Summer Entrepreneurship Training — (Guimarães & Porto) — July 2017

During the the first week of the SET program — 8th to the 15th of July - all participants were asked to reflect upon their lessons learned. In particular, the experiences they liked, found useful or surprised were of interest. What follows below is a day by day description of these moments starting at the day I moved from The Netherlands to Portugal.

7th of July — Multimodality Day ✈️

After having finished my last exam of the academic year on Thursday the 6th of July, the day after that I would travel to what is known as the birthplace of the Portuguese nationality: Guimarães.

After a short night of sleep (last-minute packing..), my alarm clock went off at 06:00 to catch the train to Maastricht, then the Flixbus to Cologne (Germany), then the a direct flight to Porto, the Getbus from the airport to Guimarães and eventually a walk from the city centre to my hostel for the first night (GuimarãesLiving). Easier said than done though: after a 16 hour travel I finally received the keys for my room from the owner of GuimarãesLiving who specifically came back to the hostel for me, since the reception was already closed by then.

This example clearly illustrates why Portuguese are known to be so very friendly people. The same holds for some local guys at the airport who really did their utmost best to guide me to the right Getbus even though they did not understand any word of English and my Portuguese vocabulary is limited to the list from the “SET Survival Guide”. On that note, I should say that the fact I pronounced Guimarães as “Goe — ma — res” also did not particularly contribute to their understanding..

8th of July — Shake hands day 🤝

After a surprisingly good night of sleep in a 3-high bunkbed, a very sweet but delicious breakfast and a interesting conversation with a guy from Helsinki, I had plenty of time to discover the beautiful city of Guimarães, since the SET-event would officially kick-off at 5 pm. Apart from the typical tourist attractions (historical centre, castelo Paço dos Duques), I found a great park nearby (Parque de Cidade) with lots of fitness equipment and very comfortable lying beds ;-)

Since I already walked across the Univeristy campus in the morning it wasn’t that hard to find the student dorms at the back of the campus: Universidade do Minho.

Update!

From here onwards, I’ll mention my “Lesson of the Day” since it turns out the tight schedule doesn’t allow much time for writing anymore (in other words: the SET-organisers really put together a busy program, which is great!).

9th of July — Acting Tough in Portuguese and Getting to Know Yourself Better 🗣

Apart from the following three (very useful..) Portuguese sentences I learned during the Vamos Falar Português..

Vamos lá? (Shall we approach her?)
Elas são muito areia parati (She is way out of your league)
Vai-te fossey (Fuck you)

..I also filled out two self-awareness tests in the afternoon. The results from the Hartman Personality Profile test indicate that I am motivated by both “Power” (red) and “Intimacy” (blue). The Belbin test says that my primary team role is a Completer/Finisher. This implies that I have capacity for fulfilling promises and working to the highest standards, but also have a tendency to worry about small things and a reluctance to let go.

Today we also made this group picture of all 12 SET-participants, our lovely hosts, D. Afonso Henriques and of course our mascot: Cookie Monster. Contrary to most photos taken with Dutch friends, I don’t appear as small on this photo.. ;-)

10th of July — The Importance of Iteration 🔁.

Left: Of course Cookie Monster also goes to Startup Braga. Right: Unfortunately our structure was even worse than the one displayed on the photo.

The “Marshmallow challenge” is a funny exercise whereby teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of a couple of sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape and a marshmallow within a limited amount of time. My group failed this challenge miserably: the spaghetti structure fell apart at the deadline so we scored a total of zero points. In hindsight, the mistake we made was trying to build the highest possible tower immediately rather than iterating level by level. As Miguel told us afterwards, toddlers do iterate multiple times and as a result they reach a higher height than adults on average.

