Startup Weekend Brno is running again this year in its 4th edition. What is actually a Startup Weekend? It is a 54-hour weekend event, during which groups of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and other creative minds pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams of people united with the same goal . They work together, share their thoughts and think outside the box to develop a business prototype, demo or presentation by Sunday evening. They are supervised and monitored by experts who help them to improve their business plan.
A little bit of history
Koplac is an NGO that started organizing Startup Weekend almost 5 years ago. The idea was brought by one of the Spanish students that did an Erasmus internship in KoPlac.
We wanted to organize something inspiring and interesting for people who want to develop their ideas and to have fun at the same time– said Jan the CEO of KoPlac, one of the organizers of the Startup Weekend in Brno.
After just a few months of the organization, the first edition of the Startup Weekend in Brno started.
The newly renovated KoPlac became too small for the newest editions, that is why the event moved to a Newton College. The second and third edition was marked with plenty of new ideas, inspiring and fascinating people that took part in the event to boost their entrepreneur skills and develop their startups.
Besides skilled mentors, motivated participants, mindblowing ideas and inspiring facilitators, Startup Weekend is known for its BBQ. The BBQ is organized each Saturday as a part of the event and it is a time when participants can relax and build a friendly relationship with mentors and potential investors.
In the last 4 years, Startup Weekend hosted more than 150 people of different nationalities and backgrounds. They have presented innovative ideas like CopyWrite, which is solving copywriting problems by protecting copywriter’s content or Local Travel Guide, an app that is helping paranoid travellers not to be late on their flights. Developing the idea is not all that you can take from the Startup Weekend. Getting new knowledge, meeting charismatic and fascinating people, becoming inspired, motivated, passionate and of course, having an unforgettable experience – these are the main advantages of the Startup Weekend
Startup weekend #4
You will have the opportunity to join Startup Weekend Brno #4 this year as well. The event is going the be held from 05. October till 07. October 2018 at Newton College, Rašínova 103/2. All you need is to purchase tickets at the Eventbrite and mark “I’m going” on our Facebook page. This year our facilitator will be Maria Calafatis, an experienced entrepreneur from Greece.
You can also expect inspiring mentors from Google Launchpad, Petr Mandík and Pavel Bartoš, Vadym Melnyk, the founder of Cervi Robotics and more.
Startup Weekend in Prague is here again already this Friday, and we’re sure you can’t wait until you jump in and build your teams to eventually win the competition. But wait, what do the teams compete for? Our fabulous prizes of course! So let’s take a look at those.
If your team manages to make it to the top three teams in our competition, you can be looking forward to being rewarded by amazing material prizes from Asseco, and Startup Jobs credits worth 2,000 CZK. Hurray!
Our 2nd best team, although very close to winning, will definitely have no reason to despair, for they will be given not only the prizes from Asseco and 2,000 CZK of Startup Jobs credits, but also really cool T-shirts and stickers by ReactiveConf. Yeah!
And for the champions of our race, there’s a whole bunch of terrific stuff – Asseco prizes, Startup Jobs credits worth 5,000 CZK, Angel Academy entry for the whole team worth 2,500 CZK, ReactiveConf T-shirts and stickers + a unique chance to present the idea at their event, and last, but not least, a three months membership Flexi (80 hours per month) by Sněmovní 7 for each team member. Cheers!
Apart from these terrific prizes for our winning teams, all the attendees will be also given all the equipment needed to transform their ideas into reality (writing tools, post-its, canvases, etc.), as well as the endless food, beverage and good mood supplies (coffee of course included) for the best boost of the working process possible.
Hello John! Thank you for your time to share a piece of the latest info. At the last Startup Weekend in Prague, your team managed to knock the judges’ socks off with an application dubbed “Typo App,” which aims to teach people foreign languages in a very practical and entertaining way while putting emphasis on mastering the given language’s script. What exactly does lie behind this success?
Hi! I think the judges liked us because we reminded them right at the beginning of our presentation how boring it was in primary school to write the same letter over and over again until one knew how to do it. Everyone has been through this and so we were able to make the problem tangible. In the next slides we managed to step up our game by showing that Chinese or Japanese signs are a lot more complicated.
