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Entrepreneurship Featured Ideas Investing Public Speaking TED&TEDx

Que Sera Sera – plans for 2021

Richard Lucas December 2020

Introduction

This blog post contains information about what I will be working on in 2021 and beyond, and an invitation to “work with me” if there is a match between what I am doing and what anyone reading this wants to do.

The projects I am working on are in the areas of :

Supporting Entrepreneurship

Community development

TEDx events

Business

Why Que Sera Sera? Why is my plan and this blog post called Que Sera Sera? I often cite Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera” (what will be will be) when teaching “gateway” entrepreneurship workshops. The message of the song, that the big things in life are out of control, is both wrong and depressing, and also potentially inspiring.

Why inspiring? Because, despite the lack of agency in little girl’s question “what will I be?, life does not just happen to people. We have choices.
In entrepreneurship classes, I encourage participants to reflect on the fact that the fewer the entrepreneurial risks they take, the more control they have, at least in the short run. If someone chooses to do nothing, they will succeed. In my “Tough questions from a potential investor” I argue that what really matters about any innovation or new project is what the users and clients of an idea/project think, not how passionate the founder is about it.

https://www.richardlucas.com/2013/09/questions-from-a-potential-investor

The life of the entrepreneur is full of possibility and yet “out of control”. No matter how hard you work and how committed you are, if the market is not interested, you will not succeed.

Que Sera Sera for me next year will be in the hands of others because it depends who decides to work with me on the projects described later in this blog post. I’m putting my future in the hands of others.

I’ve decided to spend more time replicating the ideas and projects I have worked on over the last 30 years into new geographies and sectors. But I’ll be doing that through and with other people, hence the form. But to devote more energy to some projects means spending less on others.

What I’ll be doing less of
I’ve exited some businesses and reduced my engagement with non-profits. I am not longer a shareholder Everuptive Group sp. z o. o., Untitled Kingdom sp. z o. o and Vantage Power Ltd. I stopped teaching at the Tischner Eurporean University, and being a student at University of the People. I’m migrating my Project Kazimierz podcast to the New Books Network, in which I recently became a shareholder. I am stepping back from the leadership of TEDxKazimierz, the end of an eleven year TED and TEDx Journey. I am not investing in new businesses, unless there are very special reasons why I want to. I wrote about the TEDxKazimierz decision in this blog post.


What I am continuing to do?


I will continue to support the businesses I am a shareholder in on an ad hoc basis. Some of them are market leaders, and highly successful businesses. My level of engagement varies, in some cases I’m a former CEO and a key shareholder, in others, my shareholding is tiny and the company gets on fine without me doing much. I continue to supporting entrepreneurship, through NGOs, teaching, podcasting, public speaking and occasionally investing, and to support non- profit projects focussed on community building, and spreading ideas.

How will I be doing it? The projects that I planning to work on are described below. I apply the organisational philosophy of TED to TEDx. This means that I go into action when I have a local leader. As you read this list, I ask you to ponder  “am I interested or do I know someone who might like to explore making something like this happen”. If this answer is yes, please fill in the form or tell the person you know about the opportunity.

The broad areas are:

Supporting Entrepreneurship
Replicating tried and tested low/no cost pro-entrepreneurship meet ups in new cities.

Here are the projects I want to replicate to new cities

Krakow Enterprise Mondays – free events with a strong focus on participant engagement where three entrepreneurs (established, startup and social) give short talks about of about five minutes in length with another five minute for questions. Their talks are to a format answering the four questions: 1 Who am I 2 What does my business do? 3  what lessons have I learned 4 what advice would I give someone (a student) starting out on their entrepreneurial journey.  Each speaker gets an “office hours” table during the networking so that people who want to talk to them afterward the speaker session can easily approach them. There are structured “meet someone new” icebreakers, before, during and after the speaker sessions so that everyone gets to meet plenty of new people. Gatherings last two-three hours, in a venue like a bar which welcomes extra revenue from bar sales on quiet evening (typically Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays) .  Past events are here

Pre the 2020 pandemic these events happened about once a month in University term time, often focussed around  alumni entrepreneurs.. KEM was run by student volunteers and post-grads. I estimate that KEM took about 2-3 hour /month + the event time, it had spread to one other city before the pandemic hit.


Open Coffee Krakow  

As per here and here Free bi-weekly morning meetups since 2012. Open Coffee is a friendly informal networking event for entrepreneurs, professionals, people in the startup community, and students in Krakow. What is the BIG idea? To help people creating useful connections. Everyone is welcome to our meetings, and we especially love first-timers. We want to make sure that if somebody coming from an unsupportive background/ country has the courage to join, they will notice that we are glad they came because we welcome them. Everyone who comes is important and gets 1-2 minutes to present their idea. We usually use this structure, to make it easy for everybody: 1. Who you are 2. What are you doing 3. What you need/are you looking for 4. How you can help others. The host of the meeting usually puts the webpage, linkedin or other info about the person speaking on a screen so everyone there can see who they are. The structured part of the meetup starts at 8:00 sharp and close at 09:00. After the ending of the official program, people stay for as long as they want to talk to follow up one on one with people./projects that interest them the most.
Venue Typically a coworking space    Cost minimal (We had coffee if a sponsor paid for it) Organised & Run by a leader who I recruited. A host is needed. 