Left: Miguel pressuring us by shortening the amount of time available (and subsequently adding the same amount of time..). Right: three entrepreneurs sharing their personal successes and failures with us. The start-ups were chosen because are not the typical Silicon Valley start-ups. The founders have real clients and bootstrapped until they become profitable rather than raised a ton of money. From a hospital logistics company who didn’t have any turnover in the first two years to a solo-founder who combined two jobs until his app generated more money than his current job. Some of their do’s and don’ts: don’t become addicted to startup events (you are here to make money; many make the mistake of never launching something), don’t raise too much money (you need some pressure to perform), do take some time off now and then (when you work too much, you don’t have time to make money), do join an acceleration program (some things aren’t as common as you might think).
Me pitching how three random pictures we were given: 6 smartphones, a horse mask and some money bills fit together and could make money. Our reasoning: these days people have problems picking the right one due to the abundance 0f options available. That is why we let consumers experiment with all the models using a VR-mask. Consequently, we hypothesised the number of return shipments for webshops would go down and thus would eventually yield a higher profit. UPDATE: 22/07: Looking back, I find it interesting that Antony, Tomás and I teamed up for this exercise while groups were formed randomly. Later it turns out I would work with the identical team on a start-up idea for almost 2 weeks. Coincidence, or was this very first interaction the underlying cause?
The previous three pictures have been taken inside Startup Braga’s incubator. Here you see me (look closely!), the Greek brothers (Antony and Lampros) and 3 of the organisers (Sónia, Ana and Mariana) in front of a beautiful garden nearby the incubator.
The idea of the city tour rough Braga was that at certain points in the city centre groups would receive a hint from the organisers that helps them find an envelope with a puzzle piece. The goal was to collect as many pieces as possible, put together the puzzle and then guess what the puzzle represents. At the beginning we still read the hints, but after some time it became more a matter of re-engineering logical places to hide an envelope. If you look carefully at the photo on the right, you can see a silver information pillar. The envelope could be found below it.

In the evening we played some team building games, one of which you see the picture below. The concept was as follows: there were 3 teams of 4 people who had to move 6 pingpong balls between two hoops. Only the blindfolded guy is allowed to pick up and move one pingpong ball at the time. The other teammates will guide the blindfolded person by shouting one out of the following words: “Innovation” (go right), “Investment” (go left), “Open minded” (go backwards) and the phrase for straight on I forgot. Ironically, we used that exact word almost the entire time, and just pulled the person on his t-shirt to re-adjust direction.

(From left to right) — Birk (Turkey), me (Netherlands), Pablo (Spain), Loïc (Belgium)

11th of July — Find a Rocketship 🚀.

On Tuesday we had to pitch our multi million dollar ideas and then vote for the best ideas. Although the results of this vote allowed me to take on a “team-leader” role to pursue my own idea, I decided to join the group by Tomás. That is because I truly believe “people” > “idea” since the idea will probably change throughout the validation process. Second, I liked the team composition. And third, this idea got the most votes and thus indicates that others support it. Even more, it could potentially become a rocketship.

(From left to right) — Pablo (Spain), me (Netherlands), Florian (Germany), Lampros (Greece) and Antony (Greece). At the time we were discovering the faculty building (where most of the workshops were given and we did our group work).

12th of July — The Importance of Open Communication👨‍👦‍👦.

As motivated as my group was, we started working like crazy since the beginning. The idea I described you yesterday, had already gone through multiple iterations. From a conversation with the professor from University of Minho we learned that “accreditation” of MOOCs is really hard. Also, we discovered that the main customer segment of online education is not the typical student of our own age. In fact, 83% of all Udemy students is between 21 and 54 years old.

As a result of the many pivots, it was challenging to keep the whole team up to date of the current value proposition. This eventually led to some (unnecessary) annoyance among the team members, because it was oftentimes assumed that information was known to all. As you’ll read tomorrow we settled down the next day. Still, the lesson learned here is: don’t make assumptions about someone’s prior knowledge, make sure there is open communication from the very beginning.

To elaborate on the topic of communication, this day we received a team management training. The workshop ended with a practical exercise which may seem easy at first sight. The rules are as follows: every player is allowed to throw each tennis ball once, every team member must be involved in the series, all tennis balls should end at the player who throw the ball the first time, the ball must never touch the surface and players are not allowed to throw the ball to the person right next to them. Finally, after some iterations we managed to reach a total time of less than 30 seconds for 8 balls (by making two queues with one person at the end and minimising the height of the throw to save time).

13th of July - Focus 1️⃣

On Thursday all groups pitched their ideas to Miguel who we met earlier this week at Startup Braga. As you can read in my post from the 10th of July the lesson I previously learned from him was about iterating as many times as possible. This day I learned another very important lesson: aim to solve one problem really well. Put differently, focus on one vertical at a time even though it may be tempting to follow your entrepreneurial spirit (and gut-feeling) to address numerous challenges simultaneously. In our case, Miguel identified the following three problems in our pitch:

  1. Difficulties with finding high-quality online courses (MOOCs)
  2. Lack of course flows (the order in which you should )
  3. Low completion rates
Miguel giving feedback after our EduPortal pitch (right photo). If you look closely to the slide on the blackboard you find the problems presented: difficult to find the right MOOC for you (problem 1 and 2) and extremely low completion rate (problem 3).

Since we later found out there already exist MOOC search engines (problem 1) and from literature we know that changing human behaviour is really challenging (problem 3), we decided to go for the second problem.

