Passion for entrepreneurship has inspired us to create Foundum. We believe in entrepreneurs as they have the greatest potential to drive, change and positively influence economies & societies.

November, 2010

Venture Days at IE Business School – Entrepreneurs learning from failure

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

During the Venture Days at IE Business School many entrepreneurs came together and shared their experiences around the company building adventure. Throughout the different panels addressing topics like Women Entrepreneurs, Social Entrepreneurship and Raising Capital, entrepreneurs shared their major learning experiences around entrepreneurship.

Please read below about their 10 major learnings:

1. Don’t be afraid of making errors
Gabriel Aldamiz, co- founder of the fashion community Chicismo, said one of his major mistakes was being afraid of his own errors he would make whilst creating his company. As an entrepreneur it’s inevitable to make mistakes but you should take it as part of the adventure and not be afraid. Just try it – just “make it happen”.

2. Focus
Many times, entrepreneurs, especially the young ones who are just starting a company have difficulties to focus. They are passionate about their project and want to make it happen all at once. The risk is that you lose focus on what’s really important. As Dennis Bemmann, co-founder of the German pupil community StudiVZ recommends: “Don’t do too much. Just do a few things excellent.”

Also, many Start-Ups in the Web space try to be international from day one. This holds the risk of deviating your focus into different directions. Often it’s more recommendable to grow organically and consolidate into one market after the other.

3. Have a Sales Strategy in Place from Day 1
When setting up a company you should think about your sales approach right from day one. Carlos de Otto from Rockola says: “If you have an Internet company or a manufacturing company producing screws, it does not make any difference. What’s most important is to know how to do sales and to know who your clients are and how to approach them.”

4. Have measurable metrics in place
“Your calendar is your worst enemy. Time passes by and you need to make sure you advance in your company set up process. Make sure you have the right metrics in place and make sure that they “go up” and represent growth”, Gabriel from Chicisimo.

Even if you have metrics in place, make sure you use the right ones. The number of registered users on your website for example is no indicator for their activity. You might be running the risk of managing a “dead” site if you only refer to this number.

5. Lower your company valuation
When you look for investors it’s understandable that a high company valuation is beneficial for you. Though Gabriel made the experience that if you put your company valuation too high you lose the chance to get important investors on board. It’s risky and might close many doors; “Be investable and acquirable.”

6. Be present – Do Networking
Go out and meet the people in your own sector. You’ll learn the most from other entrepreneur’s when they share learning experiences with each other. Also if you’re looking for investors a personal contact is always stronger than knowing each other via phone or email.

7. Make sure you understand your target group
Jesus Miguel Gutiérrez, founder of the Spanish Social Network Sigojoven for +40 people, shared the experience of launching a product without really knowing what his target group really wanted. As Sigojoven is a place for 40+ people and he himself was under 30 when it launched, he realized that the expectations and user behavior of this target group was totally different from people his age. Even before you launch a product you should find out as much as you can about your target group, their needs and their objectives. Talk to them and ask them directly what they expect – you can do this either personally or use surveys to find out as much as you can.

8. Have the right team in place
Jesus also shares the value of having a great and reliable team in place. It’s important to have team members who challenge each other. It was important to him that his team made him think and reflect.

If you set up the company with partners it’s important to think about the company constitution from day one. If there are 4 partners it is not recommendable to distribute 25% of equity to each. Venturepreneur Rodolfo Carpintier (DAD) who is a serial entrepreneur and has many years of experience in investing into Start-Ups says: “ It’s good to start as friends but the share distribution has to be thought through right from day one so that you don’t enter any conflicts when you plan to take first investors on board.”

David, from Rockola adds that it’s also important to have partners that represent the industry you’re working in. He has set up Spain’s largest online radio site and it’s obvious that he needed to have good contacts in the music industry.

9. No need to totally Bootstrap
Many founders of Start-Ups do not pay themselves any salary and act according to the boot strapping theme 100%. David from Rockola also did this in the beginning and he says it’s a very difficult situation. You don’t need to feel sorry as “everyone needs to eat”.

10. It’s not as easy as it’s seems
This point speaks for itself. Even though your dream is big and everything looks very easy and clear at the beginning there will be a time when you’re facing difficult situations. In these times it’s important to be determined, perseverant and keep your hunger to win.

How we are being educated out of creativity – 3 ways of finding your Element.

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

At the HSM conference we have attended and written about previously, we have been fascinated by Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas regarding education. We also had the pleasure to meet him personally and receive a nice dedication in his book, The Element. After his talk it was clear that if the education systems around the world followed his suggestions listed below entrepreneurship and business would foster around the world with new creative products and services.

Growing up most of us attended an education system that encouraged certain subjects over others. Usually the math’s, languages, humanities, and sciences were the most important subjects while the arts and sports took a secondary role and many other disciplines were not even considered, for example entrepreneurship. At the end of the day most of the emphasis actually went to the languages and maths. Before the argument goes on there are questions that must be asked; how many of you use the first derivative that you studied in calculus class to create your company? Or, why does the education system strive to offer a “one size fits all suit” to the variety of children and young adults that have such diverse intelligences and interests?

Sir Ken Robinson puts forth some compelling arguments about the need to reform the education system in order to better cater society and engage the students. One of the crucial arguments he makes is that all children are born with imagination and creativity, but as we grow older we get educated out of creativity as we are taught to blend in the crowd and fit in society.

The argument must not be misinterpreted that the education system is useless, or that not going to a school will increase your chances of being creative and come up with the next Google. In fact Google would have never been invented if the two founders hadn’t met each other in one of the best universities in the world (Google Milestones). In addition one must not forget the education system is only part of a child’s education, family and surroundings play a major role.

Sir Ken Robinson does a great job at explaining why and how many have trouble finding what they are good at and what they love doing. If a child grew up not being good at math or languages and always bringing home mediocre scores from school the individual is very likely to have low self-esteem. This will produce an adult with little self-confidence. Such an individual might feel unfit for life and settle for any job in the market. The Element, Sir Ken Robinson’s book, tries to explain how we all have talents that can be developed.

From the many examples that he mentions one that really stands out is Paul McCartney. Apparently he was horrible at school in music class and more than one choir rejected him. Another well known example is Richard Branson who had trouble at school because of his dyslexia and dropped out at age 15.

A few points that the author develops to find your element follow below:

Find your intelligence:
understand that we are all diversely intelligent and find what it is you are intelligent at. Don’t assume that not being great at math means that you are not great at creating a company or making a name for yourself in a new undiscovered field.

we all have it, we just need to challenge the obvious and extend our minds beyond what we have been taught. Unleash your minds from the chains of society!

I get it, I love it, I want it, where is it? Once you understand what is it that you get, something that you love doing then find it, find the opportunity and do it. We have one life and we cannot waste the majority of it doing something we don’t love.

It seems therefore reasonable that another way to express Sir Robinson’s ideas is that we need to be entrepreneurs of our own lives. We need to understand our passion and talent and do something about it. We also have to look at things from a different perspective in order to innovate and we need to take risks. Be an entrepreneur in your own life and go get it!

Have a look at Sir Ken Robinson’s famous talk at TED:

So You Want to Start a Web Startup?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

A must see for every tech entrepreneur! This video is hillarious!