When Co-founders Become Thieves: How My Startup Got Robbed and Why I Couldn’t Do Much About It

startup co-founder thievesWTF!?, I cried as I discovered that half of all the company's cash equivalents had been withdrawn from its bank account. But when I found out who had made the withdrawal, I realized we had not been screwed. We had been robbed. The investors' money, my face. It was gone.

A short week earlier the company had held a board meeting. The director of the board and my partner (who I will keep anonymous) had naturally resigned, arguing that he wanted to focus on private matters. The board had been discussing the change of board seats and settlements, but disagreed. I have never ever witnessed such an unprofessional behavior from anyone I've trusted in business.

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Turn Your Blog Into a Lean Startup and Business Model Design Tool

Business Model Canvas for WordPress

Business Model Press is based on Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Blogging is not only useful for introducing ideas. It's also the primary way many companies communicate with and get feedback from their customers - making blogging a killer opportunity for business model- and customer development.

After having more than 100 students and 20 startup teams doing exactly that - blog their business model - I learned that it helped the teams systemize collaboration, speed up the learning process, get going with customer development and more quickly take action on their business model assumptions.

Yet, the teams still had to download the business model canvas, convert it into a picture, upload it to PowerPoint, take notes on top of it, and store it as a new picture. Following, they had to upload, resize, and import it to the editorial before finally publishing - and repeat for each and every iteration of the business model. Not very efficient.

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Heads-up on TechCrunch’s Take at Norwegian Startups: How The Problem Is The Problem

Norwegian Startup Troll

See the full article on ArcticStartup.

TechCrunch recently published a timely article questioning if Norway is leaving its tech startups out in the cold. Here’s why the discussion needs another angle and the problem in fact is the problem.

Mike Butcher starts out comparing the ones of Spotify, Rovio, Tradeshift, and Everbread to the lack of evidence of successful startups from Norway, even pondering upon Opera as a half-fledged success. The arguments are as half the truth as pointing at Bipper and Wonderloop (both Norwegian semi-expats) as examples of the opposite.

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7 Proven Templates for Writing Value Propositions That Work

Value Proposition Examples and Templates

You already know that getting your value proposition right is critical to your business model. You can have the best features, the most perfectly executed presentation, the most stunning price, but no one will ever know of it if they don’t get past your high-level value proposition.

But how do you craft such a pitch?

Continuously looking to perfect your value proposition you'd consult lengthy articles only to find that there's a jungle of advise out there. What you need are applicable examples from entrepreneurs and investors who have successfully given and taken thousands of pitches, right?

So I've put together 7 proven templates that are designed to help you create a clear, compelling value proposition in minutes.

#1 Geoff Moore's Value Positioning Statement

Probably the most popularized -  in his seminal book Crossing the Chasm - Geoff Moore suggests a specific template for outlining your value positioning. In addition to the first part below, Moore also introduces a second statement focused on competitive positioning.

Template

For  ____________ (target customer)

who ____________  (statement of the need or opportunity)

our (product/service name) is  ____________  (product category)

that (statement of benefit) ____________ .

Sample(s)

For non-technical marketers

who struggle to find return on investment in social media

our product is a web-based analytics software that translates engagement metrics into actionable revenue metrics.

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10 Scrappy Minimum Viable Products That Made It

This collection includes the early websites of Facebook (still with the The), 37signals, LinkedIn (not that bad in fact), eBay (without the pictures I'm afraid), Twitter (probably the first sketch), and more. Note that some may miss CSS and therefore may not display identical to the original.

If "preach what you teach" still holds, this better be a minimum viable blog post. As far as I put the slide deck together in under 1o minutes, did the research for it during a quick train trip this morning, and publish this as soon as possible (even if it's a bad time to post), it would need iterations..

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Symptoms of the Norwegian Startup Ecosystem

This post originally ran on ArcticStartup.

Norwegian Startup Ecosystem - ArcticStartup

As inventors of the object-oriented programming language and the modern GSM technology, you would expect Norway to have the perfect ingredients for a vibrant startup scene. If you, however, search this or any other notable tech blog for news on early-stage Norwegian startups, you would find next to nothing.

