Commercialization as a science

When you’re working with researchers and/or developers, it can be super easy to completely focus on the research, the science and the product it is all (potentially) leading towards and the inherent value herein. And that nothing else matters to your future success.

But that is a flawed assumption. Cool technology doesn’t cut it on its own. It needs a complete ecosystem around it to have any chance of succeeding.

Developing such an ecosystem is super tough. There are many moving parts that changes all the time. And when you account for the human factor, change of opinions, irrational decision making etc, it becomes extremely complicated very quickly.

Navigating and succeeding in that maze outside the lab is a science in itself. And it should be dealt with, rewarded and appreciated in just the same way as we have the deepest respect for those working behind the scenes to develop the technology.

It takes two to tango. It takes tech and commercial acumen to succeed.

One cannot exceed without the other. And vice versa.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Startup-life as football fan

People who know me well also know that for the past close to 30 years, I have nurtured a deep passion for Blackburn Rovers Football Club. (Heck, this season our Danish supporters club even have a first team player sponsorship between us).

From a distance I have witnessed ups and downs (and lets face it; the last 10 years have been most on the downslope), and I have felt both the joy and the pain of being so much into something you just passionately want to end up well.

When I think of it, I think that a lot of what you experience on the emotional side as a passionate fan is similar to the emotions you go through when trying to build and be successful with a startup;

A few times the team will be firing on all cylinders, dominate the opposition and score a plethora of goals to the extend that you almost get tired of winning.

Sometimes the team will be playing really well but be unable to get the ball across the line for a goal. Super frustrating times and instead of feeling you at least got a draw and a point, you will rue the two points lost from the win that was not to be.

Sometimes your team plays well for 88 minutes, commits a really howler – or the goalkeeper forgets he can use his hands – and you will loose at the death of the game.

Sometimes you will just get run over by a superior side, and the most important job is how to put it behind you and move ahead with confidence to the next game and the next opportunity.

And sometimes you will be able to pull off the upset of the season, but superior opposition – and have absolutely no idea how you did it but still delight from your triumph.

But most of the times the team will be in there battling back and forth over 90 minutes plus added time, feeling on top in some periods of the game and hugely under pressure during others. And the scoreline most likely won’t reflect the amount of effort put into achieving whatever boring result, you end up with.

But there’s still passion, energy and tenacity to get it right and ultimately win. And you never, ever lose hope that your team will prevail in the end.

(Photo: Blackburn Rovers Football Club)

The problem with OKR

I love OKR’s as a concept. And God knows I have been trying time and time again to make them and associated tracking apps and services work for me and my team.

But alas; I have failed every single time.

It is not that setting up OKRs is super hard; everybody can define and objective and a set of results to get to the objective. But sticking with it and having the discipline to work with it? That’s a whole different ball game.

For a startup context I think one of the reasons for this is that startup life is inherently messy; while you may have objectives, goals and other variations of KPIs (you should always have some of these) the journey towards them are never linear.

In practical terms what this means is that while you were addament you had it right, when you set your goals, they rarely survive when you fast forward to a future date. In fact, everything at this point in time might look substantially different.

I am fully aware that with OKR it is entirely possible to define your time periods, number of OKRs etc entirely as you wish. But if you’re changing them every other day what’s the point of having them to track against in the first place?

What I have found to work better is to have some pretty non-negotiable KPIs that are pretty specific but at the same time broad to enable all sorts of paths and journeys leading up to them.

1-2 on a six months basis is enough, I would argue. Especially at a super early stage, where having too many objectives will most likely only result in a lack of focus.

Agree on those and agree on providing a weekly or bi-weekly short status mail where you mention the points, the most important developments since last time, your confidence and actions until next update, and you’re set.

Forget everything else.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Circle kind of complete

One of the things, others can never take away from you is your past experience(s).

They are completely yours. Yours to cherish. Yours to curse. Yours to learn from. Yours to channel into something new.

I have often wondered why things happen. Why do you meet the people, you do? Why do you get the job offers you do? Why do you end up with the career, you do? Is it all part of a plan or does it just happen.

I am mostly in the latter camp. There is no connection between what I imagined myself doing 25 years ago and what I ended up doing and the places I went to work.

Until now.

Because as I am working hard to build a strong set of foundations for our new medtech startup, some of my past experiences are coming back into play. Experiences I didn’t know what I could use for back then, but where it has become blatantly obvious, how I can bring them to bear now.

I am not a big believer in anything except what I can see, hear, feel, taste and smell. But to the extend there is something more out there, I am enclined to say that right about now it is starting to dawn on me, why I did the things I did during my career;

Why I spent time working for the Danish Diabetes Foundation as my very first job fresh out of journalism school.

Why I spent time doing licensing and R&D deals for Microsoft Business Solutions.

Why I spent time in business management at Microsoft.

Why I spent a lot of time doing recruiting and getting both the team, roles and culture right at Berlingske Digital.

And so on. And so on.

The only thing I knew 25 years back – and before – was that one day I wanted to try to create something new that could benefit a lot of people.

