“There are definitely advantages to starting a venture now”

May 26 2010

He is a startup guy. In all the dimensions of the word: founder, advisor and mentor. His sales team nicknamed him ‘The Roadshow’ and he is proud of it. Roy Rodenstein is currently director of business planning at AOL in the Local group, after they acquired his company Going in June 2009. He has kindly answered HitBarcelona questions about how to startup and the major entrepreneurial mistakes to be avoided.

Roy Rodenstein

Roy Rodenstein

-First of all, the question which entittles your blog: how to startup? What do you recommend to wannabe entrepeneurs who want to start a company now?

I think a lot of the key to being an entrepreneur is looking in the mirror and being honest with yourself. There are several key questions for new entrepreneurs to ask themselves and come to terms with:
- Is this what I really want to do? Can I commit to this venture for 3-5+ years to see it through?
- Can I bear the risk and the stress of the ups and downs that any company, no matter how successful, goes through?
- And, do I really in my heart of hearts feel like the idea I am pursuing has a legitimate chance to work?

The other key is really forming a support system of people who have done it before or can help in other ways. These days there is a lot of great information online, and learning about key topics such as fundraising, customer development, recruiting etc. will be very valuable. Having people you can turn to when times are tough or you have questions will come in handy, so attending local events, networking with peers on Twitter and blogs, and other ways to interact with the startup community are definitely recommended.

Despite these questions that are key for succeeding, I wouldn’t discourage someone that was a bit unsure but wanted to give it their best shot. The amount of learning -about business, management, marketing, and yourself- that any startup, no matter how small, provides is a huge asset for any future work.

-By the way, do you think this is a good time to start a venture?

I tend to think it’s always a fine time, but yes, I think there are definitely advantages to starting a venture now. There are a lot of amazing online services for startups, from billing to screensharing to group collaboration tools, that make it easy to be lightweight or ‘lean.’ As you grow and may need an office, real estate costs are lower now in most places than a few years ago. And with the economic problems, more people are either available in the job market or are open to considering new careers since there is instability in almost every industry now. Lastly, the availability of mentorship as well as seed programs and angel investing is higher than ever, and that is probably the biggest advantage of all.

-What are the major entrepreneurial mistakes to be avoided?

To me the biggest one always comes back to being aligned with the market. Are you really being honest with yourself, and your employees, about your current trajectory. If users and customers are happy and delighted, coming back for more and telling others about your offering, great. If not, it’s really time to bear down and review what the problems are and try to create a more compelling offering quickly, evaluating your available pivots. The #1 mistake I find is people coast for too long tinkering on the margins when it’s clear the product is just not quite there. In my experience when a product is right for a market fit, the evidence becomes very very clear.

There are certainly many tactical mistakes as well, such as spending money too quickly, getting the wrong kind of funding at a given time, or failing to fundraise sufficiently which can put you in a precarious position down the line. As the last couple of years have shown, the world can change at any point and you need to be prepared.

A final area I see a lot of problems with is in recruiting, even with cofounders. In the last month I know several startups who have had to switch out a founder or other early team member. This is a very difficult step, and the best thing is to avoid it by being very very clear in recruiting in the first place, but if there is not a fit then absolutely, bite the bullet and try to move on as cleanly as possible. The main rule of thumb I tell entrepreneurs is, don’t hire someone to cover a couple of small issues you think of today- it may not be a big enough job down the line. Make sure you think through for the long term, 1, 2, 3 years, how this person will add value and what roles they will be able to own.

-Are entrepreneurs born or made?

In my opinion, as I discuss on my blog, they are primarily made. Entrepreneurship requires a number of personality traits but as the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” I believe most everyone has the innate capabilities, potential for emotional strength and leadership, IF they find something they are really passionate about that they want to see become a reality. The skills needed to actually start and run a business are hard, but can be learned by anyone with enough dedication and enough of a support system.

-Do you think an event like HitBarcelona can help entrepreneurs to achieve their goals?

I think HitBarcelona is an excellent event and a leading example of international cross-pollination and sharing of entrepreneurial experiences. I have heard excitement from several US-based entrepreneurs that are attending, and having family in Spain and Belgium I know that it’s also a major event in Europe. I think the diversity of attendees and topics is the main strength of Hit. Bringing together experts and newcomers from venture, finance, consumer products, science and technology across dozens of countries is a great forum for the engine of innovation that is entrepreneurship to spread and benefit more of the world.


Hitbarcelona Plenary: Keys to unlock your business success

May 10 2010

Key to unlock your business success

Key to unlock your business success

Analysts agree that innovation is of crucial importance in economic recovery. As businesses attempt to find growth opportunities to overcome recession, HitBarcelona wants to share and discuss the best strategies to stimulate internal R&D, incorporate competing ideas, attract investment finance and be successful.

