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I am an engineer working for a big tech company in silicon valley. I make a good amount of money and have a comfortable life. Living in the valley, it's hard to not pay attention to all these new products. Whenever I hear about them, my natural reaction is to think about how to build them technically. And my answer often is – yeah, I can build that as well.
I didn't realize that creating a new product is this hard until I tried it myself. Early this year, I worked my ass off for a few months and launched my first app. It failed miserably. The app was downloaded by less than 10 people before I removed it from the app store. I removed it from the app store because I know that it won't work. After all, even I, the targeted audience, don't like to use the app I built.
I did a reflection on this experience. I made a lot of "typical" mistakes: I picked an area (Podcast) mainly because it's trending; I started from the technology instead of the problem; I tried to do well in all aspects and had no focus.
During my reflection, I found many useful posts from many great thinkers. I wish I had read them earlier or internalized them better. For example, though nobody can give you a startup idea, there are things you can do to increase your chance of finding a good one (post). Another example, it's extremely important to be laser-focused and avoid getting distracted by non-essential features/bugs (post).
I don't think that we could avoid making mistakes just by reading a lot of stuff. But I do believe that getting inspired and informed could help us set the right expectation and be more thoughtful about decisions. Hence, I launched an app (TechTea) to help current/future startup founders easily get interesting and useful blog posts from generating ideas, to raising capital and building company. I personally found it useful. I hope you do as well. Let me know if you have any feedbacks.
Stay inspired and informed. Keep building, my friends.
The youtube demo of the app is here: https://youtu.be/OR7ccvrZmXI
While Checkout.com has kept a low profile for many years, the company raised $ 380 million within a year and reached an impressive valuation of $ 5.5 billion. It wants to build a one-stop shop for all things related to payments, such as accepting transactions, processing them and detecting fraud.
You might think that it sounds a bit like Stripe. In an interview at TechCrunch Disrupt, I asked founder and CEO Guillaume Pousaz what makes Checkout.com different from Stripe, Adyen and other companies in the payment space. It comes down to a very different philosophy when it comes to product and market approach.
“We only do enterprise. We really only work with the big merchants. There are a few exceptions here and there but it’s mostly enterprise-only and it’s purely online,” Pousaz said.
“I once met [Stripe CEO] Patrick Collison and I joked with him. I said you might have a million merchants, I have 1,200 merchants but I know every single one by name and they all process tens of millions every year. So I think it’s just a different business,” he added later in the interview.
Checkout.com now has a ton of money sitting in its bank account, but it has been a long and slow journey to reach that level. The company has been around for many years and reached profitability in 2012. It has been spending very meticulously over the years.
When talking about the early days of the company, Pousaz said the team grew really slowly. “We can hire one employee this month. Now we can hire two employees this month,” he said.
Today, the company still tries to remain as lean as possible. “It’s really a matter of discipline. All these companies, they raise a lot of money, they spend a lot of money and I don’t challenge that model. For us, embedding that discipline and frugality in the company in how we run it is something that was important to us,” Pousaz said.
“There’s no problem with spending. Just make sure that when you’re spending, you’re wise about it. You just don’t spray and pray. You see this unfortunately too much with tech companies.”
That’s why Checkout.com mostly invests in its own product. Nearly two-thirds of the company is working in product, IT and engineering. Only 13% of the company is working in sales, which is much less than some of its competitors.
But why did Checkout.com raise hundreds of millions of dollars then? “At some point, you need validation. And the validation was really important for us. When you have Insight, DST, Coatue, GIC, Blossom it changes your dimension,” Pousaz said.
When talking about regulators, Checkout.com has licenses in Brazil, the U.K. and France (for contingency), Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. It’s a never-ending process as the company is still working on licenses in other key markets, such as Japan.
“These regulators are super thorough. You don’t pass because you’re a nice guy, you pass because you have the right processes,” Pousaz said.
I challenged that notion and mentioned the Wirecard collapse. He obviously thinks that Wirecard and Checkout.com are in a different position right now.
“All my money is sitting with JP Morgan, it’s pretty simple. There’s no bank account in the Philippines and funny stuff,” Pousaz said. “The Wirecard story is so big that the real question is — go and ask the question to the auditors. Because the auditors that I have, which for the record is PwC, ask me to show them the bank statements and everything. And there are super thorough, it’s a super long process.”
