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Entreprenörskap October 23, 2014

5 ways to boost your STING Accelerate application

Thinking about applying to the next batch of STING’s accelerator program? Here are 5 useful tips to improve your chances of getting chosen for the program:

STING FastFwd

Tove and Janna, founders of Competencer, pitching at Demo Day.

1. Show us that you have a strong team
STING invests in people, not companies. One thing that truly impresses us is an experienced team with complementing skills. Show us that your team represents business, marketing and sales competencies, as well as a solid set of techies.

2. Think visual
Another thing that excites us – and makes you stand out – is video. Tell us about your team and business concept in a three-minute video pitch. We promise we won’t pay attention to production quality; it is the content we’re interested in.

3. How will you make money?
Explain to us how your business will scale. How will you make money? We love to see traction. Who are your customers and what do they say about you? Show that you have a deep understanding of your market, as well as your strategy for how to meet the need of that market.

4. Show a global focus
Our mission is to help entrepreneurs to build international companies. For that reason, it’s essential that you have your sights set on going global from day one.

5. Put effort into your application and do your homework
Take the time to answer each question carefully, spell check, include images and produce a short video. In other words: fill out the application form properly. Equally important is doing your research. Do you know what STING – and STING’s accelerator program – is all about? We want you to feel that this is the right fit for you and your startup.

And last, but not least; apply before midnight on May 10.

Visit sting.co/startup-program/sting-accelerate for more information about Sting’s accelerator program and the 300,000 SEK investment.

Best of luck!

Finansiering March 14, 2014

In the mind of a business angel

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How do you attract a private investor? What should you research and what questions should you consider before choosing who to bring into your company? On Monday this week, we had lunch with the serial entrepreneurs and business angels Jane Walerud and Martin Wattin who talked about private investing with our entrepreneurs.

So, simply put: A business angel is someone who privately invests in early-stage companies, with money straight from their own pocket. Jane and Martin are members of the STING Business Angels (SBA) network, and the two have invested in close to 20 startups combined.

Jane is currently CEO at her latest startup, Teclo Networks. She is an experienced tech entrepreneur and her journey goes back to 1998. Since then, she has built a portfolio of investments and companies that is rather impressive. Some of the more known cases are Bluetail, Klarna and LensWay.

Martin hails from a background as an IT-entrepreneur and investor, and has since 2006 invested in a number of IT/media companies in Sweden, the US and India. Some of the Swedish investments include Mostphotos, Rabble and Scrive, where Martin also serves as a board member.

Here is a summary from the lunch meetup.

Enjoy building companies
To invest in early-stage startups equals a large risk, and the investor can potentially end up empty-handed. According to both Martin and Jane, it’s worth taking that risk. They believe it is important, and a real pleasure, to share their expertise as serial entrepreneurs, and help companies to scale early. Angel investors usually have a deep passion for building companies, and have a lot to offer younger entrepreneurs – especially in the initial stages of a business.

“I know I’m most helpful in the early stages of a startup, before the team grows bigger than 50-60 people,” Jane said.

Martin is an active investor, and on a weekly basis he meets up with the companies as well as has regular follow-ups. “I want to steer them away from doing the same mistakes I once did, and be close to my companies,” Martin said.

Martin and Jane pinpointed business angels’ critical role in the eco system of startups, which is to support the companies with both funding and coaching when they might require expertise the most, and before they attract capital from larger VC firms.

Study before the official test
So how do you go about attracting a private investor? Well, there’s no straight answer to that.

“It’s vital to know who you’re approaching. What type of business has this person invested in earlier? Why is your company relevant to them?” Jane advised. She really emphasized the importance to identify the weaknesses within the team, and look for an investor who represents those skills.

“Make sure that you accept the right people into the company, who share your values and future ambition,” Martin urged.

For Martin, it is essential that the entrepreneur presents an idea of a vision of the business, and in what direction the business will head in the next few years. You need to have a vision to become a leader. Structure is key, and also to show a sense of urgency combined with a lot of optimism.

 “You need to find the perfect match”
At the end of the day, it’s all about how you connect. Martin and Jane could not stress enough how central the connection is between the two parties.

“You need to find the perfect match. A business angel is a key player, it has to be a brilliant fit,” said Jane.

It is worth to keep in mind that this person will be with you for a long time ahead. And, of course, by targeting the right kind of investor, identify exactly what you want to get out of it and what skill-gap the investor could fill, there’s a greater chance of finding that perfect match.

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Thanks Jane and Martin for spending this Monday lunch hour with us!

Want to hear more from two experienced entrepreneurs? Read our blogposts about Niklas Adalberth, founder of Klarna, and Henrik Lenberg, former VP Soundcloud.

