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Telling Stories

Where will you be 4YFN (4 Years From Now)?

Recently, I was talking with Aline Noizet about this year’s must-attend events and top of her list was 4YFN. 4YFN (4 Years From Now) is the innovation platform of MWC, enabling startups, investors, corporations and public institutions to discover, create and launch new ventures together.

So of course, we caught up with Pere Duran, 4YFN Event Series Director to get the inside scoop on next month’s conference.

BARCELONA, 25-27 FEBRUARY 2019

4YFN Barcelona

European Innovation Calendar | European Accelerator Deadlines | European Digital Health Conferences

4YFN has been around for more than 4 years, What has changed since you started?

This is the 6th edition of 4YFN and this year will be our biggest and best show. Having started with just 2,300 delegates in 2014, we are now expecting to welcome more than 21,000 international attendees and more than 700 exhibitors this year! This is going to be the most international edition ever with attendees from 136 countries and startups from around the world, with a big representation of Asian and African startups.

This year we have also focused even more on the startups. We have built a lot of activities and one-to-one meetings around them. One-to-one meetings with corporates, investors, other startups, communities, and press help these companies commercialize their products, raise funds and shine. This process also helps the key attendees to easily discover the startups shaping the future.

Where do you see the event in 4YFN?

We are moving far beyond the flagship Barcelona event and establishing our presence in LA, Shanghai, and LATAM and we hope to add even more locations to the list. More than that, we are a year-round builder of the startup ecosystem and are branching out more into creativity and design.

What highlights can we expect this year?

As always, startups, startups, startups. We are a champion for innovators and they form the heart of everything that we do. This year we have also introduced the Corporate Innovation Area where major corporations can showcase their innovation programs and we now have a Talent Area where people can find new opportunities and employers can find new talent. For me, this year I am really excited about our speaker programme too. Magic Leap, Alibaba, Facebook, N26 – we are featuring the biggest startup successes around to challenge and excite our startup community.

What can you say about the Healthcare track? 

The Digital Health Summit co-organized with ECH Alliance is such an important part of what we are offering. Technologies like robotics and blockchain steal a lot of attention, but nothing is more important than health. It’s amazing that even the most marginal improvements in public health have the most far-reaching consequences for society. It’s for that reason that we are extremely proud to support healthcare technology, through our health-minded startups and with the Digital Health Summit.

How does 4YFN support Women in Tech?

We host an entire programme dedicated just to Women4Tech. This is an initiative that spans both MWC and 4YFN and we are committed to driving greater inclusion and diversity in technology from all walks of life. Women are under-represented in the technology community and we want to change that, not just for the benefit of meeting quotas but for the benefits delivered by real diversity! Check out our Female Founders panel on 25 February for an insight into the women changing the world, or the Women4Tech programme on 26 Feb across the agenda.

What advice would you offer a startup pitching?

Passion, energy, relatability, and SCALABILITY. You have such a short amount of time to capture the attention of investors and corporates – you have to enrapture them with your passion and energy. People like to connect with other humans, so being relatable helps a lot – that means bringing a sense of honesty and realness. That might hook them in, to begin with, but what investors are really looking for is scalability. You might catch their attention with some charisma, but you will only hook them with a real opportunity for growth.

What can investors expect?

Investors can mainly expect to find seed and Series A fund stage business opportunities that are just starting to hit the open market. These are companies that are in their initial growth stages looking for that chance to take their business to the next level. There are more than 700 exhibitors this year which means there are at least 700 live investment opportunities and, with some luck, a few unicorns in the rough!

How important is an EU wide tech community?

We bring startups from all over the world to Barcelona, from every continent. But being a big tech event in Europe, of course, we attract a huge number of startups from across the region. For us, it is hugely important because it is the community in which we (mainly) exist. We host pitch battles across European cities to find the best startups and bring them to Barcelona. We benefit from the attendance of European initiatives like Next Generation Internet and more. The EU ecosystem is one of the most robust in the world and we are very lucky to call it home!

What other events are you attending in 2019?

That’s easy. We will be going to 4YFN Shanghai on 26-28 June and 4YFN LA on 22-24 October!

What’s the best thing about a conference in Barcelona?