Open Coffee High School Edition Similar to Open Coffee – but  run by and for teenagers. 

https://www.facebook.com/OpenCoffeeHighSchool
See Magdalena’s TEDxKazimierz talk on the project.  https://www.ted.com/talks/magdalena_blyskosz_it_s_time_for_networking_meet_ups_organised_by_and_for_young_people
Obviously needs a  leader

CAMentrepreneurs

https://www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/group/camentrepreneurs

To support business and social entrepreneurship among Cambridge University alumni, current students and others.  We organise free (or donation based) meetups in cities where there is a local leader.   If that’s you get in touch.  Format similar to Enterprise Mondays, leverage the Cambridge name to do events with other Ivy League type organisations (Harvard, Oxford etc) but in fact are open to everyone with the right mindset.


One off entrepreneurship workshops and talks, in school, university, accelerator and other settings 
I’ve led 100s of pro-entrepreneurship workshops everywhere from small state and private pre-schools in Poland, through to MBA level face to face and online in the world leading universities and business schools. I’m good at it, enjoy it and believe it is important. My workshops are highly interactive, and I operate on the the “give more/expect more” model. For example I often make participants record video introductions of themselves, before my class starts so I know who I am dealing with and have a class “Live document”.      

Whenever I am planning visits to new places I like to investigate if there are people and organisations that are interested in having me do something like this.  I often am ready do this free of charge and cover my own expenses. If the organisation is for profit and/or usually pays, I charge whatever they normally pay for someone like me. 

Examples are listed here. They include:

leading workshops in business schools,
talks at tech conferences,
classes at summer schools,
hosting events in co-working spaces,
inauguration talk to new students,
TEDx talks,
working at high schools, primary and pre-schools.

The school I was at as a teenager has created a Centre of Entrepreneurship and innovation and are recruiting a director. I’ve written to the person who is involved in the process with suggestions of what I could do to help build and strengthen the entrepreneurial culture of the school.


Entrepreneurship and leadership podcasting

For many years I’ve been interviewing interesting people about entrepreneurship and leadership on the Project Kazimierz podcast

https://projectkazimierz.com/podcasts

In January 2021 I am started a new channel on Entrepreneurship and Leadership on the New Books Network – the largest non-fiction podcast network in the world, which has more than a million downloads a month.  I’m always on the lookout for new interviewees.  If you know anyone who you think is suitable ask them suggest them to me – I use this form.  NBN was founded by Marshall Poe.

https://newbooksnetwork.com/about-the-nbn


Organisation of one-off meetups to link different communities I am connected to, for example Polish ecosystem in Poland, Cambridge eco-system anywhere in the world, Polish entrepreneurs abroad, random vertical where I have a contact. These take a bit of work but can be valuable.   


Investing in startups/mentoring – I don’t do much of this but on occasion I do.  If people ask me for investments, I  send them this  https://www.richardlucas.com/2013/09/questions-from-a-potential-investor 

If someone wants to work for or with me I encourage them to go fill in the form. One person who filled it in is now CEO of a company I invested in, another is working for and with me on multiple projects.

Apart from pro-entrepreneurship activities, I support several Community building projects, often but not always these have been featured on my TEDxKazimierz stage in the past and now I want to devote myself to helping the ideas grow and develop.

Community Building
There are several types of community building activities/Projects I am either working on or trying to work on

Village in the City 

Village in the City aims to support. sustain and start micro-communities with village like characteristics in cities all over the world.

See Mark McKergow’s TEDxKazimierz talk about the project here
https://www.ted.com/talks/mark_mckergow_how_village_in_the_city_is_building_micro_local_communities_worldwide

I’m on the Advisory Board of Village in the City, and am helping Mark McKergow grow and help this idea spread. Maybe there is room for a village or two in where you live?

https://villageinthecity.net

The Chatty Cafes project 

The idea of Chatty Cafes is very simple, having a marked table in a cafe designating it the “Chatter and Natter Table”. People who sit at that table are signalling that they are happy to talk to others in the cafe they don’t know. It is doing well. The founder, Alexandra Hoskyn, was on the TEDxKazimierzWomen stage in 2019 here here https://www.ted.com/…/alexandra_hoskyn_connecting_in_cafes.
Chatty Cafes are a great form of community building. Maybe I could something to help if I am coming to town.  

https://thechattycafescheme.com


Happy to Chat benches

Happy to Chat benches are benches that have a special sign indicating that people who sit on the bench are happy to chat to strangers. It is the same idea as a Chatter and Natter table but on public benches. This simple idea is described in this TEDxKazimierz by Allison Owen-Jones

https://www.ted.com/talks/allison_owen_jones_how_happy_to_chat_benches_are_tackling_loneliness_dec_2020
 


I have a vision of a makeover of some public space: to introduce suitable street furniture, a community noticeboard, a happy to chat bench, a chatty cafe in a Village in the City area. Maybe you can label a bench in your area.

Happy to chat benches https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-50000204

Yorkey Dads/Menfulness

Yorkey Dads and Menfulness are mutual support groups set up by men and dads to help each other in an engaging, tolerant and non-judgemental environment.

https://yorkeydads.wixsite.com/yorkeydads

Once it is legal and safe I want to visit Jack Woodhams and his team in Yorkshire to see if I can help them scale the wonderful projects they have got going.
Jack gave a talk about this on the TEDxKazimierz stage in 2020.


https://www.ted.com/talks/menfulness_yorkey_dads_help_men_to_support_each_other

TED/TEDx/TED Circles

TED and TEDx have been a big part of my life for more than a decade. As and when it is possible to travel again, I hope to visit and help with other people’s TEDx-es around the world. Different TEDx-es have different needs, contexts. I do not assume I will always be able to add value. There are three areas where I could help if the local licence holder wants me to.