Internet/media December 23, 2013

“Find people who are better than yourself”

Klarnalunch

At the end of last week, STING’s FastForward team popped over to Klarna’s headquarters here in Stockholm. Since Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Niklas Adalberth and Victor Jacobsson founded the e-commerce business in 2005, it has been quite a ride. With the recent acquisition of rival Sofort (DE) earlier this week, Klarna is today one of the leading European online payment services with more than 1000 employees.

We sat down with Klarna’s deputy CEO Niklas Adalberth for lunch, and looped through as much of their journey as we could fit into one hour. Niklas is a modest man with – needless to say – ­­tons of advice for young entrepreneurs. Here are five of them:

Young and inexperienced is a great benefit
According to Niklas, being a rookie was definitely not a problem. “Looking back in hindsight, a big advantage was that we were young and inexperienced when first starting out. Partly because that gave us the courage to jump into this industry, and partly because our lack of expertise in certain areas made us find other talented people who represented the missing skills.”

“We hold an incredibly strong focus on sales. It should be every company’s top priority.” – Niklas Adalberth

Take your idea for a test-drive
Klarna is a product success as much as it is a sales success, Niklas revealed. “We hold an incredibly strong focus on sales. It should be every company’s top priority.” He suggests creating a prototype and test-drive your idea in the very early stage. Don’t spend months on just the product before testing the market and collecting inputs, ideas and other valuable insights from your customers.

“Try to find people who are better than yourself”
Since inception, the Klarna founders have been persistent with employing strong and high-performing people. “Try to find people who are better than yourself, who complement you,” said Niklas. At the same time, he does admit this is a difficult task – especially in the beginning. One reason why Klarna managed to attract talented people from start is related to the generosity of offering equity stakes. “If you give your employees a reason to be motivated, it’s much more likely you’ll find the right people,” Niklas clarified.

Consider a logical reasoning test
Business angel and investor Jane Walerud has been an eminent support for Niklas, Sebastian and Victor, not just financially. Early on, she encouraged them to, among other things, introduce a logical reasoning test in the hiring process. Simply put, the test is a good indication to how well a prospective employee would cope with a rapidly expanding business. Niklas said Klarna applies it in the recruiting process still. “It’s a frank and predictable test, and Sebastian and myself are very adamant about this.”

Right person in the right position
To constantly re-evaluate the team and who does what within the company has become a vital activity for Klarna, due to its speedy growth. “What’s most difficult, but also most necessary when building a business is to repeatedly challenge yourself to assess the team and employees’ roles,” Niklas said. He gave a clear example: “We spend a lot of time ensuring we have the right people on our board and there’s been some changes to it almost on an annual basis since the start.”

Thanks Niklas for having us, it was a great pleasure!

Internet/media December 4, 2013

Tuesday lunch break with Henrik Lenberg

Henriklunchpic

On Tuesday (Dec 3), the FastForward startups caught up for lunch with Henrik Lenberg, former VP at SoundCloud. During two years in Berlin, and two in San Francisco, Henrik was part of the core team that turned the music platform into its current state.

Now back in Stockholm, Henrik’s got his sight set on establishing his own music creation startup. The ex-Soundclouder also regularly coaches and teaches, to inspire and encourage other entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the insights Henrik shared with us:

Quit your job
“I think people should be faster at leaving their jobs and trying something new, when they feel they’re not doing the right thing.” Henrik is indeed a man of his own word. When he felt he was ready for a new challenge, and wanted to move back to Sweden, he picked up his things and left his position at SoundCloud

Start with why
Initiate a sustainable vision, or ideology, before establishing a business, is another great advice from Henrik. Most successful startups didn’t have a clear plan for becoming billion-dollar companies when they started. Focus on solving a problem that you care about, and have a clear “why” behind the business idea and concept

Think big but start small
According to Henrik, it’s important to steer away from thinking too big too fast. Having said that, a strong ambition is crucial, and there’s nothing wrong with an overarching goal of taking over the world – at some stage. Being a big advocate of the lean startup model, Henrik points out that a startup doesn’t need to have a crystal-clear idea initially. Rather, that’s a part of the iteration process, and will probably change over time.

A good team is your most valuable asset
This is perhaps of no surprise to anyone. Finding the perfect team is an enormous challenge. “If you’ve got a great little team, that is willing to commit, work together and start up a business together – but simply unsure of what kind of business – just get on with it!” A strong team is an incredible asset. Henrik discusses this further on his website: “I believe a great team is usually more valuable than a great idea, and that great ideas usually come from great people working on problems together.”

Make sure you’re geared up
Starting your own business inevitably means you need to be ready for it – on all levels. Somewhat financially, but most important: mentally. Persistency is an important skill shared by all successful entrepreneurs. Once the business starts moving, the energy and full attention has to be there every day, all day – from the entire team.

During the lunch, Henrik mentioned the following books for everyone involved in building a startup:

Thanks Henrik for coming over. Good luck with your startup, we look forward to seeing more of you and your creations in the near future!