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Inspiration of the day #5

Steve Blank
Steve Blank

How to build a startup

If entrepreneurship education had a pope, it would inevitably be Steve Blank. After 21 years in 8 high technology companies, he retired in 1999 and wrote a book  about building early stage companies called Four Steps to the Epiphany. It’s been called the book that launched the Lean Startup movement, popularised by Steve’s student, Eric Ries.

Steve now teaches entrepreneurship at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University, Columbia University, Caltech and UCSF. Together with the “Customer Development” model he developed, Steve has also merged Eric Ries’ Lean Startup and Alexander Osterwalder‘s Business Model Canvas into the Lean Launchpad course he now teaches around the world.

The Internet is full of material on the Lean Launchpad but I do recommend to watch the Udacity’s course. This is the most rational and practical methodologies ever realised to launch startups and it also applies to corporate innovation management. Watch it!

Inspiration of the day #4

Jab-Jab-Jab-Right-HookFor those of you who don’t know Gary Vaynerchuk, he became one of the e-commerce and social media pioneers when he grew his family’s local wine store from a $3 million business to WineLibrary.com, a $45 million business. His videos at Wine Library TV quickly attracted an average of 100,000 daily viewers.

He now helps Fortune 500 companies find their social voices and build their digital brands through micro content and other story telling actions, via his new company VaynerMedia. He is also an angel investor in companies like Twitter, Tumblr, Uber and Birch Box through his VaynerRSE fund.

In his last book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, Gary shares hard-won advice on how to connect with customers through social media marketing strategies that really works. The books gives you what you need to know about the most used social networks and how to leverage them to grow your brand.

Inspiration of the day #3

pretotyping_invent_investMake sure you are building the right it before you build it right.

The term and concept of pretotyping was originally developed by Alberto Savoia in 2009 while he was working at Google as Engineering Director and Innovation Agitator.

Since then, pretotyping has been spreading quickly and globally: Alberto’s book Pretotype It has already been translated into several languages, classes on pretotyping are being taught at Stanford and other universities throughout the world, etc.

You can watch a great video of Alberto teaching pretotyping at Stanford here, download his book here or order it on Amazon for Kindle. You can also find more resources on the pretotyping website.

Inspiration of the day #2

Startup of youIn this video registered at Stanford in 2012, serial entrepreneur and investor Reid Hoffman encourages individuals to become the entrepreneurs of their own lives.

Hoffman shares the importance of taking intelligent risks, building thoughtful networks and continually adapting your skills to navigate a fulfilling career path.

He also shares a lot of great insights from his last book, The Start-Up of You, one of my favourite reads of the past couple of years.

Inspiration of the day #1

Seth Godin Startup School

In the summer of 2012, american author and marketing guru Seth Godin, organised a 3-day startup school with early-stage entrepreneurs in New York. Most of the sessions were taped and you can find the podcast online here.

Even though the podcast is a bit long (around 5 hours), it’s full of great advices on sales and marketing from one of the smartest business thinker out there.

And if you prefer reading than listening, someone transcribed the full podcast on PDF. Check it out, it’s really time well spent.

Announcing Ninja Family

Ninja Family

I am very proud to announce the launch of Ninja Family, the talent agency for the technology industry! Ninja Family was born from a very simple constatation: there are currently much companies looking for technical talent than talent looking to change jobs. According to studies led by the European Commission, Europe could soon face a shortage of up to 900,000 ICT workers by 2015.

So why do companies still lead the job dance? Why do we still have head hunters for companies while we should have company hunters for heads? At Ninja Family, we have decided to completely change the job search paradigm. We help ICT experts manage their career through coaching, targeted job offers from great companies and help for salary negotiation.

The balance has changed in the ICT sector. Let’s embrace the Ninja Family revolution!

If you’re interested to find out more about Ninja Family, check out our website, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Offline Analytics – Trace your flyers and billboards

FundingCircleTube

I came across the other day this billboard in the London tube from the peer-to-peer lending marketplace, Funding Circle. As you can see in the picture, in order to benefit from a “special” you need to go to “fundingcircle.com/tube” and enter the “tube” code. That’s pretty smart of them as this is a great way to calculate some kind of ROI on their underground advertising budget.

Actually when you go to “fundingcircle.com/tube”, you’re redirected to the following URL: “https://www.fundingcircle.com/utm_source=Tube_Car_Panel

&utm_medium=Outdoor&utm_content=HomePage&utm_campaign=TCP022014″

A quick look at the UTM trackers shows that Funding Circle is monitoring the type of advertising (“Outdoor”), the location (“Tube”) as well as the date (“022014″). In my opinion, it would have been event better to have one page for each underground line where the ad is displayed so Funding Circle can know which line brings the most prospects for their service.