1 Doing pre events, I’ve done 11 pre-events before TED and TEDx events, in US, Canada, Israel, Poland. Scotland,  South Africa, Taiwan and the USA.  I gave a talk about pre events at TEDxShenkarCollege as per here.

2. Volunteer/audience experience training. I did a workshop at TED Summit in Banff about community building at events, and always made it a key part of the TEDx-es I ran. For TEDxWarsaw and TEDxTarnow I did training for their teams on how to make sure participants were really engaged and feel important.  This blog post explains my approach.

www.richardlucas.com/2014/02/community-building-at-events-greatness-is-found-in-the-detail

I know that not everyone ‘gets it’, or even wants this approach implemented. I’ve heard from so many people over the years what a difference putting the participant centre stage makes. I’ll continue to evangelise for participant focussed events.

3. Speaker preparation  Depending on the speaker and the topic, I could probably support and coach a speaker or two on content and structure, (not voice, posture, body language). 

My TED profile reveals just how engaged I have been in the TEDx and TED community.

My TED profile www.ted.com/profiles/54403/about

I’ll do my best to support the new leadership of TEDxKazimierz if I can.

I’m going to carry on doing TED Circles with Mel Rosenberg about once a month. TED Circles are a like a book club, based a around TED content.

Doing business
I may be getting involved in a new promising “green” heat battery company which has the potential to greatly reduce the energy needed to heat homes, and usually at least one of my businesses has something to offer in most countries, so I always look out for new opportunities, investments, clients, and people while I am there. Check my Linkedin profile to find almost all the businesses I am engaged in.

Mentoring A few months ago Magdalena Błyskosz asked me to mentor her and we came up with a plan that I would do so with her publishing the results, so that others can benefit from the process. We think it is going well. Once the posts start going online I’ll add a link to it here

Conclusions/Next Steps/Calls to Action
I have never written a blog post like this. I thought that I was going to write a plan, but it has turned into an approach to my future.

As Reid Hoffman (founder of Linkedin) said in his 22d December – Review of 2020 – Masters of Scale podcast – “the upside of entrepreneurship is almost unlimited.” A lot of positive and valuable things can happen as a result of the blog post.

https://mastersofscale.com/2020-year-in-review

I really do not know what is going to happen – it is exciting – and in the hands of people reading this blog post – who decide to help make one or more of these projects happen.

As those who know me will tell you, I’m pro-active. I won’t be waiting for people to approach me passively but like a head hunter, approaching people who I think are suitable, suggesting pilot projects. Many people will say “no”, or not reply. That doesn’t bother me. I built my businesses because I don’t worry about rejection.

Why you should Embrace Rejection – https://youtu.be/j0wB1-s21q4

My way of finding out if an idea is any good is to try it. That includes this blog post. The same applies to anyone reading this blog post. My calls to action are:

If you are interested in any of these projects, fill in the form, or get in touch directly. If you have any questions, or something is not clear, questions and comments are welcome. If you know someone who might be interested, let them know as well or share this post in whatever way you want.

Que Sera Sera.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Ideas Investing

“We have discovered we have a competitor – now what?”

Richard Lucas

July 2018

Years ago I wrote a column for a Startup magazine called “Proseed” Entrepreneurs wrote to me with their problems and I shared my advice. A kind of “Agony Aunt” for startups.

 

My “agony aunt” Column for Proseed

 

A few weeks ago a trusted friend introduced me to a team of keen programmers and developers from a high school who were working on an App in the area of fashion AI and tech. I’ll often find time to see people in these circumstances even though those who know me will know that fashion is not one of my strengths. This doesn’t matter much – I almost always give the same advice –  which is to get feedback from customers and users think, not me. 

Categories
Entrepreneurship Investing

Before we “speed date” at Infoshare 2018

May 2018
I’m on my way to Infoshare.pl – the largest IT event in Central Eastern Europe.
The reason ? I’m giving a talk about the challenges startup businesses have with management – and what founders and investors can about it. I’m also looking forward to seeing Peter Cowley, and his son Alan.

The organisers – who give the strong impression of knowing what they are doing – facilitate business speed dating.

 

I have received *a lot* of requests for meetings.This blog post is primarily for people who want to meet me.

Normally I refer people to  longer articles I have written saying what I want to know before meeting such as this

Questions From a Potential Investor  

and the somewhat passive aggressive “What do you think of my business idea?”  

For  “Infoshare Speed Dating”, this may be overkill – so this is a simplified process.

If you want to meet me about a business idea, please answer the questions below. For non-business meetings, just let me know in a sentence what it is about (I will probably say yes). Here goes:

1. What problem does your business (idea) solve?
2. Have you got any clients (or commitments to buy) for your product/service? If yes, please name 2-3 people who are either clients or have committed to become clients at the price you intend to charge.  If you think there will be thousands, it should be very easy to find 2-3,
3. What are your unit economics? How much more are you planning to charge clients that your cost of delivering whatever it is you business is providing.
4. How much money do you want, at what valuation?
5. Who is in your team?

If you are not able/willing to provide this level of detail, please describe in not more than three sentences compelling reasons to meet.

Thanks

Richard

SaveSave

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Categories
Entrepreneurship Investing

Five things I learned from Asaf Navot – Founder – Home Made

by Richard Lucas 1st November 2017

This post is part of a series to go with the Project Kazimierz podcast. This interview is on line here.

