Startup F#ck-Ups

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.

startup fuckups - quote magazine
October 2018 cover of the Dutch QUOTE magazine.

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.

As I wrote just days ago, there is really nothing new to learn about startups launch, growth and scaling up. But seriously, how we organize the support (as private or public entities) is to be redesigned all over Europe.

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.

Are we still learning anything new about startups or are we just pretending from now on?

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:

  1. If you’re a one-man startup you will fail;
  2. Spend time working on tech and product, instead of seeing where the market has a problem and you fail;
  3. 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).

Continue reading Are we still learning anything new about startups or are we just pretending from now on?

What constitues a good startup problem

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.

Continue reading What constitues a good startup problem

The fundamentals of opposable marketing

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.

Continue reading The fundamentals of opposable marketing

The startup game and its metagame

This is the fifth startup post-mortem that I’m reading this morning.

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.

Continue reading The startup game and its metagame

Startups fail 3 times…

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.

An unexpected summer reading list for innovators

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.

Continue reading An unexpected summer reading list for innovators

Where to launch a startup in Europe after the Brexit

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

Startups are Schrödinger’s cats

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