Weaponizing corporate and startup innovation programs, since 2007.
How startups strategy radically differs from typical companies. How they can adopt a challenger mindset, break the rules, move fast, hack business, get through the valley of death and across the chasm.
You might not remember ANKI Robotics, an hardware and AI startup featured onstage at an Apple event in 2013. Well, this company folded yesterday and had to fire 200 employees after burning through $200 million in capital funding (including Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz). And ANKI was not idle in the market, it was generating around $100 million in revenue since 2017. This is not small potatoes!
Just assessing every day how the narrative on startups has been reversed in Europe from « This is how we’re going to save the economy! » to « What is this mess? ». The message we’re not changing entrepreneurship a Startup Weekend at a time seems to be getting through. This also correlates with the growing number of tech clusters and incubators in Europe that get in touch with us.
As always the swing of the pendulum will probably go too far back on startups. But as an optimist contrarian, I trust it’s time to get back in there even more actively.
One key step would be to stop trying to nurture projects at a local scale. This leads to cities miles away from one another to compete together to nest more startups than the other. That they would want to do that is understandable (local jobs, etc) but that states and the EU promote it, is madness.
After years of working with every kind of startup programs — read: incubators, accelerators, tech clusters, public tech transfer, universities, entrepreneurs’ networks, corporate platforms, and various EU initiatives — I keep asking myself: are we still learning anything new about startups?
For early stage startups there are basically only three things to remember:
If you’re a one-man startup you will fail;
Spend time working on tech and product, instead of seeing where the market has a problem and you fail;
Don’t start working in English and you will never scale (that one might be blunt and would deserve a full article, but yeah, essentially this is what is going to happen).
Most of the startups participating in one of my trainings are initially shocked at the inordinate amount of time I spend working on ‘the problem’. I’m certainly not alone there. Everyone who is regularly dealing with startups gets eventually frustrated to see how they concentrate en masse on building a product and not focusing on what the market actually needs. And while anyone who ambitions to shake a market’s status quo shouldn’t be too pragmatic, as much rationality as possible should nevertheless prevail. But, very few are the startups committed from launch to tackle a clear-cut problem.
I’ll be giving another Executive MBA class this week in Paris, which is an activity that I fairly enjoy — and if I may say so, my students too. Such three-day classes are usually very educative for me. They always keep me in touch with what most professionals still find difficult to grasp in the logic of launching innovative businesses and sustaining them later on.
While startups are not failing more, they’re just more vocal about it. This is a good thing. Hopefully, it will hep dismiss the illusion that a) anyone can launch a successful startup and b) the next stage of economic growth for Western countries will come from under-staffed, ill-prepared tech entrepreneurs.
Initially, 80% of startups fail at designing a workable solution to early adopters’ problem, from whom they can learn. Out of the remaining 20%, 80% fail at building on-going traction from a core market. Eventually, 80% of the few that survive fail at scaling this traction up, because they weren’t prepared from day one.
I was recently asked by too many people to produce a reading list for this summer to really be able to refuse gracefully. Now, this is not a simple matter. To some extent, my straightforward answer would be: read everything about innovation that has been published in these last 20 years, that is not purely redundant, and then… forget it all.
Sure it’s been a shock, and in the few years, Cameron will probably enter history books as the guy that fumbled his country out of the European Community. While nothing is really done yet, and the actual Brexit could drag on and on if no actual leadership comes back to Britain, it may be the time to ask what Brexit changes for European startups. Continue reading “Where to launch a startup in Europe after the Brexit”
Among the fundamental misunderstandings that I try to tackle from time to time in these articles, many of them revolve around the fact that a startup is not « a smaller version of a larger company ». This single point is the source of the vast majority of all the problems encountered by startups when they have to do anything about their project. Whether they have to think strategically or react to an emergency, they activate neuronal pathways that have been formed whilst learning from — or working with — typical companies. Continue reading “Startups are Schrödinger’s cats”