the exams, but also demonstrated some academic skills? A logical follow-up suggestion: Drop the team assignments at the university (especially in the first year) to force people to prove that they “deserve” that shiny Diploma.

 
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Posted by on 5 March, 2012 in Education, Entrepreneurship

 

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Success: Backfired

“This argument is like a gun. It can easily backfire!”

Being successful (especially despite all the odds aka nobody believing in you) is great. Rewarding. And ego-boosting, if you ask me. Who would not like that? /Raise your hands. I will ask a first-grader (or a sociologist?) to count them. “Hold your breath and count to ten, fall apart and start again…”/

The trouble comes the moment your work turns into success which subsequently turns into more work. The good news is that you are not a loser (yet), the bad news is that you are more likely to become one. Why? If you are expected to perform a greater number of tasks while keeping the amount of your time constant, you are eventually going to run out of opportunities to inflate the number of working hours (assuming nobody owns Hermineone´s time-turner – for that matter: in case you do, I would gladly buy it from you). Just to clarify: Breaking down under pressure counts as the ultimate fail(ure).

Example: I started a debate society at a university with no tradition of debating in English and succeeded in having not only enough members to have regular debates, but also in sending these people to international debate competitions. The boomerang effect now resulted in debaters requesting special “tournament-related” preparation sessions where they would get more practice in case-building (read: coming up with smart arguments) than at normal sessions. And really, how could a truly caring, dedicated coach say “no” to them…?

This leads me to an important observation: Whether you are launching a project, applying for a job or conducting research, it is just as crucial to have plan B in case of failure as a true plan A+ in case things go three times better than you would have dared to wish in your wildest dreams.

Note: A post on “how to say NO” coming up soon…

 
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Posted by on 30 January, 2012 in Entrepreneurship, Random

 

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Traders Trophy Worldwide

Have you ever considered becoming a professional trader? Or, to put it differently: Have you ever considered a stressful job where you could make (a lot of)^3 money? In case the answer is YES, then you´d probably like to hear more about the competition called Traders Trophy Worldwide. One of the best trading simulations you can imagine.

In this trading simulation you get to trade securities in an environment that closely resembles the real market. Apart from trying to make a lot of money, you have to make sure you a) answer telephone calls from your clients and other participants in the room and are active in the market  (“you are the market maker”), b) manage risk effectively and c) respond to the news that pop out every few seconds, minimize your losses and get stable returns on your investments.

Each participating university has its own qualification round, then the best traders advance to the national finals and again, the best of the best make it to the world finals. Putting all the fancy prizes, traveling and adrenalin aside, what are the main reasons you should at least give it a try?

First and foremost, if you want to become a trader, this is the best way to find out if you have what it takes. Having straight A´s is not good enough, because you have to make BIG decisions – and make them on-the-spot. If you are a nervous wreck each time you have to buy more shares, then this is going to be truly hellish 60 minutes of your life.

Secondly, since this is sponsored by companies that actually use this competition as a recruitment tool, winning can earn you your dream position (or at least make the firms aware of your existence, which helps). Better still, you will get to talk to people who work for these companies and get their views on this profession. And the icing on the cake – they are all happy to talk to you and share their experience. They do not look down on you just because you have not yet finished your Diploma; no way.

Lastly, this competition is great fun. You meet awesome new people, laugh at your own stupidity as you will – almost inevitably at some point in time – lose thousands of dollars in a single click (I actually enjoyed losing money that was not mine!) and then, if you are lucky, you will advance to the next round and go through all that again! Oh, and do not get me started on the gorgeous food that was served…

However, even if you end up in red, you can still win at least something. Personal experience: I made a loss of more than 15 000 dollars (so I did not make it to the national finals), yet I won in one of the three categories, namely the “Market maker” one. I was amazed to hear that, I definitely did not see it coming.

The Netherlands, beware: Next year I am giving it another shot. *Wink*

 
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Posted by on 9 December, 2011 in Entrepreneurship

 

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Negotiation: The Seven Deadly Sins

The D-Day. The Decison day. You knew it was coming. You knew you would have to speak up at some point. You knew you would have to bargain, argue and persuade. You dreaded the moment you would have to say, “Wait a minute, this is not in my interest at all!” Boom. There you are. One of the most crucial (business) meetings ever. Or perhaps not ever, but a pretty important one anyway. What are the steps you should care not to make and what are the world you shall never utter?

