The summer has arrived and for the first time it feels that this project is actually going to end one day. A lot has happened and a lot keeps happening all the time but unfortunately sometimes behind closed curtains.
Here are some current milestones:
- I just hit the 100 found items mark today on FinderBase. This raises a question on what to do with a basket full of lost&found stuff? What would be the best way to recycle the stuff to reasonable use? NetCycler, Huuto.net, Kierrätyskeskus, charity?
- FinderBase just hit the 1,000 found items mark! We could soon be one of the biggest lost and found offices in Finland.
- Last week we got 3000 hits on one lost item alone.
- It’s safe to say about 100,000 Finns have seen our brand in the media one way or another.
Now that we’ve been in business for a month we can already say something about the business we’re in. Some observations:
- We’re in societal business. We don’t expect anyone to actually pay us for anything and believe that will pay us in the end.
- We’re in trust-building business. Our success is decided on whether people trust us or not.
- We’re in value-creation business. Putting even a worthless object on our website raises it value, as weird as it sounds.
It’s a funny business. And I love it.
Petteri Kilpinen published today a blog entry about Finland and our innovation strategy. His topic is quite ambitious since it bets that the next Facebook will come from Finland.
From Finland? Why?
Kilpinen uses Muxlim as an example of a movement-driven as opposed to a technology-driven innovation. Although Muxlim doesn’t even target the Finnish audience, we can safely say that the Finnish engineering skills have partially contributed to its success. But could it be Muxlim’s asset that it has basically nothing to offer for the Finns?
Aren’t Finns nationalistic enough to just create a movement?
Finns have an enormous potential to create remarkable things if they see the purpose (remember finnfags on Drawball?) But Finns have the national vice of jealousy. Finns don’t do squat especially if there is another Finn harvesting the benefits.
Here’s the way Finland will make the next Facebook.
Tekes has an annual budget of 500 million euros. This money is not spent on doing. If Finland wants to create the next Facebook, it requires a whole lot of doing instead of researching and developing.
I will propose founding a new institute called Ilmes (Ilmiöiden luomiskeskus). It could modestly start with, let’s say 1 % of Tekes budget. Ilmes will use the 5,000,000 euros to machinate a few global Internet phenomena per year. It will pay fellow Finns to do something remarkable in the Internet. It will pay for hits on Finnish websites through creative campaigns. It will pay good affiliate bonuses for bringing new users to the Finnish social media websites.
If there is one country in the world to do something like this, it must be Finland.
Having a good mentor is a great way to support any business. A mentor can either actively give their advice or passively follow a company and provide their knowledge when they consider it necessary.
Could the opposite of a mentor be called dementor? Let’s see what Harry Potter Wiki says about them:
Dementors feed off human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to any who are in close proximity to them. They are also capable of consuming a person’s soul, leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus are often referred to as soul-sucking fiends.
Not surprisingly, business life is full of dementors that fully match the above description.
Here’s an example of a pack of dementors in action (in Finnish but you’ll get a clue without understanding the language):
Somehow, we have managed to avoid the business dementors in our project so far. But I believe a dementor is a valuable thing to have. Not because they suck your soul but because you have to be hard as a rock to resist them.
So, if you think you have the balls to become our dementor, let us know.
Yesterday was the last day of the AaltoES Boot camp. The teams still did one last 3-minute elevator pitch and we did something a bit extraordinary also this time around.
The teams also posted a document that was supposed to describe their business model for the judges. We posted this FinderBase business model description. Our team has effectively managed to almost entirely detach itself from reality and concentrate on the dream that we’re after with FinderBase.com. Feel free to comment our document.
Not surprisingly, we didn’t win.
But it’s interesting to see who did. The teams chosen by the judges well represent the ideology of the Aalto University as a home for scientific research. The top three were:
- Thermophotonic Heat Pump.
All of these ideas had a strong research background. All these teams have patented technology to base their solution on. The two first also have a physical product that they’re trying to build a prototype of.
Let’s have a quick look at the rest of the teams:
- Aalto Brain Company. A game.
- Audiodraft. A website.
- Barisma. A website.
- DreamTravel. A website.
- FinderBase. A website.
- Kassi. A website.
- LucSens. An iPhone app.
- Makumaku. A website.
- Relationship Games. A Facebook app.
- Videolla. A website.
- Shobble. A website.
Can’t blame the judges. Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.
The more time I spend developing my own business the more similarities I see in it to my personal life.
Romantic relationships and business life have a lot in common.
I want to present here five lessons that I’ve learned both from love and from my career in entrepreneurship:
- Passion. I consider passion to be the number one success factor for both business and love. Some philosopher might say love is what is left when the passion drains from a relationship. I will argue that passion is a crucial component of love. Nobody can be passionate about everything but everybody can find their passion both in love and in business life.
