job creation

November 24th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

“the articles and words on this blog do not necessarily represent the position of their author. strong sentences, especially such that describe people or companies or events are here to express an abstract point, and not to pass or enable or encourage judgement. please refrain from taking them as facts, but rather as building blocks of a story. author accepts feedback and complaints under comments and on email.”

under our office is a parking lot. or better put, it is a long and narrow courtyard, used to park cars in two rows. it’s great, because it reduces costs for some of our colleagues who drive to work, and makes it easier for the visitors to find us.

however, it has a downside – since cars and in two long rows of five cars, inevitably everyone who parks here has to get up several times per day to move their car because the car before them need to get out. annoying, but doesn’t surprise anyone.
i believe there are three lessons to be learned here:

  1. we, the company, should have hired someone as a valley, to move those cars around. the valley could even park more cars in empty lots around the office, not just on the courtyard, because she would have all day to optimize the positions. maybe that valley could even do other useful things, like change lightbulbs (which is currently often needed and done by the COO) and such. we, the company, are behaving pretty idiotic not to that, but unfortunately the employees are not in favor of the idea either – slovenians are not used to trusting the keys of the car to a stranger. so i pick my battles and not create a possible job.
  2. but! if we were in america, we’d have someone knocking on our door every day, offering their vallet services, convincing us that they should get this job. and maybe we would give it a try and give them the job for a while! and maybe this person would then be encouraged and go find more lots like this, and hire more of their unemployed friends jobs. maybe they would even scale up into a services company for flexible workforce. who knows, but the point is, that of all 200k unemployed in slovenia, i have never ever heard of a case of creative job hunt. it takes two to tango.
  3. however, the real truth is, that quite possibly legislation forbids us from creating such a job position. quite sure there is regulation about work safety, property insurance, outdoor work conditions, flexible work schedules, that we would need to plow through before even doing an experiment. in this country, it’s simply easier to not create jobs.

in slovenia however, we have 200k unemployed and 200k public servants who can’t be bothered to think about such everyday details.

angel stage valuation

November 20th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

“the articles and words on this blog do not necessarily represent the position of their author. strong sentences, especially such that describe people or companies or events are here to express an abstract point, and not to pass or enable or encourage judgement. please refrain from taking them as facts, but rather as building blocks of a story. author accepts feedback and complaints under comments and on email.”

at a networking event recently a startup founder walked up to me and in a very shy manner asked if silicon gardens knows how to set valuation of his company. this burning question was preventing him from starting to fundraise, and with all honesty, it’s a great question that founders for unknown reasons don’t want to ask out loud.

my answer roughly consisted of three parts:

  • if you are pitching angels, that means your company is very early, probably doesn’t have market validations and years of financials that you need if you want scientific fair valuation.
  • because of that, you need to ask the angels / investors, how they can help you achieving your next milestone, which could be anything – develop prototype, go to market, expand to new market… and the help can mean many things, besides the capital – expertise, network, operations,…
  • then you ask yourself how much is that help worth to you, and compare with what the angel expects. more often than not, you realize that the deal is in your favor
  • keep in mind that there are some thresholds – minimum stake to make investor feel involved in the company is often 5%, max that you might want to consider is 30%, otherwise you’ll have problems with cap table in future rounds of financing.

very basic question, but important nonetheless. founders, don’t be afraid to ask basic questions. ever.

anything to add to the answer dear readers?

the clash of generations

November 17th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

“the articles and words on this blog do not necessarily represent the position of their author. strong sentences, especially such that describe people or companies or events are here to express an abstract point, and not to pass or enable or encourage judgement. please refrain from taking them as facts, but rather as building blocks of a story. author accepts feedback and complaints under comments and on email.”

i work with a lot of startups and startup organizations in slovenia and abroad. not long ago, a group of entrepreneurs even visited the president, who wants to help.
we were a diverse group, and first surprise was, that each of us had completelly different set of operational challenges that made it hard for him to develop their startup in slovenia and thus create more jobs.

