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Entrepreneurship

13 Tips For Tech Entrepreneurs

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Because of my work as an entrepreneur, teacher, mentor and now director of Wayra, I have encountered hundreds of entrepreneurs seeking the magic formula for success. While there is no formula that works for everyone, there are a number of tips that I think I can give to avoid (or at least mitigate) the typical mistakes entrepreneurs make, especially during their first steps. That is why I have compiled the following list that I hope you find interesting:

  1. Embark on something you like. The entrepreneurial path is not easy. In fact, those of us who are experienced in this can safely say that is the most difficult of all. If you’re going to start a business, do it in an area you enjoy and do work you’re passionate about (we can’t all be CEOs or General Managers). That way, when the blows start falling (and believe me they will) and you have to work many more hours than others, at least you will do it willingly and it will be pleasant.
  2. Focus. The popular saying is very clear: “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” I’ve met dozens of entrepreneurs who think they can handle 2 or 3 projects simultaneously and in the end are successful at none. I recommend that you focus on one and save your other ideas for later. Of course you can change what you’re doing as you go. What you can´t do is everything at the same time, especially when you’re new to all this.
  3. Look to create something important, not money. Most modern entrepreneurs look to generate money fast, which leads to attracting the wrong kind of investors and employees and the company usually perishes prematurely.  The idea is that the company must make sense and preferably change (improve) the lives of the people it touches. If this happens, the money will follow.
  4. Reach out to your potential market fast. As good as your idea may be, it is best to test it as early as you can. That is, look for feedback from your potential customers even before your product or service is ready. Waiting for the final version can cost a lot of money and effort. Use constant feedback to improve your product or service and then get to market with something you have tried.
  5. Finalize versions. Everything can be improved, but there is no need to wait for a perfect product or service. One of the major mistakes of entrepreneurs, especially engineers, is to continue adding functionality to the product, which leads to eternal development cycles. Having an original version and closing it once the original objectives have been met is important. Later, you’ll have time to make improvements in subsequent versions.
  6. Address a need. Another major error of technological entrepreneurs is developing something just because they have the ability to do so, without regard to any needs of the target audience. The end result is often a technology that lives in search of a market, the cause of death for many companies. It is much better to start in reverse, realizing that something is missing or could be improved and then seizing the opportunity.
  7. Follow your instinct. Listening to others, your clients, mentors and friends, is recommendable but be careful because you will face many different opinions and you can lose your way. Follow your instinct and accept advice, but without losing the essence of why you began in the first place. If you try to make everyone happy, you will probably fall into mediocrity.
  8. Differentiate yourself. Make sure you have some important differential value over your competitors. Doing the same as others is not enough.  You have to do it better, cheaper or in a different way to excel in the market. Your business must have a clear advantage over the rest that is also sustainable over time to prevent someone bigger coming along and competing with your same advantage.
  9. Persist. Success usually takes time, so you have to be persistent in your attempt to achieve it. If you get frustrated quickly, entrepreneurship is not your thing. Do not confuse persistence with obstinacy: be persistent but also learn to lose. One of my favourite sayings is “lose, but do not lose the lesson.” Even by losing, you can gain courage and experience.
  10. Delegate. You have to learn to delegate, you cannot do everything yourself. Entrepreneurs often believe that only they can do something right and take a hand in everything. This can eventually lead them to ruin. As a company grows finding specialists for different areas is essential. Lean on people you trust and that you can eventually train to be better than you in a specific area and give them power to carry out tasks.
  11. Control your ego. Many people find criticism difficult to accept, but we must always learn to listen. Pride is the natural enemy of success, so if you shut yourself off from the world, you end up being the only customer of your development.
  12. Lose your fear. Challenge yourself, explore and dare to do things that you have not done or have not been done before. While it is true that if you do not try you will not fail, it is also true that if you do not try you will never succeed. Most of the most successful entrepreneurs made many mistakes and learned from them, and that made them better and more valuable in the end.
  13. Help others. In Mexico, this happens a lot. We tend to follow a route without looking at those we tread on, without giving or asking for help. If you become successful, give a little back to those who are behind you and to the ecosystem itself. In addition to generating good karma we promote Mexico’s image to the outside world. The fact that there are more successful projects helps us all, because it improves the conditions for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Although being dogmatic about rules on entrepreneurship is difficult, (after all, it is an adventure), perhaps you may get something from these tips. And, of course, extend the list with some of your own experiences. Can you think of any?

written by Marcus Dantus, an entrepreneur who often writes for ThinkBig. see more.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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