Our solution was easy – the Typo App teaches you to write in and interactive and fun way. An important factor was also the fact that we gave an iPad with a demo version to the judges so they can try it out themselves. The other presentations had only a passive audiovisual concept. We actively engaged them. I think that helped us to stand out.
Also, we had a pretty clear idea about what we wanted to do and we started working on it as early as Friday evening. That gave us a lot of room for validation and development on Saturday and the presentation prep on Sunday. If we pivoted on Saturday evening like some teams in the course of such weekends do, we would not have had the time to finish.
On your official website it is stated that you are launching the app soon; when can we actually expect the official release? Alternatively, what stage of the development process are you currently at?
I think May or June 2018 is pretty realistic. We have the design, development is at about 60 %.
What phase of the development process do you personally find the most challenging?
I cannot say much about the technical aspect because Swift, where we do the app’s programming, is pure magic to me. The product itself is relatively straightforward. We had an idea, iterated quickly and came up with a, in my opinion, nice design. The real challenge will be the release of the project and getting the product to the target audience.
Apart from Typo App, you also work as a designer in Spaceknow, which is a company focusing on obtaining info from satellite pictures. Tell me, how did such a young person as you manage to get this position?
I had to fight for it 😀 SpaceKnow hired me two years ago, that was when I had just turned twenty. When I saw that they are looking for someone for user experience, I knew that I did not have good odds to get in but it would be a pity to not to try anyway. I told myself that I need to attract their attention, because my portfolio consisted at that time only of a couple of smaller web pages and two somewhat well-known clients. Normally, they would not give someone like me a second thought.
I sat down in front of a camera and shot a five minute video where I talked super-passionately about why I wanted to work with them on their space technology. It was a bit awkward but it demonstrated my enthusiasm that cannot be conveyed in an email. That opened the door to an interview where I got a test task – redesigning a part of a web app.
I spent a whole weekend on it. I tried to produce the best possible result. In the end, I redesigned part of the app and also made an interactive prototype, where I redesigned the app completely. They liked the redesign and gave me a chance, and I have been working there ever since.
How did you profit from participating at the last Startup Weekend in Prague?
I learned how to better structure the workload in a smaller team when there is an aggressive deadline. Also, starting to work with Ondra Gonzor was awesome. He is much younger than me but unbelievably intelligent and talented. He is programming the Typo App. He also worked with Honza Sláma on a project called Don’t let it be (Nenech to být) that focuses on fighting bullying. Moreover, we now have contact information on interesting and experienced people from EdTech.
Overall it was a pleasant experience. SWP had a great venue, amazing mentors (shoutout to Pavlína Louženská) and a good, intensive feel to it.
After having participated in our first Startup Weekend in Prague, Andrea and her team managed to develop and execute a very impressive idea – Tripinder; this smart concept aims to draw together adventurous souls and give them a hand arranging their trips. Since our last interview with Andrea, Tripinder has progressed a great deal; therefore, don’t miss this chance to catch up with the latest info.
Hi Andrea, thanks for your time. What phase of your life did we manage to currently reach you in?
Hi, greetings! Honestly, the time between November and December is one of the craziest times of the year. You caught me during a period of pretty difficult networking that meets research and development that are going on at Tripinder.
So far Tripinder managed to create an interesting community of travelling enthusiasts, how do you feel within the group?
Exactly, we are thrilled that we managed to, without paid media communication for now, involve not only the travellers themselves but also organisers and experience gift agencies that believe in us and plan trips with us.
As a matter of fact, on 5th December you organized a Tripinder community meeting; could you tell us something more about this event?
To be specific, we started with a smaller meeting for a group connected with Tripinder – Tripinder: Girls on the road. A girls-only travel group was missing from the Czech travel market and we decided to fill this gap and prepare regular meetings with certain topics, that girls needed while travelling. This time they were able to meet participants of the Low cost race who came and shared their experience, and also answered questions of girls who were considering travelling low cost or even taking part in the race.
The meeting of the whole community and its concept is still in the planning phase, we want to try something new again, something that people do not know from regular meetups.
Tripinder is a relatively new platform; are you planning on introducing any further upgrades to the already existing system?
