Designing is collaboration – interview with IDEO’s Charlota Blunárová

Interviewed by: Martin Andrle

Image credits: Charlota Blunárová, Instagram: @lotka_
www.2foto.cz
charlotablunarova.com

A designer is usually a “jack-of-all-trades” who does not only understand the importance of customer experience, but also knows marketing, code and products. They are an indispensable part of startups but many times, because of their broad responsibilities, it’s difficult to comprehend what it is that they do. That is why we took a moment to talk with Charlota Blunárová, visual communications intern at IDEO, to understand the role of designers in teams. 

Charlota Blunárová Graphic designer, photographer & occasional illustrator

  • Charlota, thanks again for giving us the possibility to catch up with you and introduce your wonderful life story with the Startup Weekend community.

As long as I know you made incredible shift from being a photographer and illustrator to become a multidisciplinary designer, currently interning at IDEO, one of the best design companies in the world. On that way from Brno you stopped by in Pearlfisher, London, another world class agency. Could you tell us how all these things happened?

Well, my background is an industrial design. I’ve always been interested in relationships between people and objects and I thought studying industrial design would be interdisciplinary enough to keep my curiosity satisfied… But along the way I fell in love with all things visual, started freelancing as a graphic designer, then I started my business as a wedding photographer. This year has been pretty busy so far –  I decided to make it sort of my gap year, but dedicated to learning. I’m doing rounds as an intern in different countries, to learn and experience as much as possible about design culture and how to become a better designer. At Pearlfisher London I worked mainly as a 3D designer, I did a lot of packaging design, at Q Designers I was half a graphic designer, half a product designer. Right now I am a visual communications intern at IDEO, an amazing place which allows me to to continue questioning the world as it is today and designing for what the future can be. So, long story short, right now I would call myself a designer-generalist.

Charlota Blunárová

  • Who is a designer for you? How would you define her role in teams/projects and are there any desirable skills?

The specific skills of actual jobs may vary by different field, but I think the work of designers share many essential features. The designer must be capable of receiving the most important information from his teammates, such as engineers or marketers, and make decision upon them. It’s a collaborative role, there is no such a thing as a work in isolation.  Also I believe where the magic happen is a team where everyone thinks a bit like a designer, collaborate, share their knowledge and expertise and are included in all parts of a design process.

  • I simply love the statement from your website. “I design because I have a desire to create products and experiences that impact people’s lives positively and resonate emotionally”. What does that mean for you? Are you following it in your design process or how does it influence your design?

I simply want to create meaningful work. I try to choose projects based on positive impact they can make. I’ve worked on a large variety of projects in the past, and I’ve always tried to fit into one of these boxes: to be a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator… At some point I realized that I don’t aim for an exact job title or expertise. I’d rather be a generalist with a skillset I can bend for each project, but I always want be confident that we create something valuable and useful.

  • What kind of questions one should ask when she is creating a new product and ultimately a new business?

I would say, aim to create products/service desirable by people, feasible to produce, and viable as a business. I believe it is about balancing of desirability:  do they want this?

Feasibility: can we do this?, and viability: should we do this?.

What problem will this help to solve? Will this solution fill a need? Will it fit into people’s lives? Is the technology needed to power the design solution available? Who will pay for this and why? The most basic questions, but also the hardest ones.

Charlota Blunárová

  • You have experienced working in startup and to say it publicly pretty successfully. You ended up on 2nd place in one of the Czech accelerator with your game design studio. Could you tell us more about this experience?

I joined a start-up focused on gamification right after high school. It was a big learning experience – I have had an unique opportunity to work with team of talented, smart, hard-working people and got my hands-on some interesting projects for several companies in scopes of design, consultancy or even full-scale solution. At that time I didn’t know much about anything, and I this accelerated my will to adapt to a fast paced environment and learn quickly.

  • Perhaps little bit silly question but what advice would you give to younger yourself? Except attending the startup weekend of course.

