Six exhausting work days are behind startup entrepreneurs that received the SK75 investment from the Slovene enterprise fund in the spring batch. Eleven thematic lectures constantly faced the teams with two perspectives: the grand picture of a year-long plan of priorities and key goals, and operational weekly plans, that will bring the teams to the end goal. The program covered key business functions, like managing a startup company, validating key assumptions of the business model, sales processes, product management, finance, accounting, human resources, business metrics, digital marketing and building an international sales network. To realize this program, Start:up Slovenia Initiative partnered with the best and experienced partners: Business angels of Slovenia, D·Labs, 30Lean, Red Orbit, CEED Slovenija and Matija Jamnik. The end result was, along with tired heads, an operative executable plan, that will enable entrepreneurs to use the next 12 months for maximum progress on their business ideas.
With Tilen Travnik about effective product development
Such different, yet similar teams
The spring batch of the recipients of the SK75 investment is composed of an industry as well as by product and experiences very different teams. The company Arch Vitalis
is developing super energy efficient mobile houses, Pel3o
is producing high quality and user-friendly 3D printers, 4D PRINT
offers a wholesome system for production optimization, that includes 3D printing, supporting production process and supplying entry materials, and finally team Omisli.si
is presenting an online web platform and entry point for purchasing different local services that enable the service seeker to send an inquiry through an online form and receive free of charge at least five offers from different providers. All teams created a simple operative plan of key milestones, activities, and metrics for the next 12 months at the boot camp. This plan will enable them to efficiently lead their startup company through the steps of validating key assumptions of their business model and reach the first major milestone on their paths - product market fit.
An important element is socializing and exchaning tips of companies, organizers and lecturers.
Through key business functions with 11 lecturers and consultants
In the light of searching for product market fit, we at Initiative Start:up Slovenia in cooperation with the most active shareholders of the Slovenian startup ecosystem, developed an intense boot camp program for them. In six days of intense work, experienced experts covered all the key business functions in the early stages of startups:
- Branko Drobnak – forest and trees, one year plan with a timeline, goals, and metrics
- Tilen Travnik – product management
- Andraž Štalec – sales and online marketing
- Alenka Brozovič – accounting for startups
- Matt Mayfield – entering foreign markets
- Kristjan Pečanac – business metrics
- Matej Golob in Lojze Bertoncelj - "get out of the building" philosophy and the process of validating key hypothesis
- Andrej Guštin – establishing key processes
- Nika Sebič Koračin – forming and managing teams
- Matija Jamnik – Frequent legal questions
- Aleksandra Bohorč – entrepreneurial finances
# 1: without planning, you never reach your goal
Planning removes subjective estimates of startup success and enables entrepreneurs and financiers to timely and objectively act in terms of changing a business model or stopping a project. This is why planning is an inevitable condition for a successful startup launch, emphasized Branko Drobnak from Business angels of Slovenia, who also presented entrepreneurs how they should map their ideas and how to set a view, to see the trees nearby as well as the forest they are currently in.
Branko Drobnak from Business angels of Slovenia about planning a forest and trees
#2: user feedback is key for planning developmental activities
Tilen Travnik, a partner at D.Labs
says that when deciding which activities to do, you can follow the 80/20 rule. This rule tells that I can work on something for 20% of my users, but that brings me 80% of my revenue or the other way around. Another rule is also that every so often you sit down and write what you plan to achieve in the next half a year or other time period. It's not good enough to have this in your head. You should put it down on paper. Furthermore, it is important to set the focus of your product development by constantly checking with your users. This user feedback is key to the success of your startup.
#3: Juggle between positioning, marketing, and analytics
When doing our digital strategy, we have to "juggle" between three key elements of content marketing, positioning, marketing and online analytics, says digital strategist Andraž Štalec from the company Red Orbit
. These things are important to do because users nowadays are more curious than ever and they do a lot of research online before they commit to a purchase. We have to make sure that our digital presence informs our users about our services. It is the job of marketing to promote that content to users that have an actual need to consume this content. This is done to ensure that content doesn't get forgotten in some dark alley of the internet and to raise user loyalty and our brand awareness. Finally, it is important to measure and test our websites and then iterate accordingly.