There are a few things. Firstly, Barcelona is the greatest city in the world! (I’m from Barcelona.) But seriously, Barcelona is the kind of place people want to come to, so it makes it an easy decision for attendees or exhibitors who might have second thoughts. But secondly, we have an amazing ecosystem in Barcelona that is more and more international. We have so many great startups here like Wallapop, Travelperk, Socialpoint, and Redpoints to mention a few and many, many tech companies moving operations here too.

Where will you be 4YFN (4 Years From Now)?

Venture Profiles – Antonino Saccà, Milan

Next week we will be in Berlin for Tech Invest Europe. To get ready, we had a chance to sit down with Antonino Saccà, CEO of Milan’s Hephaestus Venture.

Hephaestus Ventures is a private equity fund supporting the growth of Corporate Venture Capital through the creation of an accelerator in Milan called HV Labs to support the creation of new products and services and the expansion abroad of Italian Companies towards Brazil, United States,China, South Africa, Russia and India, United Kingdom and Germany. We support Senior Managers in their process of Digital Transformation to create Spin-Off of the projects of Open Innovation of the Corporates from which they come from in these verticals: FinTech, Energy, Smart Mobility, Digital Health.

What did you work on in 2018?

I did scouting of startups and Investors.

What emerging technologies do you find exciting?

The ones which have clients that can generate revenues for a startup.

How did you get involved in Venture Capital?

I worked for many years for AdTech startups Venture-backed since 2010.

Why should an investor attend Tech Invest?

To do Networking and scouting of startups.

What is the best way for a start-up to meet a VC?

Pick up the phone and call the VC to ask for a meeting (on Google search they can find all Investors they want). Otherwise, events are still the best option to do networking.

What advice would you offer start-ups?

None since they must pay me to ask for real advice or support.

If you could change one thing in pitching, what would it be?

The guy who is pitching, we don’t look at slides, we listen to what he wants.

What do you think is the most over-hyped technology?

The ones which DO NOT generate revenues. Not existing clients yet.

How important is an EU wide investment community?

Very important, if we stay united we all win.

What are you focused on in 2019?

Foreign Direct Investments in Startups like my next speech in Milan next 12th March at Tech Invest Europe:

Venture Profiles – Antonino Saccà, Milan

Startup Tech Events Europe Feb 2019

Startup System EU  offers this European Innovation Conference calendar as a resource to help make connections between startups, investors and innovators.

Our goal is to bring together startups and innovation professionals to learn about cutting-edge innovations and foster dynamic conversation addressing how technology is transforming Europe.

JAN-MAR | APR-JUN | JUL-SEP | OCT-DEC

European Innovation Calendar | European Accelerator Deadlines | European Digital Health Conferences

Feel free to email updates, corrections or add conference dates.