  • some were having hard time raising funding from foreign investors because our legislation is exotic, continental, written in slovene, not simple for business and because not a single global law firm has presence in slovenia.
  • some where having hard time getting bank loans, not because their business plan would be shady, but for procedural reasons like not having 3 or 5 years of balance sheets to provide – because the startup is younger than that of course
  • some weren’t receiving responses from government institutions responsible for their fields when they asked for clarifications on legislation, increasing the risks of operating the business
  • most are having problems employing foreign high-skilled workers, because getting the visa is lengthy, because immigration office doesn’t speak anything but slovene, and because work taxes are so high, that workers receive less net salary than anywhere else in europe
  • some struggle because they want to issue stock options to employees, a concept that doesn’t exist in our system and thus requires a lot of improvisation, and where tax implications are not clear at all
  • some serial entrepreneurs complain that the capital they made in the past and paid capital gains tax for, should they reinvest it into new business, that will create new jobs, will get taxed again. and again. and again.

this is an example list of ‘small’ issues that we identified, and while it looks huge and diverse set of problems, everything boils down to two fundamental facts:

  1. previous generation and it’s institutions, that are currently leading the society, do not understand specifics and differences of our generation’s institutions. all those problems are essentially simple misunderstandings, that would improve if we talked more about them.
  2. but we don’t need them to understand, it’s easier to just move away. young ambitious person in a globalized world can choose from hundreds of work environments with different characteristics, and all these ecosystems are essentially on the market for talented entrepreneurs to come and make societies better. Slovenia doesn’t act as if it’s in the market for young people.

these two facts combined result in unprecedented void between the leading and the coming, which has no rational reason to cure. it’s unprecedented, because only now the borders are gone and people and businesses are more free to move around then every. young people have no rational reason to stick around in an environment that calls them “the lost generation”, their energy is more efficiently spent elsewhere.

new york is a fabulous example of government that extended their hand and proactively works with new generations to form policies to make new york better for them. and when i say proactively, i mean all the f**ing time. one month after i moved to new york five years ago, i received a call from the NYCEDC, asking when could their head visit me for a chat on my experience with establishing the business there and how they can help. i told him many things, including that for a european the streets feel dirty. the director of a public agency was performing a on-the-site customer interview, not because i am so important, but because that’s what he does – he knows the people who will shape the future of the city better than anyone else.

in slovenia however, we have 200k public servants who can’t be bothered to think about such everyday details. and we have 20k people who left because they weren’t heard when it was time.

dublin web summit 2014

November 13th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

 

“the articles and words on this blog do not necessarily represent the position of their author. strong sentences, especially such that describe people or companies or events are here to express an abstract point, and not to pass or enable or encourage judgement. please refrain from taking them as facts, but rather as building blocks of a story. author accepts feedback and complaints under comments and on email.”

coming home from the web summit early this year, watching the closing remarks and announcing the winners ceremony on the tv’s around the dublin airport. paddy looks great, relaxed as ever, as he announces the cto of coca-cola, who announces their programme of support for entrepreneurs.

the web summit and the founders conference are amazing achievements by paddy & the team. they started 4 years ago, bringing 500 tech entrepreneurs into dublin for a get-together. this year, they brought 20.000. in the years in between, they had the most amazing lineup of speakers and participants, like elon musk, bono and mark.

so far, nothing new, everyone knows this is happening. even some slovenian vc’s were noticed in the crowd this year. what struck me when i saw paddy on TV with the guy from coke was, that paddy has probably the most impressive rolodex on the planet. his personallity and his vision and lots of hard work have given him access not just to PA’s of most influential and smartest leaders in the world, but even more importantly, for these events to work, he had to invest time to really understand each of their motivations and goals and visions and activities.

i expect paddy to have better understanding of where the global business is going than the nsa.

