Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Conference’

Today I had an opportunity to participate a pitching event arranged by FundingPost.com, in Palo Alto, California. The event consisted of group of entrepreneurs pitching for the audience and then the panel of Venture Capitalists giving comments on the state of the industry and the presentations as well.

It was stated that Friends&Family investment rounds can typically be up to half a million dollars (unless you have really rich friends and family) and VC investments typically start at 2 million. So there is a great gap in between, and that has increased the deal flow for angel investors. At the same time “time to liquidity” ie. time from investment to exit has doubled. Today, investors may have to be prepared to stick with the company even more than 10 years.

As always, some companies are more “hot” than others. That influences the interest to invest. In the best position is a company whose product or service is creating traction, revenue and is growing. Those companies may enjoy, even today, receiving several competing term sheets. On the other hand, rest of the companies have much more difficult situation.

Comparing the pitches to those seen back at home, there were few differences and many similarities:

  • wider range of industry segments
  • generally older and more experienced entrepreneurs
  • looking for funding in the range of 300,000 to 8 million
  • quality of pitches varied but in general, again, more or less same range than in Europe
  • in some cases more “forward-looking” pitches, with probably less substance but true interest

There were number of investors in the panel, moderated by Adrian Shulman, Partner at Bingham McCutchen.

I’m sharing some of the most interesting comments, in my opinion, what they said.

Ho Nam (General Partner & Co-Founder of Altos Ventures) said that they are looking for interesting phenomenon.

Obviously the best time to raise money is when you don’t need it. Venture Capitalists are like sheep, they move in herds. It’s entrepreneurs who think out of the box and are the smart ones in this room.

John Hall (Managing Director of Horizon Ventures) said that typically an entrepreneur should get investor’s attention within one minute. The problem and the solution must be so simple that your mother could understand it. Only after that message has gone through, it makes sense to go to the details. He also advices entrepreneurs to do background research on the investors, like have they done similar investments before. That way you also know to contact the right partner at the investor company. A good resource to check VC background, by the way, is The Funded.

Steve Goldberg (Partner at Venrock) said that they are looking for evidence of big market, early customers, great execution plan and team of people who can do it.

We fund entrepreneurs and we fund CEO’s.

Eric Chen (Venture Partner at WI Harper Group) was comparing the US entrepreneurial scene to that in China. He said in China even those start-ups who have million dollar revenue may not get funding as the competition is tough.

So what’s the biggest difference, say between Silicon Valley and Finland?

I’d say it’s the atmosphere, at least. And as it is all about motivation, acceptance of entrepreneurs but also competitiveness. It’s more likely here for entrepreneurs to keep trying, even after failing.

And how does our upcoming Venture Bonsai relate to this? As it’s a tool for entrepreneurs, it makes running a (crowd)funding round (with many investors) easier. It’s primary not meant for getting VC’s onboard, as it’s more for the seed stage. The standardized documents such as Shareholders’ Agreement, however do take into account VC investment being possibly the next step.

In summary, it was quite interesting to see the event, and gave a lot of things to think about, again.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I was recently listening to Mårten Mickos, in an event sponsored by SWOT Consulting.

Mårten gave an excellent presentation with the idea of “How would I build a global software company right now”. He almost immediately pointed out that it does not make sense to say “Finnish Global Software Company” as that would already be against the definition. It can of course be that it is initiated by the Finns. As his success and experience from MySQL is well known, it makes sense to pay attention to what he says.

There are both challenges and opportunities (accessible with specific strengths) in this field.

He listed the following challenges anyone building a software company (in Finland) will face:

  1. Finland is too small and too expensive. This can be overcome by either focusing or going into volumes.
  2. Finland is good in utilizing software, not so good in producing it globally.
  3. We are slow.
  4. The Finns believe too much in institutions. More sales work, less filling in forms for subsidies and grants.
  5. There is room for improvement concerning the will to really fight (to become successful). In some respects, life is too easy for many. True winners are those who learn to fight for the success!
  6. We believe (still) that we are a leading edge country (“We come from Finland, country of Nokia”). More humble approach would be good as well as partnering with foreign complementary people.

The Finns have many strengths, however, which could and should be utilized better:

  1. The working moral is good, better than in USA/Silicon Valley as is the management style.
  2. The quality of work is good, honestly. Even when nobody is watching!
  3. Well-functioning society, everything works. (Author’s comment: not without briberies some statistics show, it’s just different)
  4. Mad creativity in development, making Finns suitable for all kind of pioneer development.

Utilizing the strengths and becoming successful also requires:

  1. Being in the right time, in the right place. You also need luck!
  2. Going into one of the large markets (EU, USA or China) quickly.

Mårten also gave his view on the software market status as of now:

  • Consolidation is taking place. You have to either find a pioneer market or find a niche in the consolidating segments.
  • Convergence means there are no borders between web and mobile, one must be capable to operate in both.
  • Increasing complexity – select your target market with care.
  • Global growth – do your market research concerning the existing players with care.
  • Market domination game requires you to find weak point of the market leader and take advantage of that.
  • Utilize the Open Source opportunities.
  • Everything is in the Net, and so will you.

Mårten summarized all this by saying that one must be brave but humble, ready to conquer the world BUT aiming at carefully selected market segments and geographical locations with carefully selected go-to-market-plan.

There are, in my humble opinion, many good points in his presentation. There’s is always something to learn!

Read Full Post »

I was recently listening to Mårten Mickos, in an event sponsored by SWOT Consulting.