While Nordic and Baltic startups seems to thrive, why don’t we see any ventures emerging out of Norway, several Nordic and European professionals questioned me. After talking to a handful of entrepreneurs, investors, and scholars about why this is the case, I discovered seven symptoms of the Norwegian start-up ecosystem that might explain why Norway’s tech innovation is lagging behind that of its neighbors.

Found and lost

Called “black gold” the Norwegian oil imperium is the usual suspect and by long the cliché. But it is still the most used argument in explaining why Norway lags behind its Nordic counterparts. As Finnish Travelling Salesman (Kristoffer Lawson) reports from his visit to Norway in autumn 2010: “Software is not at Norway's heart”. That needs a closer look.

As mentioned above, Norwegian researchers developed the object-oriented programming language back in 1960, which was later used for creating Java and many of today’s popular web application frameworks. In fact, oil & energy industry is still dependent on specialized software to work its magic. Similarly, this industry needs communication systems and infrastructure. That is why today many Norwegian software developers work and have their customers in this space.

The problem, however, is that this space is pretty much owned by large service providers and consulting companies, and much of supply and demand exists inside of Norway. Although the oil & energy industry might not have a direct impact on tech startup scene, it plays a substantial role on the industry structure that makes up the startup ecosystem.

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Six Lean Lessons For The Corporate Startup

Egg Incubator

Big corporations want to build the next Facebook, Twitter, or Groupon as much as you, I, and the entrepreneur in a garage somewhere.

While corporations might have an advantage in resources and capital to do so better than anyone else, they do at the same time meet with challenges that independent startups don't.

Over the past years I've been fortunate enough to learn from corporate finance analysis, product launches, and early-stage M&A assessment on the one hand, and from founding and funding new startups on the other. And there is a pattern; the methods used by big corporations often turn counterproductive when launching new ventures.

Besides from knowing your customer development and lean startups basics, I share here some musings that you should consider if you want your corporation to innovate like a startup.

Rehabilitate from analysis paralysis

While a challenge in corporate business planning is that it often is comprised with mountains of information—in an early stage startup there usually is a minimal quantifiable track record.

Doing what they do best, corporations cram old information about existing products and markets to that of the startup. Executives and managers have founding teams develop detailed financial estimates and market analysis way too early.

Secondary data may be good for known and proven conditions, but not for unknown conditions, which most often is the case of new startups. The answer lies not with your thousand dollar Gartner report. Rather, it is time to un-MBA and get out of the building.

Learn like your kids would

With time grown-ups gradually stop learning. Kids, however, learn all the time. Kids experience their environment and make assumptions which are tested against reality, again and over again. For companies adopting new technologies in a fast pacing and quickly changing market the learning process is not much different.

Emerging entrepreneurial methods such as Lean Startup and Customer Development assume that startups are children, not smaller versions of mature companies. So, startups need their own methods and tools, which means it is time for even high-paid managers to get their hands dirty.

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Startup Summer Kick-off at Opera Software’s: Norway Gets a True Hackathon

Startup Software at Opera Software HQ

As of yesterday about 20 talented developers will be gathered for the next couple of weeks at Opera Software's premises in Oslo to build and launch new applications. Startup Summer is one of its kind hackathon in Norway encouraging companies to take on Lean Startup techniques.

The contestants are mainly graduate students from The Norwegian School of Science and Technology, Informatics at the University of Oslo, and various university colleges, but also existing entrepreneurs and freelancers. During the period all teams will have access to mentors as well as being able consult Opera personnel. In the end of the event and August 12. the teams will demo their products to investors and advisors (ping me if you're interested).

Here's an overview of the Startup Summer teams. Expect landing pages as their products will evolve hour by hour.

Kasseapp.no
KasseApp develop next-generation cash register. By running a 'Kasseapp' on an Android tablet and connect to a cloud, they create an elegant solution for store employees. The prototype launched this summer, so stay with www.kasseapp.no.

Hoopla Tickets
Cultural events are more important than the tickets! We develop a ticket distribution system that makes it easy and efficient to sell tickets anywhere. You create great cultural experiences, we help you communicate them. Free of charge for the organizer.