let’s meditate about this for a second, and repeat the logic – in just four years, he got best of the best to speak on his stage and support his cause. he didn’t bribe them. he trully got them on his side, with charm and with facts. he knows these people and organizations they represent personally. that’s power.

and what does he do with this power?

he organizes a party.

let’s meditate on that – yes, a f**ing party. a 4-days long pub crawl on the streets of dublin. an excuse for 20k of most productive people on the planet to get away from their routines of changing the world and … get drunk!

a lot of good comes out of these parties of course:

  • taxi drivers and airliners and hotelliers and pubs benefit directly. of course they also sponsor the event
  • participants get some rest / action and recharge their batteries
  • participants get their annual dose of brainwashing about changing the world and how awesome they are for it
  • the speakers and the corporations feel good about connecting with the community and giving back to the community, without noticing that they were actually kept far away from the actual audience, in separate hotels and lounges
  • the startups participating in competitions feel good about the hard work and energy they put into presenting themselves for one of the four days in one of the five startup halls with 500 startups each, and pitching those two vc associates that stopped by their 70cm of booth space.

obviously, this is a good thing. great thing even. getting 20k people on a remote island means you are doing something right for the planet. but i can’t help but ask myself, is there anything better that could be done with all that power?

every society needs connectors, people who facilitate connections between individual players, because of their unique abilities to make personal connections with various and diverse actors, accumulating social capital, and converting it into trust between the introduced parties.

one of the ways you can do this, is by throwing a party, and hope that the right people will connect by pure luck. completelly different approach is performing surgical strikes with direct introductions. in between these two is the third way – playing a good host – organizing the party, and intruducing the ones that showed up between eachother.

after this year, i feel that we only had the party, and absolutely nothing else good from paddy. i wish he would spend his time connecting the best startups with the right brand executives. the planet would be better off.

general disclaimer

November 10th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

i noticed that i often get ideas to write on this blog, but after thinking about them i realize that they might be misrepresented and thus decide not to write them. i’d hate it if this blog was the reason for any particular person or company to be misunderstood and damaged, but at the same time, i feel that each not published thought is lost opportunity for me and for the readers. so i’ve decided to write up a general disclaimer, that will be part of every provocative blog posts i publish in the future. i hope it will manage to frame my context well enough, to prevent readers from jumping to conclusions and judgements. here is the wording i’m thinking about, and i would very much welcome any improvements or feedback.

the articles and words on this blog do not necessarily represent the position of their author. strong sentences, especially such that describe people or companies or events are here to express an abstract point, and not to pass or enable or encourage judgement. please refrain from taking them as facts, but rather as building blocks of a story. author accepts feedback and complaints under comments and on email.

i hope this will relieve me from worrying too much, and to start writing more aggressive and controversial pieces, that will stir the conversations more. not because i would want to convince anyone of my points, but because i feel that not enough people are contributing to public debates, which gives unfair advantage to media and politicians and trolls. so bear with me, specially when you disagree.

welcome health tech community of slovenia

November 7th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

wednesday was a particularly heart-warming day for me – healthday.si happened, an event in ljubljana that got 180 local participants together to talk about what they are doing to change health industry for the better. startups, enterprises, doctors, beaurocrats. the organizers even published a ‘health book’ – showcase of the the community that was officially born there.

but really it all started in july already. gaja and I had some friends from NY visiting ljubljana. by coincidence two of the four worked in health-tech in the big apple, and we decided to drum up a themed tech meet up.

the email blast went out in the morning, 40 people and 12 startups showed up in the evening. after few hours everyone was excited to have met a number of likeminds they didn’t know existed in our town.

this turn up was an indicator that there is a community waiting to happen, all it needed was a catalyst. the organizers and key sponsor of the later healthday.si were there as well, saw it and started planning next steps.

i hope the community will continue, through such events, meetups, or simply direct contacts, but most importantly, by helping eachother at marketing the next revolution.

it’s real hard

June 24th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

A supernova remnant about 20,000 light years f...
A supernova remnant about 20,000 light years f...

