Dec 22, 2010

That is so one second ago

My generation (Gen Y or Digital Natives) is the one exposed to the most rapidly changing environment that humanity encountered so far.

Because of this, we need today specialists that cannot be prepared as such by the existing educational system. The educational system is so behind the wave, that not only it lacks preparing the right skills, but also the right attitudes and mindsets.

There are lately all sorts of critiques, trying to point out that there should be a change in the way youth people are educated. But before something will be changed at this large scale, there are all sorts of things youth people can do on their own to prepare for the reality that awaits them.

First of all, they have easy and cheap (if not free) access to information and the possibility to connect virtually with like-minded people from everywhere. This should be used by youth people to learn on their own whatever they want, whatever they feel is the upcoming wave.

Secondly, youth people are more and more encouraged by the business sector to contribute with their fresh perspectives. There is a great developing system of internships nowadays, there are companies recruiting youth people from the times they are in universities, colleges, and even high-school - making them face the real world challenges from early stages. It is actually interesting to see this evolution: at the beginning people were just studying at universities (it was an outstanding thing), now universities send you to do internships and exchanges. This opportunity should be used by youth people to educate themselves in today's reality, rather than in old education's beliefs.

I tried in the best way I could to prepare myself for today's environment. I go online since I was 10 years old, I started a job in my field since I was second year in university, I got involved into a students organisation and I attended some good conferences and workshops. But this is nothing compared to the opportunities younger people had: what you can find and do online is so much developed year after year; now there are all sorts of possibilities to start working in companies from first year of university or even earlier, in high-school and so on.

I cannot compete with somebody who is even three years younger than me, or I should of made a much bigger effort to be equal....just because chances were different, or actually the same but at different stages in life.

So, bottom line...

On the short run, I recommend you to educate yourself for the new times and to take new opportunities. Some good advice in this sense you can find in this book: Linchpin - by Seth Godin.

On the long run, I believe we should all try to change (or encourage the change) of the educational system. For this, I invite you to watch this video:

Dec 20, 2010

We are puzzle pieces

When it comes to working in teams or finding the right job/ professional activity, you should be able to know where do you fit best and why. Otherwise you will end up unhappy and you will not make the best of what you can do. If you don't know already, just stop a while and think about it....or have some personality/ work style tests done (one of my recommendations: the Belbin test).

More than this, I believe a person should not try to improve a, b, c aspects about herself just because others are good at it or it is required, but just to be aware of how he/ she is and find the right environment to fit in. In this world, we need everybody, all the possible attitudes and skills...but for different activities, in different teams and at different times. A puzzle piece is not wrong as such, you just need to find for it the perfect place in the big picture.

One big mistake people usually do happens during job interviews. You think you want the job, so you are careful to talk in such a way you will impress the employer and get it. And then, you realize is not the best activity for you, or the best team etc. By just being honest from the beginning, and defining yourself concretely, you will be able to save yourself from getting into the wrong place for you. Pay attention to the chemistry you feel with your potential future boss/ colleague, to the requirements of the job, to the organisational culture etc. You are getting yourself into a long term collaboration.

Well, this opens actually another question: should we really try to find to do only things we like? This is a big debate. I believe there are plenty of opportunities that will fit each one of us and make us happy. Some say you can never do only things you like. Wherever is the truth in this, at least we should try to find the things that fit as perfectly and not get stuck into wrong places/ teams from the first trials.

And to give myself as an example:

- I am a starter. So I need to surround myself with planners and doers. Still, is important that all of us understand each other's role and nobody expects the others to act in the same way.

- I am a driver. So I need to surround myself with people who show appreciation, because otherwise I get demotivated.

- I am an innovator. So I need to work in places where innovation is needed and encouraged. If I open a business, it is for sure for new markets or with new products.

- I am people oriented. So I need to work in places where I have as much contact with people as possible.

And the list can continue....

On the same topic:

Dec 9, 2010

NetCamp 2010 review - insights for online entrepreneurs

Yesterday, 8th december 2010, took place this year's edition of NetCamp - a conference for existing and wanna be online entrepreneurs, organised by Manafu and Evensys team in Bucharest, Romania.

The event gathered more than 200 people with ongoing or planned businesses in the online environment, most of them men (80 - 90%) and very young (age average: 25 y.o.) and some great international and national speakers.

Some insights from the speakers (quotes from their presentations and discussions) that might be useful for you:

Ian Broom - Launch 48
- For inspiration, there are some opportunities trending in online entrepreneurship that you might consider working on as your future business: analytics, geo based business, flash mob (example: Groupon), mobile apps, social games (examples: Foursquare, FarmVille).
- Do your research, test your customers.
- Launch with interest. If your first customers like your product,  they will be your greatest sales force (word of mouth).
- Launch is not the end. Iterate and expand.

