Ask “What would a white straight guy do?”. Then do that.

The 2015 fellows just attended StartUpDay at Münchenbryggeriet, Stockholm. The event was held in English, so instead of paraphrasing people in Swedish, I write this blog post in the native language.

StartUpDay2015

I admit, I entered StartUpDay a cynic. I thought it would end up being a lame drinking game; for every synergy or exponential voiced by a speaker, you down your coffee. By the end of the day, you’d be hyper and 30 free pens richer. But I was wrong! StartUpDay was awesome.

First, the line-up that I attended:

  • The head of a company with enough users to re-populate the Baltic Sea countries in case of mass-extinction (Evernote with 100M users)
  • Synth solos by Teenage engineering
  • GarageBand (only now with good UX; Auxy)
  • Wisdoms from the UK editor at WIRED
  • KTH spin-off Volumental on working out a market starting from tech
  • Reinventing UX by creating a button-for-anything (Flic)
  • A high school drop-out on entrepreneurial activism (Simris Alg)
  • Female role model dolls (Miss Possible)
  • And lastly: luring your target audience to bootstrap your business using kittens and buttons (Confetti)

I hereby give you the unofficial*, categorized breakdown of StartUpDay 2015.

On innovation

We let our hands do the thinking. Teenage Engineering

Use old technology to see if the industry has said goodbye to this stuff too early. Like the optical mouse. You can do a lot of crazy things with that mouse! It’s really cool. Teenage Engineering

To be in the present is really important. Let the hands explore. Don’t just think about it – build the wooden box, so you can move it around. I try to be as open as I can to new things. Teenage Engineering

Spot stuff that’s bad, and make it good by providing an alternative. There are amazing business opportunities there. Simris Alg

If you can find the task that both society, industry AND people want to get done, you’ve got excellent scalability. People People

Framgång

On building your startup on passion

I wanted to do Industrial design but I really sucked at drawing. So I did what seemed right, not what felt right: physics. Then one morning I felt dizzy. Something was clearly wrong with my heart. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that I was dying. As it turns out, I was suffering from a panic attack as I was spending my days on something that I wasn’t passionate about. Auxy

You need to be so passionate about your startup that you can sustain damage. The creator of WünderbarADHD got a tattoo of his business name [Ed: Social entrepreneur that promotes the benefits of ADHD]. Reach for Change

BeTheChange

On startup philosophy

9/10 startups fail. If you’re gonna do it, at least have a good journey. Confetti

Be a go-getter: just grab the mic and introduce your company! Grab people. Don’t be afraid of asking for help when you face problems and challenges.  Flic

Have no exit strategy. Startups require discipline and effort. Teenage Engineering

Turn your startup into your number one priority. A full-time job needs to feel like the thing that you do to fuel your startup that you run in the evenings and on weekends. Confetti

Find what’s right for You. Dropping out of school and starting a company doesn’t work for all people. Miss Possible

You’ll always feel inadequate. Celebrate victories, however small, because failures stick in your mind. Miss Possible

“He’s just goofing around”, or “he’s just fooling until he finds a real job”. You get that a lot. Flic

Find a buddy. Me and my buddy worked together in the kitchen on separate startups. That made it possible to vent to one another when you’re cold-calling and get a ‘No’ for the 20th time. Flic

To convince yourself to quit your job, get some perspective. Realise that your full-time job is actually not safe; the market can crash, you can get fired. And a car can run you over at any time. Confetti

On product development

Obsess over details. Do not add friction with new components, or you will end up with lots of friction. Instead remove stuff. Focus on one thing, not lots of features, just because you’re unsure why people should care about your product. Auxy

Iterate, don’t get attached. You are not your target consumer! Miss Possible

The most important thing is to build a product that people like. If you have a great product, the StartUp journey is still hard, but it will work. A sucky product won’t fly. Advertising is the tax you pay for shit products. Auxy

We have no consultants. Instead we do everything in-house: marketing, machines, software, industrial design, logistics, photoshoots. That makes for easy prototyping. Teenage engineering