I always used the sentence “I’ve never done this before.” as an excuse. Now I use it rather as a opportunity to actually face the unknown and try something new. Wish I’ve had this attitude  sooner! Also, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, they are learning opportunities. Being afraid to make them is like being afraid to learn something new.

Thank you Charlota!

Designers, use the promo code: welovedesigners to get a discount for your Startup Weekend Oulu ticket!




Five months later

By Marjaana Annala

Whenever someone asks me what Startup Weekend was like, I always have difficulties answering to it in a short way. To me, and I believe to many others as well, it meant a weekend where you totally step out of your comfort zone and do things you never thought were possible before. So how do you explain everything that happened, or everything that lead there, in a couple of sentences?

My best variable so far is this.

After a lot of pondering, I went there with an innocent idea that was a result of a 3-minute conversation with a friend a few months earlier (“Hey you know what would be cool?” “Oh yes that WOULD be cool!”) but no actual clue of what I should do with it. Truth be told, I still had no idea what I was going to do when I got there. To pitch or to not pitch my idea? I was extremely scared of even the mere idea of that.

I also did not have any idea of what I should do during the weekend – or how to do any of the things I should do. Complicated, huh? But shortly after I arrived I realized that it is perfectly fine, because on top of unlimited coffee and food, what was offered was unlimited support.

So I guess what happened was that a bunch of genius minds got together, were inspired by the same idea, joined forces and started working. No talk, all action, they said. And it truly was just that. All you really need to do is stop thinking, roll up your sleeves and start working.

Creating Go Swap It

Five months later?
I have my own company with the same awesome people I met at Startup Weekend.
I have pretty much my dream job.
I also have at least some kind of an idea what I’m doing.
As icing on the cake – and most importantly – a whole lot of new, amazing people in my life.

That is the beauty of Startup Weekend.




Three Physicists meet a Business Guy and ….

By Simo Kekäläinen

Three physicists meet a business guy and ….

Now you might think this is the beginning of a really good joke or a scene from Big Bang Theory but believe me, to see what happens next you don’t need to go to Reddit or to your TV screens – just take a bus to city centre.

Six months ago I found myself in a place called Business Kitchen taking part in the first-ever Startup Weekend Oulu.  The room was crowded with people who were given a simple task – present or join somebody who’s presenting an idea, build it into business in 54 hours and have fun!

OK….

Well a couple of hours later, after hearing dozens of pitches and after people had voted for the top 12 ideas, I was feeling really puzzled (and honestly thought about going home) since none of those ideas really struck a chord with me.  But then I saw these two guys looking for people to join their idea, which was about turning the unused potential of smart phones into raw calculating power.

We chatted for a while and since the idea wasn’t one of the audience’s top picks we decided to ask the organizers if we could form a “shadow” team and enter the competition. And this is what happened next:

30 seconds later our team of three physicists and one business guy was already busy building a business and racing against time.

48 hours later we were pitching our idea on stage.

49.125 hours later, out of 13 teams, we were announced as the runner-ups of the weekend!

3600 hours later we have an office, a startup called Piecewise and an objective to deliver our first working product within two months.

Startup Weekend is like life in a nutshell. Not only do you get to meet, work, eat great food, (and most importantly) have fun with wonderful people from different backgrounds and cultures, BUT you also realize nothing is impossible.

If there’s one lesson Startup Weekend teaches you, it’s that with the right amount of determination, perseverance and support from great people around, you can do whatever you want in life.

And that’s a lesson we at Piecewise believe everyone should learn, and there’s no better place to do it than in Startup Weekend Oulu. Hope to see you there!

The End (?)

-Definitely not!




Nordic Law – A lean and startup-orientated law firm in the middle of Helsinki

Nordic Law is a proud partner of Startup Weekend Helsinki edition VII. We at Nordic Law are thrilled; that said, the opportunity has been offered to us as we are very active within the vibrant Finnish startup culture. Yes, you noticed correctly – we are talking about the vibrant Finnish startup culture – as a startup-orientated law firm we have during the last few years seen a rapid change in the Finnish startup scene, whereby we are of the view that a very exciting startup culture has emerged also in Finland – a country that has been labelled as the sick man of Europe due to the challenges its public economy is currently facing. We would, however, dare to say that Finland is more like the startup center of Northern Europe and the local startup scene is ever-blooming.

