Education, entrepreneurship, innovation, Lean Startup, startup

Working with USAID in Moldova

Lean Startup Crash Course @ iHUB Moldova

Recently I was honored and delighted to be invited by USAID to help companies and startups in Moldova.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the United States Government agency which is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid.

I knew where the country of Moldova (not Moldavia – that’s the name of a region) was on the map (Hint: It’s just east of Romania), but I had never previously visited. I was surprised to find a small but capable startup community and a lot of familiar faces in the capital of Chisinau.

The entrance to the cool new iHUB Chisinau

First up, I had two workshops with Moldovan companies and their management about how corporations engage with startups and why; One at Starnet (the primary telco in Moldova)  and one at the coworking space and startup center iHUB (also supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs among others).

The topic of innovation and growth is especially interesting in Moldova because one of the leading industries is outsourcing; building apps, websites and software for other western companies. This is a good business model for now – but for how long? What happens when other markets will outcompete them on price? So I talked a lot about the importance in experimenting with developing new products and how, before their business model may become obsolete and also how and why they could be reinvesting in local startups as a part of their innovation portfolio.

Back to back, I was also honored to be invited to speak about my startup experiences at the Startup Grind Chisinau in the evening.

At Startup Grind Chisinau, I spoke a bit about my startup experiences

And a day later I held my popular Lean Startup Crash Course for existing startups and people considering founding one.

In between everything there was also time to sit down with an Estonian startup delegation to learn more about the ecosystem there

My guide and help on the ground was Traian Chivriga of UnArtOras that I already knew from Cologne’s own Pirate Summit – And in the evening there was time for socializing… ;)

Lots of familiar faces…

I met this guy that I also knew from Cologne’s Pirate Summit already; Riccardo Fedeli

And Vlad Calus of – that I too knew from the Pirate Summit in Cologne already

And Livia Ţurcanu that I already knew from my work at University of Maastricht

These were the slides for my Lean Startup Crash Course:

These were the slides for the talk about why and how corporations engage with startups:

Education, startup

Startup – In hindsight

Hindsight has 20/20 vision they say. (Image CC Attribution 2.0 Generic, Nimish Gogri)

Someone asked me the other day about what I’d wish I’d known before founding a startup.

Which made me think for a bit, because it’s a lot.

But if I had to pick just a couple of things, it would be this — and it’s probably not what you wanted to hear.

To wit;

  1. Getting to somewhere interesting and relevant takes (much) longer than you think, and the health of your startup can be measured by the time it takes to get there, aka how long it takes to complete a build-measure-learn cycle, aka how long it takes from analysing data from the customer interviews and the analytics data from the product to implementing them in a new product release and test again.
    Insight: If it’s taking weeks, you’re losing already. Stop everything. Do everything and anything — short of committing outright felonies — to speed it up and keep the speed up. Fire co-founders if needed. When the amount of new learnings about new stuff to build outnumbers the amount of pre-existing learnings about the stuff you already know you have to build (the stuff you already have in the pipeline, the stuff you haven’t gotten around to implement or change yet), you’re probably already dead. 
  2. Just because you get the technical parts right (both in reading where the puck is going to be and how to develop and be in the right position when it does) doesn’t mean you have gotten the customer part right, aka just because you know it’s going to be possible doesn’t mean that people is going to be wanting and using it.Insight: Managing customer risk is the biggest challenge in a startup — so position yourself, your team and your product as fast as possible and with as little resources as possible to be in a spot where you can build-measure-learn your way to what the customer actually wants as fast as possible, wasting as few resources as possible. Screw the technology debt, it will all come out in the wash — you only have to deal with it if and only if what you’re building becomes interesting. And that’s a big IF.
  3. See 1. & 2. I wish I had known it in my bones, not just in theory, before starting.INSIGHT: Start. Do or don’t, there is no try.

This post was originally published on Medium.