  • ISPO Munich 2019 – The largest trade fair for sports business more than 2,800 exhibitors will be presenting their latest sports products from segments such as Snowsports, Outdoor, Health & Fitness, Urban and Teamsports at the Messe München exhibition grounds. Look forward to four days full of impulses and rich contacts. Munich, Germany; Feb 3-6, 2019
  • HRD Summit – the most senior gathering of HR Directors on the globe. The 2019 Summit will welcome over 1,000 attendees, over 150 speakers across 8 content streams, over 80 Exhibitors, over 250 Match Meetings and 11+ hours of networking spread across 2 days. Birmingham, UK; Feb 5, 2019
  • ICE Totally Gaming 2019 – ICE London is the only B2B gaming event that truly brings together the international online and offline gaming sectors. London, UK; Feb 5-7, 2019
  • London Affiliate Conference 2019 –  the world’s largest dedicated iGaming affiliate exhibition and conference, London, UK; Feb 6-9, 2019
  • Digital Relaunch Konferenz – Experten-Wissen für eine erfolgreiche Digitalisierung. Bei der Digital:Relaunch dreht sich alles um praxisorientierte Lösungen und Best Cases rund um die Digitale Transformation von Leadership, Arbeitsplatz, Business und Marketing. Tauschen Sie sich mit Experten und anderen Besuchern aus und genießen Sie die After-Show-Party. Berlin, Germany; Feb 11-12, 2019
  • Tech Invest Berlin – Meet leading and influential European investors in a high-end like environment and pitch on stage: following the format that has made the success of startups pitches: only 4 minutes per pitch, and 15 minutes per keynotes, one to one meetings, networking sessions, awards ceremony. Berlin, Germany; Feb 12, 2019
  • MOVE: Mobility Re-imagined – The world’s most important mobility event, where disruptive technology and innovation drive the future of urban transport. MOVE will bring together disruptors, their technology and their attitude with stakeholders across all modes and disciplines: to dialogue, to create insight and to promote collaboration. We guarantee to be more expansive and multi-disciplined than any other event on the planet. #MOVE2019 London, UK; Feb 12-13, 2019
  • France Tech Transfer Invest 2019 – Tech Tour together with SATT (France’s tech transfer acceleration offices), BPI and EuroQuity are pleased to announce the third edition of  France Tech Transfer Invest (FTTI), an event that aims to stimulate investment into French tech transfer spin-offs. Paris, France; Feb 13-14, 2019
  • Learning Technologies UK 2019 – Europe’s leading showcase of organizational learning and the technology used to support learning at work. With more than 8,500 visitors, 150 free L&D seminars, over 200 exhibitors, an exhibition hall packed with the latest learning technologies, innovation and best practice and the industry’s leading L&D conference, it provides a unique and exciting environment for all those involved in workplace learning. London, UK; Feb 13-14, 2019
  • World Congress of Angel Investors WBAF 2019 – An affiliated partner of the G20 Global Partnership of Financial Inclusion (GPFI), the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) promotes angel investment as an innovative financial inclusion tool at the global level. At the G20 meetings in Riyadh, it was announced that WBAF 2019 is now an affiliated congress of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI). Istanbul, Turkey; Feb 17-19, 2019
  • WeTech Berlin 2019 – The conference will include a series of unique encounters and discussions on topics focusing on innovation & tech, business ties between Germany and Israel, investment opportunities and more. During the conference, we shall examine how tech and innovation manifest in an array of fields, from cyber and industrial manufacturing to finance and automotive. Berlin, Germany; Feb 18-19, 2019
  • SingularityU Spain Summit 2019 – We empower a global community with the mindset, skillset, and network. For the first time in Madrid, the cutting-edge SingularityU Spain Summit brings you the future of the world, the Silicon Valley state of the art technologies and next to come. Fasten your belts!!! Madrid, Spain; Feb 20-21, 2019
  • The User Experience Design Conference – bringing designers, developers, business stakeholders, researchers, and marketing specialists together. The theme of the conference is designers and marketing, helping businesses grow. We’ve invited amazing speakers from Conde Nast, Booking.com, Monzo, Canonical, Ocado, ThomasCook, Which?, Virgin Atlantic and others. London, UK; Feb 21, 2019
  • Startup World Cup Baltic Series – Startup World Cup is a series of startup conferences and competitions in 13 countries, hunting for the next emerging unicorn to award US $1,000,000. Riga, Lativa; Feb 21-22, 2019
  • TechChill – Having grown from a small grassroots movement of like-minded tech enthusiasts, TechChill celebrates the best of the Baltic startup community by annually bringing together 2000+ attendees, including the fastest growing startups, most innovative corporations, investors active in the region and talented tech enthusiasts. TechChill is organized by a non-profit foundation of the same name, empowering the Baltic startup ecosystem throughout the year. This year is no exception – the two-day agenda at TechChill 2019 will feature 70+ speakers and 20+ side events, as well as some legendary afterparties. Riga, Lativa; Feb 21-22, 2019
  • Xside – a creative hub of excellence that celebrates the ideas, skills, and people that are leading future change. A groundbreaking gathering where converging communities unite. Barcelona, Spain; Feb 24-27, 2020
  • 4YFN 2019 – Over three days, 4YFN will showcase the latest tech startup innovations from around the world. Featuring curated content, startup pitches, competitions, and dedicated networking sessions. The event is tailor-made to connect the international startup community, investors, talent and corporations. Barcelona, Spain; Feb 25-27, 2019
  • Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019 – The GSMA Mobile World Congress is the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, incorporating a thought-leadership conference. Barcelona, Spain; Feb 25-28, 2019
  • SuperReturn International – The world’s largest private equity and venture capital event. 2,500+ attendees. 700+ LPs. 1,100+ GPs. 400+ speakers. Unlimited possibilities. Private equity and venture capital conference determining strategies for successful fundraising, value creation, exits and maximizing returns in a new decade of private equity. Berlin, Germany; Feb 26 – Mar 1, 2019
  • LONDON TECH JOB FAIR SPRING 2019 – a chance for job seekers to talk to companies that are hiring in person. If you’ve had enough of submitting your CV online without the opportunity to make a lasting first impression, here’s your chance to change your strategy and do a bit of networking. London, UK; Feb 27, 2019

Startup Tech Events Europe Feb 2019

Do You Need a Business Plan?