Generally speaking, I think that all startups should measure their offline advertising the same way Funding Circle does it. In the early days of your startup, you generally don’t know very well your target customers as well as the best way to reach them. So, instead of printing out standard flyers or brochures, try to do one for each event or location you distribute them. You might think that the additional expense is useless, but it’s a great way to measure and adapt your advertising efforts. And you might discover much more than you think about your target customers.

My ($19B) cents on WhatsApp acquisition

facebook-whatsappI recently came across a chart summarising the cost per user of famous tech acquisition, indicating that WhatsApp acquisition by Facebook could somewhat be justified based on the relatively low cost per user paid ($35.56) compared to other tech acquisitions. While I can’t really comment on if $35 is a fair price to acquire users, I don’t believe it is the correct amount.

First of all, according to SEC filings, out of the $19B Facebook paid :

  • $12B are in Facebook stock, based on today’s price, which is more or less monopoly money since I doubt anyone from WhatsApp will liquidate, especially with the founders  joining Facebook board ;
  • $3B are in restricted Facebook stock to retain WhatsApp employees (aka signing bonus, no one will cash out before years) ;
  • Only $4B is in cash.

So, if we assume that only the $4B are used to acquire the 450M WhatsApp users (the rest being acqui-hire in monopoly money), we’re talking here about a cost of $8,8 per user. An if you take into the equation the fact that Tencent, Facebook biggest competitors, could had have eyes on WhatsApp (it’s just an intuition but would have been a smart move to conquest US and Europe markets), I think the cost per user is even lower than $8 (since part of the price is motivated by defending Facebook presence in his markets).

Not bad for a community of users with very high usage, right?

Goodbye v0.2

StartUp42 v0.2

This post was originally published on StartUp42 blog on February 6 2014.

Last Monday the second season of StartUp42 ended with our Prototype Fiesta. As our startups are now moving towards their future on their own, I wanted to take some time to reflect on how we helped them during the last 4 months.

What we did great

  •  Having a Program Manager on-site (initially Kevin, then Aline), every day, to coordinate interactions between the startups and mentors, partners and myself. Moreover, as both Kevin and Aline were business school graduates, they were able to help (with different skills) some of our startups on the marketing side of things. Remember, 70% of our founders have a technical background.
  • We managed to really boost some startups on the marketing and communication side. For example Worldcraze was virtually unknown before StartUp42. With the substantial press coverage they got during the past weeks, they have transformed into a known brand with copycats even popping up.
  • More than 60 mentors came during the 4 months to share their knowledge and experience with the startups, 50% of them being entrepreneurs.
  • We joined the Global Accelerator Network which gives us a stronger bridge with the Techstars network as well as relationship with other accelerators globally.
  • We attracted more than 100 investors, media and corporate partners for our Prototype Fiesta, which really demonstrates the seriousness of our program.

On the lessons learned side, while our Program Manager was able to help the startups from time to time, their action was unfocused and not optimum towards all our startups, due to their other program management activities. While I was very wary about Entrepreneurs In Residence, this situation made me change my mind. We will announce very soon a new EIR for our v0.3.

I am very proud of how our startups performed during the Prototype Fiesta. Most of them were really transformed by the accelerator experience and I wish them great success in their entrepreneurial life.

If you also want to be part of such adventure, applications for our v0.3 session are now open until March 3rd.

Should you give away equity without financial investment?

While investing money in a startup is the traditional way of getting some if its equity, it can happen that individuals or organizations get startups’equity against education, networking or media.

Even though I can’t say I’m against these practices, I always remember entrepreneurs that equity represents the future value of your company. When you start, your company is worth nothing and 5% of nothing is a pretty good deal. But what will your company’s valuation be in 5 years? In 10 years? Millions? Well, 5% of millions is a pretty good sum of money.

Moreover, after giving away equity, you might be stuck with an unwilling fellow that has no power in your company but whom you have to continually chase to sign board meetings or investment papers (remember, he’s now an investor).

The rule of thumb I recommend in those situations is to really consider how much the non-financial investment you’re receiving is impacting the future of your company. Maybe this person or this incubator that helped you in your early days, put you in touch with THE customer that made your business happen. Fair. Or maybe he’s still, many years later, a trusted advisor that really helped you go through the roller coaster of entrepreneurship along the way.

But maybe, he only helped you for some time and is no longer involved in the company. If, 10 years after its creation, your startup is now worth 100M€ and you gave away 5% equity to a 6 or 12 months accelerator that you are no longer in contact with, you literally gave them 5M€.

As of media for equity, the same rule applies. If your business is highly media dependent (say you sell ringtones or on-line dating), then go for it full force! But if you think media can help you acquire customers, remember it’s only a channel (unless Google starts offering AdWords for equity).

In conclusion, always remember that equity is future value of your company and sometimes, it’s better to pay someone or an organization for the help they give you (e.g. giving away commissions on business they help you get).