Jure Sustersic - Nokia
- There are more people accessing Facebook from mobile than desktop
- We are facing an "app economy"
- Think how your business can benefit from mobilization.

Zoli Herczeg - Microsoft
- Presenting Gartner Hype Cycle 2010
- Cloud computing is good to use for non-flat/ unpredictable usage scenarios because you can use it for how much you want at each time (flexibility).

Hugo Pickford-Wardle - Launch 48 UK
- Solve a problem that others don't know how to solve or that they didn't even know it existed (but it did).
- Envision a perfect world without constrains. Work backwards, until you hit the wow line.

Cem Tunakan - Groupon Romania
- Focus on not just selling a product/ service, but also on connecting people.
- As long as our competitors play correctly, there is space for everybody.

Oana Solca - Romtelecom
- Try on Twitter and Facebook to focus on customer care, not on commercial messages.
- For targeting people knowledgeable about internet services and online shopping and also for building trust, make a partnership with a bank on their online banking platform.

Teodor Cimpoesu - Kaspersky Lab Romania
- Made an online shop on the Facebook page, as a Facebook app (fShop).
- Think how much your online accounts value and protect them not to lose your identity.

Marius Ghenea - serial entrepreneur
- For doing a business you need the right skills, chance and attitude.
- You can contribute with sweat capital, not just money.
- Plan for cash-flow, not for profit.
- Hire less, outsource more.
- Forecast bottom-up. Don't start from market size predicting your share, but from how much you can make starting from what resources you have.
- Start with a service business, then develop bigger projects. You can compare entrepreneurship with playing poker - you start with small sums and while playing you begin to understand the game, then you can come in with bigger sums.
- The FFF (family, friends and other fools) have no clue about your business. An investor can offer you advice and can ask you some good questions to think about.
- For the entrepreneur there is total commitment, for the investor this is partial - is just one more business he believes in.
- While an entrepreneur thinks of his business for a life time, the investor thinks in shorter terms, thinks of exit strategies.

Dragos Novac - online entrepreneur
- Most of online entrepreneurs think as a revenue source at online advertising. But keep in mind that you share your clients' online advertising budgets with online/ communication/ media agencies, and so you get only a small share of it.
- Other revenues sources for an online business: subscription revenues, affiliate revenues, rental of subscribers list, sale of information about subscribers, live events, cobranded spinoff, selling souvenirs, e-commerce, sponsorships.

Bogdan Secara - serial entrepreneur
- A business plan is useful because: it makes you more responsible, you establish your limits, you communicate better, it sells your idea to investors.
- Don't spend too much time on making the business plan.
- There will always be something unpredictable when you put your business plan into action.

Dragos Roua - serial entrepreneur
- You promote your business everywhere you interact.
- You are the promoter of your business. Even if you work with an agency, you are the one giving your ok for a campaign, so you are the responsible one.
- Your personal blog is your ID - it will work for you even years after you started it.

Vlad Stan - serial entrepreneur
- I don't like observers, I like players.
- How to make a good pitch: a creative introduction will make you memorable; the language should be simple; identify the problem of the one in front of you and then tell him your solution - and so you don't sell, but you help them to buy (you should have different pitches for different people); tell how your solution is different than the other existing solutions.
- There are not problems, but business opportunities.
- I cannot work only for money, I should like what I do and inspire others too.
- Think of what do you want people to remember you for at your funeral and so you will know what you should do in your life and don't waste time on other paths.
- If you earn 1.500 euro a month as an employee, in your whole life you make 720.000 euro. So you sell your life for this installments. Being entrepreneur is not like that.

Other reviews of the event:
Quality time 

Dec 6, 2010

Do not give, make them ask for it

People usually don't like changes. They get used to something and find any new version of it uncomfortable for a while (until they get used again) even if it is a better one.

Today, Facebook made (again) a change in terms of appearance - they call it "the new profile". Is not their first time they do a redesign/ restructure, and also other popular online platforms did the same over time. And of course there are always people who love it and who hate it.

I will try to recap here some adoption strategies made by popular online platforms when they release a new layout - these are interesting study cases for leading change:

- Facebook gives you now the possibility to switch to the "new profile" whenever you feel ready, is just one button away. You see there is something new that your friends start to use, and you start to want it to. You do it on your own, you master it yourself. In other words, Facebook made you ask for it! If you updated means that you like it or you just to it to be one of the first a few days/ weeks people will do it because everybody is doing it (the herd syndrome). And like this, Facebook took care that all the people from early adopters to laggards switch when is their time, their choice.