Mårten gave an excellent presentation with the idea of “How would I build a global software company right now”. He almost immediately pointed out that it does not make sense to say “Finnish Global Software Company” as that would already be against the definition. It can of course be that it is initiated by the Finns. As his success and experience from MySQL is well known, it makes sense to pay attention to what he says.

There are both challenges and opportunities (accessible with specific strengths) in this field.

He listed the following challenges anyone building a software company (in Finland) will face:

  1. Finland is too small and too expensive. This can be overcome by either focusing or going into volumes.
  2. Finland is good in utilizing software, not so good in producing it globally.
  3. We are slow.
  4. The Finns believe too much in institutions. More sales work, less filling in forms for subsidies and grants.
  5. There is room for improvement concerning the will to really fight (to become successful). In some respects, life is too easy for many. True winners are those who learn to fight for the success!
  6. We believe (still) that we are a leading edge country (“We come from Finland, country of Nokia”). More humble approach would be good as well as partnering with foreign complementary people.

The Finns have many strengths, however, which could and should be utilized better:

  1. The working moral is good, better than in USA/Silicon Valley as is the management style.
  2. The quality of work is good, honestly. Even when nobody is watching!
  3. Well-functioning society, everything works. (Author’s comment: not without briberies some statistics show, it’s just different)
  4. Mad creativity in development, making Finns suitable for all kind of pioneer development.

Utilizing the strengths and becoming successful also requires:

  1. Being in the right time, in the right place. You also need luck!
  2. Going into one of the large markets (EU, USA or China) quickly.

Mårten also gave his view on the software market status as of now:

  • Consolidation is taking place. You have to either find a pioneer market or find a niche in the consolidating segments.
  • Convergence means there are no borders between web and mobile, one must be capable to operate in both.
  • Increasing complexity – select your target market with care.
  • Global growth – do your market research concerning the existing players with care.
  • Market domination game requires you to find weak point of the market leader and take advantage of that.
  • Utilize the Open Source opportunities.
  • Everything is in the Net, and so will you.

Mårten summarized all this by saying that one must be brave but humble, ready to conquer the world BUT aiming at carefully selected market segments and geographical locations with carefully selected go-to-market-plan.

There are, in my humble opinion, many good points in his presentation. There’s is always something to learn!

Read Full Post »

Kasvufoorumi 2009

Kasvufoorumi 2009

The future of the Finnish Economy is in the hands of those software entrepreneurs who dare to innovate and build growth companies at these times. That’s the idea of Growth Forum (Kasvufoorumi in Finnish), an initiative of Finnish Software Entrepreneurs which in co-operation with several other organizations such as Microsoft, arranged a kick-off seminar last Friday in Helsinki. This is the second year this event is organized.

According to Mikko Alkio,  the State Secretary to the Minister of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Employment and Economy, this is a unique collaboration in whole Europe. In no other nation have most of the key stake holders of the software industry joined the forces to build a new cornerstone of a new economic driver. Unlike some other politicians, he was also wise enough to admit that he himself is not actually the best person to advice how to become an entrepreneur and build a company. He claimed that the main reason for this is a  large house mortgage and no room for additional risk taking. In my humble opinion, this is actually often the reason to stay at a regular job instead of building a growth company of your own.

Another speaker, Mikko Kosonen from Sitra, also had an interesting presentation. One of the main things was the need for user driven software design. It is well-known that many (but not all) software is developed based on view of the developers, and less based on the actual and real user needs. There is light in the end of the tunnel, and it’s not the train. Memorize the word “Gasellizer”, an innovation by a group of sofware experts, and see what it is going to be this Autumn.

Concerning Mikko’s presentation, he also mentioned the need of new Service Innovations. That’s absolutely true. It’s no longer enough to engineer yet-another-cool-technology and try to find a use case for that. The future is in Service Innovations. This message is yet to go to the Finnish entrepreneur funding system, however. Trying to find funding for a Service Innovation (with focus on something else than the technology) is quite difficult as a typical answer is that “…it is just a service innovation, we cannot give support for that…”). In the future it should be the other way around, having “just a technological innovation” should not be enough, it should also be Service Innovation!

The Growth Forum will now continue with crowd sourcing model. All the software entrepreneurs were encouraged to join one or more of the task forces working on few pre-selected focus areas. Those focus areas are Teaching and Education, Research, Innovation, Growth Strategies and Capital Markets and International Sales & Marketing. I will personally join at least the Innovation group.

Let the forces be with this initiative!

Read Full Post »

Le Web @ Paris

I recently attended Le Web conference in Paris. The content of the event was excellent, and almost for the first time in my life it was difficult to choose between some of the tracks. There were some issues concerning poor Internet access, poor food and cold rooms. There is a letter from the organizers at their site explaining which subcontractors failed on which issue… 

A must-have part of this kind of conference is a start-up competition. After I saw the candidates for the final, it was clear which one would win. Viewdle from Ukraine was simply amazing. I’d say it’s kind of Video Google, and for sure it’s gonna be a big hit. Concerning many other competitors, however, it was different story. It seems to be quite (and too) common to copy an idea of another service and make it just a little bit different. I wish for more innovation, that’s what we need. 

I was part of a Finnish start-up group and we also sponsored a Sauna Truck to on-site. See this little video for an interview around the truck. Sauna was obviously a big success, and a good place to warm-up after being at the cold venue itself. See also this great post at Arctic Startup.

Read Full Post »