- Purpose. In business we call the purpose a goal, a vision, a mission or a strategy. In a relationship you and your partner are the “business”. You have to have the same goals in life. When you can trust that the other person is pursuing the same goals and backs you up in your personal decisions, there is a huge potential for success.
- Openness. Both the passion and the purpose come through open discussion. There is no other way. Verbal communication has a very similar role also in business life. A functioning professional organization is based on openness. Companies don’t achieve anything by themselves, it’s the people who make the success through communication.
- Constant learning. Without learning there is only one way and that way is failure. In a healthy relationship you can learn new things about your partner after 50 years of marriage. The same goes for companies. A professional organization should keep learning faster than its competitors to succeed. Again it’s the people who learn, organization only facilitates their learning.
- Conflict resolution. No relationship or business is made without conflict. Conflict is inevitable but can be avoided through the process of learning and through openness. Bad handling of conflicts can deteriorate even a successful company or a relationship. The best way to handle a conflict is to do it firmly, friendly and immediately.
So whether you want to success in business or in love, keep these factors in mind. And let me know if there is something you’d like to add to the list.
I have been the CEO of a company called Selki Fabrik for over a year now. I still consider this position to be my day job although I’ve never gotten paid for doing it.
The contrast between this project and my day job is enormous. In my project, things seem to proceed like magic and in my day job I have a list of miscellaneous tasks that feel unapproachable. Ihmeparantaja Iiro saw my concern for this and offered to help.
Our biggest concern in the company has been getting the products sold. Iiro suggested that he could go and sell everything we had in stock. This sounded like a good idea, so we went along. However, the stuff needed to be finished. While finishing the products, we ended up discussing the true meaning of our actions. Why does the company do what it does?
Within minutes Ihmeparantaja Iiro had identified the strategic flaws we weren’t brave enough to say out loud ourselves.
Although Iiro does not use the professional terminology, he was able to point out that:
- We are lacking strategic vision
- We are fiddling with details that are not important to our business
- We are too emotional about sunk costs
- We are product-oriented not people-oriented
Selling the few products to make some money is definitely not the strategy we should pursue even though someone would do it for us for free. So we decided not to. What we did decide is that we will have an answer to all the painful questions by the end of the week.
Suddenly I’m confident that Selki Fabrik has a bright future in front of it.
Let me tell you a true story on how a person should start a business.
My youngest brother Iiro is 20 years old. He doesn’t intend to have a job for the rest of his life. He has zero respect for making money which means integrity. But his respect for other people is enormous.
His coaching has contributed to my success.
When I make my million it is much to his credit. His coaching is by far the best I’ve ever received, from anyone. I told him his service is immensely valuable so we set the price at 10,000 € + tax.
Within hours, my brother had become from an unemployed person to the highest priced life coach in the country.
That is how you start a business. Check out his advertisement (in Finnish) on his new website ihmeparantaja.com.
Today, I met a man who wants to be a business angel. He has made his money playing Internet poker and aims to retire as a business angel. He will fail.
Why are most business angels experienced entrepreneurs?
It’s easy for people to think that being a business angel is all about the money. I will argue that it is in fact everything but the money.
First of all, money is just money. Money has never done any work by itself. In wise hands, money can work for you. In foolish hands, it can work against you. A good business angel can tell from experience whether the entrepreneurial team can use the money or not.
Secondly, if the team has a great idea why would they need an angel? Let’s assume an idea is so simple that the entrepreneurs themselves understand what they are doing. Why would they exchange a part of that fortune for money?
In real world, only the people with bad to mediocre ideas contact the business angels in search of money. The business angel is an expert in spotting the best of the bunch.
Who is qualified to invest in your ideas?
I’ve said openly that I will be looking for a business angel to invest in my ideas and my team through the end of this project. But the dilemma is here:
- The ideas get constantly better when developed with people.
- Making the ideas happen doesn’t really need that much money when you already have the people who believe in them.
- The investors should have an increasing amount of knowledge to really contribute to the things we do.
But even so, the thought of getting a real business angel interested in what we do is fascinating.
This weekend I’m going to complete one business plan. I’ll be investing a million of my money and take another 500,000 in bank loans. This money is then invested in a factory and the necessary production equipment to produce a basic product almost everyone wants to buy!
Unfortunately this business plan is for a game and my investment will in a virtual currency called the DOM. The upside is that this game is one of the most advanced business simulations available, designed by the famous double Ph.D. Juuso Töyli. I’m really looking forward to seeing how my team of four people makes it in a highly competitive environment of the game. I’ll be spending Thursday and Friday next week playing this and hope to get something out of it even to report to this blog.
What comes to business planning, I’ll throw the following challenge to all my readers:
I promise to help one person each day to sketch a business plan of their own. All you need to do is to contact me and I’ll help in any way I possibly can. Including writing the plan itself. Completely free of charge and without any obligations. Heck, I’ll even write a confidentiality agreement if your idea is too good to share with a stranger!
What do you think might happen if you took you chance and started living your dream now?