Utfylt.no
Filling out the tax returns is for many the least most fun in running a business. Utfylt.no helps small businesses record all their tax reporting; ask you a few questions, and complete your tax returns ready for submission.

Classmate
"We are tired of bad IT tools for students! Therefore, we create social tools that help students choose courses and plan their studies". Classmate provides a social student calendar and rating of classes among other features.

Nearbite
Near Bite is a mobile-based tax map of eateries and restaurants nearby. Join beta@nearbite.me and be first with our iPhone app in Oslo.

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How To Communicate Your Bootstrapped Startup: Are You a Consulting or Product Business?

startup bootstrapping

Bootstrapping your startup brings along a trade-off in communications and marketing. You have two messages to communicate: one about your service offering, the other about the product that you are building. How do you prioritize what to communicate? Are you a service or product company?

This was and still is a question that we deal with at Lingo Social every day. Recently, I had coffee with friend and founder of Mobilskole.no discussing what seemed to be a bootstrapper's marketing "dilemma". We arrived at the following.

As you make money from providing services and use profits to fund product development, you need to balance your communications efforts between the two. The more aligned your services and product messaging are, the better are chances for healthy synergies. That means ensuring that your consulting gigs leads to product sales and vice versa. Pretty obvious, but easier said than done.

At Lingo Social we went from communicating the whole digital agency package; Internet and search marketing, mobile apps, web design, analysis and strategic planning, to focus on social media marketing and management. Even better, all those former service offerings can be communicated in context of social media. For an example, inter-linking all your social media channels would have an effect on search engine optimization, and web design and apps development would integrate social networks. Following we would certainly propose to clients social SaaS rather then just building apps on an hourly basis.

Nevertheless, as founders' skill-set in a startup varies, so does their value propositions. When you are only a few founders in communicating your services, potential customers often tune in on your personal qualifications rather than the company's. Each member of the founding team is best at what they do, and consequently this is usually what they are best at communicating. That in fact is your startups's DNA.

Aligning service and product offerings along with leveraging founders' strengths have not only allowed the company to put marketing efforts in one bucket, but also increased learning about customers' needs which in turn enables us to build a better product. As a result consulting gradually starts to work as (paid) marketing and sales.

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How To Use Your Blog To Document Business Model Assumptions

In a previous post about minimum viable blogging I briefly discussed how a blog might transform into a potential product. I learned from several entrepreneurs and bloggers that they have had similar experiences.

So today I'm launching a small experiment taking this idea one step further. Here is how I'll use this blog to document our own business model hypothesis.

Business Model Customer Development

Simple structure of the business model testing scheme

As a part of some recent changes to this blog (moved to own domain), I have added a new structure that follows the Business Model Canvas.

This means that all posts will be categorized with one or more of the 9 business model blocks; customer segmentation, value proposition/product offering, distribution channel, customer relationship/demand creation, revenue models, cost structure, key activities, key partners, and partner development.

For subjects regarding external and competitive hypothesis I've added Strategy as an additional category. To this I attend to use Lean Startup and Customer Development techniques to develop our problem/solution hypothesis.

Why use a blog to test business model hypothesis

Why would I do this? First of all, I hope to share lessons learned in documenting business model hypothesis in the context of a digital startup. Posts will be living examples of how to do or not to do this.

Second, by documenting such hypothesis we'll be able to measure our own progress and decisions, and at the same time receive valuable feedback from fellow entrepreneurs as your self.

Third, by watching the emergence of methodologies such as Lean Startup and Customer Development, I believe that the social web has given breed to an academic sub-culture. I hope to contribute to such research in the field of entrepreneurial management.

For an example, we'd be able to see at what frequency which business model blocks are tested and if we'd need any additional blocks other than what the framework covers today.

"Speed Wins"

One major challenge though lies with broadcasting own ideas just about ready for any competitor to pick it up. However, as I do believe in the startup methods I here cover, "speed wins" is the winning argument.

Transparently documenting business model assumptions and receiving feedback from potential users would in principle be a source of advantage.

I hope to give fellow entrepreneurs a sense of what went wrong, what went right, and how to to better document business model hypothesis for their own business.

Update: Make sure to check out the Business Model Press WordPress plugin to begin "business model blogging".