We cannot wait for showing our users the upgrades that we are preparing, the first changes will be visible within two weeks. We do not want to give away more at this point but you have certainly something to look forward to. Besides that we have another interesting idea that could make the process of organising co-travelling even easier for our users.
As a Startup Weekend attendee, is there any message or a piece of advice you’d like to share with the future participants?
As a participant of the spring Startup Weekend and an audience-member of the education Startup Weekend I can only recommend attending. The feedback and learning about the process in spring helped me to start working on my project and I still use the contacts I made in that time today, and they are priceless.
Andrej is one of our Startup Weekend participants from the spring event, as well as volunteer from the fall event. Currently a student at Leaf Academy in Bratislava, Andrej’s had a unique opportunity of meeting many enterprising students from an international environment; moreover, he agreed to share a few words with us in the following interview.
Hello, Andrej! Thank you for your time. How are your studies going? Is there any interesting project you have been involved in lately?
Thank you, Jakub! Previous weeks at school were very enjoyable. We were “learning by doing,” as we call it at LEAF Academy. For example, a visit of the Auschwitz concentration camp helped us to understand what humanity is capable of and think about ways how to prevent our society from doing something similar in the future. The future was also the main topic of our last experiential day when we participated at Startup Awards & FutureNow Conference in Bratislava. We had a chance to hear a lot of inspiring ideas about the future of government, internet and mobility, and also to get to know the Slovak startup ecosystem a little bit more. It gave me motivation to work harder on my ongoing project. Me and my friend are currently helping one of the second-hand shops in Bratislava to boost their profit and create a strategy for growth.
You happened to participate in the spring event, does Startup Weekend have anything to offer also to young people like you, who perhaps don’t have the intention of executing their business plan yet?
I think that Startup Weekend is more about learning rather than building successful startups. It does not matter whether you are an experienced professional or a high school student, all of the participants go through the same process from problem validation to building a prototype, and in the end it depends on each person how much he or she takes from this experience. I heard stories from people meeting their future investors and co-founders, or encountering current technology for the first time in their lives at the event.
Going back to my participation at Startup Weekend, it gave me significant insights into leadership thanks to the fact that I was leading the team of 8 people. I learned about tech trends, and different techniques and tools that are very useful while turning an idea into reality.
After all, I believe we should encourage more young people to participate at Startup Weekend to help them understand today’s exponentially growing technology and importance of adapting to it.
Conversely, do you think that high school students can be an enrichment for their teams?
Definitely. I have seen many teams that had a high school student on board. Some of the teams were even led by high school students which shows the confidence and leadership potential of young people. Nowadays, technology and information are available to almost anyone in our region. This creates a lot of opportunities for self-learning. That is why we can see more and more young people having skills such as programming, design or digital marketing, but also design thinking or strong communication skills. This skill set is crucial for most of the Startup Weekend teams in order to deliver a prototype. However, it is not just about skills, it is also the mindset and approach of young people. I am sure that high school students can bring creative ideas and a strong desire to achieve great results which increases the motivation of the whole team. Therefore, I believe that high schoolers can be an enrichment for their teams.
Instead of participating, for the last Startup Weekend you decided to go and be a volunteer; how did this experience differ from the previous one?
It was quite interesting to experience the event from another point of view. I was surprised by how much work has to be put in in order to organize such an event. Now, I could clearly see how much time and energy the organizers put into making Startup Weekend happen. Another significant difference was in the type of people that participated in the events. The fall event was focused on education, so there were many people without tech and business backgrounds participating, while most people at the spring event were experienced professionals.
What made me really happy was that there were at least twice as many high school students participating as in March. In the end, I am very grateful for both opportunities, and I will surely attend Startup Weekend again!
What are your plans for the near future?
I am now looking forward for the winter break when I will have more time to be with my family, hang out with friends and finally get some rest after a relatively demanding period of time. Eating sweets and drinking hot tea while watching Christmas movies are the activities I am probably going to spend most time at. Ohh, and I want to do some sledging, so let´s hope there is some snow.