“How did the Wirecard story happen? I don’t know,” he added.
The rise of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are two of the biggest technology trends this year. For us, our requests could include understanding the weather or finding out about a song, setting up for appointments, etc. However, I’m sure you already know that it powers innovation across almost every industry, and is yet capable of so much more.
Sale of VAI Tokens
In layman’s terms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) are machines built to perform intelligent tasks that have traditionally been accomplished by humans. As for Blockchain, it is essentially a technology that allows for the encrypted storage of data on a distributed ledger.
A Valletta-based startup, VAIOT, that combines AI and blockchain to digitise business processes across industries, has raised €5M in its seed round of funding through a private sale of its VAI Tokens.
VAIOT’s seed and private sale have allocated close to 30% of the VAI Tokens to investors who support the project long-term. VAI Token is the digital currency of the VAIOT platform, set to incentivise the users to utilise the company’s solutions. VAI Tokens will initially use the Ethereum token standard and eventually be mirrored on a proprietary blockchain.
VAIOT develops purpose-built Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVA) to help companies to move processes to AI-powered channels, as well as VAIOT-labeled IVA delivered directly to consumers. It combines AI and blockchain to create new ways of digitally accessing services and securely concluding legal agreements.
Christoph Surgowt, CEO of VAIOT says, “With this funding, we are equipped to deliver a product that can transform how businesses conduct their processes, and be of tremendous value to consumers. Putting the competency of AI into the hands of businesses and consumers will boost digital transformation across the board.”
The startup ultimately plans to take the concept of a smart personal assistant and combine it with the unique skillset and knowledge possessed by lawyers. It aims to build an AI legal assistant for consumers and enterprises, providing legal services, including digital, blockchain-based contracts.
VAIOT’s first assistant will service the car insurance industry and is projected to be presented by Q3 2020. It also aims to expand its technology into the broader market. The solution is built to be customised and adjusted to suit almost any industry and a wide set of business processes.
Image credits: TippaPat/Shutterstock
The post Malta-based VAIOT combines AI and blockchain to digitise business processes; raises €5M in seed funding appeared first on Silicon Canals .
Willingness to take a risk is the hallmark of a serious entrepreneur. That’s why one of the first questions that potential investors ask is “How much of your own money, and friends and family, have you put into the new business?” If you won’t risk yours, you won’t get investors to risk theirs.
A few years ago I was impressed with the classic book “When Turtles Fly” by Nikki Stone, an Olympic champion, which explains this well. She provides many examples of success stories from entrepreneurs to Olympians. She proclaims that if you want to be successful, you need to be soft on the inside, have a hard shell, and willing to stick your neck out (“Turtle Effect”).
She goes on to outline seven basic lessons that are key to mastering the Turtle Effect, and I believe that you need to relate to every one of these before you can dare to even call yourself an entrepreneur:
- Find your passion. Entrepreneurs, like Olympians, tend to put a competitive spin on anything they find a passion for, and once they are snagged, they have to win. This passion, while it is your soft inside, is probably the single most important factor in achieving business success.
- Make sure you are focused. This is where many entrepreneurs fail. If you try to do too many things at once, you probably won’t do any of them well. All successes are best achieved from a root focal point, one step at a time, through focus on the questions and focus on the process.
- Get committed. No one truly understands how much they can accomplish until they develop their hard shell of commitment to a goal you really want. The commitment has to not be one day, or someday, but today. Nothing good comes without hard work. In business, that means first put it in writing with a business plan.
- Overcome your adversities. Adversities are the norm, not the exception. We all face them, and a few overcome them. Today it is the economy, tomorrow it could be your health. Successful people bounce back, plan for the unexpected, stop the downward spiral, and enjoy the rewards of a comeback.
- Believe in yourself. Confidence is not something that we are born with. It’s something we develop. Peter T. Mcintyre said, “Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong.” Focus on your own strengths. Pick a positive future goal, and visualize success. Then go for it.
- Take some risks. Be willing to stick your neck out. The best entrepreneurs always believe their startups will thrive despite the odds. Don’t worry if you feel some fear. Fear is a natural emotion, and fears can actually help us to be alert. Especially, you must not fear failure. People learn more from failure than from success.