Very early in my career, I sought advice from a seasoned business owner.

“Do I really need a written plan?” I asked impatiently, being inexperienced. He scoffed, “Why spend six months writing a plan? Go start a business NOW!”

That was great advice, exactly what I wanted to hear. So off I went, and despite myself, I was a modest success. But in hindsight, I now realize I could have been spectacular rather than modest.

Do You Need a Business Plan?

If you’re an organized sole-proprietor, I imagine you can do just fine without destroying half a forest to memorialize your every proprietary insight. However, if you plan to seek funding, hire employees or otherwise engage in activities to facilitate growth – you’ll find you really need someplace other than your head as a repository for your entrepreneurial vision.

The need for a formal business plan within small to medium enterprises (SMEs) is often the $64,000 question. If you’re seeking venture capital or other external financings, let’s calls it a $6.4 million pre-money consideration, because without a business plan you are not likely to get your hands on other people’s money.

A Written Business Plan Gives You a 90% Better Chance of Succeeding

Each year businesses of all types fail because the founding parties forgot to do the one thing that raises the probability of having business success exponentially; planning! Do you have enough capital to launch the business and survive until you reach breakeven?  When does breakeven occur?  How many things do you need to sell to achieve it?  What needs to get done and will it be done in-house or outsourced?  These are but a few questions addressed in a well thought out business plan, providing a roadmap for your success.

And while projections are guesstimates, at the very least crunching the numbers will give you a sense of what will it takes to make a viable, sustainable business.

Need Help – drop us a line

Do You Need a Business Plan?

When Outcomes Matter

Many of us launched our careers in the “Boom” years.  Talent was in short supply and advancing was a given for motivated individuals.  And then things changed.  Instead of worrying about keeping their top performers happy, companies focused on survival.  Now, there is hiring freezes, and thousands of over-qualified resumes swamp HR departments for any open position.

In this tough economic environment outcomes matter.  Today’s companies focus on the bottom line and expect their executives to bring their best to the table.  Add to this that business is facing changes it has never experienced before.  Navigating these turbulent waters is about leadership.

If you want to succeed, if you want to get ahead – you need to lead the change created by an ever-changing economic environment – outsourcing,  technological developments and the globalization of the marketplace are just a few of the many contributors.  You can adapt to those changes or you will be left behind.

Leadership is about coping with change. Part of the reason it has become so important in recent years is that the competitive landscape has become more aggressive and more volatile. If you want to succeed, if you want to get ahead – you need to lead the change to meet these new needs.

  • Change Leadership – It’s about vision. It’s about empowering people. Leaders recognize the opportunities in the marketplace and led by engaging their people to cultivate a culture of learning, adapting, and leading within their organizations.
  • Emotional Intelligence – As an executive, it is not enough to be smart or simply good at what you do.  As an executive, you need to use and manage your emotions to effectively get the best from your people.
  • Personal Effectiveness – is about establishing goals, identifying values and establishing priorities.

You can go down the change path alone or you can get help along the way.  That is where I come in.  An executive coach is your guide, your mentor.  We hold you accountable and we pick you up when you stumble.  We are in this together.

So, if you are ready to be a better leader, to take it to the next level. If you serious, I am here.

When Outcomes Matter

Embracing Change

Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end . . .
–Semisonic

Have you ever stayed at a job too long? Held onto a bad relationship with Mr. Wrong? We, humans, hate change and will even endure some pretty horrific things just to avoid change. And it’s not until you’ve undergone some major change, which you dreaded, that you begin to wonder what took you so long to change? Change doesn’t just happen – you have to have a purpose.

Visualize the Change

Thinking about change, then it is important to have a focus. Why are you looking to change? Many folks that I know that have embraced changes, such as quitting smoking, have done so with a purpose. My friend Margo quit because as she put it “I want to see my grandkids.” Another friend lost weight to fit into the wedding dress of her dreams. If you are working towards a new, healthier you, what is your goal?

Make a brief list of benefits the goal will achieve –

Examples:
• I’d have better health
• I’d have better self-esteem
• Clothes fit better
• I’d live longer
• I’d have more time with my kids

What’s stopping you?