On the market

1k returning customers is better than the 1M who liked the Tech Crunch video, downloaded the app and then never used it again. Auxy

We had tech and sought a problem. We talked to customers in different markets, and made 10-15 business canvases. We covered everything from arts & museums, gaming, medical applications…  Volumental

Experiment: Execute low-risk tests to check the market and gain user feedback.  Miss Possible

On strategy

Keep two time perspectives in mind for your product: long-term impact and what’s immediately next. Ignore people who ask you ‘how your product is the next FaceBook’. You can’t start planning the big things. Make a small working thing. Auxy

When faced with a decision, consider “what would a white straight guy do?”. Then do exactly that. Confetti

Find big companies with the same mentality. Collaborate and learn from them. Teenage Engineering

Be able to handle critique. If someone says “This is not gonna work”, they don’t mean you harm. Ignore their doubt, and convert the critique into a concrete action: Ensure that this will work. If you haven’t answered the action, do it. Then next time, you can counter the critique and have a fruitful discussion. Flic

On the team

Find the right people, believe in the same goal, then run. Flic

You think that you need to be good at lots of things to do a StartUp, but that’s a lie. You just have to be exceptional at one. Get a team for the rest. Auxy

Hire the right people, who embrace the same vision, then empower them. Ban admin work. Teenage Engineering

Teams and priorities change – plan for it. Miss Possible

Internal communication is key: everyone should be on track and agree on the goal. Google Labs has a concept called ‘Objectives and Key Results’: Communicate the big vision and allow employees to consider how they can best contribute to make the company reach the goal. Volumental

People have responsibilities, but are free to contribute to other stuff. If an electronic engineer has a good design idea, great – go with it! However s/he still needs to deliver that circuit board design, or s/he’s out the door. Teenage Engineering

Confetti

 

On how to finance your startup

We did consultancy client work at the start. Then we collaborated: Cheap Monday paid half the development cost and subsequently placed the first big batch order.  Teenage Engineering

I rented a room in a friend’s girlfriend’s mom’s apartment. Auxy

Living in your parents’ apartment is ok. Flic

We could have bootstrapped; we had savings. But we wanted fast, long-term gain to give us plenty of time to develop the product. Some think taking on VCs mean selling your soul to evil investors. But if you get the chance, and money will help build a better company, then do it. Auxy

We freelanced 1 day per week for 3 months, then built Confetti the rest of the time. But Freelance means you need to be places for other people. So instead we decided to make a conference to raise money. Confetti

Having no money can be a motivator, or a stress factor. Find out where your limits are. Confetti

Barter for deals. I dye my lawyer’s hair for legal advice. Confetti

Uncategorized

IKEA are best people I’ve met in my life. Teenage Engineering

Our mission it is to engineer machines for art.  Teenage Engineering

In the future, there will be no work/life balance, just integration. Evernote

I interviewed the founder of WhatsApp and asked him whether he’d ever sell. “It’s against our ethics.”, he said. The following week Zuckerberg bought WhatsApp for $19 Bn. Everyone’s ethics has a price. WIRED UK

 


 

Thanks to

Auxy – Henrik Lenberg, Founder

Confetti – Martina Elm, Co-founder

Evernote – Cristina Riesem, General Manager EMEA

Miss Possible – Supriya Hobbs, Co-founder

People People – Martin Willers, Co-founder

Reach for Change – Alex Budak

Shortcut Labs – Pranav Kosuri, Co-founder (make Flic)

Simris Alg – Fredrika Gullfot, Founder

Teenage Engineering – Jesper Kouthoofd, Founder

Volmental – Caroline Walerud, Co-founder

WIRED UK – David Rowan, Editor

Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, for hosting.

 

* Disclaimer  I have intentionally left out quotation marks, as this post is based on my real-time transcripts during talks. However, while this post does not reflect speakers word-for-word, their messages stand. If you’re interested, full recordings of the event should appear here shortly.