Asaf Navot is the founder of Home Made in London, a fast growing residential property service which is both cheaper and better than existing services.

Prior to founding his startup Asaf did an MBA at Insead, was a consultant with Bain Private Equity Group and Wilson Perumal, and served in the Israeli Armed Services

My goal is to have a post on my blog here supporting podcast interviews when I have reflections to share – though these thoughts are mine, not Asaf’s).

Skype interview with Asaf

I don’t post video footage of the interviews but when the internet connection is good enough I prefer to video Skype – using Call Recorder software – as communication is better when you can see each other.So what five insights would I particularly especially like to share from this podcast ?

1 The value of military experience in leadership development. I was so wrong about this in the past. It deserves a separate article in the future.
2. The importance of leadership in any business. I discovered this way too late in my life. If you don’t know anything about leadership in startups, click here or ask me to write another blog post.
3. The importance of unit economics. Asaf talked about this at the British Computer Society Cambentrepreneurs Event in London where I met him. It’s so basic and so important. When you acquire a customer, how much money will you be making. The gap between revenue and costs. What I call chapter one of the “Ladybird Book of Business”
4. The value of operational excellence as a competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review were writing about it here just a few months ago
It’s important. Forget the Nintendo, beanbags and frisbee. Get things done fast, efficiently, and as well as possible at the lowest cost without compromising on quality and you will win.

 

5. He has great insights into interviewing and recruitment. You have to listen to hear them all, but I love he explains why it is important to hear who a candidate believes he or she has inspired or influenced. His approach to people management, one -on-ones and personal development is very aligned with Manager Tools (also run by ex Military people) of which I am a great fan.

Apart from these five points. Asaf shared a new thought or rather piece of advice with me. If someone tells him they are thinking of starting a business, he says…

“If you are thinking of starting a business – don’t”

It’s counter-intuitive but powerful. What he means is “You should only really start a business if you are so driven by the idea, you can’t stop yourself.” If you are that driven to open a business but are unsure about the company formation process, don’t let that put you off – there are businesses who offer a simple company formations process so that you can still achieve your dream.

Categories
community building Entrepreneurship Ideas Investing

How to approach a mentor – lessons from a Silicon Valley millionaire

by Hugo Dutka

This is not a regular Richard Lucas post – because it wasn’t him who wrote it. My name is Hugo Dutka.   I am a Polish high school student and I like meeting entrepreneurs. Richard suggested I share this story.

To cut a long story short, I was lucky enough to spend my last summer in California. I wanted to meet entrepreneurs in Bay Area, but Polish high school students tend not to know successful business people in  Silicon Valley. Luckily, I knew Richard. So I sent him a short message:

How it all started

Two weeks later I was meeting Will Bunker, a serial entrepreneur, angel investor and the founder of One & Only – one of the first major dating websites in the world. It sold in 1999 for 50 000 000$. Thanks Richard!

One & Only’s home page 25 years ago

Will Bunker today

The plan of the meeting in my mind was as follows:

  1. I will introduce myself.
  2. I will express my interest in meeting millionaires in the area.
  3. I will be introduced to the said millionaires in the area.

The first two points were completed according to the plan, but the third was not. What happened

I met with Will in a coworking space in San Francisco. We talked, I asked for advice, had some great books recommended to me. Then I asked for the introductions.

“So who do you want to meet?” he replied.

“Well, people who could help me start a business” I said.

“What business exactly?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

“I am all for introducing you to someone, but you need to be more specific. What area of business?” Will inquired.

“That I don’t know too.”

So Will recommended me to check out start-up meetups in Bay Area, and sent me links to some of them. That was not exactly what I was hoping for, but you get what you can.

To recap, I met one of the most successful people in the world that day. A person you would read in the news about. A Silicon Valley investor who serious Polish entrepreneurs could brag about knowing. And what did I get out of the meeting?

Book recommendations and a couple of links.

Luckily, there is a lesson in this waste. There are people out there who can help you get to where you want to be. But before they can help you arrive there, you need to know your destination.

If you are approaching a potential mentor, be specific. If you want the guy to figure out your life for you then you are bound to be disappointed. Surprisingly large numbers of people in the start-up world will be happy to make introductions for you, and some of them will do even more than that. However, if you don’t tell them how to help you, they won’t be able to.

To sum up, decide where you want to head before meeting people. This way you won’t waste their time and you will get much more out of your connections. It may sound obvious when you read it, but is not when you make the mistake yourself. Make sure this stays obvious to you from this point on.

Hugo Dutka is a Polish high school student interested in entrepreneurship. He organizes TEDxYouth@Warsaw, is part of the organizing team at TEDxWarsaw, and volunteers at various other TEDx events in Poland. Apart from that, he has been a mobile developer and currently practices machine learning with particular focus on deep learning. If you want to get in touch with him, send him a message at fb.com/hugo.dutka.

If you want to know more about Will Bunker he is expertly interviewed here on Andrew Warner’s Mixergy Podcast and here on Project Kazimierz by Richard and Sam

 

Categories
community building Entrepreneurship Ideas Investing Public Speaking

11 point plan for a killer startup pitch (it’s not a TEDx talk)

Richard Lucas April 2017
I received this e-mail a few weeks ago from the organisers of a business plan pitching competition.

