Prof. Aard Groen: Making a high tech start-up successful

The Best Dutch Brands website talked to Aard Groen, director of  VentureLab International about creating successful start-ups.

Best Dutch Brands:  VentureLab International is your brainchild.  What was your a-ha moment which inspired you to begin VLI?

groenAard Groen:  My a-ha moment came to me after the Innovation Platform Twente asked me why many start-ups from UT weren’t growing further.  Although we already had another business development program called Kansrijk Eigen Baas, which helped companies start up, I realized we also needed to help prevent entrepreneurs from stunting their company’s growth during the early stages of their high tech high-growth company’s development. They should become more competent and aware, and this is possible if they work consistently on this goal through coaching, networking, having access to finance and remaining focused.

BDB:  What are some barriers when making a high tech start-up successful? 

Aard:  One barrier lies within the idea behind the company.  If the persons who developed the technology set up the company based upon the idea that the technology will sell itself, the company  will almost never become big. Something which causes this behavior is that they’re not market oriented enough. They don’t know what their clients want, but they are also not seeking what the client needs.  If that link is missing, then it is almost impossible to create a large company.

Even if you do have that link, there can still be issues.  For example financing a start-up is usually perceived as the big obstacle. Unnecessary, because there are plenty of financial resources available for high-tech start-ups. The problem lies usually in how entrepreneurs ask for the money. If you appear to be a technology-driven person and not a client-driven person, and if you have a poor network and an unclear presentation, it could be difficult to receive finance or find investors.

BDB:  How does VentureLab International help entrepreneurs receive financing for their companies?

Aard:  We first make our entrepreneurs “investor ready”, helping them have a prepared and presentable plan, the ability to do the first initial negotiations about the terms of reference for how they will get investments and what kinds of share they will share with the investor, and what will be their exit strategy. The real financing comes from someone else.

We’re connected to several formal and informal investor networks and we are able to introduce our participants to the right investor.

BDB:  Are there international participants in the program?

Aard:  We have many international participants; the program is given in English so there are no barriers for international people to join us.  We are also recognized by the NBIA (National Business Incubation Association) in the United States as a Soft Landings International Incubator designation and we help to set up a business in northwestern Europe, specifically in the Netherlands.

Jaap van Tilburg: Online Businesses Ideas

jaapvantilburgBea Stanford, the founder of Insego blog, talked with the Jaap van Tilburg, the Programme manager of VentureLab International about his own start-ups.

Don’t put all eggs in one basket is a well-known strategy that many entrepreneurs keep in mind. This is also a Jaap van Tilburg’s motto, who, apart from having a successful career as a board member of VentureLab Twente, he has a number of websites and online businesses.
As I always advocate creating a passive and residual supplemental income stream on the side, I took the chance to learn about Jaap’s approach.

First, why would anybody want to have a small business on the side if you have a good job?

There are many reasons:

  • Job security is a huge issue. Globalization, outsourcing, downsizing and economic woes in general are worrying people. Many desire something to fall back on; a safety blanket underneath them to catch them if and when they fall.
  • You might want to learn something new and challenge yourself
  • You have brilliant ideas that your work doesn’t allow you to realize, because you want to have the financial benefits for yourself or because you want to do things your own way.

Jaap has been an entrepreneur for more than 30 years. When he accepted a job at the university he liked to continue some entrepreneurial activities. Anyway, having a small business on the side is getting more and more popular. There are many factors that decide how successful that will be, depending on business model and expectations. Jaap van Tilburg says some of his 6 websites are more successful than others.

For example http://www.spocnet.net , dedicated to spreading information about doing business in Curacao, is a great support for the offline business. This website is a driving vehicle to offline meetings that van Tilburg organizes regularly. To attract traffic, van Tilburg uses a social media strategy including YouTube movies. The business monetization model is based on public sponsoring and the earning model via the website is in preparation.

One of his sites,www.innomeet.com,  is the other story. He was very optimistic about this website. It should  match innovators with potential buyers and help them create long-term partnerships. Visitors were reached via the traditional PPC (pay per click) method as well as by SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Unfortunately the idea wasn’t as popular as Jaap predicted and the website is now waiting for new inspiration.

Jaap also has 4 other businesses that deliver him a steady stream of work, help him build relationships and also enhance his credibility as an expert in the field. Furthermore he says that having businesses online is a need to be recognized, brings in new clients out of his existing network and helps him to stay on top of the game.

Jaap is an avid YouTube user and has his own popular hits. This can be another way of creating passive income. I like Jaap’s contagious attitude of being open on trying new things, whatever it is, social media or a new business. I agree when he says that, if you want to succeed, you have to change your mindset first and foremost. There are so many possibilities around all of us.