We at Nordic Law are also one of the few law firms in Finland with a special focus on early- and growth-stage startups with services ranging from assisting in the founding stage all the way to financing rounds, the expansion of the startup and the exit of the founding partners.

We have experienced a conscious shift during the last few years from the traditional SME clients to startup clients of all size, whereby our main goal is to provide extraordinary surplus value for startups by using innovative solutions combined with specialized knowledge and fixed priced service packages. Our aim is to assist startups during their whole life span, whereby we are always primarily seeking for long-term business relationships, in which the lawyer-client relationship is built slow and steady. We like to compare the business relationships with our startup clients to a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint.

Since the year 2014 Nordic Law has consciously started to focus more on startups as we see an enormous potential regarding the Finnish startup scene. However, we have unfortunately noticed that the legal services, which currently are offered to startups, do not go hand-in-hand with the emerging Finnish startup scene and digitalization, whereby there has not been a single startup-orientated law firm prior to Nordic Law. Besides us, the bigger law firms are naturally very interested in the Finnish startup scene, whereby said firms are offering legal services especially to growth-stage startups, but at what price? Bigger law firms offer legal services mainly based on the `oh-so´ traditional hourly fee without taking due consideration to the finite financial resources of startups, especially regarding early-stage startups.

We at Nordic Law on the other hand have taken the Finnish legal bull by its horns, whereby we have started to tackle the traditional legal invoicing structure which currently is offered to startups by the mainstream bigger law firms. Thus we have thrown aside the old-world invoicing structure where clients are invoiced per the hour, whereby instead we have taken a more agile and risk sharing approach to the invoicing structure regarding legal services offered to startups. Our decision is based on the fact that all startups, no matter of their size, should be entitled to all-encompassing legal services for a fixed and predictable price. Law firms should not select their startup clientele based on the development stage of the startup, but unfortunately many startups out there are either left without much needed legal service or they are offered legal services for a very hefty price. Hence there is an immense need for a disruption regarding the Finnish market for legal services and we at Nordic Law are very glad to act as a disruptor.

Taking into consideration all the above mentioned, it was a no-brainer for us to partner up with Startup Week Helsinki, where we get to take part in, and most important – be a part of, the dynamic Finnish startup ecosystem. For us the partnership with Startup Week Helsinki is not about getting new clients – the major factor for us is to connect and discuss with all the various Finnish startup players (if you will). If we end up getting new startup clients, it’s a complimentary, not a compulsory, addition.

Lastly, as a partner of Startup Weekend Helsinki, fellow Nordic Lawers may be found during the up-coming Startup Week Helsinki both on Saturday and Sunday. Nordic Law will also provide prizes for the three winning teams in terms of amount of hours of free legal counselling. The prizes are divided in 2.000 euro for the 1st team, 1.500 euro for the 2nd team and 1.000 euro for the 3rd team.

Without further ado, we look forward to meeting inspiring and fresh startups during the up-coming weekend. Please don’t hesitate to come and talk to our people at the event, remember we are there for you!

Jon Hautamäki, Nordic Law

The author of this blog post is a partner at Nordic Law and an avid disruptor of the Finnish legal market.




Startup Weekend kicks off for the first time in Oulu

 

Startup Weekend Oulu

It is finally happening! For the first time in history Startup Weekend comes to Oulu. This action packed event which has been organized in over 150 countries and hosted +190k people will now make a mark in our Northern community.

We invite all of you designers, developers, business people, philosophers, educators, and innovators to join us.

You are now probably asking why would you participate. Read on my friend and get to know what Startup Weekend Oulu is all about.

 

What are Startup Weekends?

Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where people gather together to innovate and build startups. In just one weekend, you will experience the fun highs and nerve-racking lows that are part of the fascinating life at a startup.

The event is designed to provide superior hands-on education by actually driving you to create things.

Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through testing, business model development, and basic minimum viable product (MVP) creation, Startup Weekends culminate in Sunday night pitches to a jury of potential investors and local entrepreneurs. See the full schedule here.

You as a participant are challenged with building functional startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of your daily networks.

 

Who you’ll meet at Startup Weekend Oulu:

You’ll meet the very best mentors, investors, co-founders, and sponsors who are ready to help you get started. Startup Weekends attendees’ backgrounds are roughly

50% technical (developers, coders, designers) and
50% business (marketing, finance, law, creatives).

But notice that anyone who has passion and spark for making startup magic happen is welcome, regardless of your background.

 

Why you should come to Startup Weekend Oulu:

The main three reasons people get involved with Startup Weekend are

  • desire to network
  • enthusiasm to develop a product
  • eagerness to learn how to create a new venture.

After the event, over 50% of attendees plan on continuing to work on their startup after the weekend.

It is although impossible to measure all the people who will later go on and build new ventures with the people they met in Startup Weekend. Many people take this event as their first training session that gives the needed confidence to leap to the path of becoming a startup founder or an employee.

 

10 great things you’ll get out of the event:

1. Education: Startup Weekends are all about learning by doing, whether you’re learning a new skill or a new way of thinking.  Don’t just listen to theory, build your own strategy and test it as you go.

2. Co-Founder Dating: The people who come to Startup Weekend are serious about learning how to build and launch startups. Create relationships that last long past the weekend.

3. Have fun: During the weekend working alongside awesome people who share your ideas. Startup Weekend Oulu is meant to be fun and entertaining so enjoy it.

4. Solve local problems with your ideas. Do you think that one of your idea can change your town or have a positive impact in your group of people? Bring your idea notebook with you and start making a positive change in your local community.

5. Build Your Network: Startup Weekend works hard to recruit high quality, driven entrepreneurs – like you!

6. Learn New Skills: With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Startup Weekends are perfect opportunities to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or give marketing a try.  With nothing to lose there’s no reason not to step outside your comfort zone.

7. Learn How to Launch a Business (and Actually Do It!): Startup Weekend is the epitome of Lean Startup Methodology.  

8. Mentorship: Local tech and startup leaders participate in Startup Weekends and give feedback to participants. Interact with the movers and shakers in our community. Check out who you’ll meet on our website.

9. Get Access to Valuable Startup Resources: By participating in Startup Weekend Oulu you are given instant access to great products and tools. No one leaves Startup Weekend empty handed! Click here to learn more about some of the offers our Global Sponsors provide during the event.  

10. Save Money: Startup Weekends are affordable (typically 99€, only 50€ for this edition thanks to our amazing sponsors). Your ticket includes seven meals, snacks, and all the coffee you can drink.

Weekend on April 22-24 is going to be no talk and all action. Save the date and get your ticket! 

 

Love,

Startup Weekend Oulu Team

 




Behind the scenes of Startup Weekend Helsinki

Part of the global community

Startup Weekend Helsinki was initiated by great enthusiasts from Aalto University in 2013. Since then more than 10 organisers have been involved in running the events in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. To date, 6 Startup Weekends have been hosted in the Greater Helsinki area biannually.

At Startup Weekend Helsinki we are part of the global community of over 150 countries and local chapters of volunteers. Currently we are the only team producing Startup Weekend in Finland but we hope there will be more local communities here in the future! If you have attended a Startup Weekend, you are eligible to join an organising team or start your own chapter 😉

What’s so special?

Startup Weekend is a volunteer movement that is run by an organisation headquartered in the US. It takes super excitement when attending a Startup Weekend + willingness to support your local entrepreneurial community to become an organiser. We have an awesome network of managers, facilitators and peer organisers to support our work.

