7 business tips from startup Founders
Experience is the best teacher, as they say, and many startup founders who joined this week’s tech startup conference Slush in Helsinki, Finland have shared their personal ups and downs to entrepreneurs who want to build their own empire.
Here are some tips for budding entrepreneurs straight from the horse’s mouth:
Be open to criticism. E-commerce company Deal Dash founder William Wolfram said criticisms are ‘basically free advice.’ Startups who deal with fault-finding venture capitalists (VC) for funding must be ready for flak. But Wolfram said ‘A founder should walk away from a meeting with what they need to work on and what they should do.
‘You can get so much value and feedback from VCs, even if they don’t want to invest.’
Think out of the box. Creativity is the heart of startups according to Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen: ‘Don’t just look at what’s popular in the App Store and see how you can do something along those lines. Try and create something new and exciting.’ Supercell is the company behind the popular iOS apps ‘Clash of the Clans’ and ‘Hay Day.’
He added that failures are cause for celebrations — Supercell embraces product failures with a bottle of champagne: ‘We don’t pretend failing is fun — people dedicate their lives to gaming production and sometimes the products get killed — but we get so much from that failure. We analyse and talk about what went well and what didn’t. We pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate what we learned.’
Be selective with advice. Nitro Games producer Jukka Hilvonen reminded entrepreneurs to only ‘Listen to the right advice.’
‘While going through incubator programmes, we met a lot of talented people from different fields and received a lot of advice.
‘But if we listened to everyone, we’d be chasing our own tails.’
Fill gaps in skills. Small Giant founder Markus Haltunnen said a balance founding team is the key to success: ‘Make sure your founding team is well-balanced. It’s not enough that you have a group of talented people working together.’
‘We had two graphic designers and one developer, but we knew we needed something more. It’s important to identify gaps in skill or knowledge. We were lucky to get someone else on the team who had experience talking to investors and that was key while we looked for funding.’
Think ahead. Yoga Retreat app founder Tiina Zillacus said that thinking beyond the present will help your company thrive. ‘If you need investors, raise enough money for the next level while still playing the current one.
‘Even if someone isn’t interested now, they could be later. It’s about building relationships and thinking ahead, not just what you need now but what you might need two years from now.’
Zillacus also reminded entrepreneurs to keep an eye out for investors who have a specific interest in the business’ category.
Keep an eye on the business, not on competition. CEO and co-founder of Singapore-based Nonstop Games Juha Paananen said it was important not to let competition fuel your move: ‘Some companies look too much at what competitors are doing and don’t focus on themselves.
‘You’re more likely to be killed by lack of focus than competition.’
Market yourself. CEO Will Kassoy of AdColony cautioned that startup entrepreneurs shouldn’t be satisfied with just a strong concept: ‘The slogan “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t always apply.’
The former senior VP for global marketing at gaming company Activision | Blizzard added that it’s important to get the business in front of influential eyes. ‘You need some form of marketing.’