Which are the best options to consider? Is Corporate Venturing, that is investing in external start-ups, the best way to incorporate innovation right now? HitBarcelona has invited leading companies to explain how Corporate Venturing can be used to generate organic growth within an organization. It will be in the Plenary Congress, a forum in which you will meet the people behind the most recent entrepreneurial success, who will also talk about the characteristics companies should have to attract investment to become international leaders.

Eventually, global entrepreneurs, like Dennis Crowley, Verne Harnish, Gurbaksh Chahal or Marcos Cuevas will share the key elements that have made them succeed. The rendez-vous is the 16th June. They will be there, will you?


What it takes to be an entrepreneur…

May 03 2010

Last year, Grasshopper published an inspiring video in which they state that “entrepreneurs can be anyone… even you“. They talk about entrepreneurship spirit, about overcoming what we consider impossible…

Last week, Flickr and Hunch co-founder Caterina Fake didn’t say a word about spirit and went directly into the education issue. She wrote a comment-baiting post suggesting that wanna-be entrepreneurs should “drop out of college. After all, she states, “Rob Kalin, Etsy’s founder, never finished college. Evan Williams, Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey — the founders of Twitter — are not college graduates. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, is another dropout. And of course Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.”

Creativity expert Ken Robinson might explain it. He is convinced that “schools kill creativity”:

But does this mean being a drop-out is the best strategy? Chris Cameron doesn’t think so. He points out that “the best solution may be to attend college, learn the early basic lessons, gain access to resources Customized Inflatables and contacts, and begin the early stages of your company while still enrolled. Then, if the company takes off, leave school.”

Being an entrepreneur is about having attitude and the drive to succeed in business. Is it possible to learn this quality? Can thinkers and doers turn a great idea into a business plan?  HitBarcelona invites you to discuss this topic…


Why Recession Is the Mother of Invention

Abr 22 2010

He has pointed out several times that the place where we live is not a destiny to be accepted passively but a choice that shapes everything about us. His ideas on the Creative class that fosters an open, dynamic, personal and professional environment, which in turn attracts more creative people, business and capital, have turn into global best-sellers. And for good reason.

Richard Florida is one of the world’s leading public intellectuals on economic competitiveness and cultural and technical innovation. In his latest book, Great Reset, coming out the 27th April, the professor and head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management (University of Toronto, Canada) explains how new ways of living and working will drive post-crash prosperity. According to him, an economic convulsion—dubbed a Reset—“transforms not simply the way we innovate and produce but also ushers in a whole new economic landscape.”

In this respect, Florida is convinced that “our economic system needs to stop channeling funds into super-risky, highly leveraged, and speculative areas”. “Instead we must return to the original vision and purpose of the financial markets: supporting innovation and the growth of the real economy”, he says. He makes oneself clearer in a recent video realeased by The Wall Street Journal:

He will surely explain further on this topic at HitBarcelona, in June. 54 days left.


Open up to Open Innovation

Abr 19 2010

Henry Chesbrough (image from haas.berkeley.edu)

Henry Chesbrough (image from haas.berkeley.edu)

Nobody denies it’s a great idea. The theory says Open Innovation helps to develop better new products and services at a lower cost. But in a world in which business means competition rather than cooperation, some companies still find difficult to embrace a more inclusive and partnership form of innovation.Adult Bounce House

So what is the best approach to Open Innovation? How can we break the barriers raised by issues such as intellectual property, the complexity of new collaborative spaces or less obvious challenges as inertia?

A report from Nesta, the English National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, recommends “starting at the end with a win-win business model in mind”, trying not to be “prematurely judgemental” and not to “manage risk down to zero”. “It’s all about managed uncertainty.

Another paper published in the MIT Sloan Management Review discusses whether external innovators should be organized in collaborative communities or competitive markets.

HITBarcelona has invited the person who coined the concept to shed some light on the topic. Henry Chesbrough is the executive director of the Center for Open Innovation and will open the Plenary Congress. He is also the author of Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology (HBS Press, 2003) and two other books on this subject: Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape (HBS Press, 2006) and Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm (Oxford, 2006), an edited book of academic papers.

He has recently been thinking on how to bring innovation into the services sector. In that sense, he considers that working next to the bench with the costumer to understand new challenges and new problems is crucial.

We will surely have more hints on that topic in June, the 16th.


