Prague: La belle et la bête

I almost lost my carry-on’s wheels on Prague’s beautifully rock-paved yet chancy sidewalks, the other day. And I was just trying to get to the Three Crowns Hotel in the (very) contrasting Praha 2, nothing fancy.

It was my third time in Prague, none of which was long enough to allow me to get the real feel of the city, unfortunately. What I could grasp each time though was the wonderful contrast between the beautiful, almost parisian buildings like the National Theatre and the terrible, terrible, matchbox style communist buildings like the University of Economics. One would argue you’d prefer not to have any matchbox buildings in such a beautiful city, but I think it’s what makes Prague so special.

Mini Seedcamp Prague was a real success, I think. Some of the companies have amazing technology & teams behind, so I’m sure we’ll see more of them in the near future. Czech Republic has a pretty interesting tech scene, and with people like Ondrej Bartos and Tom Newbold around, it’ll probably keep going up.

I enjoyed spending time with all the selected teams and I encourage every startup out there to apply to one of the Mini Seedcamps. As for me, I hope to be able to test my carry-on’s wheels again in Prague, soon. Na zdravi!

Words of wisdom from the founder of Getty Images

For those of you who don’t know, Jonathan Klein founded Getty Images together with Mark Getty, back in 1993. Getty Images is the leading stock photo business in the world.

Last week, thanks to Saul Klein and Seedcamp, I had the priviledge to listen to him for two hours, speaking about how he built a business that makes hundreds of millions of dollars in profit every year.

What struck me the most was how “normal” Mr. Klein was. Extremely friendly and patient with all our questions, some of which were rather stupid, I think :). Then, I was amazed at the fact he had a set of ‘principles’ for every aspect of the business, whether it’s hiring people, scaling the business or creating sustainability. And last but definitely not least, I loved the fact that he was fun, easy going and had a constant smile on his face.

Besides talking about how he built a billion dollar company in 15 years, he gave us 10 tips that can help us do it as well. And I want to share that wisdom with you:

1. Raise more money than you think you need. If you’re on to build a large business, dilution doesn’t matter anyway. You’re in the business of minimizing risk.

2. Cash is the only thing that matters. That should be your focus. Create an automated, scalable business model that will generate cash.

3. Invest in your company’s culture. It works as a filter for making small, easy or complex and tough decisions.

4. The two most important things in your company are: your employees and your customers.

5. Be honest, transparent & realistic. Especially with yourself.

6. Decide fast. It’s better to be wrong and fix it than sit around for 3 months and miss on opportunities.

7. Wrong decisions are OK. As long as you’re wrong really fast! 😉

8. Focus, focus, focus. Say NO to stuff. Constantly.

9. LEAD. People are crying out for leadership. Know where you’re going, and they’ll follow. You can find Jonathan’s leadership principles here.

10. Have fun every day. Sometimes it’s even black humor”, he said.

Besides the “10 rules for building a business”, he constantly showered us with other various bits of advice, like: be unglamorous, make it easy to use, be accessible, understand your market and be relevant, speak the same language as your customer, do a lot of research, explore, and my personal favorite – make the customer look good.

With that said, I’d like to thank Jonathan for inspiring me to try and be better, work harder, lead thoroughly and have fun while doing it. Oh, and I finally understood that building a great business will take at least 10 years. I’m up for that.

Silicon stands for Super Intelligent Lads Innovating, Creating and Originating Novelty

Last week I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the Seedcamp USA crew (Advertag, Codility, Erply, Joobili, Kukunu, Kwaga, Patients Know Best, Platogo, Shoutem and Wondergraphs) that took over America in a one-week trip across the East and West coasts.

We started off in New York, which was fun and entertaining, especially the day we met Jonathan Klein, founder & CEO of Getty Images (I’m going to blog about that as well, soon ;-)). We also met the wonderful people at Union Square Ventures and had fun with New York’s tech scene at the NY Tech Meet-up. If I’d have to summarize NY in 3 words, I’d say: the shops, the taxis and the girls :).

We spent the second half of our trip in Silicon Valley, and I am still mesmerized at the amount of brain per square meter that I encountered there. Whenever I looked left, there was someone running an interesting startup. Whenever I looked right, there was a VC or an angel investor looking for new opportunities. Wherever I looked, there was someone that could help me or that I could help, one way or another. And if I were to summarize my experience in Silicon Valley in just three words, I’d say: Wow, just wow!

I can’t stress enough how valuable Seedcamp has been for Brainient. I am awed and astonished when I look back and see how much we’ve accomplished in the past four months. I’ve written about the Seedcamp Experience before, but if I were to summarize it in just three words, I’d say: YOU. NEED. IT.

And btw, Mini Seedcamp Zagreb is coming up and you still have a few days to apply ;).

How to put your startup on steroids

For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying to put to words how fantastic the Seedcamp experience has been to me, my team and our whole company. But today I realized that the best way to show you how much Seedcamp can help your company is by showing you how it has helped us.

Last year, together with my team at Brainient, I started working on an open-source video management platform for big video publishers, Veevid. I was sure it’s a pretty cool product, but didn’t really believe it’s the next big thing, so I wanted to get some feedback & thoughts from people smarter than me. So I applied to Mini Seedcamp Paris.

To my utmost enthusiasm, we got shortlisted. And won. I wrote 39 pages of feedback & ideas in my Moleskine. The whole event was actually so good that I decided to apply for Mini Seedcamp London event as well. We got shorlisted again.

Needless to say the London event was even better. I got more feedback & ideas. While looking through those notes together with my fantastic team at Brainient, I realized that we’re focusing on the wrong thing. “They need video monetization, not video management tools”, I remember myself saying under the shower, after that meeting with my team.

So we went back to the drawing board and created LayeredBrain, a tool that would help video publishers make more money with their video content. And the more I thought about it, the more I believed it’s going to be the next big thing. So in September, I applied for Seedcamp Week.

We got shortlisted again, and boy, what an experience. I don’t even have words. Here’s just a quick glimpse of what we’ve gotten out of it:

196  business cards. 6 potential customers. 4 parties. 640 minutes of mentoring with some very smart people. 27 pages of feedback. 19 glasses of wine. 44 powerpoint slides. 76 emails. Over 40 pitches. 6 meetings with clients. 2 potential advisors. 50.000 euros. Credibility. Validation. Focus. Enthuziasm. Vibe. Momentum. And that’s just to name a few.

If I think about the progress we’ve made in just 8 months, I still can’t believe it. We went from a company with one product and no real direction or business model, to a company with two products, a kick-ass business model, a few customers eager to try it out and, if that’s not enough, we now have Seedcamp on board.

To sum up, I strongly encourage every startup out there to apply to Seedcamp. It will really put your business on steroids and take you to a whole new level.