Hubert is the founder and CEO of productboard, Inc., an all-in-one product management platform that helps product leaders understand what users need, decide what to put next on their roadmap, and align their whole product team. productboard, headquartered in San Francisco, California, is proudly backed by Index, Credo, Reflex, and Rockaway. productboard made its public debut at the coveted TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in San Francisco in 2016. Prior to productboard, Hubert was the Vice President of Product Management at GoodData. He lives with his wife Jenna and their baby boy Hubert V. in Oakland, CA.
Hello Hubert, thanks for finding some spare time for us. So let’s dive in. You must be super proud of your team according to your last successful launch of the new version on producthunt. Was there anything which surprised you in terms of reaching the voters? What worked for you besides the fact that productboard is the right product to market there.
We are very proud indeed! Product Hunt is a highly respected community and a great place to let the world know about your new product, especially if your product targets digital product makers. Our new version of productboard won the product of the day on November 15th and placed 4th in the ranking of products of the whole week. We ended only behind Mozilla’s new Firefox browser and Tesla’s electric Semi and Roadster. Feels pretty cool to be up there with such products, if you ask me 😀. As of today, we are amongst top 400 products of all times, and we are still climbing up.
It was surprising to learn about the details of the whole Product Hunt ecosystem. We definitely learned that preparation pays off, and that a successful launch is not a coincidence. To make the launch a success, we worked very hard not just on the product itself, but also on having great marketing assets, and making sure we stay very focused on our message in all our communication. We also planned carefully our outreach to the Product Hunt community and to our Customer base. We are proud to have very passionate fans and we saw the launch as an opportunity to thank them for their continuous support. And they heard us and came out and voted for us, it was awesome!
(productboard being #4 product of the week on producthunt)
Another very positive surprise was to see our whole team come together and work relentlessly on making the launch a success. It is rare and inspiring to be on a team of people with complementary skills, who share common purpose, clearly defined set of goals, and approach for which they held ourselves mutually accountable. We managed to create such unique experience and I am thankful for it.
How did family influence your project management approach? Would you say you are more efficient now? What did you change?
Our baby boy is turning two in one week, productboard is little over three. They are both my babies or startups if you will 😀 Starting a family while trying to get your company off the ground is hard. Both need a lot of energy and attention and it is a constant battle of priorities. The good thing is that it forces you to spend your time really only on the most important things. You get better at time management, delegation, communication, because if you want to achieve your goals, there is no other way. Would I wish there were more hours in a day? Of course, but for now I am grateful I have been able to keep both of my babies healthy and growing! Any prioritization aside, I wouldn’t be able to succeed without the support of my amazing wife Jenna.
You are one of the kind that experienced to be judge at startupweekend in 2012 and 2017. Were there any differences you noticed? And from the judging perspective what do you appreciate the most during the pitches?
Yes, I was lucky to have the opportunity to judge two of the startup weekends. And I definitely see differences. Overall the quality of the pitches has improved. The teams did a better job with structuring their pitches, making them more entertaining and interactive. You, the organizers, managed to bring together a great group of mentors who coached and helped the teams. Overall the whole startup ecosystem has matured significantly in the past five years. We all have a better knowledge of what makes a pitch great, how to structure it, and how to present it. Most importantly I feel like there is more clarity on where to channel the team’s’ energy in the couple days preceding the pitch. I think the mentors really helped here.
Being a judge is always very motivating and inspiring because the energy of the teams just hits and powers you for days. That is the one thing that hasn’t changed, the teams were as excited five years ago as they are now. They put a great deal of care into their work and it shows. That is why I didn’t hesitate to be a judge again, and I hope I will have the opportunity to come back in the future.
I have to ask this one. Why would you recommend anyone to attend startupweekend?
Absolutely. It doesn’t matter whether you want to found a startup yourself, whether you want to join an existing startup team, or whether you just want to get a taste of what it is like to start working on something new. Startupweekend is a great way to learn new skills. The format, the focused couple days with a clear deadline, forces all participants to come together, align their efforts and reconcile their differences. It creates an environment where people get to know each other much more than they would otherwise, and that to me is one of the most valuable parts of the whole experience. The foundation of any startup is a small group of very passionate people working against all odds on something they strongly believe in. If you want to have a successful startup one day, start building relationships with people who could be on your team now. I know what I am talking about, I met Daniel Hejl, my co-founder, and CTO at that startupweekend five years ago. We wouldn’t be talking about productboard’s Product Hunt success today if it wasn’t for that startupweekend in 2012!