Deadly sin #1: Showing up late. The same old story you might hear from all directions, yet so vital and so often neglected. Not only that you do not look professional when you are unable to plan your schedule, but you are also being impolite from the very first moment – even before you actually bother to show up.

Deadly sin #2: Being physically present, yet not mentally. Sure, you have all those cool and shiny gadgets and like to show off with them, but it is extremely rude to answer e-mails or check your Facebook whilst in the middle of discussion. Not to mention that you are much more likely to miss an important point of the debate. If you feel the urge to do so, get help.

Deadly sin #3: Not listening. The words your partner says enter your left ear and exit though your nose or the left ear without leaving a trace. You think you are listening, you may be even looking straight into the other person´s eyes, but if you got a simple question along the lines of “What did I just say?”, you would be left dumbfounded.

Deadly sin #4: Speaking for somebody not present who has never given such permission. Even though you think you know what your colleague wants or would have liked to said, do not say it aloud. Chances are, you are wrong – and even if you were right, your colleague would have preffered to speak up for himself/herself. You are not a fortune teller, so do not pretend to be one.

Deadly sin #5: Not being prepared. If you really want to persuade someone about the benefits of your proposal, you cannot expect to be able to do so without thinking hard. There is nothing worse than wasting time with someone who needs ages to express himself/herself and does not know precisely where all the arguments (s)he uses are headed.

Deadly sin #6: Not making notes. During a (hopefully fruitful) discussion you and your partner are likely to come up with unexpected and possibly smart points that should not be forgotten. You do not have to write essays, a short note will do; and may prove invaluable the next month when you are analysing why that particular project failed. Perhaps you were somewhat aware of future difficulties, but just because they came up only in the discussion, they got lost.

Deadly sin #7: Repetition. Do not repeat yourself over and over again. Your negatiation partner is not stupid and has heard the same story twice already. He/She is not buying your arguments, deal with it. Either come up with something new – be it new evidence, example or a whole new argument, or rethink your position. Pretending to be a CD playing the same track over and over again does not deliver results. On the contrary – it just annoys people.

A personal note: Today, my negotiation partner commited 3 out of these sins. So what? He lost on all fronts in 20 minutes´  time. Morals? Thou shall not negotiate, sinner!

 
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Posted by on 21 November, 2011 in Entrepreneurship, Random

 

Arctic15… check!

15 startups – 10 minutes on stage – 1 (actually 2) winner(s)

Graduateland takes home the Public Prize, based on online votes by the audience (and whatever external networks that could be leveraged). BOOMSHAKALAKA!

Our Business Development Intern, Filip, shows how real networking is done.

Wednesday
Alright, we’ll start at the beginning. We landed in Helsinki Wednesday. We were on the same flight at Martin Ferro from Conferize (also co-founder of Issuu.com) who we actually ended up spending a lot of time with. But wait, who’s we? Since the Graduateland team had other engagements back in Copenhagen, we had needed to split up, and I had invited our Business Development Inten, Filip, along on the trip. He turned out to be a great help, and was a great networker on our behalf. We’re currently competing on who gets most LinkedIn connections.

There was some networking event Wednesday night, called Nordic Meetup. Always good to have others take charge in planning stuff, which you can just tag along to. The buzz was truly entrepreneurial, taking me back to our trip to Silicon Valley. Everybody was talking to everybody, pitching their ideas, challenging the others’ business concepts, exchanging freshly printed business cards and drinking beer. We got to know a Latvian startup called SunyRide, who we ended up bumping into during our stay in Finland, but more of that later.

Also, many of the startups, that had not qualified to the final event were at the bar, however mostly the Finnish teams.

Thursday
The Arctic15 event was hosted by ArcticStartup and located at a conference center just outside of Helsinki downtown. We were 15 startups from the area (Scandinavia, Baltic countries etc.) and everybody would have 10 minutes on stage, in order to convince the four-member jury that they were the most potential startup of the year.

On stage at Arctic15

Pitching on stage at Arctic15

The startups were divided into three batches, which were spread across the event program. Graduateland was in the last batch, meaning that I had to pitch as one of the last. This of course resulted in a much longer period in which I could sit and go though my pitch in my head, however also a much longer period to be anxious. Thirdly, the time to be approached by interested investors was much shorter, as the event finished shortly after the Graduateland presentation.

