Friday, 20 May 2016

Startups, Entrepreneurship … and Agile

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure to be part of the Startup Founder 101 event ‘Meet Experienced Startup Founders’, and the two major speakers Viktor Bilyanski (Founder and CTO of Scalefocus) and Hristo Neychev (Founder & CEO, Tryad Games), shared their experience in entrepreneurship and startups.

Going over my notes here is some assorted key wisdom:

The reality is brutal - 95% of all new business initiatives fail to survive and die in less than 2 years

The most important for each startup:
  • Discover, believe in and communicate your VISION
  • Find an amazing CO-FOUNDER (really difficult)
  • MOTIVATION – keep going when you are rejected, and rejected you will be… a lot
  • Find your first CLIENT/INVESTOR

Starting up a new business is like staring a new project – it has a beginning and an end. And the time slot is really tight. You can always go back to the corporate business if it doesn't work out.

When you fail, you still acquire experience and memories. The successful entrepreneur started approx 10 startups throughout entire life.

What’s really great about startups is that you move with your own speed, you only have to convince your co-founder and then it’s a matter of minutes to work on new idea.

To find a great co-founder look for somebody close, somebody you know for years. Somebody serious, motivated and admirable. Most of the startups die due to co-founders divorce and/or team disrupts. And high pressure is going to increase the chances any of those happening… and high pressure there will be.

Fundraising is difficult and at the same time it is important for every startup to get money as quickly as possible. Somebody investing in your business is good not only because it validates your idea/vision, but also because the clock starts ticking and your startup must start delivering. You all become more disciplined… and discipline you will need.

Your prototype, your product, your numbers worth more than the raw idea in your pitch. The investors will invest in your team and the execution not your idea. They want to see a successful team – members to have successful tracking records.

You pitch on vision or numbers and it is much better to pitch on numbers. The successful pitch would outline two major points:
  • The TEAM - who are you; how successful are the team members so far; what is the endurance and the sustainability of the team
  • TRACTION – how many users/clients do you have; what is the trend; clients profile and sustainability

Angel investors will invest in 1 out of 40 startups presented to them. Venture capitalists will invest in 1 out of 400. If you have rich friends/mentors try them first.

Coming up with an idea you might follow a process like:
  • Set FRAME/ VISION/ the window of opportunity / the market
  • And then use standard creative process, e.g. 'brainstorming'
  • VALIDATE your ideas fast – use paper; Excel and simple tools to prototype fast

Persistently look for feedback – involve users/clients and improve, discard and innovate.

Most of the startups aim for online business because it is easier to scale online.

The biggest challenge is to define and develop your MVP. It needs to be good enough for your market but at the same time it needs to be built quickly to be validated. Be careful in B2B – you cannot afford to show not-polished product.

Do not hesitate to interview people about your product and expected price, but the only validation for the price happen when real purchases are made.

If your startup product is some sort of a service, keep in mind service offering companies do not scale well and depend on their founder too much. Try growing from service to product business.


So far so good… but where is the Agile part?
Everywhere… I have always admired startups as they are the truest possible embodiment and validation of the Agile philosophy. Deliver sooner than later, empower teams, embrace the change and be lightning-fast in adapting, continuously improve and deliver, eliminate waste, collaborate well, promote innovation and bow to enthusiasm – all the major principles are followed relentlessly – and it is pure joy to watch and/or be part of.

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