Why do you think that productboard is successful? What are the ingredients which make company successful?
There are many things that contribute to a company’s success. I just mentioned how critical it is to have a team of people dedicated to a common vision. That is key.
The team then has to deliver to the market a truly excellent product. To be able to do that in the least risky and the most predictable way, the team has to 1. gain a deep understanding of the needs of the customers, 2. form a focused product strategy on how to tackle those needs, and 3. align around a clear product roadmap.
The deep customer insights bring you confidence that you are solving an important problem, focused product strategy gives clarity to your prioritization, and roadmap alignment assures that you channel curiosity and creativity of everyone on your team in the right direction.
This is the recipe for success of every product team and we have been following it at productboard. We’ve spent the first year doing a thorough market research and validating problems and solution ideas, thanks to which we gained a very deep understanding of needs of our target customers. We have a very clear vision and go-to-market strategy and we prioritize our efforts against specific goals and objectives in 6-week periods to make sure we work on the most important thing at any given point in time. And we have a shared roadmap that guides the team. We have an unfair advantage though, we have the best tool that helps us with all three of the areas, it is called productboard 😀
I am interested, BUT … I have a couple of questions..
(Even Donald Trump is not fully sure whether to go or not)
So let’s dive in.
… BUT I don’t have an idea
That’s okay. You will not be forced to come up with something. Others will have ideas and you can join anyone based on your own preferences.
… BUT I don’t have a team
Don’t worry. As we said before, you can join any idea-team you want to. Just keep in mind it is good to have a multidisciplinary team so you can divide the work and create something in the course of the weekend.
… BUT I don’t have a place to sleep
Let us know, we should be able to accommodate you at a beautiful squat. Well, it’s not an ordinary squat, it’s a techsquat where the organizers live. Most probably we won’t be able to offer you a bed but we will have enough sleeping bags and pads.
… BUT I don’t want to hack during a night
This is up to you and your team. But remember, we will kick you out of the Opero on Friday and Saturday by midnight.
… BUT what are the criteria to win
Validation of your idea, and we will help you with that. Also, the viability of the business is important. That means the business model and a strategy to get first customers. Last but not least, the level of your prototype/product will be evaluated so make sure you have a developer or designer in team 🙂
… BUT what I can win
Endless fame and glory! And apart from that, we have some books, kiwi coupons, spots in Opero for winning teams and some surprises. Also, free tickets to some amazing events!
… BUT am I good enough
If you are willing to exchange 20-40EUR and your weekend for learning new things and trying your best to build something then you are the right person to attend no matter what skills you have.
… BUT my English isn’t perfect
That’s even better because you will get the chance to practice. We don’t expect expert English speakers. We expect people who want to learn things.
… BUT it costs too much
You should know it’s a non-profit and we have to pay the bills for catering, venue, etc. But if the money is a problem let us know, we will help you out.
So we hope it helped you and here is the video from the last event we organized. Yes! It’s gonna be fun so grab your tickets –> http://bit.ly/swprague
5 Reasons to Take Part in SW as a Developer by alumnus Petr Holík
Describing Hackathon in one sentence?
A weekend spent in front of a screen, full of coding, where boredom is plentiful, where one goes from frontend to backend, from coffee to Red Bull.
Does this apply to Startup Weekend?
No. The main goal of SW is to come up with the best possible concept of a product, validate it and maybe create a basic prototype. Whatever the outcome – a poster, a presentation, a mock-up or a fully functioning app – the most important part is the process, the verification of the design, business and technical aspects of the given product.
You can create and develop home alone, in a café with friends or with colleagues at work. Would it not be much better though if you could get immediate feedback from a creative design student, an experienced businessman or an overly critical investor?
It is not surprising that such an environment, where people of all ages and from different educational and cultural backgrounds interact, the most creative ideas emerge because of these synergies. You will have the unique opportunity to think about your ideas from new perspectives thanks to meeting and discussing with your team, mentors and judges.