We enjoy spending our free time on organising Startup Weekend immensely. It is fun, it is exciting, we meet lots of wonderful people. You can’t believe how rewarding it is to see people brainstorming and fighting for their ideas, believing in those and putting zealous effort, coming together in teams and working hard in just 54 hours. There hasn’t been a single Startup Weekend where we wouldn’t be overwhelmed with energy levels in the room!

Every time from scratch?

Every other Startup Weekend is different, of course and each time we start again with defining the topic, potential sponsors and supporters and the time frame. However, we never have to create any content from scratch since Startup Weekend gives its organisers an amazing database of resources which is used globally. That one makes our life much easier.

Organisers also communicate via global organisers Facebook group and Slack, any questions are welcome and there is always support from fellow cities.

General or topical?

A Startup Weekend can be general – participants can pitch any ideas – or topical, where the theme is set in advance. We’ve had both general and topical Startup Weekends encouraging participants to pitch ideas in the areas of sustainability, bioeconomy and health, for instance. It is completely up to us whether to have a topic or not. We base such decisions on global and national trends, cize of the city and time of the year.

It’s more than you think

For an attendee Startup Weekend is 54 hours of ultimate hard work and fun, for organisers – much more hours, a lot of stress but also fun 🙂 Since we spend our time outside of work, it takes us around 4-5 months to produce the 3 day event. A Startup Weekend in Helsinki is usually a collective effort of around 50 people – organising team, volunteers, coaches, judges, sponsors, supporters, speakers and community activists who come together to bring the best experience to the attendees.

Community around Startup Weekend is a core thing for any event – without great support we get from Helsinki’s startup and corporate scene and without the help of our volunteers we wouldn’t be able to host any Startup Weekends here so we take this opportunity to say thank you again and again to all people who have been supporting Startup Weekend Helsinki in many ways!

Get involved

If you’ve attended Startup Weekend before we welcome you to join as organiser or volunteer for our future events! Reach out to us at helsinkistartupweekend@gmail.com and let’s move! 🙂




The cold north has a warm startup community

wow, that's a lot of people working togehter

As the room swells with people and the Helsinki Startup Weekend GSB edition T-shirts go on, people start to discuss the meaning of their shirt color groupings.  As we make it past the introductions the tension starts to build.  Orange for organisers, volunteers and coaches, purple for engineers, red for developers, blue business, yellow for designers and green for do it alls/generalists.

My first observation is how enjoyable it is to see such a diverse mix of people – students, more seasoned veterans, and enthusiasts all gathered together under no pretext.  All the participants came to work hard this weekend, learn and build something. The event is accomplished through a grass roots volunteer effort and it is a truly whimsical environment. Catering was done by meal.fi (Epic Foods).

Epic Foods is a startup that was initiated during one of the previous Startup Weekends in Helsinki. For this event all participants and volunteers are lucky to have Mario Di Florio, Ekaterina Perfilyeva, Steve Peltonen and Armand Dupuis – the four who run the community in Finland.

Mario is a self-proclaimed everyman. His enthusiasm exudes as he smiles and delegates responsibilities to members of his team.  When asked how it feels to be in charge of the event his reply is: “No one is in charge, we are a team.” This man’s energy is enough to get the whole crowd to their feet.

Ekaterina is like a general in command – she is soft spoken and handles problems and challenges as gracefully as a Russian figure skater doing a triple axle. Steve is a true professional – very diplomatic and not afraid to get his hands dirty.  Armand is very busy and hard to pin down as he gives all of the participant’s hands on personal service.

First up one of the sponsors – Zervant. Tanya Lindner, their online marketing manager, was very motivational. Her talk let people understand how quickly things can happen in this industry. She spoke about growth models and about how small media budgets can make a big impact. Her info on blogs, delivering the right content at the right time was encouraging and she informed the crowd to speak and get their message out there. “If we can blog about online invoicing software, you can do it. Blogging is a great center piece for your online presence”.

