Zwei Tage vor dem Finale zum Demo Day erscheint das zweite Interview mit dem Startup-Experten aus den Vereinigten Staaten Nelson González. Nelson kommt aus der Strategieberatung und ist Mitgründer der social learning platform Declara. Bei POWER TO IDEA unterstützt er uns als Mentor.
Thank you so much from heading over from Silicon Valley to Bauhaus Dessau. We know things are a little bit slower right here – so, how are you feeling at Bauhaus Dessau?
NG: I am like a kid in the candy store between being in the modern design Mecca of the world and a fascinating group of energy companies all at the same time. I have seen some really interesting leaders, ideas, and sophisticated plans. I mean seriously, there are a couple of companies where I think: Can I invest? People will take a lot out of this event because of having conceptualized business plans very early and being together with people who have already gone through the company making process. This will radically accelerate development. So I feel really excited and energized.
What are the key success factors to run a startup as a young founder?
NG: First, I think a really clear sense of your mission and what it is you are trying to achieve, because it’s not all about product, it’s about impact, it’s about changing customer behavior or using data trying to improve people’s lives. Second, founders need to balance strong self confidence with deep humility. It’s like walking a tight rope, being able to pivot quickly, while holding on to your vision, your calling, why you think you’re on this planet. The third thing is actually about love. Loving your customers and loving your team and using that energy to build practices that enable you to pivot quickly, because you are trying to delight your customer and solve their biggest problems quickly, and working with your team to transform yourself in a spirit of great trust. Most of my conversations today have been focused on that very precarious transition between initial seed funding and go-to-market testing. So I think it is really important to pay attention to this moment and not give away power and authority too quickly to sales people or external teams. Your idea or product is not finished, you must still shape marketing and pricing strategy, product features, etc. I think paying attention to that moment is an under-analysed part of how we as mentors can support startups. I think a maturity model is necessary in that phase of startup development. Basically it’s slowing down to speed up.
Tell us about your experience at POWER TO IDEA. What did you learn here at this event?
NG: I am sort of jealous of these founding moments. They are really beautiful. They are tender. They are vulnerable. Full of possibility and constant opportunities to learning. And it also reminds me of the great responsibility inherent in being a founder. There is great potential, and great peril. What drives me as a mentor is that I think startups are under supported. There aren’t enough supports around personal development, team effectiveness, agile development, finding product-market-fit, and accessing diversified capital types. I call this the “Full Stack Innovation Ecosystem” and am working to develop tools that deepen and integrate these critical variables in effective company making. We need to do much more to help founders with concrete tools that help them negotiate these precarious moments, and ultimately generate greater return for everyone.
Based in silicon valley, in one of the most important startup hubs in the world, your startup Declara develops crowd based learning to innovate society – which impact did acceleration have on your business development?
NG: We found acceleration in two ways. First, through our early go to market strategy that focused on going to zones of non-consumption, as Clay Christensen calls them, and through being really radical about Agile product development processes. We decided to not start in the U.S. but rather go to Mexico, Singapore and Australia. And that was the best decision we ever made because we went to economies that were ready to scale at a systems level. So in year one, we got national level prepaid multi-year contracts and that is the reason why we were able to raise almost $40 million in only seed and series-A rounds. We also made some mistakes along the way because we scaled too quickly before we had demonstrable product market fit. We brought on too many too senior sales people before the product could sell itself in a repeatable and predictable fashion. We’re alive because we became very orthodox about agile development processes. We pivoted everything in like four months. We recreated our backend, our frontend, our analytics and our business model, and we were only able to do that because of our commitment to agile and a re-taking of the sales motion.