Request for help

“Dear startup pitching competition organiser.
My first reaction is “NOOOOOOOOO”
“I’m too busy. My TEDxKazimierz event is only three weeks away. There is a lot of great advice on how to pitch available on this top secret website here

Having said that it’s good to ask for advice. I shouldn’t be too harsh, I will share my thoughts in a blog post that is available to everyone, based on the hundreds if not thousands of pitches I’ve seen and read and the thousands of hours I’ve devoted to TED and TEDx – in recent years helping many TEDx speakers prepare “the talk of their lives”.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Investing

What do you think of my business idea?

May 2016

“Hi Richard,

can we grab a coffee? – I’d love to get your feedback on my business idea to do X in Y –  and show you my awesome product.

I believe it is really great, and is going to be huge.

We urgently need a small investment of $100K due to our first customers being late in deciding to buy/ to keep us going as we get close to going global. It’s a billion dollar market.

We must talk soon, or you’ll miss out. I’ll be able to slot you in next week.

bests
Joe Doe
Co-Interplanetary Awesomeness Officer and Founder
Creepaability-aka-dontknowthefuckwhatthisisallabout.com ”


I get a version of this  kind of note  from time to time.  I have taken the worst bits from different e-mails and messages I receive  to make something truly awful. I hope this post encourages those who write to investors to reflect on their approach. 
This post tells your  what I think and feel, and what I write back (not the same) , and offers some reflections.
What I think and feel
0. not again..  🙁
1. Coffees are for drinking – not grabbing. Grabbing is rude,  and you might spill it.
2. I don’t care what I or you think about your product. I care about the problem it solves, and what customers and potential customers/users think.
3. If you urgently need money, you are bad at planning. Of course businesses, people, and startups can and will run out of cash,  but if you don’t realise this sounds terrible, you are probably not smart enough to be my partner.
4. $100K is not a small amount of money.  I was well paid when I earned $1500 month net in my best paid job (25 years ago). I took so big pay cut when I started my first business I was effectively paying for the privilege of working.   It would have taken me many years to save $100K. If you think $100K is a small amount, can I trust you to spend it carefully?
5. Blaming customers for being late sounds like a stupid attitude.  If they haven’t bought anything you should not be calling them customers anyway.
6. Money should be for specific actions, not “keeping us going”.
7 . Going global makes sense once you have a proven product that clients love. You offer no evidence of that so far.
8. What is the billion dollar market?
9.  Don’t rush me. Giving me the impression I’ll have to adjust to your busy life makes me annoyed before I’ve even met you.
10. Silly job titles repel me.
11. If I invite him/her to Open Coffee Kraków they will probably tell me it’s too early in the morning and I’ll never hear from him/her again. 🙂  That is probably a good outcome.
12. I respect and admire entrepreneurs who hustle  – so I will try (hard) to be nice.

What I write 

Dear Chief Awesomeness Officer,

Thanks very much for approaching me.

Best is to come to Open Coffee Krakow  and we can chat after that if you are in town.

I trust that you are OK with open feedback and if there are things about your idea I don’t like you’ll want me to tell you. Please confirm.

Do send me a Linkedin invite so you can see more about me and vice versa.

Please answer the questions in this blog post I wrote a few years ago –  so that I can be more helpful to you during the meeting (if we decide to meet).

Tell me how you are going to make money, what you would spend my investment money on, and what you are offering me in return.

It doesn’t matter much what I think  about your idea.
What really matters is:
– what clients and potential clients think about your idea.
– what pressing problem you think you are solving.
-what your costs will be.- how many months you can survive before you run out of money in the worst case scenario, and your unit economics. (how big the gap between your costs and revenues per item delivered is)

Good luck and see you next Open Coffee Krakow (if you cannot join in person, we are online as well).

Richard

Reflections

A lot of inexperienced entrepreneurs have read an article somewhere full of “fake it till you make it” type BS and imagine that a stupid angel can be duped into handing over money. It’s seldom true, and it’s not a great way to approach me. I’ve made lots of mistakes and may not be as smart as the letter writer  – but I don’t like being patronised.

It’s important to think and reflect before sharing my feelings. I may be annoyed and angry, but I really want to help entrepreneurs. I’ll try to help the guy learn. Maybe I was like that once.

Getting their Linkedin details enables me to figure out what sort of history they have.  Past actions (and inactions) give a great insights into someone’s potential).

Maybe there are people out there who respond well to crappy messages like the one I am dissing ?  If anyone reading this found an investor this way,  I would love to stand corrected. The beauty of a free society is that there is more than one way of operating.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Investing

Welcome Message for TopTal community – Why Kraków

Richard Lucas April 2016

When I was approached by Toptal, a blue chip and highly successful outsourcing firm backed by top VCs to host a post from their blog, I speculated about how Kraków might look through the eyes of their community,

I know about Toptal from listening the the awesome Mixergy.com – a podcast by Andrew Warner where he does insightful interviews with successful entrepreneurs.. Toptal are a regular sponsor of his show. They provide top class developers to entrepreneurs, and solve the recruitment problem. From what I can tell Toptal  competes on quality rather than price.

So talented Toptal Developers and entrepreneurs, what can I tell you about Kraków Poland?  

It’s more than the top outsourcing destination in Europe.

Many global companies have put RnD centres here. If you want to know about investment opportunities, and potential sources of clients, check Krakow Silicon Valley – Why not talk by Ramon Tancinco of Cisco , the OMGKRK portal and its group on Facebook Aspire and Open Coffee Krakow

OMGKRK Facebook April 2016

Although Google for Entrepreneurs has moved a couple of hours north to Warsaw, T-Mobile’s Hub.raum and other co-working centres lead a very dynamic Startup scene, and every startup needs a CTO and development team.