A New Perspective
Us IT specialists are often considered weirdos living in their bizarre world of ones and zeros. And if we are honest, it is often the case. These days though, being only good at coding is not the recipe for success. Developing is a complex combination of skills with programming being only a necessary requirement. SW is the perfect opportunity to step out of that bizarre world thanks to cooperating with various people that you would not have the possibility to meet otherwise. Stepping up your game is, therefore, a positive side effect that will make you a better person and a better developer.
Test your idea
If you bring your own idea to SW get ready for criticism, seeking compromise and struggling to push through your point of view. No one will play nice with you and it will not always be easy. But nothing is more important than constructive criticism, and you will be able to capitalize on this experience.
SW Is Just the Beginning
I brought an idea for a perfect start-up to SW. At the end of the weekend, I was able, together with my friend and 5 other fantastic people, to come up with a project that had little to do with the original design. And this process is exactly what SW is all about.
Three members of our team still work together on new projects, making use of the perspective and experience gained on our journey.
Do you want to be part of the next startupweekend?
Grab your ticket and use code “developersdevelopers” for 20% off the price.
Hej Henrike! How are you? How is Johannesburg treating you?
Hi! I’m doing great, enjoying the warm weather and fantastic company. I’m very excited to attend A MAZE./ Johannesburg and preparing for my performance: a spoken word poem about games and empathy, interlaced with songs that I will be playing and singing myself.
I know, that you do a lot of cool things, but let’s start with the best one. Lohika Aps, what is it about? What do you do and what do you want to achieve with your products? Why did you decide to have this approach (learning by playing games)?
While I’m a curious person who loves learning new things, primary and high school almost extinguished that flame entirely by forcing me to execute repetitive tasks, that was neither interesting or challenging for me, and didn’t present me with any real life applications or motivation. I founded my company Lohika in 2013 after graduating from a Master degree in Game Design at the IT University of Copenhagen. During my studies, I realized how passionate I was about transforming the concept of education and about making great educational games. I like exploring the core of a given scientific subject and turn it into game mechanics that are engaging and challenging. At Lohika we create an environment and atmosphere where the players are given plenty of motivation to explore on their own, where their curiosity is stimulated so that they will want to practice and enhance their skills in order to achieve goals they personally care about.
In our current game, To Be A Whale, that I’m working on together with Richard Baxter, the player’s’ avatar is a newborn whale whose movements are controlled through text commands. The player types command like “tail up” and “tail down” into a terminal to move the whale, and learns to write small behaviors in “whale code”, which is a fully functional programming language for controlling the avatar.
How is it to be a teacher for you? Could you tell us more about your course “Game design with a purpose” you teach at Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts?
I love teaching because it gives me a chance to study the games I care about in more depth, discuss them with the students, and spark the idea in their minds that they can find a deeper meaning in the games they go on to develop. We have been covering educational games, games for health, games for social impact and gamification projects, by analyzing and discussing games, and creating prototypes in small groups. Every week the students study a game, article, podcast or video recording of a talk and present their analysis in class. Over the course of the semester, the students create 5 different prototypes in paper or digital form. Throughout the years I have been attending many different games conventions, making connections with indie developers all over the world, judging games at competitions, and I have attended every edition of the Lyst symposium on love, sex, and romance in video games. I was lucky to be exposed to many different games that deal with taboo topics or have been made by people that are underrepresented in the games industry.
Teaching allows me to pass on my experience and knowledge, and give my students a chance to see games in a different light than the classic commercial way.
I know you are interested in other things apart from games and learning. Could you tell us a bit more about it?
I am a feminist, and I’m working hard towards making the games industry a more fair, safe, and diverse place, where women, people of color, people of non-traditional sexual orientation and identity, and other minorities are as welcome and respected as anyone else. Making games and giving talks allows me to travel the world, grow my network of friends and creatives, and get to know new people, cultures, and lifestyles. I love going to game jams and always aim to work on games that push the boundaries of game design, as well as the topics games can cover. For example, I made a few personal games for my family, a game about identifying and banning female nipples on Instagram, and am working on concepts for games about menstruation and abortion.
Imagine, you happened to be a teacher at high school for one day in one class. What would you do?
The most important thing for kids in highschool is to figure out what they are personally passionate about and to learn that anyone can be creative.