Fast forward to today, and I am trying to follow up on that passion using the wealth of experiences, I gained over the years. I wouldn’t say the circle is being completed, but it sort of feels like that.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The real drivers for success

One of the general misconceptions about startups is that too much value is being placed on the idea itself or the work you have already done, and not enough value is placed on what’s needed in order to get to where you want to be with your company in the future.

It is so easy to scoff at a product vision, but the reality of the matter is that when you define a bold and daring vision for your new venture, it becomes more apparent all the things you need to get in place in order to have any chance of getting there.

Let me mention a couple;

In-depth knowledge about the market, market dynamics and the customers, you’re addressing so you know what’s needed from the product(s) in order to get in front of the right future customers and actually convert into sales.

The talent needed to make things happen, so you make sure you have all the right competencies in place, which – if they are just remotely good at what they do – will have plenty of other options on the table than to join your merry crew.

The money needed to make the vision come through and fuel both the roadmap and the growth you have envisaged in order to get to the position, you want to get in.

And these are just to name a few.

The easy thing to do here is to just not care about these things, save them for later – and run into big, big trouble later on.

That happens;

When you build something nobody wants or there is just not a big enough market for. It remains the primary reason startups fail.

You cannot attract the talent you need because they have all chosen to join the other companies where they have a better feeling of what they are aspiring to do and they’re moving more diligently in the right direction.

Investors will turn their backs on you because your basically not fundable for above reasons or for something else.

See the connection here?

The best decision, you can make, is to focus less on past achievements and more on what is needed – not from you yourself necessarily but from everybody else – in order to get to where you want to be in a few years time. And then work towards ensuring that can actually happen.

That is going to make all the difference to your success.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Always be pitching

When you’re trying to get a startup off the ground, one of the things you spend most time on is…

Pitching.

Of course you pitch for investment or just any sort of backing really, because you need the support and all the ressources, you can muster, for the journey ahead.

But the pitching doesn’t stop there;

You pitch to future team members trying to get them onboard with the mission, generate excitement and – hopefully – install the love of the problem, you yourself feel, and which you just know is the secret sauce that will be key to (a) getting them onboard and (b) getting them to give it their all.

You pitch to existing team members and collaborators all across the pitch as you try to keep hold of and build the coalition, you have worked so hard to create, out (because no, any chance of success is not just about you – it is always about the team), so that in turn can crank out some impressive results.

You pitch to your backers to keep them engaged, excited and confident that they made the right decision when they decided to support whatever it is that you’re trying to do.

You pitch when you sit in meetings with your team discussing what the next experiment should look like, how it should look, feel and perform, because you’re most often the direct link back to your customers and their needs, pains and gains.

And of course – and perhaps most importantly – you pitch to existing and future customers; you go about trying to understand how you can help them become better off, and you pitch different proposals for solutions to them until you find the one that resonates the most. And then build from there. And pitch again. That job NEVER ends. And shouldn’t.

But pitching is hard work, no matter the context. So not being afraid to pitch helps. And being a good communicator does, too.

So if you think you lack something in the communication department, maybe that’s where you should be looking to invest some time and perhaps a little money in your own personal and professional development.

My best bet is that it will be worth it.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Success-in-progress

I have a fondness for paradoxes. I find them interesting, intriguing and sometimes even amusing.

One of the paradoxes is the one about working agile and lean while at the same time lamenting the lack of progress.

Why is it that we often judge something that is work-in-progress as a failure because it’s not the finished article yet? It is a great disconnect.

What we could be discussing instead is success-in-progress; assume that we’re on our way to something great and that every step that moves us one step closer towards that goal is a success worth celebrating.

It would be so much more productive.

The trouble with work-in-progress is the same as the difference between people who see things black or white and those of us who enjoy the nuances; it is super hard to agree whether something is good or bad – for one everything will (most likely) look like a disaster where to the other one it’s a step towards something better but nevertheless a step.

The good thing about discussing success-in-progress rather than work-in-progress is that the extra positive connotation to it brings more energy into the endeavour; it enable those who are working to finally get there – to the Promised Land – to feed on the excitement of their surroundings rather than murmours and complaints.

Because after all: What brings us closer to where we all want to be? Positive spurring on or complaints or just plain indifference?

Is it even a question?

Hattip: Paul Graham

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

A happy note

Yesterday, a long time acquintance sent me a direct Twitter-message that made me really happy.

In it he basically stated that it was great to observe from the sidelines the new things, I am involved in, and that to him it looked like, I had found a much better place for myself than was the case, when I was in the media industry.

Apart from agreeing 100 percent with his observation, what made me happy about it?

Basically that I am now doing what I love doing (and was perhaps meant to do all along?) in a way that is transparent and authentic to such an extend that it’s noticeable to the outside world. Not just from me telling about it but from the reflections of people-

It’s not that that is a goal in itself for me. It just reinforces my belief that I am on the right track and adds to my determination to carry on and keep pushing.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)