“We did not come here for cheap labour”  said Wojtek Burkot – when Head of Engineering at Google Krakow, “we came for Talent”. With EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition winner, Codewise, Estimote – world leader in iBeacon tech, Brainly – a leader in social learning, and Base leader in Mobile CRM, Kraków is bursting with high profile startups. Azimo – valued in 2015 at US$100 million – is here too. Innovation Nest, led by Piotr Wilam – founder of Onet.pl Poland’s Google/Yahoo hybrid supports the startup community

There area plenty of opportunities, plus Krakow is reckoned to be one of the top places in Europe to live – and visit for tourists which dynamic nightlight, numerous restaurants, lovely old town as well as the booming economy.

Come on over – Toptal visitors. If you are an entrepreneur – it’s a serious place for business as well as a great place to live and work. If you are a freelance developer and want to be somewhere cool, relatively inexpensive and fun while working for global clients, Krakow is awesome from April-October. If you are looking for “cheap developers” it’s the wrong city.
Krakow is great value for money, a good place to find clients, investors, business partners,people and technology, but not cheap.
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Categories
Entrepreneurship Investing

in depth interview with Michał Borkowski – CEO of Brainly – one of Kraków’s world leading Startups

I won’t analyse other than to note that
– he has a BIG vision
– he is aiming for 500 million monthly users.
he loves his job

thanks to Michał for the interview, and  my Project Kazimierz Podcast co host Sam Cook

Richard

projectkazimierz.com/michal-borkowski-the-best-learning-experience-is-in-the-community-episode-18/
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/project-kazimierz-innovation/id995086969?mt=2
Categories
Entrepreneurship Ideas Investing

What does the startup community need from Campus Warsaw? 15 Actions recommended

A Quora question here  provoked this Sunday morning article.

Richard.
Q What does the startup community need from Campus Warsaw? 

Great question.
1. Support, attend  and partner with regular monthly or more frequent monthly events and meetups across Poland (not just Warsaw)  –  with satellite events/monthly meetup like Open Coffee Krakow OpenCoffeeKRK (that used to take place in Google For Entrepreneurs Krakow ) and events Hive  KrakSpot    Startup Stage and those posted on #OMGKRK – Kraków’s startup community and Crossweb – wszystkie Barcampy, spotkania i konferencje

2.  Co-operate with existing pro- startup and enterprise organisations like AIP and Fundacja Startup Poland

3  Support pro-entrepreneurship movements like Global Entrepreneurship Week.

4. Invite and encourage government officials from all Ministries to attend existing events (not just do their own). Use Google’s pulling power to get officials involved and engaged. It can and does work. In the South Poland region, for example the country authority runs this  as its contribution to Global Entrepreneurship Week.

5. Encourage low/no cost initiatives – like Open Coffee Krakow movement – throwing money at events makes them happen even if there is no community buy in.

6. Co-operate and support social entrepreneurship like the  TEDx movement TEDx | Event Listing | TED.com

Log into Facebook | Facebook Code for Poland (Koduj dla Polski) Społeczność poszukująca technologicznych rozwiązań społecznych wyzwań  Volunteering movements Khan Academy Khan Academy Uniwersytet Dzieci
7.   Support development of curriculum based events (finance, marketing, coding) through encouraging meetups on themes or thematic groups like Krakow Unity 3D Meetup Group
8. Support enterprise education in schools , especially at pre-school and primary school level before it its too late
Strona główna – Fundacja Młodzieżowej Przedsiębiorczości
Przedsiębiorcy z naszej szkoły (not just Gymnasium and Liceums)

9 lobby for, and support liberal work and entrepreneur visa regime in Poland for non-Schengen professionals and entrepreneurs. Show that Poland is more open to non-EU  talent than countries like the UK and USA.

10. Invite organisations that could be part of the entrepreneurship support ecosystem:

law firms,
IP Agents,
accountants,
banks,
VCs,
chambers of commerce,
trade associations,
business schools,
universities,
political parties,
government bodies
Charities
NGOs
 to identify people responsible for dealing with startups, and invite them to workshops to present  what they are doing to help enterprise. (It may shame them into action if,  as may often be the case, they were doing nothing before Google asked them to present).

11. Keep promoting enterprise among minorities and  socially excluded groups, including prisons like Last Mile, in refugee camps, and support diversity.

Highlight Polish success stories like Applicake, Azimo, Base, Brainly, Estimote. (no regional bias 🙂 of course)

12. be interviewed on projectkazimierz.com   🙂

13. encourage angel investors

14. Encourage Polish doctors not automatically to ask every patient how many days off work they want no matter what issue  the patient has,

15 Encourage journalists to stop promoting anti-work culture,  saying “szkoda ze weekend się skonczy” and “”na szczęście już piątek.”

Richard

Categories
Entrepreneurship Investing

Innovation and investment processes in a 100 person IT company

Richard Lucas April 2015
Introduction
At SKK –  the company I founded and have returned to run in the last few months, – I’ve been thinking and researching our innovation processes.  When I studied economics in the 1980s at Cambridge (UK), we learned how Karl Marx argued that the four drivers of the capitalist system were competition, capital mobility, the profit motive and technological progress.  Marx was wrong about many things, and the dreadful impact of his ideas on world history is hard to overstate, but his insights about the importance of technological change to business are important. Businesses that do not innovate effectively will die.
This article is a generalised version of the concepts I am implementing at a business that is one of my most important financial assets.  Why share ? Ideas in business are only as valuable as the quality of their implementation.
Note that this article is a conversion of an internal document, and the tone and voice may be more of a manager to staff than me to my normal readership.

