Frankly, I’m having mixed feelings after Grow Up Start Up event that took place on 19-20 June in Warsaw, Poland. I’m not gonna talk about the things I didn’t like though. I’ll focus on the positive outcome instead. Because THERE ARE a couple of excellent take aways for me after these 2 days.
First of all, contacts! I truly believe I found myself in the right place at the right time. We decided with a colleague of mine to skip a discussion panel and go for a beer. There, we figured out how our visions of running our own start-ups are similar. Suddenly, a bunch of people joined us at the table and we continued our inspiring conversations in a bigger group (have a look at the photo above, it speaks for itself ;)). What I noticed was the fact that they were all open-minded people who go for such events from time to time and who know what networking really is. Yep, most probably that’s why it was incredibly easy for all of us to communicate so well and take advantage of that opportunity.
My colleague managed to collect feedback around the app he’s building, showing the demo on the ipad. One of the students asked us about the idea of the online platform he’s developing and how much we would be willing to pay for the product. I found great opportunities out there myself, too. We also set up a casual meeting with a lady coming to our town in a month to further discuss our start-up ideas. Look how many awesome favorable circumstances there are if a group of passionate people meet up around some beers! 🙂
The other great thing about being in Warsaw is catching up with my friends and acquantainces I haven’t seen for quite some time and meeting their friends. So… networking again!
Ok, now back to the core of this post. The conference. There are 3 people I’d like to mention that made a huge impact on me. I’ll start with Bob Dorf who just rocked that event. People, who – just as myself – are interested in and read a lot about the lean start-up will say that Bob didn’t reinvent the wheel in Warsaw. Agreed. BUT. The way he presented the topic was mind-blowing. The guy knows how to attract attention of his audience. Circa thousand focused people were staring at him and absorbing all his words like a sponge. Some were even making notes. Yes. Me.
What Bob stressed out is the fact that you should get out and talk to customers. You, as a founder. You have to do it yourself, not your employees. What you also need to do is to understand the problem of your customer before you even talk about your product. Don’t talk about your offer just yet. Check if there’s market for your product first. Also, understand whether your business is repeatable and scalable. Only then you may go and do the customer validation. BUT. Use customer feedback wisely. (I particularly liked this word: wisely). This reduces risk of failure and improves chances for success.
Dorf spoke about the success story of Diapers.com which I found quite inspiring. They lost a lot of money but they found product market fit within a month! If you want to read more about their secret, here’s the link.
Bob, I’m your fan!
The next inspiring person is Morten Lund, one of Skype founders. His presentation was very much different from Bob’s. let’s just say he wasn’t afraid to use the F word 😉 I found this guy cool and relaxed (or maybe it’s just an impression he wants to make?). Morten spoke about how he failed at his various businesses and how he quickly made it up with success. The main message he wanted to put accross was: be innovative but be a follower, build new tools but use the existing data, use what’s out there, build on it. The key word here was: API.
The last person to mention is Marco Kozlowski (yep, with Polish roots). He’s a well known business coach and international speaker. His presentation style is worth copying. I was actually waiting for someone to jump off the scene and walk around the audience. So he did it. The only one who dared. Polish presenters, don’t be afraid to do so from time to time. Surprise your audience. Don’t just stand there stiffly. The audience is not your enemy. They came there to listen to you! Just saying…
So Marco’s presentation was quite a show. Nice one. He really engaged with us, asking questions and stuff. But what Marco screwed up with was to start selling his services. Completely out of the blue. While we were still diving into the stories he was telling us. You just don’t do it. I mean, from the marketing perspective, this was just the perfect move! Around 50-70 people willing to pay 1,500 euro for 12 weeks of Marco’s support just ran into him and his Swedish assistant. They were promised a 1,000 euro bill in the end. The rest of us, shocked and disappointed with what we’d just seen, were looking at this bunch of people and waiting for Marco to continue with his presentation. But NO. That was really it. He thanked us and finished his show. So we all went home. Seriously, Marco?
I got the tickets for free (thank you, Anna! :)), although next time I’ll think it through. 48 hours is just too much for this, I’m not afraid to say it, poor event. I feel sorry for people having to pay over 100 euro for the entrance. Totally not worth it.
Networking during such events, on the other hand, is what really makes a difference. Provided you’re not doing it wrong 😉 (I’ll make sure to share some good practices in my next post, promise!)
I’d like to thank all my companions thanks to whom those 2 days were full of fun and inspiring conversations. You guys rock!
One powerful question Marco asked during his presentation that I want to leave you with: “can you make the next 5 years better than the last 20 years?”