- In the past, Facebook made the changes on layout over night, to everybody in the same time. Some of those changes were: "Like" button instead of "Become a fan", a new layout for the fanpages and homepages etc. Of course, the early adopters liked it and the laggards hated it. They were not asked if they want it, when they want it.

- Twitter changed recently also. They called it "the new Twitter". Twitter made this change gradually, at the beginning to some accounts, and over time to more and more. It was a matter of weeks until everybody had it. Was interesting to see how people were bragging that they "already have the new twitter", to those who didn't have it. And so, most of the people were craving for it, waiting for the special day when their account will also be updated. It was a way of asking for it themselves, wanting it, but they could not control when the change will happen.

- Recently, when Google launched some new features like instant search and priority inbox, they left people the possibility to switch to them whenever they wanted it, if they wanted it. No pushing. Of course, everybody was talking about it and many tried because they are curious or at their friends recommendation.

- In the past, when Google was launching something (like Google Wave, for example), they used people to spread it themselves: they gave access to a few people with the possibility to invite x friends too. Again, people were craving for it, and waiting for a friend to invite them. Some were happy to get it, some were annoyed by the long waiting. Again, they didn't had control but they were very teased.

Just to sum up, when it comes to leading changes, you should try to:
- spread the word
- do not give, let them ask for it
- give them the power to make the change when they want it

Nov 30, 2010

Rising Stars

I always liked people with potential to grow fast professionally and in unconventional ways, rather than people that have an appropriate knowledge, experience and network for their age.

Having to recruit for 2 years very young people that don't have yet too much professional experience and work with/ manage them, I learned to be able to spot those with good professional potential, deciding just by their attitude. Some ingredients for the success recipe: enthusiasm, ambition and curiosity.

Unfortunately, not many people offer these young people the opportunity to rise and shine in the way they can. Most of the companies hire them on internships/ entry level positions where they give them small tasks and instructions, patterns to follow. More on this idea, I can recommend you the new book of Seth Godin: "Linchpin". And by the way, soon there are some meetups with fans of the book - for sure there is one near you too.

For the purpose of encouraging these Rising Stars that exist among us, I will launch soon with some fellows a project in Bucharest that aims to give the young people here the chance to prove their true potential at very early stages.

More info soon!

Nov 28, 2010

Looking to hire you (step one)

Human resources are undoubtedly valuable for any company. Willing to grow, restructure or simply to replace recent departures, companies need to find appropriate people (in terms of skills and personality) to hire. Headhunting is an old activity, but maybe "the game" has changed in today's world, with all the new technologies, the internet, the social networks, the constant changing human behavior.

End of 2010 snapshot:

- LinkedIn offers a very good professional network at international level where people can publish their CV, connect to other professionals, follow companies and look for jobs. Although it has an admirable evolution, it still has some limitations for the moment: is not very spread in all the countries (for example, in my country it gathers about 280K people out of a total population of about 20 mil. people - so just about 1% of the population has an account) and it doesn't really gather people from all the domains (like technical, medical etc.)

- Xing is a similar network to LinkedIn (but less developed in terms of features), with a higher spread in Europe (mostly Germany) and facing the same challenges: geographical areas and professional domains covered.

- On Twitter there are plenty of jobs publishing accounts for different niches. But most of them just advertise jobs for the masses of followers, without being able to personalize and engage. I personally found them more like noise and not really helpful.

- There are plenty of recruiting online platforms where there are jobs posted and you can perform advanced searches. Some offer the possibility to simply upload you CV document, but some require additional efforts to fill in a registration form - and so you can end up losing a lot of time for each website. The good and popular ones have a disadvantage for the job seekers: their application is submitted among other hundreds or thousands of other applications and so the response rate from companies is very low.

- Companies advertise on their own website the job opportunities. The best ones are the small local companies that give you usually an email address to submit your application as you consider. The big ones, especially the international ones, mainly have a personalized online registration form - so again, you need a lot of time to complete your application for each company, filling in over and over again your experience, studies etc.

Well, I have some advice from a job seeker point of view for all the companies that are looking to hire people:

- Do publish on your general website the job opportunities with as many details as possible and in simple terms. People that like specific companies will most probably try their websites.

- Don't make people fill in registration forms. Is a time waster for them, even if it might be a time saver for you. Just let them use their own CV file or, even better, their LinkedIn account.