Tesla's 1891 Wireless transmission of power and energy demonstration
Tesla’s 1891 Wireless transmission of power and energy demonstration

Why do we need innovation ?
Keeping your ears and eyes open to internal and external information and ideas about what is going on the industries and sectors relevant to the one you work in, and thinking about them, is an activity that everyone can contribute to the company they work for.
Technological change is always about either doing what you already do better, cheaper or faster  and/or doing things that could not do before.  Both are potential sources of competitive advantage. 
The purpose of this document is describe  a generic innovation and investment process and suggest tools and  links  that may be useful and set out reasonable  expectations a leader should have of staff who want to engage  in an innovation processes.
What type of innovation are we looking for and why ?  
Innovation can increase an organisation’s chances of providing better solutions for its clients,  making clients’ organisations more successful and through so doing helping you and your organisation to prosper and grow.
By improving our internal processes and organisation innovation can make your organisation more competitive, cut  costs, avoid waste, and add more value.
There are two main types of innovation 
1 Incremental improvements to existing products, services and processes
taking out costs, doing things in new ways. These can be as obvious as improving our intranet,  sales and marketing processes, new products from suppliers. or having a thermos of hot coffee put in meeting rooms at the beginning of the day so that time is not wasted in the kitchen.
Any member of staff can make proposals, explaining how the change can cut costs, raise  revenue, increase  productivity, automate manual processes, make things better for the company  or its clients.   
2 Radical change 
in what your organisation does – offering completely new products and services, what we do and changing our business models 
Proposed radical changes  must be informed by systematic client or potential client feedback. Remember the Henry Ford warning “if we asked people what they wanted we would have given them a faster horse”. Sometimes you just “know” that clients will want something before they buy it.  
We may also come across change and innovation that impacts our clients even though we are not actively involved in the technology or other factors driving the change. Even if this is the case, it’s still good to understand our client’s situation and sharing insights can be important in developing a partner rather than vendor relationship. 
3. Innovation that impacts our clients
Sometimes we may come across a change that is important for our clients. In this case it is a talking point and something that we can let our clients know about, showing that we are thinking about them, leading to a conversation about what we can do for them.  
Where can we get information and ideas about innovation
workshops/ brainstorming
benchmarking against external vendors
talking to clients about their problems
thinking
research
monitoring the external world with tools and processes.
There are many tools for keeping up with what is going on in companies, sectors and the news. We can all do Google searches, with “Google News Alerts” the news comes to your inbox.  Google Alerts https://www.google.com/alerts
As someone living and working in a  non English language environment, I cannot underline strongly enough the importance of understanding and using English. You cannot search in every language, but with English being the world’s second language of choice – > the chances of finding out something new in English are way above those in most languages.
Magazines, websites, radio shows and podcasts, industry portals, trade associations, reports,  clients, competitors, vendors, media,(web,  media)   conferences, internal existing projects,
What should the process be for an employee when he or she come across an innovation that is relevant to the company ? or has a suggestion of a new vendor partner or supplier ?
Make a Google Form and distribute the link to your organisation (and selected partners). Ask obvious questions – What Who Why,
Innovation form

Innovation form

Make sure that nominated managers have nominations on their agenda for regular meetings, get more information from anyone with an important idea or major proposal for change. and give feedback to the person with the idea. If merited, project teams can be formed to do further research, and get feedback from clients. 
Conclusion
In a small company, a founder or CEO may “do” innovation by him- or herself. In a  larger company it may be in the hands of a Product Manager. In a good company innovation  is for everyone. and it is a senior management responsibility to make sure that suggestions are responded to. Companies that do not innovate effectively have a serious problem, and may die.
Categories
Entrepreneurship Featured Investing

Questions from a potential investor, mentor or partner

This post first appeared here as an article on Proseed Magazine in 2013. I have updated it since then, so this version is the best to read.

Who is the article for?
I send this article to people who approach me asking for feedback, advice, mentoring and/or an investment.

I send a link to it when someone writes to me, saying “you ought to meet”. or “can you help” ‘x’ who has a great business idea”, with the suggestion that they forward it to the person they want me to help.

If you are ‘x’, and you don’t see why you should read on, feel free to stop now. Please do let the person who introduced us know that it was your decision not mine, so they don’t think that I am being unhelpful.

I share this article with people who are over-exposed to the BS culture of “fake it til you make it” startups, and who have sadly been influenced by those who think that investors are stupid and it is smart to take advantage of them.

I changed the blog post title from “Questions from a potential investor” to “Questions from a potential investor, mentor or partner”  because sometimes people approach me who do not want an investment. I may be able to help them anyway, and if I can, am usually glad to.

Why do I request “pre-information”?
I feel that if I am ready to give away my time, asking those who approach me to invest the time to pre-brief me is a good filter and fair. It shows they take me seriously. While I enjoy hearing about business ideas, I prefer to know the stage people are at before meeting. I want the person to be properly prepared and to have done the “easy stuff” before we meet. People often want to chat before they have done basic Google searches on their potential competition, or figured out their planned business model. There is nothing wrong with this, but in this case I don’t want to set up a dedicated meeting or call. I don’t want to spend 30 minutes of a one hour meeting finding out information that I could pick up in 5 minutes reading a briefing document. If the idea is good then the extra time during the meeting will be much better used doing things other than finding out simple facts about the team and ownership.