#4: monitor expenses and cash flow
”Control your expenses! When a company is small, you usually have it all under control, however, when fast growth happens and you abandon their exact monitoring and planning, it can be fatal. Since you are in a race against time, I advise you to just keep an eye on the big, sudden or atypical expenses from different contracts, major deals,... For liquidation and payment of those smaller, always the same and repeating expenses or bills, you can hire somebody to help you. Last but not least important - monitor and actively manage your cash flow. Cash flow is as important in a company as blood flow is in a human body, and unfortunately many startups fail not because they make a loss, but because they have a negative cash flow, which means that they have too little money on their bank account to regularly pay their obligations," said Alenka Brozovič from the accounting firm ZEUS, to the startups.
#5: you won't sell useful things, but only the ones that solve a major pain
Matt Mayfield from the network CEED Slovenija
, an expert for sales and entering foreign markets presents in the video key mistakes of startups by creating opportunity, solving pain, optimization, and focus.
#6: check your assumption with numbers, they tell you whether to confirm or abandon the assumption
Lojze Bertincelj, 30Lean
, notices that the easiest thing to do is to develop one's own ideas. It is, however, much harder to set worthy experiments and deal with real insights, problems and customer needs and submit your own development to them. There are two big mistakes startups do. First is that they set the easiest experiments that don't give useful and valuable data. The second one is that they poorly plan their experiments. All experiments should deal with numbers. We have to predict the numbers we expect and then through the experiment either confirm or refute those numbers. Go "out of the building" and start developing your business the right way.
7#: choose seven key business processes and their metrics
Establishing business processes is what Andrej Guštin from the company CREA pro, lectured about and consulted to SK200 startups. He emphasized that startups, in the beginning, should define seven key business processes, among them, choose the ones with the highest priority and set a person responsible for each of them:
- learning about your customers and managing customers relationships (know your customer)
- product / service development (idea to product/service)
- sales funnel (lead to contract)
- execution (order to cash)
- purchase (purchase to pay)
- support (claim to a solution)
- creating value for shareholders (need to value)
For all key processes, the entrepreneurs should set KPIs (key performance index) so that for every key process they set two key KPIs and set measures if there is a discrepancy from the wanted value.
Andrej Guštin also advised, that after every big project, the managerial team should make an analysis of what went well and what didn't and communicate the results transparently. Success or failure has to be shared with all so that each individual feels their pulse and added value to the process,as well as the pulse and result of the whole company.
8#: a company-wide one track mindset is not good for the development and progress of your company
Many times experienced startup mentors answer the question how to build a good team with a short - good luck! However, HR expert Nika Sebič Koračin, presented five key tips for successful HR in dynamic startup companies:
- The management has to identify the talent needs thoroughly, in such a way that they think about what kind of coworkers, with what kind of skills, knowledge, competencies, experiences and personal characteristics they need in their team.
- When searching, you have to keep in mind that people are different and that the best teams are the ones where team members complement each other's skills. Having people who all have the same mindset is not good for the development and progress of your company.
- Managing people takes a lot of time. Building relationships are primarily dependent on good communications, as well as how well people feel in a team of co-workers.
- Trusting people and their work are of immense importance - it is not real to expect, that all people will immediately be independent at their work. Through time and in accordance with the progress made, you have to give them more jurisdiction and trust them to do their job well.
- A clear division of jurisdiction and responsibility is important from the point of view of the organization as well as workflow. Keep in mind that a dispersed decision making creates confusion. You have to decide who is responsible for what.
Organizational culture + profile of a candidate = successful selection of a startup team member says Nika Sebič from the company HRM
9#: contracts aren't that scary, that entrepreneurs should avoid them at all costs
Matija Jamnik from the company JK Group emphasized four important legal areas that most startups don't put enough attention: putting together collective contracts, using a contract as a record of agreement of business partnership, traps of employing and hiring coworkers through a contract of civil law and a regime for management and protection of personal information.
#10: key financial indicators aren't necessarily connected just with money
Aleksandra Bohorč, expert for entrepreneurial finances from the company Abundia, emphasized among other things an interesting statement that it is very important for an entrepreneur, for his vision to be reflected in key financial indicators or indicators of success, that are not necessarily connected to money. She also mentioned that money in a company has to be managed every single day. In the beginning of a company's life cash flow is the most important thing to deal with.
#11: the market is king
Peter Rižnar, director of Arch Vitalis summarized his thoughts after the six intense days and said that he is very happy that he was a part of this learning process. The most important realization of the last few days was that the market is always king. Even though the product is very good, the market gives them valuable information in what way they should change it, so they can sell it.
A piece of advice I'd give to other startups is that the team cannot be self-sufficient and that it is imperative to look for advice from outside experts and widen your knowledge and horizons.
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