New Trends crowdfunding and crowdsourcing

There’s definitely a great deal of excitement about the best way the startups can benefit your crowdfunding and rightly so, if you take a look at how much the crowdfunding industry has increased in 2012. Yet another phenomenon, crowdsourcing, has also increased significantly over the last years, and with that at heart, MBA Resources website has presented five good reasons why companies and organizations really should take a good look at crowdsourcing.  The most important reasons why businesses should check out Crowdsourcing are:

  • to save money,
  • to save time,
  •  to innovate, to increase customer satisfaction and
  •  to scale up.

Another way of crowdsourcing is turning to consumer feedback for generating new content or products. For example, you might ask website visitors for their opinion about online courses versus traditional classes. If you summarize the outcome of your survey you will be able to create interesting, original content and maybe  a new product.

To better illustrate the idea, they came up with this infographic along with some cases-in-point:

crowdfunding-infographic

Managers need good practical models, based on good theory

Visiting the Academy of Management conference this year in San Antonio was again an inspiring event. 6000 management scholars meet and discuss the newest management research developments. Many sessions of the entrepreneurship division and the technology and innovation management division focused on high tech entrepreneurship & business development.

One very inspiring event was the award session for Clayton Christensen, he was awarded the innovation award of the technology & innovation division for his career. Professor Christensen accepted this award with an inspiring and moving speech about his lessons learned in his research and consultancy on disruptive innovation. He had several messages for universities on how to teach management students, and for managers. One common thread in his thought is that managers need good practical models, based on good theory, as one cannot base decisions on data from the past alone. Especially in innovation the future is expected to be different then the past, therefore the predictive power of analysis of data from the past is limited. Models of innovation development however, are informative to guide entrepreneurial managers in their quest for realizing an innovation process.

As an example, consider how difficult it was for IBM to understand the possibilities of the PC when they developed it in the late seventies/early eighties. Looking into the past was not useful, as there where very few practices to analyze. Imagination of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates determined the development of new innovative applications of existing IT such a windows based computers or Apple I-pad, but additional to this imagination obviously the business potential of opportunities conceived by the entrepreneurs need to be assessed.

In the Venture Lab Twente we use value creation modeling to estimate the possibilities of creating business in future with certain products. Jim Anderson, professor of marketing, Kellogs business school, Chicago trains our entrepreneurs to make better assessments of their financial value. His work also fits to the norms of Clayton Christensen being well based in strong theories and developed into practical modeling of value creation in market networks.

How is your entrepreneurial DNA?

You can find a good amount of misconceptions hanging around, boosted by icons like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, that you should be in your 20’s, and include a rigorous way of thinking and a huge ego. But, as outlined by a comprehensive study carried out by a startup incubator, these people are merely outliers.

During the past three years, the Founder Institute made employment candidates conduct a series of character and skills examinations. Subsequently it monitored those candidates, over 15,000 test-takers, as their particular startups started out. The objective: discover whether any kind of personal characteristics could be matched to profit improvement and market traction.

The outcome? As you are able to see in this infographic, the greatest entrepreneurs are usually those who have prior work experience in their discipline, developing important real-world know-how and expertise for a decade or longer.

Other characteristics appear slightly more evident: you must be open-minded, flexible and ready to react in a split second. You have to be friendly, you do not require IQ in the way it is generally assessed, but what you must have is the capability to identify patterns.

Did you know that VentureLab International is also present on Symbid,  a Dutch crowdfunding company?Check our Symbid group here. 

 

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Entrepreneurs hate business planning

Most entrepreneurship programs are organized around the development of a business plan. This is understandable because the first thing entrepreneurs are asked for when they apply for a bank credit or venture capital is a business plan. Although many entrepreneurs have made a business plan one could question their attitude towards this ‘obligation’. Albert Shapiro concluded that “companies that plan do
better than companies that don’t but they never follow their plan” and Mc Kinsey stated that “it is not so that winning businesses don’t make plans but they refuse to let planning become an end itself”.

Why business planning?

The added value of business planning is not to predict the future but to think about possible futures for today’s decision making. Of all the business plans made by the entrepreneurs that I supported, I found none realized exactly according to this plan. “In fact business planning and market research does not fit to the natural behavior of successful entrepreneurs”, is one of the conclusions of Saras Sarasvathy, key trainer in VentureLab International. In her research among around 30 expert entrepreneurs in the world she found that these entrepreneurs follow another approach. They hate systematic market research and planning and prefer to discover in practice how they can be successful.