Just after the pitches Tomás, Antony and I went to a professor from the faculty (António Brito) I approached the day before for an interview about in-company training by universities. After meeting him face-to-face in the departmental building, I scheduled the meeting through e-mail. You can find a screenshot from his response below. Tomás told me that this communication style (in my opinion “blunt”) between students and professor is very common in Portugal. Well, maybe he is simply really focused?

Ok. Do I need to say more?

As turned out later he was not blunt at all. We had a 35-minute conversation and even though it was sometimes challenging to fully understand what he was trying to say we got some useful feedback. Let me mention a couple of numerical facts that stood out to me:

  • About 2–3 times a year he gives 40 hour of training (20 sessions of 2 hour) to a group of 7–20 employees. This includes both basic training for people with only a high school degree and advanced training for engineers.
  • Companies pay about €60/hour but he does not receive any of that money directly. It goes to the university fund which he can indirectly make use of to buy a new laptop for example.

Given this feedback we hypothesised industry companies might be interested in training their staff by means of MOOCs. In particular, we like further exploring the option to offer personalised learning paths based on the results of a pre-assessment. As you’ll find in my post of tomorrow we decided to focus on this problem and corresponding customer segment.

Further, today was the last day to finish the tasks for the so-called “Scavenger Hunt”. This is basically a list of somewhat unusual challenges participants have to carry out. The one who completes the most number of challenges wins the game. For example, one of the tasks was “exchange an apple for something more valuable (money or object)”. You find the picture (and proof) of me completing that challenge below.

Left: Me exchanging an apple with a French girl for a city map. Right: Me on the photo with Cristiano Ronaldo.
The challenge here was to ask a stranger desperately: “Have you seen this man?” while showing your own drivers license. Honestly, I got the idea they had no idea what the hell I was talking about. Fun fact: very unexpectedly I reached the shared first place for completing the most tasks of the Scavenger Hunt. The others must probably have forgotten to upload their photos and videos..
One of the challenges during the city tour in Guimarães was to stand as a group within the shadow of above statue. Probably, I was more focused on the shadow than the photographer.. Fun fact: the organisers carried a crate of beer with them during the tour while it was a very sunny day. We had not even walked for 1 km, when they urged everyone to take a bottle of beer in order to reduce the total weight they had to carry.
In the afternoon we attended the “Entrepreneurs as Storytellers” event where Alexandre Mendes, Mariana Gomes Mubcargo and Nuno Freitas Spirito told their biggest lessons learned as an entrepreneur. On the picture above you’ll see Lampros and me having a conversation with Alex(andre) who is the founder of Skillslab . He refers to it as a school for unemployed people where they learn everything they didn’t learn in university. It mainly focuses on improving soft skills among the unemployed. That is because he believes staying at home without a job makes unemployed even more stupid. This also explains why students are expected to be present at the school at 9am every single day. In that sense, it is interesting to see how the school combines both an analogue and digital experience. This made me raise the question: is it desired to offer an online-only experience or should it be complemented by old-school face-to-face lectures?
First look at the left picture and read the following sentence twice: “I (Roy) have taken the picture”. Now, look at the right picture and realise that you are not looking at a vertical wall.

14th of July — The Moment of Truth (part 1) 😳

Time flies, today it is already the last official day at Guimarães (in case you wondered, I am able to correctly pronounce the name by now; or at least to that extent that others know what the hell I am talking about). In the afternoon we were expected to give a more formal presentation to a jury consisting of Daniella Monteiro (executive director Startup Braga, co-founder Startup Pirates and Startup X), José Carlos Pereira (member of the board of of the Portuguese Quality Association), Rui Santos Couto (founder of Founders Founders; no typo there) and Marco Barbosa (founder and CEO of eSolidar; 30 under 30 list for Europe). In other words, the moment of truth. But before that, we received some excellent pitching training to prepare for the final pitch in the afternoon. Particularly, the trainer helped us a lot by crafting a bull-shit-free elevator pitch. This 30 second talk followed a standard structure:

Our company [COMPANY NAME]
is developing [A DEFINED OFFERING]
to help [A TARGET AUDIENCE]
[SOLVE A PROBLEM]
[WITH A SECRET SAUCE]

With some help with the trainer we got the following result: Our company EduPortal is developing a Curation Website for online open courses to help university students and employees to learn more effectively, by finding the best course flows given their prior knowledge thanks to community reviews and personalisation.

