Political bets

Sometimes it can be a huge temptation for a startup to bet the whole shop on a political agenda. Fighting climate change is perhaps the best example.

Without arguing the importance of that particular cause – it’s probably the most important one, we face – the pitfalls of betting on political agendas, mission statements and policies are exactly the same as what make them so tempting;

While they can be set into law and put into effect, they can just as easily be taken away again.

All it requires is a new law.

I am not suggesting that you should never bet on something where the political agenda and policies are strong. Just that you should be aware of the risks associated and have a contingency plan.

Rest assured: You should have time to develop one if you don’t have one. The wheels of government doesn’t turn that quickly.

But again: Don’t bet everything on a political bet.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Way to go, CluedIn!

When something amazing happens to great people, you have some sort of history with, you really should take the time to single it out for special mention and celebration.

It’s such a day today for the great people at CluedIn, a pioneering master data management platform out of Copenhagen, who just announced that they have raised a whopping 15M USD in their Series A round.

In doing that the team has come a long way from the very first time, I met them. After having been introduced to them at a Keystones event, I met with two of the founders, Tim and Martin. I wanted to meet them because I had the impression that this was going to be a ‘boom or bust’ case;

Either they would hit it out of the park. Or they would go down in flames. There was no in-between.

From the first meeting in the attic at the outskirts of Østerbro in Copenhagen, it was apparent to me that they would hit it out of the park. Not only were they great people with a very cool sense of humor that you just loved hanging out and working with They were also – and are – brilliant engineers with a crystal clear idea of what they were looking to do. And why.

Over a couple of months I helped them a tiny bit getting setup and started, and then I had to pursue other things. But Tim and co persisted in their relentless fashion being driven by their mission and spurred on by their determination. They got a bunch of great early backers, added to the team, got their first customers and the rest – as they say – is history.

Which of course isn’t at all fair to the lots, lots and lots of hard work that has gone into, where they are today.

Which is also why every huge CONGRATS that goes the way of these guys is so richly deserved.

Huge, HUGE CONGRATS, Team CluedIn!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Make a choice

You and your company can’t be all things to all people. You need to choose.

That’s always the first thought that strikes, when I hear of someone looking to build a multi-purpose product for a potentially big market;

Jack of all trades, master of none.

My rationale is that when you’re going for several and quite different use cases all at once, it becomes increasingly hard to communicate to your customers, why you’re exceptionally good at serving exactly their needs and get them to spend the cash on your product or service.

Chances are there will always by a small number of focused pure players who do a better job at solving the customers problem than you do with your ’80 % fixed’ approach (which is in essence what you communicate when you say “We can do all of this” instead of “We just do this”).

The argument can be a bit counter intuitive, I know. Because many will think that with more use cases come more opportunity to make an impact and be successful – not less. Alas, the devil is in the detail as hinted at above.

The contrast to the ‘one size fits all’ approach is to look at where the biggest addressable, focused market is – and then go after that big time. Yes, you will be doing one thing (you get my point, I am sure), but you will be focused, and the opportunity will be there to serve customers who are not seeing “A bit of this, a bit of that” as the solution to their specific problem(s).

Agree?

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Records or music?

“Are you in the records industry or the music business?”

Maybe it seems like a banal question, because the two at face value sound like one and the same.

But they aren’t.

The latter is about the value proposition. The former is about the mode of delivery.

The key thing to consider, when you’re looking to deliver value to customers, is your key value proposition. The music so to say.

You then deliver that through whatever channel is best suited – for your customers. That means that you never ever get stuck in an insistence that you deliver it in a certain way, take it or leave it.

In other words: You don’t insist on delivering a record, if what the customer wants is the single delivered through a different channel, medium or packaging. You just do whatever the customer says and what fits into the customers habits and lifestyle. Period.

Sadly, a lot of legacy companies insist on being in the records industry rather than in the music business. They do so at their own peril. And they are – and will be – paying a price for it.

Don’t be like that.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Taking stock

Quite often I find that what I set out to do is not the same as what I end up doing.

And I believe I see that happen a lot at startups too.

The explanation is pretty straight forward: There is NEVER a straight line between the original idea and what you end up bringing to market. Something ALWAYS happens that sends you on a small detour. Maybe not a big one, but it’s there.

The problem then arises if you still think you’re doing what you originally set out to do, but in reality, you aren’t. Then its time to take stock and update your view on the world.

Look yourself in the mirror and be frank and honest about what you see. Don’t tell yourself any lies – big or small, black or white – but stay true and real to what is actually there.

That will give you the best vantage point for plotting the continued journey.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Doing your homework

What does it mean for a business, a startup or you to ‘do your homework’?

Does it mean being out there, staying curious about the problem you’re looking to solve trying to figure out what potential avenues towards solving it might be.

Does it mean diving into existing research to be able to say and tell others that you know what is already out there, and that is what you’re building from?

I am not really sure, although I do think the latter resembles more of an exam, where – let’s face it – the only objective is to pass in more or less flying colors and then move on.

The problem with homework is much the same as with communication: The effectiveness and value of it often rests not with the creator but the receiver.