- Do provide a personal contact (full name and individual email address) for each position. Please, no hr@, "apply here" button or whatever. People need to talk to other people, they feel more motivated to write a nice email (as a cover/ motivation letter) when they know the person behind it (that they can google or you can provide the profile to make it even easier).

- Do use LinkedIn company profile and job advertising. It is easy for people to follow companies they are interested in and look for jobs, especially through their connections (first or second degree) - very useful.

- Do use recruitment platforms, but only to advertise the job. Again, no "apply here" button, but an individual contact that people can email.

- Do publish the job description link on your company's twitter account. Your followers might be interested or they can recommend it to other people they find appropriate.

- Do convince bloggers to write about your available positions. They will get you to the right target group (example, student bloggers for internships).

- Do check the profile (mainly LinkedIn account) of your biggest online fans and propose them appropriate/ personalized job opportunities.

- Do start a conversation with all the people who applied that wrote you with interest. Even if you don't hire them, they are good fans, they might be useful later or for another position.

It may look like your HR, Marketing and Management people need to invest more time and enthusiasm then they used to, but it is worth it. People like to engage with your employees, the people behind the brand/ company they like. And they will share their experiences with their friends.

Nov 27, 2010

When ideas have sex

This is the name of a great TED talk from Matt Ridley, that I highly recommend you to watch: video link.
It is about the collaboration between individuals to create bigger things that enable the entire development of the society, things that alone we would probably never be able to create.

I met some young ambitious people lately, all infected with the entrepreneurship virus that were telling me they are trying to come up with an idea (or more) that will evolve into a good business opportunity for today's needs. The questions is: how should we get to these good business ideas and how should we make them grow into concrete businesses?

I believe that rarely a business idea will come if you just sit somewhere, trying to come up with something good. I believe good business ideas come exactly when you don't make a forced effort - they come when you read something, when you talk to other words, when you have your ears and eyes wide open. So the only thing you need is to be open and to be able to spot opportunities when they are right under your nose.

Go out of your comfort zone and contact/ meet new people, different people, subscribe to some cool RSS - and don't just listen/ read, but try to build on insights and think out of the box. Spot business opportunities when your friends talk about the difficulty of finding something nowadays, according to their new needs. Or when you discover something in a more developed country that you think it can be a trend in your area soon too.

And then, when you have the great idea, you should not stop being open to others. Maybe you can do it alone, develop it into a great business plan that will work out just well. But there are more chances if you keep talking to people and keep reading because the idea will be able to develop in ways you could not imagine on your own. Bring on board other's point of view, expertise and creativity. Together we grow (as we use to say in JADE).

And don't be afraid to share - is very difficult that somebody can steal your initial idea and develop it in the same way you would do. I was asked a few times if I am not afraid to discuss about my business idea with other people I barely know. No, I am not afraid - because I worked a lot on the entire concept, I have already chosen the suppliers and negotiated with them...things that somebody that only hears about the brief idea could not develop it in the same way I would. But in the same time, I had the chance to incorporate some of their ideas coming up from mine.

For example, today I discovered a foreign website that stands for a good purpose and is very simple. I saw immediately the opportunity of building something similar for my country, adapted to the local specifics. I am not able to develop it alone, I need a team of people with different skills. An initial idea is to go to Business Organisation for Students (where I am Alumnus), tell them the idea (since it is something relevant to students) and see if I can make a project team. I will try and I will see. Maybe in some months, this can be spinoff and can turn into a real business.

How do you get new ideas and how do you develop them?

Nov 24, 2010

The old Europe is slower

Q: If US would be a person, how would this person be?
A: A young entrepreneur, an innovator and influencer.

Q: If Europe would be a person, how would this person be?
A: An old conservative business man/ politician who speaks many languages.

Trying to obtain a seed funding from private sources for my potential startup, I discovered that there is a huge difference between Europe and US when it comes to the investments side. And yes, the interested investors I have found so far are from US, and not Europe, even if my business will be here.

US gathers lots of Business Angels and VCs, usually organised in groups/ associations. They are easy to find and they are well connected, sharing their knowledge and experience with other entrepreneurs/ investors. Europe...let's say that is a bit behind when it comes to this. The numbers of investors increased lately, but they are still kind of unorganized and they still lack a good networking - a.k.a they are limited. This might be because Europe is fragmented in terms of culture, language, economical situation and so on. And Europeans seem to be more conservative than North Americans.

