Steve Blank on Lean Startup inside big companies

Great conversation with Steve Blank on applying lean startup principles inside corporates. Short but insightful if you’re working in the domain of corporate entrepreneurship or innovation. Key insights:

  • Allocation of resources between horizon 1 (60-70%), horizon 2 (10-20), horizon 3 (5-10%)
  • Need company wide training program to support the ‘entrenched middle’: horizon 1 executors who don’t know how to
  • Incentive program needs to change to support horizon 3 innovations by current business models executors
  • Get HR involved to embed innovation in KPI’s, job descriptions and incentives
  • Incumbents are incentivized to execute on the short term, startups are incentivized to succeed at the long term
  • Data does not equal customers, in most business it is still required to see the human reaction
  • Great CEO’s do get out of the building and connect to customers
  • Metrics: have you identified hypothesis, validated customer segments, for each customer segment a articulated value proposition. Reference to Investment Readiness Level.
  • BMC ‘customer relationship’ box changes over time. On day one you have no customer, but you get, keep and grow them (acquisition and activation). Later you support and service them.
  • BMC ‘key partners’ box: they’re a partner if you share revenue with them in the beginning. Otherwise they are customers in the beginning. Box changes meaning over time.

Entrepreneurship = inspiration

I can’t sleep. The problem is, I’m inspired.

Today is the highlight of the Dutch celebration of entrepreneurship, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award ceremony. It’s not the company that gets the award it’s the entrepreneur behind the company that is celebrated. And this year’s celebration was different.

EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists 2016 the Netherlands (c)
EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists 2016 the Netherlands (c)

The highlight of the evening are the many stories of the entrepreneurs that have been told on stage. The personal motivation, the passion that enables them to keep going. Well respected entrepreneurs share their story ranging from Dutch unicorn Adyen founder Pieter van der Does to world family business award winner Jan-Renier Swinkels of Bavaria.

Fabienne Chapot, one of the finalists, really appealed to the public by radiating the confidence that with a bit of courage you can be an entrepreneur and start your own company or be entrepreneurial within your department. She wholeheartedly supports female entrepreneurship and is a great example herself.

Although all finalists have a growing running business the balance for strategy and execution is exactly the same as for startups. Finalist Biense Visser quoted one of his mentors to highlight this fact: “It’s better to have the strategy 80% right and 100% executed than the other way around”. So true.

The common denominator however is that all entrepreneurs have a great vision for their company that they believe in with every fibre of their being. Pieter Zwart appealed to me with his vision. Coolblue is not a family business but a friends business. It’s embedded in everything he says and the way he speaks about his co-founders and employees. But above all he radiates one thing, his personal motto and the company motto: “everything for a smile”. With this there is a clear customer focus and priority. Key in the success of companies that leave a legacy. Therefore a well deserved winner of the Dutch Entrepreneur of the Year award.

There was one more common denominator amongst the seven finalist. They were all endearing on stage, a tad uncomfortable with the attention they got as a person, knowing it is the team effort that got them there in the first place. The grand finale of the evening was an impressive musical tribute to entrepreneurship. The celebration these entrepreneurs deserve.

An inspiring show but above all inspiring entrepreneurial stories straight from the heart that keep me awake, thinking about how I can be a bit more entrepreneurial and inspire those around me to do so as well.

EY Entrepreneur of the Year award winner celebration (c) Frank Zandhuis
EY Entrepreneur of the Year award winner celebration. (c) Frank Zandhuis

6 Reasons why you need a stellar elevator pitch

Elevator Pitch
(c) Shutterstock / Jacek Dudzinski

It’s a key activity for any startup founder and most accelerator programs pay a lot of attention to it… Pitching! Before the program starts I’m often asked why pitching is such an important aspect. Here are the 6 reasons why you need a stellar elevator pitch:

1. Forces you to explain your value proposition with great clarity

Building a startup is a search for a repeatable and scalable business model. The value proposition is key in this aspect. To find and attract customers you need to be able to use exactly the right words to trigger the customer or the investor that fits your business. It takes practice and validation to find the words that stick in just a minute or less. Your pitch will get better over time and that’s because you’re able to articulate more clearly what you’re doing.

2. Helps to understand your customer’s perspective

To really trigger someone, you need to be able to understand their problem better than they do themselves. In a pitch setting you’re time constrained and you only have a few seconds to grab their attention. They want to hear the rest of your story if you show them you understand them and their market so you can potentially solve their problem. Especially for technical cofounders it can be very difficult to take a customer perspective.

3. To find the people you need to make your vision a reality

A pitch is a perfect opportunity to find a new client, investor or fan. You want to get them to do something: buy your product, invest in you or open their network. Pitching is the perfect way to quickly find out if people are interested in supporting you.

Apart from your story and proposition there is one very important element in doing so: enthusiasm. You have to resonate enthusiasm to get people to become enthusiastic as well.

4. It’s efficient

A good pitch is an opportunity for someone the quickly find out whether they like the value you’re offering and decide to invest more time or not. When you’re in an accelerator and meet hundreds of new people in about 3 months, you rather spend your time with the ones that add value. A good pitch will sort this out for you (or most of it anyway).

5. Enables ambassadors to share your story in person

It’s easy to remember the most important elements of a good pitch.Team members, mentors, investors and other ambassadors in your community will spread your story for you.  Help them to do this by sharing your pitch with them and making it memorable. It will greatly enhance your chances of success.

6. Media love the pitch format

Startups and entrepreneurship are a hot topic for many online and offline media. The pitch format, whether in video or in written form is very well suited for many media formats. Having your pitch ready when talking to journalists will pay you dividends.

How to craft your pitch story and slide deck is a series of blogposts on its own but I’ll give a few pointers here. You ideally have a 1 minute, 3 minute and 8 minute version of your pitch ready. The most challenging is the 3 minute pitch as you need to go beyond the headlines and craft a story while being forced to stick to the most important aspects of the story.

Good resources for drafting your pitch are:

If I’ve missed any reasons or you have some other good resources please feel free to leave a comment.


My (blog’s) elevator pitch

Taipei 101 elevator
Taipei 101 elevator

In an attempt to start blogging more frequently I watched a recording of Michael Hyatt’s webinar “Blog Faster and Blog Smarter“.  Today I’ve started reading a challenge called “31 Days to Build a Better Blog“. The first challenge is to write an elevator pitch for your blog (or actually what I’m all about personally). So here we go for a few first drafts. Short versions:

  1. Inspiration and actionable insights for founders and innovators with some bits of travel and photography.
  2. To help startups, scaleups and corporate innovators get to market leadership faster.
  3. Supporting startups, scaleups and innovators get going and growing
  4. (My) thoughts and learnings on entrepreneurship, innovation, travel and photography
  5. Helping founders and innovators struggle through the valley of death and the steep climb of the growth curve

Giving the above some further thought and reading my bio again for now I’ll settle on: “Thoughts and inspiration on startups, scaleups and innovation with some bits of travel and photography

Since and elevator ride in my favorite elevator (the Taipei 101) takes about 40 seconds the more extended version of my pitch is something like this:

On a daily basis I work with the most gifted entrepreneurs getting startups going, scaleups growing and corporate innovations thriving. Together we share the joy and the hardship it takes to grow these ventures to market leaders. The lessons learned and the inspiration gained deserve to be shared to help you succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavours. Company growth and growth on a personal level go hand in hand. Leadership, personal development, technology, photography and travel are other things on my mind. I also consider these worth sharing so they will find their way into my stories and hopefully act as source of inspiration and facilitate a more personal connection.