Anyways, there were some cool businesses on stage, many that seemed that they had potential to become big. However, I found it difficult to concentrate as I was focusing on what I was going to say myself. Of all the pitches there was only one female on stage… where are all the girls? Maybe they are spending their time at university, because it doesn’t seem as if they are out establishing businesses.

As with any tech conference, you need keynote speakers, and Arctic15 was not short of these. We heard the co-founder of Reddit and Hipmunk, Steve Huffman, Felix Smith from Getamen.com, Jens Begeman from wooga.com, Patric Blixt of Rebtel, Richard White of Uservoice.com and others.

The jury’s choice was the Swedish startup, Mancx. Congrats, guys. I hope your vision of paid knowledge sharing pans out.

Throughout the conference people had the option of voting for their favourite startup. Interestingly, many votes were cast much before the startups had even been on stage, our own included. Insane Facebook sharing will forever ruin online votes.
This was the prize we won – The Audience Price – along with €5.000 in adverting on ArcticStartup’s website. Looking forward to come up with a strategy of how to execute it.

The winners were announced at an event in Helsinki later that night, once again while business cards and drink tickets were flying through the air.

The SunyRide team - Kristaps & Sandis, with Filip in the middle

Friday
Last day in Helsinki, and second day in a row where we had to get up way too early, considering our ‘socializing’ the previous night. Off to meet some investors, who had shown interest in our company. However, it turned out to be pretty lame, as the investors didn’t even know what we did, and had just signed up to meet the odd money-hungry startups, that they could act superior to. I don’t have high expectations of what these meeting will lead to.

We met the guys from SunyRide again, and they had apparently participated in a Finnish incubator in the Espoo area during the summer, so they knew the area, and we keen to show us around, and introduce us to the entrepreneurial society. We met with the people at Aalto Ventures Garage, the Aalto University’s incubator program, which seems very cool.

The SunyRide boys also introduced us to a startup, they had met during their stay in June. They were building an iPad based information engine that provides information based on your preferences and on your network. We got a quick demonstration of the product, which will be launched sometime in the future. Keep an eye on Futureful.

Afterwards, straight to the airport, home, out for drinks.

 
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Posted by on 25 September, 2011 in Entrepreneurship

 

Start a business – 15 ECTS

We just had an election, which resulted in a new government. This new combination of political parties has a more left-oriented way of managing the organisation called Denmark, and it becomes interesting to see how this circus turns out.

Since Denmark has surpassed the magical 50% of voters, who are not part of the working force, too much of the political debate revolved around care taking of elders and the weak. Which ever party that could satisfy the needs of these large demographic segments would obviously win the election.

Another important topic was economic growth. Everybody had plans, but all on macro level – speed up public investements, work more, pay more taxes, sell you houses etc. Only Liberal Alliance tried to concretise the tools, with which we can encouraging people to start up businesses. Businesses that subsequently pay taxes (in this way contributing to the public sector), hire people (thus decreasing unemployment), and export products and services (thus improving our balance of payments).

Anyway, encouraging startups is also the goal of the organisation, Gate to Create. All Danish universities have their own student run organisation, which try to strengthen the local entrepreneurial environment, and Gate to Create is the umbralla organisation on top. I am currently, writing some blog posts for these guys (obviously it’s called PR Manager on my LinkedIn profile), and we just published the first post.

I write about how universities solely prepare students for a career in corporate life. When you go one of the recurring career events, only the huge MNC’s have booths, thus the perception is that your career opportunities are limited down these corporate paths. Where are the booths with the small startups? They are too busy working, and don’t have time to fill you with bullshit and m&m’s. Read the blog here (it’s in Danish, though).

I argue that the introduction of the option of starting your own business is something that should be more integrated in higher education and the university environment on a more holistic level – especially in a business school! This is one very concrete proposition, which guarenteed will create economic growth in the future. But as long as there are so many people, who claim the right to be nursed by the state, we spend all money, time and energy on tending to the symptoms, and neglect curing the root of the decease.

A friend of mine studies at Roskilde University (RUC), and just won some innovation award, as well as a substantial money prize. However, he later admitted that he was the only one who’d entered the competition. Aparently there’s not much innovation out there. Even though, congratulations Malthe!

 
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Posted by on 17 September, 2011 in Education, Entrepreneurship

 
 
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