Faraday – winners of the last Startup Weekend Helsinki June 2015 – is a car sharing service; where someone can put a car into the system and get paid, as well as paying for use of a car. The team spoke about their successes and challenges coupled with the up and downs they went through in the last 6 months. They spoke about their time using Aalto Startup Center and Biz Spark. They were very excited for their product alpha testing which is coming up in the next month.

Next Up Toni Perämäki from Microsoft BizSpark, who gave quite a directed and indispensable presentation – no holds bared, right to the point. “I’m with the new Microsoft and we are here to help. The team of ten is here for you anytime in anyway. This is what you get – BizSpark – this is how long you can use it, and I am running to another event, good luck. I will be seeing the winning team very soon.”

Next up Victoria Stoyanova – she is the facilitator from London sent from Startup Weekend Europe.  First engagement – she started speaking, and from the first word she controlled the energy and pace of the event.  Breaking the groups into teams, giving encouragement before the pitches, and generally creating an environment where this group of people could work hard and grow into a community.  The plan is for this new community to enter with a warm welcome as the next entrants into the Helsinki startup ecosystem.

 

By: K.Andrew Thomas




Why designers should attend Startup Weekend?

Q: How does a designer feel in a hackathon dominated by people from business and tech fields?

It’s going to be challenging but you have a lot to contribute because you’re definitely needed. That also makes it easier to find a team that you’re interested in.

Q: In Startup Weekend what’s particularly interesting for a designer?

For me Startup Weekend is about trying ideas, some of them might breakthrough and become something that you may continue working on.

Most designers that I know are into creating something new and thinking about the user and customer side to make the best service, experience or product. I think all of the teams need to think about the triangle of feasibility, desirability and durability and they need people like designers to think about the desirability.

Q: What do you love about Startup Weekend apart from the great food?

I think the best part; the most rewarding part is that your network is expanding. You start working with people and you get to know them much better in a very short time. It’s not just sitting somewhere and talking, you’re actually working together intensely for two days.

Q: What sets Startup Weekend apart from other hackathons?

Startup Weekend is very open, people can come there and you can choose from a pool of various ideas. It’s very different and there are many different fields represented. I’ve been involved with medical startups, apps, games, social impact projects and services for companies. If you have time during the weekend there’s a lot that you can try, see and get inspired from.

Q: Would you and why would you encourage other designers to participate in Startup Weekend?

Because I know they can do a lot. Designers can help a team put their project into a tangible form that people can make sense out of after two days when you’re presenting it.

Q: What can a designer expect from an event like Startup Weekend?

Inspiration, networking, learning, getting to know more people and getting opportunities. You can get to know valuable people that you might need later on or they might contact you afterwards. You might find an interesting partner that you continue with afterwards which has happened many times for me.

Q: Has Startup Weekend ever helped your professional career?

Yeah, I found people that I’m now working with, some of them turned into good friends. I also have been working on some of the projects afterwards. It has always been inspiring for me and at the end of every Startup Weekend I’ve always come out happily no matter what happened. I’ve never regretted spending my weekend at Startup Weekend.

 

Pouria is now leading a startup called Grib that works in 3D solutions, check them out!

https://www.facebook.com/3dgrib

 

Startup Weekend Helsinki is organising another event in November find out more here: bit.ly/SWhki




5 signs you are ready to join a startup: Check out a great summary about working for a startup written by Tanja Lindner from our great supporter, Zervant

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Written by Tanja Lindner from Zervant

If you are a person who likes to follow rules and strict procedures, don’t even bother looking for a job in a startup. There’s nothing here for you my friend. Unless, of course, you want to see change and you want to thrive; both professionally and personally.

I’ve never intended to work for a startup.

When I moved from Austria to Finland 3 years ago, I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I wanted to work, but joining a startup was definitely low on my priority list.

As a ‘soon-to-graduate’, with work experience in the traditional ‘corporate world’, I didn’t know much about the startup-scene in the first place. But looking back, I have to say that I couldn’t be happier I’ve filled that gap in my knowledge.