Rafael Pires giving a lecture about pitching: Super Heroes of Business Messaging.
This picture has been taken on the chairs of Britanic Institute of Guimarães (private school for English language courses). Here, we pitched our start-up ideas to the pupils (as an exercise for both parties). The local teacher shared some very sharp feedback which was helpful to prepare for the final pitch. One of the pupils told me that they specially came by the school to listen to our pitch and give feedback, pretty admirable!
The jury: Daniella Monteiro, Rui Santos Couto, José Carlos Pereira and Marco Barbosa. Although some of them were constantly looking at their phone, they had very clever remarks in most cases.
Tomás and me pitching our preliminary idea to the jury. Here he is explaining that we all have experience with online courses (MOOCs) and how each of the team members contribute to the final project. In other words, why we are the “Dream Team” for this company. Ironically, this is also how Antony called our WhatsApp group.
SET-Participants were asked to put sticky-notes with their lessons-learned in their own envelope. After the pitching session and prior to the “International Night” we all came together and shared our greatest moments with each other. For some it was a very emotional moments. The fact that participants shared very vulnerable details which include both joy and grief, illustrates the trust within the group. In that sense, Guimaraes’ organisers have really achieved their goal to treat participants as family and make them feel at home. Great job, guys (and girls)!

15th of July — New Place. New Life. 🚊

Thanks to Hugo’s excellent time management skills we managed to catch the metro to Porto just 2 minutes before it departed (otherwise we had to wait for at least half a hour). Since yesterday ESTIEM’s “International Night” took place, it was no surprise that many continued (or started?) sleeping during the ride to Porto. For passengers who entered the metro it was like a survival course to maneuver through the cabin due to our blockade of luggage. Seriously, some participants brought suitcases more than 3 times the size of my little Ryanair bag..

Tomás and Antony dreaming about the future success of EduPortal

At the metro station we were kindly received by Local Group (LG) Porto who brought us to the nearby youth hostel (Oporto Sky Hostel) which will be the sleeping location for the second half of the program. Similar to the previous 6 days we will have lunch in the canteen of the university. However, as for the food it’s 1–0 for Guimarães in favour of Porto. After all, for some reason it seems like there is always a bit of competition between the two cities; both want to be recognised as the very best. In other words, up to me to judge it myself. The final verdict follows later this week.

Left: Metro station crowded with guides and tourists (the wall paintings are pretty cool!). Middle: Monumento a Garento, near the main metro station (Trindade) and Oporto Sky Hostel (right). Every morning (and evening) we took the yellow metro line between Trindade and IPO (close to the university).

After lunch, we attended a lecture by Alipio Torre and João Claro (two professors from the business school), pitched our ideas to them and got some excellent feedback. In general, they were positively surprised by the progress we had made in the past couple of days which was very encouraging. A fun fact which I want to share with you is the way they have distributed the toilets over the different floors in the university building. The toilets for men can only be found on the even numbered floors (e.g. 0, 2, 4, etc.), whereas the toilets for female can be found on the odd numbered floors (e.g. 1, 3, etc.)

Our group filling out the Product Market Fit Canvas (alternative for Business Model Canvas). Designed by Alipio Torre and João Claro (in the background in the left picture).

At dinner we ate a “francesinha”; a dish originating in the city of Porto. It’s basically a combination of fresh sausages, beef, cheese, egg, tomato sauce and a little plate of fries. With difficulty I finished 1 portion while others ate more than 2 portions. I don’t mention any names, Tomás.

Left: A (relatively small) francesinha without the fries. Right: Every participant had to sign this document at arrival at FEUP. Just that you know, participating in SET has an inherent risk of death and we don’t like local group stickers hanging around everywhere in our university building.

Update! ✍️

Even though there probably won’t be any reflection session at Porto, I’ll try to keep you posted with the daily updates till the end of the SET-event.

16th of July — Sunny Sporty Sunday 🏄

Today’s post will be slightly different compared to the previous ones in the sense that I will post a series of pictures, each with a short story. Let’s go!


City Tour & Apple Challenge

Also, in Porto we had to do the “Apple Challenge”, but this time as a group. The teamwork payed off: at a local street market Meryem managed to let a street artist transform the dead normal apple we got at the start of the challenge into above master piece. Undoubtedly, this has contributed to the following end result after multiple trades by all of us: two (expired) bus tickets, a past Champions league game ticket and even a pair of (working) head phones. Yeah, definitely better than a street map.
Left: Here we were supposed to use our bodies to portray the word “PORTO” (neither “POTRO”.. nor “POTRX”) with our #fail. Right: a people pyramid #nofail.
4 guys, 2 pairs of shoes, 10 wet toes and 1 bonus point for our group by making this picture in front of / in Praça dos Leões (the fountain). Fun fact, the square was crowded with tourists and policemen because of some parade (see photo below).
One of the challenges was to take a picture of someone reading a book in front of Livraria Lello. Because of an exhibition you had to pay to get in there. That is why we asked the security guard to take one of the books out of the bookstore which resulted in this picture.
Inside of the building (photo by the security guard).
Some happy tourists on their way to the beach. Up to now this is by far the favourite ESTIEM song of our group.