Make a brief list of obstacles that would prevent you from achieving your goal 

Examples:
• I don’t have time to exercise
• I don’t have time to grocery shop for healthy food, take out is easier
• I am too stressed right now.

Now that you listed them, post them somewhere, so you don’t try to use them.

Develop an action plan

You’ve set your goal, now how do you get there? An action plan is a roadmap: it helps us turn our dreams into a reality.

1. Develop a plan – This is what I call “the what” exercise. What action needs to be taken? What resources will you need? What change needs to occur? What are your objectives? Be specific.
2. Reality Check – How does this solution improve your life? How much? How long – permanently or temporarily?
3. Will it work? – What is the probability of success? What are the risks? What happens if the plan fails?
4. Does it fit? Is the change consistent with your lifestyle, is it sustainable? If not, is it still viable?
5. Remember the Consequences – What are the intended consequences? What are some unintended possible consequences? What is the risk/reward outcome?
6. Think of Resources – What does the plan depend on in terms of time, support, equipment or emotional energy? What resources can you tap into?
7. Take it one day at a time – Very often we get overwhelmed when the task seems too big. Break it down into achievable bite sizes. What is your goal for today? That’s all you need to worry about.

Change is tough. Let’s not pretend otherwise. It’s against our nature. And most importantly – there are no magic pills, you won’t lose weight in your sleep and you won’t develop a six pack in less than three minutes a day! But you can make small sustainable choices that will improve your health.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
– Lao-tzu

Embracing Change

Startup Business Review

Startup Business Review – helps businesses to increase sales and find new investment. Using the Business Ecosystem Plan (BEP) methodology we can help you clearly define your stakeholder value propositions, business models and go to market strategies. The entire process can be achieved in as little as 9 weeks for a fixed price – and comes with 100% money back guarantee. Whether you are talking to customer, teams, or investors – the SER Team will help you with crystal clear communication.


Recently, we sat down with our good friend and SER Team Troy Norcross to discuss fund raising, Brexit and the European Startup Ecosystem.

How will Brexit impact the European Startup Scene (since London is such a big startup community)?

Brexit was a pretty big shock to the London startup scene. The initial feeling was that it would impact access to both talent and funding. As we are just now beginning the negotiations, there has not been a noticeable effect.So long as London is a financial center and a center for media, FinTech and AdTech start-ups will remain because of the access to customers. In my view, the big opportunity is for EU cities like Berlin to capitalize on the shift. Overall, I believe the European Startup Scene will benefit because there will be more capital and resources available to promising EU startups once the UK leaves the EU.

What’s the biggest challenge that European Startup Founders face?

A systemic aversion to risk. Investors don’t like risk. Customers don’t like risk. Potential employees don’t like risk. In order to succeed, startup founders must find the right way to either de-risk their business or to demonstrate their ability to mitigate risk. Investors want to see revenue and traction and a working business model. Customers want to see proven platforms and solutions that others have already proven that they work. Teams want to have confidence that the company won’t just go broke and lay everyone off tomorrow. As a founder, your biggest challenge is the fact that everyone is afraid of risk – and by default – start-ups are risky.

What’s the role of accelerators and incubators today and going forward?

There are over 300 accelerator and incubator programs in London. And they are dying. There are so many programs that it becomes harder and harder to fill a cohort with quality start-ups. My feeling is that we will see the accelerator and incubator programs of today fade away. There is another related trend that hints towards the future: Large corporates are shutting down their innovation programs. After 3 years of heavy investment in innovation teams and programs and agencies with little or no returns, big companies are shutting these programs down. The new-new thing is in-house incubators. More and more large corporates are engaging with startups in their sector looking for companies who will ultimately disrupt them. If a large corporate can spot an opportunity early enough they can either buy the start-up or they can change their organization to survive the disruption. Also, by putting individual team members of corporates alongside start-ups there exists an opportunity for cultural change on the company side and invaluable mentoring on the side of the startup. The future of incubators and accelerators is that they become programs within large corporates – and free standing accelerators go away.

What is the best team composition for a startup?

The minimum team for a startup is two co-founders: One commercial and one product/service. In the very early days, it is best to outsource as much of the development and design as you can (beyond what the 2 person team can do themselves). If you hire developers, designers and more too early there will come a time when they have nothing to do. The dev team stops while the marketing team engages and then the marketing team stops while the dev team catches up. It’s only when the product market fit has been validated and the cycle of build-test-learn becomes continuous that you should hire full-time extended teams. One other specific role that should be on your team is a “sector specialist”. If your main USP is the use of big data or AI/ML or genetic manipulation – then you really need to have a dedicated individual on the team to back up your ability to deliver.