If not what then?

They make use of opportunities which arise and adapt their approach continuously to the market responses. Sarasvathy called this the “Effectuation” approach as opposed to the usual “Causation” approach in which business planning plays an important role. Her findings are more and more recognized at entrepreneurship support centers, educational and research institutions. One of these is the Dutch Institute for Knowledge intensive Entrepreneurship (Nikos) which applied this approach in the
VentureLab program.

So:

        Get inspired by Saras Sarasvathy! In an

interview

    at VentureLab she explains about her approach.

      For me and many other Venturelab participants it was a ‘party of recognition’.

     

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    Crowdfunding Now and in the Future

    Crowdfunding by definition is “the process of financing an activity or endeavor by way of generating lots of modest sums of capital from a huge number of persons, generally by using the Internet”.

    We seem to be in a constant recession wave so nowadays startups are under huge pressure to remain profitable, and business owners are not going through the best of times. Crowdfunding creates a good possibility for success for this kind of entrepreneurs and businesses, by displaying their initiatives and assignments to the whole global community. The infographic shown below designed by Eventstir, events crowdfunding service, gives an excellent review of the global crowdfunding arena. It includes broad subject areas, such as the total amount of funds generated and platform explanation by region, along with specific parts of the world, together with the greatest platforms and ventures.

    Did you know that VentureLab International is also present on Symbid,  a Dutch crowdfunding company? Check our Symbid group here. 


    crowdsourcing-helps-business

    This infographic was voted as the best infographic on crowdfunding by MBA students on MBA101.org . This website  is a leading destination for locating affordable online business degrees and other unusual MBA programs including online MBA no GMAT programs from accredited colleges.

    How to become a recognized expert in your field

    It’s possible to boost your personal brand by establishing a reputation as an expert in your niche. Experts are sought after, they get noticed, they can command higher fees for their services, and they get interviewed by journalists. In brief, becoming a recognized expert can help you achieve your business goals using less effort.
    Until recently, becoming a recognized expert took decades and only  the MBA degree or the academic degree granted the status of the expert but today even if you got your diploma through  online classes  you can be easily perceived as the expert.  Showcase your knowledge in online and offline, choose the right strategy, and start your journey towards becoming a recognized expert using online marketing and social media.

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    Just say you want to be known as the expert on cutting machines then you should: 

    • Write articles about your niche and publish them on your website and blog. Your website is the virtual headquarters of your business. Every promotion leads to your website, so make sure your articles are visible and easy to find.

    • Now you should think about promoting your articles. There are many ways in which you can do this. First, let’s take a look at LinkedIn. Add your blog URL to your profile, click on “Additional Information” in your profile, and add a link to your blog.

    • Use the “update” feature – to share your blog posts within your network. Include the title of your post and a link. People linked to you will see such updates on their profile pages after they log in and they’ll receive your updates from LinkedIn on a weekly or monthly basis.

    • Join groups. There are thousands of groups on virtually any topic imaginable. Once you join your chosen groups, you can participate in discussions and share your expertise. Treat this area like a typical forum, be helpful and don’t spam.

    • Use Twitter to spread the word about your articles. Ask your webmaster to add a Tweetme button to your website. With this, you’ll be able to regularly tweet your articles.

    • Retweet articles by other experts and they will do the same in return. Reciprocation is one of the most important rules of persuasion.

    • Follow other experts on Twitter. Create your own twitter list or follow one of the existing lists.

    • Provide an e-course or offer a newsletter. Send regular emails to your subscribers supplying them with useful content.

    Follow these steps and you will notice a difference. I’ve done it many times for my clients and for my own purposes, so I’m certain that it works. If you’re consistent and patient, you will see results.

     

    Success comes after failure[infographic]

    People are afraid of failure and this is the key reason why they will not succeed. It is a fact that most of the people who now are rich and successful experienced several failures before. To a certain degree they all have failed in the past. If you examine this infographic  you can see what kind of set-backs these famous people experienced before becoming so successful.
    So you better not give up your efforts when you feel that success seems unlikely. Just keep working hard and have faith. There will be no success if you haven’t failed before. This is just a fact of life that you will need to deal with.

    failure-and-success1

    Courtesy of:MyCareerTools

    Angel Investors vs. Venture Capitalists

    For start-up companies that are without an established performance record or enough assets to obtain a bank loan, finding financial backing is critical for both business growth and success.  Therefore, many start-up companies endeavor to secure finances from outside investors, for example angel investors or venture capitalists.  The difference between these two types of outside financing is a question that we often receive; therefore we have outlined the differences below.

    Read more