I would introduce the class to some creative game design techniques, and demo some simple and free prototyping tools for apps, games, stories, websites, and film, to help them get started in the creative process. In my experience, once presented with a blank canvas and a set of tools, it becomes much easier for children to apply themselves, dig deeper into the creative technologies they are interested in, and create content that they deeply care about.
Henrike, thank you for the interview and see you soon, take care 🙂
Hello Jaroslav, first of all, thank you for your time. Last time we talked you mentioned how difficult it had been for you to get to the point you were at that time. So what were the biggest challenges?
Yes, the first kind of difficulty was the limited capacity and ability to deliver what you want or what you promised the investor. Capacity in this context means that in the Angel phase of an investment only the founders are available full-time, and there were two of us together with a limited amount of full-time people and then we had just many external supporters who believed in the vision. So it was a kind of amateur theater. With these limited resources you have to deliver everything – product development, marketing, HR, strategy, networking, sales, project management and more. Very demanding is also the constant role switching, even several times during one day. The tension between ambition or promise and the ability to deliver was very strong.
The second kind of difficulty was maintaining our direction. We always work according to principles of agile development. At the same time many inputs – reactions from the market, reactions to trends, a lot of feedback from events like TechCrunch, Startup Grind, a lot of recommendations from advisors and colleagues, competition, requests from clients – create very demanding conditions on staying on course and one must watch out in order to avoid falling into traps. And we encountered some of those, but fortunately, we were always able to come back on the right track again. It is very important to have a long term vision, to always check decisions to prevent chaos.
And the third? The moments when the money runs out…
What does Skillandia do? What is your unique value and who can benefit from it the most?
What is unique? As trainers, coaches and consultants we have deep experience with how people learn and this we transfer into our learning platform. Unique in our case is the focus on trainers, coaches, and mentors as the main target group. We want to provide them with a simple tool which enables them to do their job in a much more effective way and to increase their impact significantly. Unique is our approach in the form of a simple learning course builder, which guides trainers and coaches to build impactful quests for their groups, supporting micro-learning. Unique is our focus on development in small groups where people learn and share, overcoming challenges guided by their real life trainers and coaches. Unique is the way in which we support the so called blended solution, a combination of real life trainings and online learning, leading to real changes in both knowledge and behavior. We also provide content to our clients. We got Stevie Award 2017 in Las Vegas or our way how Skillandia Studio creates micro learning online courses.
(Skillandia at TechCrunch Disrupt)
You mentioned you took part in conferences such as Techcrunch. How was that? What were the biggest surprises for you? Is there a right moment when you should, as CEO, attend such a huge conferences?
I consider these events extremely important in early stages of a startup from several perspectives. First, you receive very direct questions about your product and idea, you really need to work on your pitch. You receive a lot of feedback and also a lot of inspiration from others people or startups. You have to start to think about how to become scalable if your ambition is to get an investor, etc. Such events are very useful for building up your long term strategy.
So I would say – just do it! But it is also very demanding and tiring – imagine three days in an old dark theatre in NY, from morning till evening, standing in front of your rollup and computer in the crowd and talking, talking from morning till evening, just the two of us.
Imagine now for a moment that you don’t have Skillandia. Would there be any area in education you would focus on? If so, why? And why, if not?
Before I was involved in Skillandia I was in the area of leadership training, management and sales, guiding large companies through changes, mainly cultural changes, dealing with how the company is managed and led top-down. Probably I would keep doing this.
And if you ask me at this point in time, I would focus on helping companies to build the most effective blended learning system as I have rich experience in both areas. Skillandia opened the door to a lot of new knowledge for me – online learning, nudging, microlearning, gamification, how to build learning platform, etc. And I can see a lot of companies struggling with exactly these things.
Is there anything you would like to add/share?
Yes, running a startup is a great experience, and it is very demanding. It is a long distance run with many obstacles. What helps is if you have a very strong vision and if the founders are friends who really trust each other and share the same set of values. In critical situations, you find out that a startup means that when you reach some milestone, like getting an investor, you start something working on something new again. You just keep starting again. And all you need to do is keep going … find good guides, advisors, supportive investor, etc.