What’s the number one problem startups have with their pitch decks?

There are so many problems that I see with pitch decks. The number one problem is that the startup doesn’t use a “Language of value” – Too often they talk about features and user experiences and they fail to successfully communicate the value their business brings to the market and how they extract value from users and customers. BTW – the 2nd biggest problem is that startups try to use the same pitch when speaking to customers and when speaking to investors.

What’s the most exciting startup that you’ve seen recently – and why?

Great question. Sceenic (http://sceenic.co/) is the most exciting startup that I’ve seen lately. The thing that makes me excited is that they are solving a real problem for broadcast television – they are capitalizing on social – they are engaging using video – and they are partnering in a way that gives them access to a large audience. Did I mention they have bootstrapped themselves to get to this point and have a pilot with a major UK broadcaster? The founder is a seasoned startup guy (with one startup under his belt) and knows how to make the company work. He has all the makings for a really good growing business and future exit.

Which market sectors are over-represented by start-ups?

In the UK it’s all about AdTech and FinTech – But I wouldn’t say that they are over-represented. The sectors that are over-represented are FoodDeliveryTech, EdTech and HR Tech. We just don’t need another food delivery platform. And EdTech and HRTech are interesting markets with real problems – and little or no budget. They are unlikely to be able to build US$100M businesses.

How is fundraising in EU different from raising funds in the US?

There are a couple of key ways: 1) The US investment community is all centrally located. This results in a lot of start-ups congregating where the money is. And the money then competes for the start-ups. It’s a vicious cycle that drives up valuations and interest. 2) US Companies are happier to invest in companies who can build an audience and focus on monetization later. EU investors want to see cash flow positive in 18 months and break-even in 36 months. This means that you have to focus on revenue from day 1. 3) In the EU a failed startup in your past is a kiss-of-death. In the US it (can be) a badge of honor. It’s all about a cultural difference between EU and US. The US rewards the one who tries – even if they fail. The EU rewards the few who succeed in spite of everything.

How can corporates best support the European Startup Ecosystem?

Corporates can support the ecosystem through their own accelerator programs (as mentioned above) but they can also do a lot to support European Startups by providing open access to the company and to the teams within the company. Corporates who have quarterly events where any startup can come along and pitch to the various departments and get access to decision makers not to sell – but to get real feedback from decision makers – is hugely valuable. The corporate benefits in that they get a far better understanding of what’s going on in the market at the startup level. And startups get first-hand feedback in a non-selling environment. It’s a few hours every quarter and a small lobby full of 10-20 startups. Huge value.


Principal and Founder – Troy Norcross

This is my strategy consulting firm. I have worked in large corporations and 2 of my own startups. I have a technical background in software development and business background including operations, marketing, and sales. I have been CEO of companies and managed shareholders and I have been the chief cook and bottle washer in teams of 3. The diversity of my experiences is what makes me unique. My ability to listen and ask probing questions is what makes me effective.

Check out his LinkedIn profile HERE for more info.

Startup Business Review

You’ve gotta send the CEO

Recently, I was sitting on a panel that was tasked with deciding the recipient of 1 million euro grant to grow their businesses. I was one of five and we all came from an investor business backgrounds. We were provided the respective business plans in advance and each came to the table with our respective questions and concerns. Each company was provided 10 minutes to present the projects followed by a 20 minute Q&A.

One of the companies was represented by the founder/CEO, while the other chose to send the lead project manager of the research team. Neither presentation did. Much to move the needle and offered little beyond the business plan already submitted. Both presentations focused heavily on their respective technologies and were light on the business details of execution.

It was up to us to glean these details through the Q&A.

The CEO was forthright and acknowledged the weaknesses of his financial projections (his plan offered a 10-year projection with a hockey stick recently revenue curve). When pressed, he was confident in the first 24 months but beyond that was anyone’s guess. One of the other evaluators commented, “at least he’s honest….” He did demonstrate a command of the economics of his go to market strategy and provided a convincing argument for his approach. Further, when asked about why he was doing this, he offered a passionate reply that made me want to write him a check myself (OK, I wasn’t really going to write a check for a million euros, but you get my point). Needless to say, he got my vote, as well as, the vote of my fellow evaluators.