I joined Zervant – a startup – 3 years ago. Zervant offers online invoicing and accounting software for sole traders and startups. We were purely running on investors’ money and had just started to see our first growth outside of the Finnish market.

We’re a tech-oriented, young and driven company that went within 2 years from 5 to 20 employees. And now we are even able to sponsor events like the Startup Weekend.

I tell you, it has been an exciting and fun ride so far.

What does it take to be part of a successful startup?

There is no secret formula to answer that. On second thoughts, there might be one actually.But before we jump to early conclusions, let’s have a look at these 5 ultimate signs you are ready to take that leap of faith and join a startup:

1.You have ideas. And you are not afraid to make them happen.

You want to create. You want to change. You want to see your ideas develop.Have you ever experienced that tingling sensation when an idea is coming up and you feel like your very being is filled with it in an instant? I know that feeling. And I love it.

When working in a startup, it’s much easier to express your ideas and to be taken seriously – after all, there are not many other people who can contribute to the success of the company. Another plus is the low hierarchy that enables you to start working on your ideas right away, before waiting to get approval from several layers of middle management.

However, it’s not all like a walk in the park. In the process of developing your dreams, you have to be ready to take on different tasks to the ones you were ‘hired’ to do. Flexibility is the key to success in any startup.

At the beginning of your startup-journey, there will be no marketing department, or customer service center – one day you’re the customer support person, the other day you’re the professional marketer pitching a deal.

The plus side is though, that while making your ideas happen, you can build your own processes and procedures too.This has been the most important aspect for me in my early professional life: Freedom to choose when and how I want to get things done.

2. You know what ignites your passion. And you simply do it.

I’m doing the marketing for invoicing and accounting software. I’m also blogging about entrepreneurship and related topics on our company’s blog. I get it, you might now be thinking: Accounting and invoicing, how boring is that? I’m not gonna lie. There are times when it gets boring. (Another article about how to do your taxes…seriously?)

However, I’m passionate about writing and marketing, so I find a way to make this topic more interesting to me. “Any topic, can be transformed into something exciting, if you have the freedom to define it yourself.” If I can transform a boring topic into something that interests me, so can you. Or even better, do it in such a way that you start loving it.

Your passion for the bigger thing, in my case it’s marketing, must be bigger than your discontent for the small steps that take you there.

Be a self-starter, be passionate and be willing to learn. That’s where the journey begins. Nobody is gonna tell you what to do or how you should do it, just do it in a way that helps you to start loving it.

3.You make mistakes. And you own them.

Are you afraid of failing? So is everyone else.

As soon as you start working on something that matters, fear will inevitably be there. And there’s no shame in admitting it.

Many times during my endless search to  do better marketing, I ‘thought’ I’d encountered the holy grail of customer acquisition. I felt that sensation (yes, that one I described earlier) and said to myself: “What an idea! This is groundbreaking!”. And many times it was indeed groundbreaking. Yes, when I hit rock bottom and realized that this “ain’t gonna work”, it shook the ground I was standing on.Hours of effort and energy gone to waste. And for what? To make it even better the next time.

“The truth is: Nobody knows how it should be done”.

You get a lot of hands-on experience and you are responsible for your actions: You do something great, you own the success. You do something not so great, you own the failure, learn from it, and move on.

Just like these guys here:

4. You actively learn. Every. Single. Day.

We all know that life is a never-ending learning process. No matter what you do, or don’t do for that matter, you learn something new every day.

But what I’m talking about here is intentional learning; a longing for knowledge, inspiration and change – that’s what the startup-spirit is all about.

Let’s have a look at these examples about problem-solving in the corporate sense and in the startup-world:

1 Corporate Charlie doesn’t know how to do something.

He will find someone to fix it for him. After all, there are so many people in his company – one of them surely knows how it’s done.The problem is solved and Corporate Charlie has learned: nothing. Or in fact, he has learned that if he’s in trouble, he will just delegate the task to someone else.