Porto Beach

This is a group photo after 90 minutes of intensive surfing. On there you see the SET-participants, the organisers of the second half of SET (Catarina, Vasco and Patricia) and the two surfing dudes. Although I have gone to the beach since I was a little boy (yeah I know I am still not a giant, though for Portuguese standards I have average height), for some people this was the very first time they swam in the sea and could enjoy its salty taste. After some exercises in the sand, we could finally go in the sea to cool down a bit (wearing a cork dry wetsuit in the burning sun without going into the water is like wearing a garbage bag while running in the deserts). In the water it went surprisingly well. The timing for paddling is very similar to body boarding. However, surfing adds a new dimension to it: standing on the board and keeping balanced. By the number of falls I can tell you it is also the most challenging part.
Loïc (Belgium), me (Netherlands) and Antony (Greece) 30 seconds after sunset. That is because we first had to dump 4 huge pizza boxes in crowded trash cans. Our end sprint was inadequate, but just pretend my head is covering the sun.

On our way back to the hostel

If you are a real a Cristiano Ronaldo fan you should look for a shop in the centre of Porto with above cow. That is because..
.. there you can grab a mask of Portuguese super hero for free. From left to right: Cristiano with moustache, Cristiano and Cristiano with moustache. No seriously: Kimberley (Germany), Lampros (Greece) and Marcel (Germany). And if you wondered about the time of the day on the photo, some participants already discovered the shop earlier that day (see video above).
Some freestyle dancers and a little kid that joined the dance.
If you would make a quarter turn to the left on the previous picture, you could spot the following architectural artwork. Tomás told me that pedestrians can walk on two levels of the bridge: at the bottom and on top of it (update 20/07: statement confirmed: Loïc and I took both routes ourselves). Another interesting fact: if you would look down the water in the canal you’ll see an incredibly amount (like more than 100) of 35 cm+ fishes.

17th of July — Beginning of the Week. Fresh Start. Or Not? 📅

This morning we kicked off by a lecture by a professor from the Industrial Engineering and Management department of the university. He demonstrated the potential for omni-channels as an integrated shopping experience since it combines offline and online channels. For our idea especially the characteristics of online channels were relevant: low customer loyalty, rich product descriptions, importance of customer reviews, ample of alternatives and thus increased price transparency. If you want to find out more about it, he recommended the following Harvard Business Review post.

After that we had another pitching session by Rodigro Castro from Spark Agency and Pitch Bootcamp. This time the focus was on a so-called “High Concept Pitch” which is a very concise description of the business (e.g. for Yammer it is “Facebook for Companies”). Compared to the elevator pitch I mentioned 3 days ago, we made a couple of changes. After all, it turned out the phrasing “curation” was too complicated to grasp to and sometimes specificity was missing. The updated preliminary result:

Our company EduPortal is developing a Personal Recommendations Website for Online Courses to help employees in the technology sector to learn more effectively, by giving course recommendations based on their prior knowledge and learning style test results.

Furthermore, he recommended to use 10 slides for a 20-minute presentation where the body text has at least size 30 (10 x 20 x 30 method). A proven pitch structure is as follows: Problem (1), Solution (2), Business Model (3), Magic / Technology (4), Marketing (5), Competition (6), Team structure (7), Current Status (8), Projections and Milestones (9), Summary and Call to Action (10).

Two days ago I commented on the lunch in the canteen of University of Porto. Although Ramires (from Guimaraes) told me he loved the fact that their canteen is better, I have to correct this previous statement a bit. After all, I cannot deny the food in the other canteen we ate today was extremely good:

Compare this with a couple of slices of bread with cheese and peanut butter we usually eat in the Netherlands! Moreover, lunch at the university is very affordable: €2,50 for the entire meal.

Fun fact: one of the professors brings a sheepdog to the university every day (see picture below). This dog remains very loyal and is always lying in front of the entrance of the canteen.

Left to right: Dog (German), Lampros (Greece), me (Netherlands), Pablo (Spain), Antony (Greece), Patricia (Portugal — organizer), Marcel (Germany), Artur (Russia), Meryem (France), Kimberley (Germany), Catarina (Portugal — organizer), Loïc (Belgium), Birk (Turkey)

After some productive hours for group work in the afternoon, we attended a start-up talk by Luís Martins (founder of Infraspeak). He explained us the difference between the three tiers of start-up incubator. The higher the tier, the harder it is to get in. For example, YCombinator (level 3) accepts less than 1% of all applicants to its accelerator program.