I am usually willing to give up to an hour of mentoring/feedback to people with business ideas – at a time/place convenient to me – provided I am not involved in anything competitive. This is not a promise. Sometimes people annoy me so much with their approach that I decide not to meet them at all. Sometimes I encourage people to attend events I am going to be at anyway, so that we get a few minutes to chat. Often five minutes is enough for me to tell whether I can be of any use. The questions I ask are ones that all professional investors will ask so it is not a waste of time to answer my questions.

I do not promise to find time for a call, meet, get involved in giving feedback about why I don’t want to meet after I get the information requested in this post.

The questions and answers you provide are to help me decide if I want to do that. I don’t want to focus time and energy on projects that are not going to happen. Obviously if things have changed “Hi Richard – 6 months ago you asked us whether we had working product, a team and at least 5 potential committed clients. Back then we didn’t – and you were right to send us away. The good news is we’ve done all of that and more” then I’ll be glad to take another look.

Because the situations of people approaching me vary so much please be aware of the fact that some of what I suggest below may not fit your situation. If this is the case, just skip or move on to questions that are relevant to you.

Here goes:

Clients and potential clients People often ask me what I think about their idea. I always tell them ‘it doesn’t matter what I think nearly as much as what clients and potential clients think’, and and I ask them what they have done to get this information from clients and potential clients. If I am told “we have interviewed 10 directors of companies who we want to sell to and they all say that they are very interested in purchasing at the kind of prices we want to charge” it not only is impressive it also tells me that the person I am talking to is well organised and has the self-confidence to get out there and talk to people.

Why? What’s the big idea? The vision. Why are you doing it? What and whose problems are you aiming to solve, what pain points are you addressing. What is it that makes a) your users b) people who will send you money really appreciate what you do or plan to do.

Long term value of clients/repeat revenue. This can be hard to estimate for a startup, but you have to do it. If you sell post cards to tourists, the chances of repeat business are almost zero. If you sell premium (expensive) dog food to wealthy people who you can persuade that your dog food is the one their dog prefers, the repeat revenue may be very high. If you sell post cards to shops that sell them to tourists, you have a good chance of repeat revenue if they find your cards easy to sell and make a good margin on them. If you sell jet engines to Airbus, and each one comes with a high price service contract, it is obvious there will be repeat revenue.

Current situation
How are you doing? How are you making/going to make money?
If your business is already underway please describe how you got to where you are now, what the key processes are (how you get clients, deliver your product or service and make money), and what you expect from me. Please send me basic facts, your trading history: costs, revenues and profits, number of employees, and ownership. A simple spreadsheet showing past and planned future costs is often very useful. There is a useful concept of Unit Economics, which is very simply. what are the costs of making/doing the thing you sell, and how much do you charge for it. If you are a real estate agent, and the cost of visiting, documenting, describing, promoting, explaining methods for making profit from the property and showing potential clients a property, and handling paperwork if there is sale is US$400 and you make $2000 if there is a transaction, you are making $1600 per deal, it becomes obvious how many sales you need to make to cover your fixed costs and start making money. If you are losing money, don’t expect an investor to bail you out, unless some dramatic change is about to happen that you can explain.

If you have not started yet, describe your planned business model, how you are going to make money and how far you have got already. If you haven’t thought about how you are going to organise your business so that your costs are much less than your revenues, please do so before we meet. If you are at the stage of “once we have traffic we should be able to make money” I am not that interested unless you explain how. You above all people should be thinking, brainstorming and testing ideas in this area.

Costs A tough area for many entrepreneurs is the issue of ‘founder salaries’. It is important to address this. If you have been working for free in your spare time and ‘post investment’ are planning to go full time then you may not know how much to suggest. A rule of thumb is that until you are making a profit, approximately 50% of what you were making on a salary might be reasonable unless you have rare and highly valued skills and experience.   Investors won’t like the idea of you being too comfortable on the back of your take home pay from your startup. Results related bonuses, and salaries that rise as the company goes through agreed milestones make a lot of sense. 2021 update – I’ve recently heard this approach may be wrong. Maybe start ups should pay more, not less, than normal.

Competition – who are you competing against in your home market and internationally? Who is dangerous to you now and how are or can you be better than them? If you haven’t searched and checked who is doing this in foreign countries, do it now. Don’t show up to a meeting before you have tried to buy what you are thinking of selling on mfg.com, Ebay.com, Amazon.com and via a simple google searches. You may think you are the first person to have thought of renting out dogs You are wrong. Years ago I posted this Now Will Bunker who made his fortune in a dating site has invested in Borrow My Doggy which charges both the dog owner and borrower for the transaction and unsurprisingly is making money. A great example of it being more important to execute on an idea than be the one who has the idea first.

Strategic plan. How will you grow in terms of geographical spread and product/service offerings.

Benefits for investors. How am I, and other investors, going to make money?

End game. Are you going to exit? If so how, when, who are your potential buyers ?

Ownership/shareholders/Team: key team members etc. who apart from you is part of your set up?

Gaps what do you lack/what are your weaknesses/challenges? What else do you need that you don’t have today, and what are you doing to address them? As Gary Vaynerchuk says, self-awareness is a vital business skill.

Barriers to entry if you start turning into a high profit business. what is to stop others entering the market?

Dangers and threats. how could it “all go wrong”?

My role. How can I help you ? What is the main reason you approached me?