The second presentation did not go so well. To be honest, when a company CEO fails to present, the evaluators are already put off.  We were told he was very busy – yeah me too, but I made time to be here. At this point, even the best presentation would be facing an uphill battle to win us over.

As the discussion shifted from technology to execution, the presenter was challenged to justify the business strategy and the underlying financial assumptions.  Clearly, this was beyond her scope as a researcher. She offered that the financial details were produced by another department. The takeaway for the evaluators was that the company had sent the wrong person.

I do not know if in reality that the CEO would have done a better job, maybe it was just a flawed plan. But I do know in the first case, we were able to discuss with the principal our concerns proving him an opportunity to address and assuage them. In the second scenario, the presenter simply raised more concerns than she resolved.

Ultimately, we want to get it directly from the horse’s – and that means the CEO needs to be there. I get that you’re busy and it may not always be feasible to be at every meeting.  But I can tell then your absence is the elephant in the room and will be a challenge to overcome with a PowerPoint, regardless of how good it is.

You’ve gotta send the CEO

Does Your Business Have a Work Out Partner?

When I launched my business, I had an “office” in a walk-in closet off my living room. The view wasn’t so great. Back then my “enterprise” consisted of me and the cat. I would often venture out to Starbucks for a little human interaction. I knew all the baristas on a first name basis.

Studies have shown that we are more likely to stick with an exercise program if we have a workout partner. Someone to be accountable to, to encourage you, someone to share goals with, or simply someone to laugh with over the misfortune of the day.

And yet many of us go it alone when we launch our businesses? Why not find another business owner to be your workout buddy – you don’t have to walk into networking events alone – you can tag team the room. Someone to share with – what technology worked, what was the workaround to those Internet glitches or simply share a cup of coffee occasionally. The baristas tend to get busy!!

If you can’t find a business partner, why not consider an executive coach.  Coaching offers an independent third party perspective to your business.  It creates a safe space for you to brainstorm, share confidences and practice your approach.  You don’t have to go it alone.  In fact, most folks get help in the corporate environment.

  • An internal report of the Personnel Management Association showed that when training is combined with coaching, individuals increase their productivity by an average of 86% compared to 22% with training alone.

BENEFITS OF EXECUTIVE COACHING

Coaches can

  • Identify executive strengths and development needs
  • Help the client leverage existing strengths and improve performance
  • Create an Executive Strategy with an Action Plan and Accountability to help them stay on track
  • Facilitate positive and sustainable behavior changes
  • Assist develop leadership skills and offer a safe environment to practice
  • Offer enhanced career planning and development with an action-oriented plan
  • Provide regular ongoing feedback and support that assures professional growth

Matching tracksuits is completely up to you . . .

Does Your Business Have a Work Out Partner?

Understanding OODA Loops

Often overused and broad-reaching, the term strategic planning has become yet another one of those vague buzz phrases that get tossed about with little to no real understanding of what it means.  “I’ve developed an Internet strategy that will make us millions.” Simply electing to sell widgets on the Internet does not a business strategy make.  What is the market?  Who are your competitors?  Who will buy your product?  These types of questions along with much more provide the foundation for developing a solid strategic plan.

A successful business strategy is the combination of art and science. It turns a dynamic situation to your advantage to achieve your goals.  A business strategy must include a set of (frequently interdependent) decisions and actions that define a company self-vision in the competitive marketplace and increase the probability of reaching clearly defined business objectives.  Put simply, it’s the plan to get from struggling start-up a to successful venture.

 Building Successful Businesses

A basic business strategy addresses critical tasks including:

  • Developing the company’s mission
  • Identifying current resources and capabilities
  • Identifying external factors that affect the plan
  • Analyzing the Company’s options by considering its resources and the affects of the external environment
  • Identifying the most desirable options
  • Developing strategies that will achieve the most desired results.
  • Evaluating the success of the strategic process as input to future decision-making.

One of the easiest traps to fall into is to forget the dynamic nature of the outside world.   A fatal planning mistake is to build a business plan around a given set of static assumptions: the market is this, likely penetration is that; it will be sunny on Tuesday.  These assumptions seem reasonable and solid when the plan is made, but if any of them prove to be wrong, the plan will fail.