According to him, founders looking for investments should ask for 18 months of survival money with the aim of being profitable within 12 months. During this early phases the start-up can oftentimes be characterised as “Ramen profitable” which implies that the startup makes just enough to pay the founders’ living expenses. Yet, he believes the best way to fundraise is when you don’t need because it allows you to negotiate the deal.

As a last note, the signs of lack of sleep are getting more and more obvious. Let’s hope for a energetic start tomorrow, though the fact that we have to be ready at 07:50 is probably not going to contribute much to that..

In our “groupwork room” at FEUP there was a blackboard with a quote which changed from time to time. On the left: “Quotes are simple. Execution is hard.” (Ramires, 2017). On the right: “ESTIEM is about people. Connecting people, motivating people, developing people. (Patricia, 2017)
At the request of some Game of Thrones fans we watched the first episode of the most recent season together. Before we watched it, every participant had to answer 4 questions while staying anonymously. Then, you would get the paper from an unknown one and had to present the answers as if they were your own. On the right you find the paper I got. The questions and answers are as follows: 1. What is your favourite night ever? My friend and I got insanely [unreadable] at a skiing resort and slid down the snow mountain in our underwear. 2. What do you prefer: Blond or Brunette? Brown. You can hide better behind a tree. Blond reflects the moon light. 3. What does ESTIEM stand for? [is it really so boring, that you are going to spend your time solving word puzzles?] 4. How does your perfect weekend look like? Fuck money, get bitches, smoke weed every day #yolo #swag #hashtag #followmeoninstagram
On continuation on the previous song. Lead singing by Tomás. Are you happy? I bet my ass you are..

18th of July — The Place To Be 🇵🇹 🇩🇪 🇺🇸 🇳🇱

In the morning we visited UPTEC which is a startup incubator part of University of Porto. As with any start-up incubator a table tennis and table football table is to be expected:

As a Dutch football fan myself, of course I had to play a game of table football. Preferably, the orange midfielders. Although it’s a bit of cheating, I (and many others) tended to keep spinning the bar around. Yeah, (aspiring) entrepreneurs are extremely competitive..
Ricardo Teixeira from Virtus.ai telling us about his entrepreneurial journey. If you look very closely on the photo you can see that they use the slogan “simple solutions for complex problems”. It clearly illustrates how hard it can be for start-ups to define their business in a couple of words.
Perhaps not the most clever idea to stand in front of the “E”and “C”, but you get the idea: we are at startup incubator UPTEC. Fun fact: Ricardo, Tomás, Lampros and Antony are all wearing the same black with red hoody of FEUP — Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences. In the Netherlands, this kind of proud to showcase you belong to a specific university/faculty is very unusual. You may find some international students wearing an “Eindhoven University of Technology” branded t-shirt, but definitely no Dutch students. In contrast, many students are wearing apparel from their study and student association (e.g. “I love SSRE”) to signal towards others they are active members.

In the afternoon we had one of my favourite workshops so far by Joaquim Valente on Customer Relationships. Let me highlight a couple of things of my elaborate list of notes.

Best Place To Live as an Entrepreneur
Joaquim has traveled across the world and has been part of multiple incubator programs. Based on this experiences he expressed some signs of criticism on start-up walhalla: Silicon Valley. Because public transport in the USA is very limited everyone travels by car. Consequently, there is an enormous parking problem: seeking for more than 1 hour for a single parking spot is not unusual. Further, he argues a mixed workforce is missing, there are hardly people outside on the street and everything is insanely expensive ($2,500/month for just a bed in an apartment). Moreover, from his network he knows many people in San Francisco who have achieved great things but do not have a great life at all. They hate what they are doing and the people they work with. According to him you find the best incubators at Berlin, Amsterdam and Lisbon.

In Porto you have a higher quality of life with 3K/month than with 100K/month in the Bay Area.

Going to the States
If you still want to go the United States of America, additional preparation is required. Make sure you have a network in the USA by going to as many parties and events as possible. Note that it requires you to live there for at least one year to build up your network and gain trust. Ironically, one of the ways you can build up trust and credibility among investors is by failing.

Analysing competitors
He truly believes analysing your competitors is the very most important task you should do as an entrepreneur. Even more, he spends at least 1 hour every day doing it. In the early phases it allows you to ask the right questions during user interviews, it leads to increased empathy for customer needs which in turn helps you create content your customers want. So how does it work in concrete terms? He has manually set-up multiple Google Alerts which notify him when competitors have made any changes, receive media attention or publish new content.

