July 24, 2016

Meetings… Probably the most inefficient part of your day. You’ve heard the saying: “If you want to kill time, a meeting is the perfect weapon!” No matter what you do, most of the time it comes to this: “too many people speaking, not enough listening.” I believe that the number 1 reason is ego: everyone wants to show what they know and offer a piece of their mind to the group. Sometimes it’s important and productive. But most of the time, it is not.

After years of sitting through long and ineffective meetings, I found the secret to make them efficient. And I found it in the most unexpected of places.

While practicing Aikido, you are not supposed to talk much. There are even some classes where you’re absolutely not allowed to speak at all.  We call it "be here and now". Not t...

June 1, 2016

In my last 20+ years as a designer (no need to be precise), design has transformed immensely. My initial dream as of student of bringing “emotional design” to products to the forefront has changed radically as technology has progressed and heralded the rise of Experience Design. This is my 20+ year history in design, and by extension a history of design in the digital age itself.

The 1980s: embracing technology

Even in the beginning, I embraced technology and idolized the magic of computers, growing together with my then best friend – the Macintosh IIx, part of the first wave of Apple computers in 1988. My heroes were David Carson – “the father of grunge” (Ray Gun magazine) – whose work in the 80s, without any technology, remains the best I’ve seen. And Neville Brody (The Face Magazi...

April 4, 2016

There is one thing entrepreneurs will universally agree on – startup life is similar to riding a never-ending roller-coaster. However, the one thing that most of us forget is that, at least on a roller-coaster, you know when you’ll start descending. 

And as scary as it might feel, it is predictable, known and anticipated. You even had time to mentally prepare yourself while waiting in line for hours. That’s part of the exhilaration. In startups, you don’t know when you’ll fall – and that is the scariest part.

In Aikido, we are taught that the number one rule is to keep your balance. It is when we are balanced that we are stronger, both physically and mentally. But what happens when you lose your balance and you fall? We are told that we must quickly rise back on o...

January 20, 2016

Last May we did a crowdfunding campaign for our smartwatch Pulse Play. Just before we launched, a lot of people told us what a big mistake it would be. These are the things they said.

“You’re taking a big chance.”

“Your goal is too high.”

“If you can’t get people to contribute, you’ll kill the product.”

You get the point.

The easiest thing in the world to do is to tell somebody that they’re wrong, and it’s a favorite pastime in the startup world. As an entrepreneur you’ll find yourself in endless arguments over where to take your product and how to build your marketing strategy, not to mention defending the idea itself.

Everybody has an opinion.

And the biggest offenders? Investors of course. In about 99% of the meetings I’ve had with them, they knew exactly how to improve...

November 30, 2015

Have you seen the award-winning ad for Volvo Trucks created by the talented people over at Forsman & Bodenfors? It shows JCVD doing an epic split over two Volvo trucks driving backwards. If you haven’t seen it, watch it; if you have, watch it again. It’s a classic.

So what does this commercial have to do with startups? My answer is: EVERYTHING!

I would love to see the brief that the advertising agency got when they were asked to create this ad but, without reading it, I assume it went something like this:

“We are launching a new line of European heavy duty trucks and each of these five trucks has some spectacular technology which is the result of very innovative engineering. We want you to find a way to explain this to people so they choose our truck...

October 15, 2015

After 17 years managing and supporting companies and non-profit organizations in their fundraising efforts, here’s what I’ve learned: it ain’t easy.

More often than not in a young startup, NO is far more common than YES. The CEO is usually spending 95% of his time researching and chasing down potential investors. Meanwhile, he’s trying to figure out what will make investors click with his startup’s message in the hope that one of his leads will be fruitful.

When I meet with startups that have already started this process, they usually show me “the spreadsheet.” You know the one – a million columns wide for every conceivable parameter. Contact information, last contact, what they sent, when to follow up, their birthday, their kid’s birthday.

Why is it always in Excel? Be...

September 1, 2015

Most crowdfunding campaigns fail. I’ve heard 60%. I’ve heard more. Last April, we ran a crowdfunding campaign for our first startup and, though we succeeded, the experience gave us a lot of insight into the challenges, and a pretty clear idea of why so many fail.

It’s all about the community

It boils down to one thing: a community with a real, quantifiable intent to purchase. In our experience, that excluded Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, there was only one type of community that ended up showing actual intent: email subscribers. And unfortunately for crowdfunders, a good email list takes a lot of time to build.

Why not social media

It’s important to think about the communities you build in terms of whether you “own” them or “rent” them. You rent your community on Facebook,...

August 18, 2015

Here’s a couple tests for you:

  1. You’re a manager at a startup and deadlines are tight. One of your employees is suggesting a direction on a project that you’ve seen before and know doesn’t work. Would you ever approve that project knowing it will have to be done over again?

  2. You hear this: “Let’s add this feature and improve the design one more time before launching.” If you’ve worked at a startup for even six months, this isn’t new to you. Would you ever give them the extra development time knowing it’s better to hit the market and iterate after?

A few years ago, I managed a game development company. We started a new project and my programmer, who was a Flash expert and new to HTML5, wanted to work in Flash and transfer it to HTML5. I knew it was a mistake,...

August 8, 2015

Explaining venture builders still raises eyebrows whenever I talk to tech investors. Venture builders—companies that build several startups in parallel—are usually confused with accelerators or incubators, but they’re almost completely different. Venture builders give internal startups a big boost of both human and financial capital through in-house teams and investments; accelerators and incubators usually only give startups access to human capital, and usually in just an advisory capacity.

Take our first startup, Pulse PlayPulse Play is a smartwatch for racket sport players. It’s a good-looking piece of hardware that keeps score, helps players find opponents, and gives them a worldwide ranking. If Pulse Play was a standalone startup, it’d struggle to find a team, it’d struggle t...

July 23, 2015

The idea behind startup studios, venture builders.

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