Any effective business strategy must respond dynamically to the challenges posed by the firm’s immediate and remote external environments.  The immediate environment includes competitors, suppliers, increasingly scarce resources, government agencies and customers whose preferences often shift inexplicably.  The remote external environment comprises economic and social conditions, political priorities, and technological developments.  All of these must be anticipated, monitored, assessed, and incorporated iteratively into the strategic plan.  Sustainable competitive advantage results from strategies that contain real-time orientation.  Successful planning cannot rely solely on static and positional assumptions.

So what goes into a strategic plan?  Well, start at the beginning and go from there.  This may sound simplistic, but you’d be surprised at the powerful business results you can achieve from carefully answering and acting on the following questions:

  • Where are we today? (Observe) What is the Company mission?  What are the available resources?  Who is the competition?  What is the market?
  • How will I get there? (Orient) What is the product?  What will it take to go from concept to market?  How many employees are needed to support the effort?  How will the company distribute the product?  How will the Company position the product in the market?  Develop options from observations.
  • What are the Best Options (Decide) Based on the observations and the Company’s position in the market; management pursues the best options and develops a plan to pursue those options.
  • Implement the Plan (Action)  – Execute.

Implicit in this process model, called Boyd’s OODA Loop, is the final step: Iterate.  This demands that you repeat the OODA process over time, and continually input real-time information.  Business success isn’t simply a matter of being quickest to market, of spending the most, or of selling the highest-quality products. A company may advance momentarily by any of these methods; but there is only one way to win over the long term: Outmaneuver the competition – over and over, and over again.  Simply put, you have to understand the market before they do, act decisively, and constantly reassess to keep one step ahead.

Agility is the essence of strategy in war and in business.  Competitors are a company’s obvious opponents, but the ever-changing environment can have dramatic effects on a success of a business or sector.  For example, it wasn’t competition that hurt the telecom sector; it was external factors such as the economy and customer spending.

Boyd’s OODA Loop –

Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.  Thoughtful agility is the essence of strategy in any conflict constrained by time and resources.  Any venture launching a new technology is fighting for time to market advantages over all the other entrants in the space.  All suppliers in a market segment are in a competition not only for customers but also for time, a precious commodity not voluntarily relinquished by any opponent – in war or in business.

Col John Boyd, USAF (Ret), coined the term and developed the concept of the “OODA Loop” (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action).   According to Boyd’s theory, conflict can be seen as a series of time-competitive, Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action (OODA) cycles.

The OODA Loop model comprises four major steps:

  • Observation: Collecting information about the current state of the market.
  • Orientation: Interpreting the information to evaluate and formulate options.
  • Decision: Analyzing the options, making a decision
  • Action: Executing the decision

Observation; Orientation; Decision; Action. Boyd’s model of tactical decision-making, provides an elegantly simple framework for creating competitive advantage.

The competitor who can consistently navigate Boyd’s Loop faster than it’s rivals gains sustainable market advantage.  By the time the slower adversary reacts, the faster one is doing something different and the action becomes ineffective.  With each cycle, the slower competitor’s action causes them to fall further and further behind.

The OODA loop demonstrates that strategy is never static.  Leading-edge companies understand that they must build an organization with fast response times in serving customers and preempting competitors, in order grow profitably.

Fast-response companies not only have marketing advantages, they also tend to discover lower cost structures; by moving production materials and information through a company’s operation quickly, they collect less overhead and don’t accumulate inventory. Fast-response companies also innovate more effectively because they don’t waste time and resources on unsuccessful or unproductive ideas: more new products can be conceived and engineered in a given period, creating more market opportunities by giving customers more choices.

The evolving global market coupled with continuing advances in real-time communication and information technology has led to the reinvention of the meaning and practice of strategy. What do you do in a competitive market where the time advantage of proprietary technology is collapsing, even as the cost of developing it explodes? Companies in manufacturing, telecommunications, retail — in nearly every business — are discovering that fashion, fad, and fickle customers require constant vigilance and adjustment.  In a fast paced world where time is money, information is at our fingertips, and the rules of the game are constantly changing, the OODA loop is more strategically powerful than ever.

Want to out-think and out-execute the competition in the air, on the ground, in combat or in business? Want to test out new ideas, get feedback from your customers, adjust your product accordingly, and launch a new version — before your competition even senses the opportunity? Then learn how to make the OODA loop the centerpiece of your strategy process.

Understanding OODA Loops

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