Inbound vs Interruption Marketing
The former refers to making interesting content which people are organically seeking for (pulling). Although it makes up 90% of the total number of clicks on the web it’s not easy to produce such content. Interruption Marketing, on the other hand, is based on a pushing principle (e.g. online ads).


Compared to yesterday, some nice illustrations have been added to the blackboard. How this provides an answer to the question: “What have you already learnt with SET?” I leave to your own imagination.

Before the surprise activity would take place in the evening, we played a game called “Schnapps”. The rules are as follows: sit down in a circle and make sure everybody can see each other. Basically, as a group you have to count from 1 to infinity. One by one players who are sitting directly next to each other call the previous number incremented by one and indicate the direction with their hand (left or right). Those who don’t follow the exact rules have to take a bite of beer as a punishment and the game starts all over again from 1. There are some additional rules too make it somewhat challenging. Every time the number ends with “7” (e.g. 17, 37) or is a multiple of “7” (e.g. 14, 28) you are not allowed to call the number, you only indicate the direction. And for every multiple of “10” you can point towards someone as the next player. Sounds easy, right? Nope. Based on the highest number we were able to reach without making mistakes, I can ensure you that it is a trickier game than you might think, especially due to unexpected and fast direction changes and diminishing alertness because of Super Bock..

The surprise activity was about “praxe” which is a set of student traditions to initiate freshmen in Portuguese universities. The corresponding academic outfit (worn by the girl and guy in the middle) consists of a cassock, black pants, (bow)tie, vest and a white t-shirt. Since many students wear the same outfit, it is necessary to somehow make it identifiable. Many sew a symbol in the inside of the vest. For example, for the girl it was a “N”-symbol which is referring to her praxe nickname: “Nanananana” .
5-second clip of toasting Portugese wine. According to cultural traditions, it must be completely silent prior to removing the cork from the wine bottle (so that you can hear the cork popping sound).

19th of July — The Home Stretch 🏁

Today is the day before the final presentation. It’s gonna be great. For sure. Since we still had quite some work to do it was mostly a working day. In other words, time was scarce. The same holds for the variety in my activities: work, work, work. Though, let me share some (general) things and pictures with you.

Every morning we wait in the corridor of the hostel until everybody is there. In general, it is quite predictable who is going to arrive last. Or as Tomás likes to put it:
“If Loïc is here, everyone is here.”
Today was the very first day for me in Portugal where I was rinsed from above from something different than the shower. Put differently, it rained. Believe me, Dutchmen have ample of experience with that.
Coffee breaks. There are quite a lot of them, actually. Here you see the table in the corridor next to the classroom in which all workshops took place. On the table you’ll find something for everyone. Ranging from apples to sweetness.
Me preparing the slides and script for tomorrow and Antony working on the computer in the back. In the beginning of the evening (yeah, we typically have dinner around 8pm) the professor we met twice before came by to give our group some useful feedback. His main advice was to make it easier for the audience to follow our story by saying linking sentences like: “The suboptimal solution we just discussed is..”, “We are going to acquire these customers using the following acquisition methods..” Also, we were recommended to reduce the number of slides and restructure the order of the slides a bit. In the end, we managed to go from 61 to 42 slides by shifting the focus towards the content that really matters and combining multiple picture on a single slide. Aside from that, Antony and I had a very productive evening session where we translated the somewhat complicated terminology into sentences which are as straightforward as possible but still deliver the key point (in Dutch: “in Jip en Janneke taal” — childish language). Great teamwork, Antony 👊!
If I didn’t tell you it was the University of Porto you would probably think it was some historical museum. Note, that they usually refer to it as FEUP (Faculty Engineering University Porto).
COMING SOON! See you tomorrow, guys! Let’s rock! 🔥

20th of July — The Moment of Truth (part 2) 😳

My group decided to go to the university early to practise our pitch a couple of times. At 10 o’clock we were fully prepared, but there was one other problem nobody had foreseen: the jury members did not show up. That is why the organisation went all out to recruit new jury members. In the mean time we were hanging around in the lobby, taking a bunch of random pictures and throwing bottles water to each other. Another group thankfully made use of this extra time to put the finishing touches to their slide deck.

Although the final started off two hours later than planned, we were all far more relaxed. Further, it was nice to see our friends from Guimarães joined the final round of pitches. Below you find the videos of the pitches in the order they were held.

