Avoid subjective assessments, let the numbers do the talking!

Day 27. March 2018 posted Elvisa Basailović

Six hard working days are behind the startup entrepreneurs who received Slovene Enterprise Fund’s SK75 investment last spring. Initiative Start:up Slovenia tailored the comprehensive educational programme based on the feedback from previous generations of participants, who gave us priceless insight into what were the most useful contents to them. We brought together all top-notch Slovenian experts from fields that every startup company needs to master. We focused mostly on practical work and quick implementation into business operations.
The programme included a company analysis by mentors who made an overview of key challenges, identified weak areas of business operations, and gave recommendations for improvements, introductory lectures dedicated to a broader view of processes and establishment of metrics-based company operations, core lectures and 1:1 consultations on key fields of startup operations (project management, online marketing, sales and global growth, preparing a company for growth and sales), individual 30-minute consultations for startups by experts from individual fields (staff management, legal consulting, business finance …), and a final feedback day, where mentors helped perfect an action plan for 2018 and gave advice on how to not only make the set goals come true but also exceed them. Within the programme, companies looked at Slovene Enterprise Fund’s list of mentors and choose an additional mentor for 5 hours of in-depth work with the company.
Explaining key business functions with 19 lecturers and consultants
In the light of acquiring varied entrepreneurship knowledge for setting firm company foundations and creating a goal-oriented action plan, Initiative Start:up Slovenia collaborated with the most active stakeholders of the Slovenian ecosystem to design a tailored intense bootcamp programme for startups. In six days of intense work, experienced experts covered all key business functions in early stages of startup business operations:

  • Branko Drobnak – forest and trees, a one-year plan with a timeline, goals and metrics
  • Tilen Travnik and Sašo Jakljevič – product management
  • Andraž Štalec and Matej Bajželj – sales and online marketing
  • Matt Mayfield and Primož Hvala – entering foreign markets
  • Alenka Gorenčič, the fiscal aspect of expanding abroad
  • Anja Primožič, the legal aspect of expanding abroad
  • Nina Dremelj, preparing the company for investor entrance
  • Jakob Gajšek, network of European and global VC investors
  • Rok Stritar, establishing key processes
  • Matjaž Petrič, business finance
  • Nika Sebič Koračin, team formation and management
  • Nejc Setnikar, most frequent legal questions
  • Matjaž Slak, ICO as a form of financing
  • Urška Jež, Aleš Pustovrh, Bernard Grum – business analysis and feedback with improvements

Tip #1: a lack of planning leads to arguments
“There’s a lot of arguments in our startups and many teams fall apart because they subjectively evaluate the work they do. If they had set a number, it would tell them everything! If the key people, tasks, timeframe, cost gauges are defined, then the numbers clearly say what happened, what wasn’t done and who didn’t contribute enough to the team,” said Branko Drobnak, from the Business Angels of Slovenia club, to the teams that received Slovene Enterprise Fund’s SK75 investment last autumn.

Branko Drobnak from Business Angels of Slovenia on the broader view of planning “the forest and the trees”

Tip #2: planning the cashflow is the foundation of every company
Monitor and actively manage your cashflow, is the advice of every financial expert. Matjaž Petrič says that he mostly directs the company to think about the future, even though that is very difficult – if the team is still trying to find themselves, testing the market, looking for a business model. That is to say, they need to measure as much as possible and capture as much information as possible, because we are, after all, talking about money, and that is where facts, not only feelings, make the decisions.
Tip #3: conquering a foreign market is significantly different from entering a domestic one
Nina Dremelj, director of AlpVent, a company for investing into startups, says that companies entering a foreign market need to fulfil a couple of basic parameters, namely a product, which is truly a breakthrough technology or that can be multiplied, or a truly good and capable team that will immediately carry out an entrance to the foreign market. They also need to have a good sales price of the product and a price difference. The worst thing that can happen is for the foreign market to surprise them. They aren’t prepared for it, don’t know their competition, and don’t know the traditional characteristics of the market, which are incredibly important. These include cultural characteristics, the actual market in the individual country, shopping culture, selling culture etc. It oftentimes happens that companies might successfully come to a foreign market when selling the product, but they fail when it comes to the product price, which can also be too low sometimes. That is why it’s very important to prepare for entering a foreign market. When obtaining an investment, this is one of the very important segments that the startup company needs to understand and implement into its business model or vision of the company, because that will enable it to continue to grow successfully.

Nina Dremelj during 1:1 mentoring of company ETOS solutions

Tip #4: companies get too few rejections because they don’t even go to customers so that they could be rejected
In his consulting work, Primož Hvala combines the knowledge and experience from three fields – marketing, sales and HR. It very often happens to companies that they get an investment and then think about the next one. Then they simply forget about the customer. And the customer is the one bringing them money. They sell too little, they simply don’t go to customers enough, and consequently they gain too few rejections.
Tip #5: it is necessary to educate and build a relationship with users, not only sell
The fact is that 90% of people who come on your website aren’t yet in the purchasing stage and will thus not buy your product. You need to educate your potential users, so the stage of online research is inescapable. The more you care about them and the more useful content you offer to them, the more possibilities there are for clicks into the basket. So, educate your users and keep them up-to-date with novelties, build your brand and trust into your product or service, and build a relationship with them. This will lead to returning customers who are crucially important for every business. Digital strategist Andraž Štalec from Red Orbit agency shared these and many more tricks with the participants.

“Conversion rate” increases for 56% if you offer educational content to your users, says Andraž Štalec, Red Orbit

Tip #6: speed is of the essence
In six days of gathering new knowledge, advice and ideas for improving business operations, we asked companies about their impressions of this year’s SK75 bootcamp. Matic Sušnik from Etos Solutions says that at the bootcamp, they came to the realization that it is necessary to quickly develop the final product and quickly enter the market and benefit from their key advantage. That is why they will delay less and call in new staff faster, thus also achieving their set goals quicker. 
Tip #7: ask subquestions
Everyone has pages of lists of what we should do. But due to various circumstances, we might only do five to ten things on the first page. “If you want to sell your product, you have to be on that page, you have to be the necessity of people,” was the always clear opinion of Matt Mayfield, sales strategist. After presenting the product to a new customer, including the benefits, advantages compared to other products and why they need it right now, you should listen to the customer. It’s important to get a clear yes or no. That is the point at which you can learn the most. Don’t be satisfied with a simple answer, e.g. I like your product because it’s high-quality. Ask what quality means for them, how you could improve it further, what they think are the most quality products etc. So, ask subquestions in order to understand more easily and learn about all the shades of individual adjectives. What is quality to one person can be the complete opposite to someone else.

With the right subquestions, you will understand the customer’s needs, based on which you will be able to prepare an offer they won’t be able to refuse, says Matt Mayfield

Tip #8: asking subquestions was the eureka moment of this bootcamp
It was this different perspective on questions you should ask yourself and your clients that led David Halb from Fastcast to a Eureka moment that will help him sell their services.
The participants of the bootcamp programme were SK companies that received Slovene Enterprise Fund’s convertible loan in the amount of 75,000€, from the generation of spring 2017:

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SK programme for financing and content support to startups is enabled by:
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SK75 SK pomlad Slovenski podjetniški sklad
Izvedba: Mojdenar IT d.o.o.