- Use teamwork. No one in business gets to the top alone. The real genius is in recognizing where and when you need support. Finding support is the easy part. Using someone else for support may even allow you time to turn your attention toward more important issues.
Remember that there is no business without sticking your neck out, and no approach that will eliminate risk entirely, so learn to live with it and manage it. Most experts agree that entrepreneurship is more about reducing risk and managing failures, than it is about pure willingness to take risks.
So if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to learn the secrets of successful people who know how to stick their neck out, but maintain a hard shell. Practice the seven lessons outlined above, and enjoy rather than suffer through the entrepreneurial adventure of a lifetime.
Startup Professionals Musings
We all know one of the early game rules of opening a business or building a product is “talk to your users”. Sometimes it is difficult to get feedback when we are very early in the game. Places like Reddit work, but sometimes even on Reddit it is difficult to gather 50-100 people to review your product.
Watching Y combinator videos, I often hear they talk about posting the product on Product Hunt. Besides PH, what are the places we can get feedback for our product/service? Hacker news? Please share the ones you know and let’s make a list.
Yesterday during Disrupt 2020 I sat down with three investors who know the SaaS startup market very well, hoping to get my head around how hot things are today. Coming on the heels of the epic Snowflake IPO (more to come on that in this weekend’s newsletter), it was a great time for a chat.
I’ve boiled our 40-minute discussion down to my favorite parts, getting you the goods in quick fashion.
- how fast the SaaS investing market is today
- why Snowflake priced where it did and what that tells us about today’s market
- how SaaS companies are seeing different growth results based on their sales motion
- why some private-market SaaS multiples can get so high
- which software sectors are accelerating
- and what I learned about international SaaS.
There are more things to pull out later, like the investors’ thoughts regarding diversity in their part of the venture world and SaaS startups, but I want to give that topic its own space.
To help us get through a good bit of the written word without slowing down, I’ll introduce an idea, share a quote and provide a little commentary. This should be good fun.
IoT or the Internet of Things is a fast growing sector which is expected to reach a value of $ 1256.1B (nearly €1060.6B) by 2025. One of the notable players in the field is moving forward by forging new partnerships and expanding its services. The Lithuanian IoT hardware manufacturer Teltonika Networks has announced its partnership with Amsterdam-based smart home and managed Wi-Fi company Gamgee.
The fellowship of increased connectivity
Under the newly formed alliance, the two companies, Teltonika and Gamgee, will target to launch new smart home and managed wireless services. These devices and services will be developed by Gamgee and powered by Teltonika Networks products and the setup will include 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS connectivity. This partnership is for expanding the companies’ capacities to offer managed Wi-Fi and smart network services to more consumers and business customers across multiple technology platforms.
“Teltonika Networks is largely recognised for developing innovative IoT business and office solutions that are driving the upcoming IoT revolution. Thanks to this partnership, Gamgee will be able to expand its reach and deliver the unique value of easy network management to a large audience that includes businesses and public institutions,” says Paul Hendriks, the CEO of Gamgee.
According to the company, the name Gamgee comes from Samwise Gamgee, also known as Sam, a Hobbit of the Shire – a prominent character from J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novel, The Lord of the Rings. “As Sam proved himself to be Frodo’s closest and most dependable companion, the most loyal of the Fellowship of the Ring. He also played a crucial role in protecting Frodo and destroying the One Ring. It is Gamgee’s aspiration to be the wireless smart home network companion,” the company explains.
“We are looking forward to extending our presence to not only industrial and business areas but also a smart-home environment with the help of Gamgee,” comments Julius Švagždys, Chief Corporate Marketing at Teltonika .
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Welcome to this week’s Feedback Thread. This is the place to request feedback on your ideas and products.
Be sure to give feedback if you are requesting feedback. Equivalent exchange goes a long way towards reaching your own goals and it makes for a stronger community.
Please use the following format:
Purpose of Startup:
Post your site along with your stack and technologies used and receive feedback from the community. Please refrain from just posting a link and instead give us a bit of a background about your creation.
Feel free to request general feedback or specific feedback in a certain area like user experience, usability, design, or code review.
You can also find more support using instant chat on the /r/startups discord.