How to get into an innovation-mindset

Abr 16 2010

Thinking outside the box is not thinking out side the box (image from blindsociety.com)

Thinking outside the box is not thinking out side the box (image from blindsociety.com)

Albert Szent Gyorgi, who is credited with discovering Vitamin C, stated: “Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought.” Easy said. Innovative thinkers are supposed to challenge dominant ideas to conceive new possibilities. In other words, to think outside the box. But how? What do we need to get into an innovation-mindset?dong fang qi mo

Jim Carroll has some interesting ideas about it. He proposes, for example, to hire people you don’t like, because “the reason you don’t like them is because they are different, and that is probably the exact reason why their ideas are important”. He also underlines that knowledge is momentary. That  means you have to be able to forget and relearn, quickly. He eventually recommends to focus firmly on the future and make things happen, which by the way means taking risks. “We’ve become too focused on managing instead of growing”, underlines the expert.

What do you think about it? Hit Barcelona has built a programme to give you the opportunity to share your point of view with other entrepreneurs and help companies with the best ideas and brightest future to meet investors willing to back them, so that they can turn their out of the box thinking into a solid business.


“Innovation is the future” Hit Barcelona 2009

Ago 21 2009

Los gurús de la innovación han advertido en Hit Barcelona 2009: “El fomento de la creatividad, de nuevas prácticas y la erradicación del miedo al cambio y al fracaso serán aspectos clave para encarar el futuro” http://www.electro-imagen.com

electroimagen

“También en el ámbito del HiT Barcelona se celebró el XV Foro de Inversión de ACC1Ó, un punto de encuentro entre proyectos innovadores con gran potencial de crecimiento y un gran número de inversores y agentes empresariales con el fin de generar relaciones a largo plazo y ampliar su cartera de contactos.” http://www.cidem.com

cidem


Gary Hamel, the future of management

Jul 28 2009

“En los próximos años veremos un cambio drástico en la definición de líder. Estará menos relacionado con tomar las decisiones clave o tener una visión de futuro y más con crear las condiciones necesarias para permitir a otra gente innovar y crear esa visión.” Entrevista a Gary Hamel por Manuel Ángel-Méndez, en Hit Barcelona 2009.

gary_hamel

“La conferencia fue inaugurada contando con la presencia de las más altas personalidades políticas y empresariales de Catalunya y de España, donde el principal ponente fue Gary Hamel, que ha sido reconocido “el mayor experto en estrategia empresarial”. Comunidad Pensamiento Imaginactivo.

comunidad


Create to Grow: the key to power success, by M. Eisner

Jun 18 2009

“To punish failure is to encourage mediocrity”

Highlights

  • Usually it seems more safe to do the same thing it has been done before.
  • Innovation isn’t easy, but that is OK.
  • Compare a project with a box. The box can be big or small but should be in accordance with a realistic business plan and financial return.


Micromanagement

  • Micromanagement is the best path to effective management because it effectively links the person in the top to every person in the process.
  • Creativity can deal with apparently unsolvable financial problems.
  • If you care about every point (of the picture) taking attention on the hole picture, you get great results.
  • Micromanagement is about keeping your eyes open.
  • Micromanagement also requires failure.
  • Once human filters are in place the possibilities will be endless.

Risk

  • The more times you fail, the closer you are to success.
  • People are afraid to take risk.
  • The world has become a single dot. We are all standing at the point of a needle.

Media

  • Internet has taken budget necessary for projects to extremely lower level, leaving creativity as the only meaningful variable.
  • Each media has its strength and weaknesses.
  • What matters is the quality of the content.
  • Whatever your business stands for, the best way to archive the best long term results is to look inside your box.

Extract by Josep Oriol Ayats and Guillem Mateos.


CEO’s Panel Discussion

Jun 18 2009

“How do you get companies to innovate?”

Moderator: Jennifer Schenker

Michael Eisner

  • You have to constantly challenge the people that work with you.
  • There is a change going on in home video.
  • Music industry is going through a metamorphosis which is still not figured out.
  • Bigger is better (business).
  • If you are bigger and you are innovator, you have the financial resources to do things and do them fast.
  • Basically people want to please the boss.
  • Its essential how the CEO chooses the head of departments.
  • Inertia overrides innovation in successful organizations.
  • Put people in a room till they are so annoyed and so tired and so upset until they have a new idea. Keep going on till you are upset.
  • There are thousands of good ideas, the problem is recognizing them.
  • There are a thousand reasons why a good idea dies.
  • If you want to innovate the last thing to do is research.
  • If you are not prepared to lose, you are not going to take the right hand of risk.

Eric Weber

  • Its very difficult to put an equation to innovation.
  • Many organizations are just too short on their patience.
  • Individuals tend to work for companies where they fit.
  • Measuring innovation has always been a challenge.

Extract by Josep Oriol Ayats and Guillem Mateos.