2 Startup Steve doesn’t know how to do something.

He’s still gonna do it himself. After all, there are only a handful of people working in this company, and everyone is struggling with their own challenges. He’s scouring the internet for more information on the topic, he’s experimenting with possibilities and in the end, he will tackle the problem by himself. And if not, he has learned something in the process anyway. This is how you conquer challenges in a startup.

What it means is that you think and try it yourself out, before you go and ask someone else. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t ask your colleagues for advice. Your co-workers will be happy to help you, if you have put some thought into it first.

5.You are true to yourself. And you are not afraid of experimenting.

I think it was Albert Einstein who said: “Creativity is intelligence having fun”. For me this is what working in a startup feels like.

A startup is a place for innovation, in other words, the place for those crazy ideas that the corporate world would be too afraid to pick up on.

Be true to yourself and say those ‘outer-space’ ideas out loud. They might not lead to immediate action, but they might lead to something bigger. The big plus of working in a startup is its flexibility, so changes are often happening fast. Fuel that train of change with your ideas. People are the most important asset in every company. You are the most important asset in a startup. Be self-confident and show what you’ve got.

In the end I have only one question left to answer:

What does it take to be part of a successful startup? It takes you to go and join one.

Zervant invoicing software is the proud sponsor of the Startup Weekend in Helsinki. I’ll be there too and I’ll be talking about how our company got more than 65.000 users within 5 years. I’m looking forward to talking about my experiences working in a Finnish startup.

If you have any questions that can’t wait until the startup weekend, simply drop me an email on tanja.lindner@zervant.com .




Startup Weekend Vantaa Success Story: PramBag

It’s been 10 months since Startup Weekend Vantaa: Health & Wellbeing in October 2014 and this time we would like to share the story of PramBag, one of the winners of that edition, who have continued their work and have achieved a lot ever since.

PramBag solves the mobility problem of parents with babies by providing a superlight pram that can easily transform into a backpack. Sabyasachi Ghosh, the team leader, first identified the problem with strollers in India where he was a student at the time. Moving around with traditional heavy strollers created a lot of problems for parents and Sabyasachi and friends tried solving the problem by creating a modular solution, so the first prototype was made back in India. Sabyasachi then came to Finland and met Fabian Sepulveda, one of the coaches and organisers behind the previous editions of Startup Weekend in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. Fabian suggested that a team needs to be formed first and Sabyasachi joined Startup Weekend in October.

As Sabyasachi was working on the idea and the business model on his own, the goal for Startup Weekend was to form a team and get new minds with fresh perspectives into the project. Startup Weekend attendees gave a lot of new directions and enthusiasm to the idea. Eventually, Team PramBag was one of the winners and got 3 month of co-working space and coaching from Aalto Startup Center as a prize. After Startup Weekend, the team continued for another two months. “It is a big commitment for a startup and a lot of us at that stage were not ready”, Sabyasachi comments. After several months the team was formed and now consists of four very committed and experienced individuals who drive it forward.

This summer PramBag was lucky to get into the Summer of Startups programme at Startup Sauna. They received a lot of coaching, one-on-one mentorship with Finland’s best entrepreneurs and most skilled mentors and presented successfully at demo day. Just as Team Froodly excels at validation, PramBag is mastering agile and lean startup methodologies by reiterating the process – they have managed to build and test four prototypes within the summer! In the next months the team has set to do more customer development and prototyping in the near future, get into a hardware accelerator and close initial funding rounds.

PramBag is a great example of how Startup Weekend can help you take your idea forward. When asked what kind of advice he would give to future attendees of Startup Weekend, Sabyasachi says, “Go to Startup Weekend with an open mind. Meet a lot of people. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of networking there. And, get to know people from not just your team but the other teams too”.

We are proud of what PramBag have achieved and we wish them luck! We hope that their story inspires you to get off the ground with your idea and bring it to the next Startup Weekend Helsinki!

Check out PramBag’s website and Facebook page.




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