A supernova remnant about 20,000 light years from Earth (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution)

building a company is incredibly hard. so hard, that it often drives some of the smartest and most capable people i know mad, because in the spur of the moment they dont understand what is wrong with them that they are still ‘unsucessful’. truth is, they are pretty sucessful comparatevily, and they are doing all the right things, but building a company is just hard.

it takes 5-9 years to build a company said eric 7 years ago. i was shocked, because i lived in a techcrunch bubble, just like 80% of young ambitious entrepreneurs i meet. i guess this bubble actually enables creation of at least half of the startups, because it fills them with optimism.

2 years later, after blind optimism wears out, all you are (hopefully) left with is groundworks for the actual future company and the burning ambition to prove everyone that you weren’t wrong. in reality, if you survived 2 years, that probably means you have a team or some market validation or some traction, or some angels, or some advisors, or any combination of them, and you are actually light years ahead of where you’ve been. but it still feels dissapointing.

dissapointments is a function of expectation often said my brother and our first ceo ales. and he was right, entrepreneur must at some point in time suspend her expectations and face the reality – your company will be something else than what you imagined on that cocktail night, but it’s going to be real, and shaped by thousands of interations of other people with it, where you are merely a sheppard. observe, react, nudge, endure.

if the only thing that’s missing is ‘success’, you’re probably on the right track. forget your ego and enjoy and learn.

This Friday: Startup Crawl – Book Your Schedule, Reserve Your Tickets

March 18th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

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#190: Twenity – lansiranje - NOVOLETKA, 21. De...

#190: Twenity – lansiranje – NOVOLETKA, 21. Dec 2011 (Photo credit: Kiberpipa)

Slovenia has incredibly healthy startup community, with probably largest amount of global startups per capita. Most of the public is still unaware of how different (and healthy) work environments these young and fast-growing companies are.

After super successful first startup crawl amongst Ljubljana startups (last October), when literally hundreds of people came to visit some of us, the InternetWeek.si team is rallying us together again, in an even more awesome all-day startup festival.

As of today we have 24 super interesting startups opening doors for visitors, ranging from global super stars like Outfit7 and Celtra, to most ambitious newcomers like Sqwiz, Dietpoint and Oculus.

Let me rephrase this – this Friday you have an unique opportunity to see how Outfit7 and Celtra look like from within and talk to them in person!

A totally unique chance if you are looking for a better job (in various roles, not just engineering), if you are a journalist, consultant, or just a worried parent of a high-schooler that likes internet a lot.

This year we are also not only limited to Ljubljana anymore – we have startups from Ptuj, and Kranj participating as well.

So, here’s a recipe for you for this week:

  1. TODAY: go to internetweek.si and checkout the list of participating startups
  2. TODAY: BOOK A TICKET with the ones that you are interested in – the quantities are limited, with some of them very limited
  3. FRIDAY: go have a chat with some of the only creators of jobs in Slovenia
  4. FRIDAY EVENING: after party in LP in the center of Ljubljana

If you are a startup as well, and are wondering why you are not on the list, all you have to do is send an email to the internetweek team!

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good week for science, bad for UX

February 13th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

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Leopard watching two lions

Leopard watching two lions (Photo credit: Calle v H)

these days i’m under a strange combination of feeling victorious and nostalgic over challenges that used to make me seriously irritated and frustrated. tasks that i used to do much more frequently and really hated the convoluted way in which they were implemented.

several relatives asked me to help with different problems each:

  1. I had to update online bank certificate on a 4 years old mac mini running Leopard. it turns out, the bank doesn’t generate a valid certificate on firefox 12 anymore, and newer firefox version require Snow Leopard. *sigh*. download ISO (wait few hours), too large for DVD, copy to external drive, reboot, wait an hour ’till it upgrades, move the access point because the internet stopped working, download new versions of chrome and firefox, get the darn certificate, everybody happy.
  2. I had to convince an abandoned windows XP machine to connect to DHCP router – remove all obsolete dial up ‘connections’, create lan connection, ping, doesnt work. switch cable, switch router, ping, doesnt work. open LAN properties, add TCP/IP, open TCP/IP properties, set to ‘obtain IP address and DNS automatically’, OK, close, warks! [thanks wikihow – http://www.wikihow.com/Set-up-DHCP-Network-Settings-on-Windows-XP]
  3. I had to get new government-issued certificate for access to e-taxes. even though this is a whole different registrar that under (1), i noticed the emails and instructions were word-to-word same. good news is, that means i knew what to do immediately, bad taste left because of fake competition. bonus? the user now has three certificates from two issuers on the system, all made in the same name, with the same ‘name of the certificate’ that shows in the dropdown box when logging in, making it hard to guess which is the right one for each service. and it gets even better. one of the services accepts the wrong certificate as the right one. probably someone on the other end was equally confused and matched the wrong ID. *sigh*
A FRUSTRATED DRIVER SITS THROUGH A TRAFFIC JAM...

A FRUSTRATED DRIVER SITS THROUGH A TRAFFIC JAM IN HERALD SQUARE – NARA – 548272 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

so much for the ancient technologies that still don’t work as expected. but there were some bleeding edged ones as well:

  1. my fancy new fitbit force wouldn’t sync. it just wouldn’t, for almost two weeks already. reseting the tracker or reinstalling the apps wouldn’t work. but the apps themselves made the whole process ultra frustrating, because of constantly changing behavior – random messages about not finding the tracker (that never moved anywhere), that it can’t find the server (even though @support claimed they are up), that the password is wrong, really didn’t help with debugging. and not everything was fitbit’s fault – once in the process, i tried logging in with facebook, which opened an oauth window, which was fixed size, but facebook loaded some security questions which were larger, which led to loading whole facebook, which was even larger. in the end, connection happened, but the app still wanted the same darn password. the tracker is now syncing, but the final step to this was to ‘add another tracker’, instead of ‘sync tracker’.
  2. and finally, i had to connect windows 8 laptop with external bluetooth speaker. this connection worked for months, and suddenly stopped working without explanation.  clicking on the speaker icon in taskbar and on devices and settings in left bar only brought up useless information. then i noticed bluetooth was disabled altogether, and it refused to switch on. so we rebooted (clicking on ‘start’ to shutdown was stupid enough, but now you have to click on ‘settings’ to find it, which is even worse). sure enough that switched the bluetooth magically back on, but the speaker still wouldn’t play anything. it turns out, the speaker icon in the taskbar had to be ‘right clicked’ (on a touch-first OS mind you), to reveal a ‘playback devices’ option, where you can switch the default device. and even that didn’t make the music come from them! i had to click on the darn speaker again (left click), and set the app-specific volume to more than 0. why i can set volume by apps, but not the output device as well, is beyond me.

all in all, it was a good week for science :) everything magically works, and it seems there is some progress in the art of UX – these days most problems are actually solved by rebooting everything and letting the defaults kick in. ten years ago you had only 50% chance that would solve it.

Jerry is frustrated by Tom who believes that h...

Jerry is frustrated by Tom who believes that he is a mouse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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If you want to understand the life of a startup entrepreneur, watch this video

January 4th, 2014 § Comments Off § permalink

New York
New York

New York (Photo credits: www.roadtrafficsigns.com)

The author is Terrence Kawaja, an investment banker in NY, who knows everyone and in spare time creates more or less funny spoofs of popular culture.

This is his latest video, which is essentially a rewording of the famous ‘sunscreen’ song. I find it incredibly accurate, chaotic and sincere description of everyday life of a startup entrepreneur.

aspiring entrepreneurs, angel investors, employees, their families, everyone should understand the ups and downs that we go trough, and this video de-mystifies it appropriately.

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