What to do when things go wrong

We’ve all been there. The server crashes, the client says no, the internet connection drops, she spills coffee on your favourite sweater or you leave your wallet at home. The adrenaline kicks in and blood rushes to your head. The first reaction is to tell him a thing or two, but your mum taught you better.

Mum was right, restraint is the right call. But what’s even better is laughing about it. Because, if you have the power and ability to laugh about it (and it’s freaking hard at times), you won’t build up anger. And nobody wants to be angry, right? Well, nobody besides Chuck Norris.

It’s hard, it takes training and it takes time. I don’t do it very well but then again, I’m not that good at telling jokes either. So next time you see me, can you please piss me off? Kthxbye!

Keeping it real

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been pretty successful at two things: making money and spending them. I bought my first t-shirt when I was 13, my first computer when I was 16 and my first car at 19 years old.

A couple of years ago though, as I was starting a new company and needed to bootstrap, I realised how easy it is to start spending more money and how difficult it is to start spending less. So I decided that, in order to keep my feet on the ground, I should try a little experiment: live as cheaply as possible for an entire month. And I loved it.

I actually enjoyed it so much that ever since then, twice a year (usually January and October or November), I try to live with as few pesos as possible. And it’s been very interesting to see what things I can give up and which ones I can’t.

It’s that month of the year again, so wish me luck. Oh, and if you’re thinking to invite me to breakfast, lunch, dinner or a casual drink – please prepare to pay for me as well. I promise I’ll make it back to you next month ;).

How to win Seedcamp Week

Next week, 23 lucky startups will attend Seedcamp Week, probably the best event of its kind in Europe. Three hundred mentors – entrepreneurs, angels investors, marketers, technology people – will be all eyes and ears, trying to help these startups become successful companies.

I think I still hold the record for the entrepreneur with the most Seedcamps under his belt, having won Mini Seedcamp Paris 2009, attended Mini Seedcamp London 2009 and won Seedcamp Week 2009, so I’d like to share some tips to the 23 entrepeneurs that will be on stage on Monday.

1. All you have to do when you’re up there is win people’s trust. That’s it. Really. You can try to explain how your product disintermediates rich-client social media APIs, but seriously: nobody cares. All they care about is YOU (and your co-founders, if there’s more than one presenting)

2. When you’re asked why you’re there, don’t say you’re there for funding. Of course you want money – everybody does. But there’s a saying in town: ‘Ask an investor for money and he’ll give you advice. Ask him for advice and he’ll give you money’.

3. Shut down your laptop and keep it shut. You are here to meet people, that’s it, full stop. Everything in this world happens because you knew the right people at the right time, so the best way to increase your chances of success is by meeting as many people as possible.

4. Follow-up heavily. If you’re very active, you will probably have around 40-50 business cards after each day. Follow-up while your memory is still fresh, ideally in the night, on the same day. Personalize each email. Because I have a terrible memory, I usually write how I met the person and what I discussed with her / him on the business card, after the discussion.

5. Most people laugh when I say this, but: wear good shoes. That’s the first thing everyone will notice about you. For example – I know everybody will notice me next week, because my going-out-to-events shoes are a very, very, very RED.

So, keep in mind: your chances to win Seedcamp Week will increase exponentially with every person you meet and “win” to your side. I hope these tips will help you. Good luck, and get some rest this weekend, you will need it.

How to be a sales pro in three simple steps

I’ve been selling stuff for as long as I can remember. Started off with business cards when I was 10, went on to sell websites when I was 15, services when I was 18 and now so on.

A couple of years ago I got a contract with a very, very big and demanding customer for one very simple reason: I showed up more times than my competitors did. You’ve heard it before, but I can’t stress enough how true this rule is: 80% of a sales pitch is showing up.

Ever went into a store, asked for a blue shirt and heard the sales person go: “I’m sorry, we’re out of blue shirts, but would you like a pink t-shirt?”. You have, haven’t you? Everybody has, and ¬†we all hate it. So, next time you sell something to someone, put yourself in his or her shoes. If he’s looking for a blue shirt, would he or she buy a pink t-shirt or not?

Last but definitely not least: Repeat. Repeat it until you can sell anything to anyone. Sell yourself. Sell your ideas. Your arguments. Your beliefs. Just sell. And keep in mind that becoming a great sales person, just as anything else, takes at least 10,000 hours.

There – you read it all, so it means I just sold you my post :).

How to live 100 years

I’m not sure I want to live 100 years, but I sure want to be healthy in my sixties. I know, I’m crazy to be thinking about that when I’m still in my early twenties, but hey – everyone has obsessions, and this is one of mine.

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost a year now, I try to go to church regularly and I read the Bible daily, so according to Dan Buettner, a writer and explorer at National Geographic, chances are I’m on the right path to be able to hold my grand, grand, grand children in my arms, one day.

Together with a few smart scientists, Buettner identified the so-called “blue zones”, areas where people live, on average, around 100 years. After analyzing all kinds of data, he discovered the four things we could do to live a better, healthier, longer life: more naturally, have faith and direction, be vegetarians and make lots of friends. Apparently, it’s that simple.

I highly recommend you watch the 20 minute video below. I don’t think it’ll make you live 100 years, but it will sure raise some questions ;).


Can I have my office on an airplane, please?

I’m on an flight from Bucharest to London while writing this blog post, and I’m simply amazed on how productive I’ve been. In just a little bit over 3 hours, I managed to go through a few dozen emails, I cleaned up a folder that’s been in the back of my brain for the past 3 months, reviewed two lengthy agreements that I never had the courage to open before and did some high-level monthly planning for 2010. Oh, and I still have about 20 minutes left :).

While contemplating on why I’m usually this productive on airplanes, the obvious suddenly occured to me: I’m completely offline. Not just because I don’t have Skype, internet, phone, sms, but because my brain knows I don’t have them.

I believe there’s something magic about knowing that no-one, absolutely no-one can bother you. So I’ve decided to do a test, for the next two months. Every week, I’ll pick a day, and for at least 5 hours I will disconnect from any pottential interruptors: mobile, skype, email, IM, etc. I’m going to keep the internet on, though, as I find it rather difficult to work with no internet when you run an internet startup :).

I’ll track and measure everything, and in March I’ll get back to you with some metrics, thoughts and conclusions.

PS: If you try to get the hang of me and I’m nowhere to be found, it means I’m in the middle of my little experiment :). Wish me luck.

How I (want to) use Twitter

I don’t follow a lot of people on Twitter. That’s because I don’t really like to follow the information flow on Twitter, I just have a look at my @replies from time to time.

Nevertheless, I believe Twitter is a great tool for staying up-to-date with what my contacts are saying, but I want to have it contextualized. For example, if I email Andrei, my CTO, it’d be helpful to see his latest tweet in Gmail, when sending the email. Or, if I want to meet up with Dragos from UberVU, I want to see his latest few tweets in my BlackBerry Address Book, ‘cause maybe he’s back in Romania for a few days.

You get the drill. It’s all about real-time, contextual, information flow. IMHO.