Thus, is the receiver has a misconception of what doing your homework really is, you run the risk of putting in the wrong sort of work for the job while still being able to claim that you have essentially done nothing wrong.

See the problem? Or paradox, even.

The sense of having done your homework needs to rest deeply within you. You need to have a feel for what you need to know, what you need to challenge and the questions you need to ask to get the answers you need.

When you have that, you can think of yourself as having done the homework. But not before.

Homework is an extension of determination. If you’re determined to get something done, succeed with a pitch or with a business or anything else you put your mind towards, you will make damn sure you do your homework. And it will be yours to define and own. Also the results.

Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

You need mutual respect

Over the past year I have been spending a lot of time trying to understand how to help researchers at universities bring great research into market through spinouts. And I wanted to share my experiences in a series of posts.

The first post on ownership structure is here, and this is going to be about the founder team and an important cornerstone in making a team gel:

Mutual respect for what each member brings to the table.

In my mind great founder teams have never been about sharing the same background, friendships from school, hobbies or the like. For me great founder teams have always been about getting a team together with a shared passion for solving a big problem and a skillset and experience that compliments rather than overlaps.

I have always held this belief also when I worked at corporates hiring new team members; get people in that are better at what they are going to help out with than me or anyone else already in the team and provide them with the room and mandate to maneuver.

In many respects it was about filling out the blanks based on what the business needed to succeed. It was about looking at what it would take to succeed with the mission.

The same principle should be applied to founder teams of researchers from universities. No questions about it.

Most often researchers will be brilliant at what they do. Essentially thats why they are researchers employed at universities. It also implies that there are other things they are not equally good at, and for many understanding and building a business outside the walls of university campus is one of the things they are not particular skilled at.

So they need help. Preferably they need outside help from people who knows and have tried (and perhaps even also failed) to build a business, and who in turn know next to nothing about researching. Again, very little overlap – mostly complimentary.

In most cases researchers will understand and accept this, but there is one potential problem; creating a team culture, where there is mutual respect for all necessary contributions to succeed.

It is not uncommon to meet researchers who have spent years on their research, and who naturally place a huge, indispensable value on this. Sometimes these same people can have a very hard time placing the same kind of value on a new member of the founding team, who will essentially be looking after the business side of things and ensure that the spinout actually has legs on the other side of the university wall.

This creates friction and the potential for an A and a B team inside a very small team to start with. And this is poisonous.

And not only that. It is also flat wrong:

Even though researching is hard and coming up with breakthrough innovations is super hard, making it work in the real world afterwards is perhaps even harder. Because while a great researcher might apply his knowledge and experience extensively in the lab and be really focused and use all the time needed, a lot of the outcome of the research is somewhat within the control sphere of the researcher. A lot of it basically comes down to the individual.

The same can not be said about making it work in the real world. Not only do you need skilled people with lots of experience. There are also endless moving parts outside the university walls that it can often be hard to predict and that you need to navigate in order to stay afloat, let alone succeed.

In essence it is a moving target, where everything changes in an instant, and you need to adapt to that. It is a whole different level of uncertainty and anxiety, which it takes great skill – and often also lots of luck – to navigate successfully.

Getting the business side right is a navy seal skill. Almost literally. And given that it makes absolutely no sense inside a team to run the risk of elevating someone at the expense of someone else. It creates friction, will ultimately make the person being degraded leave and the spinout tank before it can live up to any of its original promise.

The good thing about all the above is that there is a really simple fix:

Mutual respect.

The realization that in order to everybody succeed, everybody needs to feel valued and appreciated as key players in the onwards journey.

If you don’t truly feel like that in the spinout, you’re working to create, stop and fix it immediately. Or drop the spinout completely.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The (continued) case for higher ed

The only problem with colleges and universities is that they have become profit machines essentially barring students of limited means from attending.

The core of what colleges and universities do have probably never been more important.

I fully understand that there is a lot of talk about certification for specific skills being the future of higher education. But let’s just start with agreeing that one of the main reasons for that is what i mention in the first sentence:

The old model has become too expensive. It’s not broken per se. It’s just too damn expensive for most people.

So what’s good about college and (to some extend) university? Essentially what many people claim is bad (apart from the costs):

Generalization.

There is a lot of chatter that generalists are on their way out because specialists are all we need.

I think it’s a mix.

Yes, we need specialists. More so than ever. If for nothing else due to the sheer complexity of many specialities.

But we also need these specialties to be built upon a solid foundation; a more generalist approach and experience that serves as a guidance for how the specialty comes to fruition on a more practical level.

Being a generalist is a big part of how we are equipped to think, decide and act in various situations. Cutting that away generally leaves us with a hammer without necessarily understanding how to identify and pin point the right nail.

It makes us smaller contributors, not bigger.

Thus we’re back at the outset and the real problem:

The solution to the higher education problem is not discarding education and replace it with certification alone. It is making sure that higher education is accessible to talent, so that we can reap the rewards. Both as individuals and as society.

Higher education profit maximization is essentially choosing short term optimization at the expense of longer term profit for all.

It’s actually pretty stupid, when you think about it.

Via Futurist Speaker

(Photo: Pixabay.com)