In other words, there is a lot to do regarding the development of the private investments side in European entrepreneurship. The initiative should come from entrepreneurs and investors themselves, from media (especially those who organize business events), from universities - but can also come from any person interested in entrepreneurship by trying to build some projects to encourage this development. I am personally interested in this kind of projects and I will try to use my network and knowledge, and especially my passion, to contribute to "bridging the gap". I've already found some good options - let's see how it will go.

Meanwhile, I share with you some good articles on this topic:
- Rise of the European SuperAngel
- The future of early stage investing in Europe
- SeedSummit brings Europe's seed investors together for the first time

A Ferrari for a business idea

I am always curious to hear people answering the question: "What will you do if you win the lottery?".

Most of them usually answer "buying a car, a house, going on holidays" (or variations of these). Very few say they will make a bank deposit with a part of the money. But I never heard personally somebody saying "I will start a business". I hope I will hear it soon, though. And more and more often.

There is a great push in media and education today to encourage entrepreneurship, so maybe soon this mentality will become more common. I know we don't need a world of entrepreneurs only, that we also need people who like to be just employees to run the businesses. But we need the appropriate people - those that spot opportunities and those that have the money - to invest their time, skills, relations, money into generating new businesses.

And just as a funny fact - the sum I need to open the business I plan right now is just 1/3 of the price of a Ferrari. In about 3 years I can generate enough profit to buy a Ferrari, and meanwhile I also create a great place for the community, offer some job opportunities, add some money to the state economy and I have a great satisfaction of creating/ innovating/ growing. Or I can fail - in the end entrepreneurship is a risky thing to do.

So if you have the money (win the lottery :), would you spend it on things like fancy cars or invest it in businesses?

Do it like them!

Nowadays, the internet enables us to connect with people from all over the world in real time and have access to a huge amount of information. In the same time, we got more and more selective on what we spend our limited time and attention.

Since I am working on my business plan and investors "hunting", I had the chance to get in contact with lots of successful entrepreneurs and investors, from the internationally famous Guy Kawasaki to the nationally famous Marius Ghenea and to other great people that are not so much into the spotlights. You can imagine that they are very busy people, however all of them replied personally to my emails in a few hours, maximum two days - answering my questions and giving extra feedback/ advice. Now the question is: should this be considered amazing or normal? They might do it just because they respect the people who write them, or because they know among all those conversations there might be some good opportunities, and so on. For sure is a good example to follow (especially since obviously it is possible to reply quickly to all your emails) by all the beginners (students, young professionals) who declare themselves too busy to reply immediately to their emails. Actually, it seemed funny to me to hear sometimes from some people that they have a "policy" of replying to emails after a certain time period, just to show that they are busy people. And there are also some who just don't bother to reply to everybody. No comment!

It may seem a small detail, but it makes a huge difference in today's business world when speed/ promptitude is so important (for example, lately in research/ consultancy - a competitive advantage became how fast you can deliver the results to the client). And is also important since we started to work remotely more and more. So remember that delaying checking and replying emails can cause a chain of delays for others and you might lose some good opportunities or respect.

And yes, it might be difficult to manage efficiently your emails, but for this there are solutions. Some use labels and prioritizing rules - to be honest, I believe that this creates exactly some unhappy discriminations and I recommend more not to differentiate them, but to find other ways. For example, using mobile internet on your phone to use constructively waiting periods (like in traffic). As for when you are on your laptops, try to reply emails as soon as they arrive to your inbox - some quick breaks to do something else are good from time to time and it keeps you away from getting scared of a huge number of unread emails that gathered there. And by the way, one more personal advice is: do not mark as unread an email that requires an action or more time/ info to reply. Is better to add the task in your agenda and clear the email from your inbox, better on a psychological level because your inbox will not seem too big to handle easily.

What is your point of view on this topic?

Nov 23, 2010

Why bother?

It is a shame that the more interesting things we do in our life, the less time we have to share our experiences and thoughts online - because they might be useful or at least inspirational for others. Especially in a world where we evolve through collaboration.

Something I learned the hard way lately is that it does not matter what and who you know and what you did, if you do not leave something to your colleagues and successors/ followers to build on and so create continuous progress.

For this reason, I will come back now to my blogging activities, after a break of almost two years. I will share here my findings, experiences and thoughts with the purpose to contribute to our own evolution as society in terms of innovation and positive thinking. I believe in no borders culture and so I will start writing now in English - an international language. I believe the age has no importance, it only matters the ambition and the opportunities taken (or even better, created), and so I will try to inspire ambition by showing positive examples. And I believe there are enough websites full of theoretical content, so I will give my posts a personal note, giving real life examples.

This being said, my dear reader, I hope you will find my future posts useful and inspirational!