  • Empatch — Kimberly, Artem and Marcel
  • Compra — Birk, Florian and Lampros
  • EduPortal — Tomás, Atony and myself
  • NEXpat — Loïc, Meryem and Pablo

Vertical video rocks, I know. Same for the audio quality. If you cannot understand anything of what they are saying because of the bad audio, mute it and solely focus on their body language. Then raise the question: are you convinced that they are convinced of their idea, team and execution until now. Repeat the same for the other pitches and then pick your favourite. Further down this blog I’ll share the winner so that you can check whether you picked the right one.
Although the jury did not ask for more details about the background of Compra’s team members, I heard they had prepared the perfect back-up slide for that question.

All three of us were very satisfied with how smooth the presentation went. The preparation from this morning definitely paid off. The jury got the impression we had put in a lot of time and appreciated the level of detail of our presentation. To further improve the presentation, we should think about the amount of money required for each steps of the roadmap, tell more about the team and consider a referral program as a customer acquisition channel. Also, one of the jury members doubted whether tech companies would be interested in hiring junior data scientists who just started learning the basics. Fun fact, at 6:35 Tomás says “you have probably already heard of …the quote “smart is the new sexy”. Well, according to Harvard Business Review Data Science is the new sexy.” Although you cannot really hear it that well on the video, the audience responded positively towards it. The reason I mention this is because Antony and I had to convince Tomás to include this phrase in his presentation ;-)
This is the slide deck we used in above video. And yeah, this one you can read.

After lunch and a presentation by the main sponsor of the event: Evonik (investment fund — see picture below) we went to the university’s bar again for a networking drink. Here we had the opportunity to get in touch with many representatives of companies we had seen before during the workshops. Also, it was time to announce the winning team of the event. Honestly, we weren’t aware of that since they told us earlier that the jury would only give feedback about the ideas without picking a winner. However, you did not hear us complaining at all. After all, EduPortal was awarded the first place! Therefore, we received a special “Winner’s Certificate” (see picture below).

On the certificate (see below) my last name has been fully written this time (my participant badge says “Roy Bos” — if “Bos” would be my real family name people would probably never have any problems spelling it. Now, people (even Dutchmen) find it very challenging to write “Klaasse” correctly (which I can understand). Some variants I’ve regularly seen: “Klaase”, “Klase”, “Klaasche”, “Klasen”, “Klaassen”.).

Until the gala dinner at 7:30 pm we still had about 2.5 hours of free time. Loïc and I decided to go to the other side of the river (for a picture of the bridge that connects both sides, see my post from the 16th of July).

On the bottom left you see a couple of kids who ask tourists for money to jump of the bridge into the water. Quite surprisingly, tourists are eager to pay so that they can share another impressive video with their friends. During gala dinner Catarina told me she always tells this story about the kids jumping from the bridge to participants during the city tour in Porto, but she had never been able to really prove her point. In other words, very special that we saw this phenomenon with our own eyes (including the jump!).

At 19:25 we arrived back at the hostel. We expected to be the last group, but it turned out we arrived second. Most of the others followed soon, apart from Birk and Artem. Since they liked the beach so much they decided to give it another visit. Even though they arrived more than 30 minutes too late at the hostel, their travel time must have been longer than the time on the beach. But yeah, in Russia there aren’t that many beaches you can visit. At least, I hope you guys have enjoyed it ;-)

In this garden the Gala Dinner took place. To get in the garden you first have to go through the building. Honestly, when we entered it, I thought we were going to pick up some other SET organiser. It really looked like a student dorm with very narrow corridors. However, the garden is very beautiful as you can see and this is also what counts since we ate outside. Further it was a surprise to me that the Evonik investor joined the dinner (fun fact 1: he was way underdressed compared to most of us; fun fact 2: he came across as very relaxed and even joined the drinking games and a visit to the Erasmus bar. This is the place where all international students come together. The walls of this very tiny bar has been packed with hundreds of student ID cards).
After a delicious dinner but before we went to the Erasmus bar, Antony and Lampros held a great farewell speech (only Antony’s one has been recorded). And as a big surprise to me (and probably everyone of our group), also Artem held a speech in front of the Erasmus bar!

21th of July — Hardcore music 🎶, 2 minutes left 🕠and looking back.. 🔮

When I woke up the following morning, many of the beds in the room were already empty. No, these people didn’t go out for an early morning walk. They had to catch an early flight. My flight would only depart at 16:35, so plenty of time to rest a bit and discover what other treasures the country has to offer.

But before I would leave the hostel, it was time for a typical hostel breakfast (2 buns with jam, cornflakes and a cup of tea). And no, I didn’t sleep in the kitchen (see photo below). Nevertheless, breakfast in bed would be great :-)

Some other folks would leave the day after that and were going to spend the the day on the beach. Birk would join them, but had some trouble waking up. Actually, others had some trouble waking him up too. In first instance, people gently tried to end his hibernation by opening the windows or gently touching him. The measures became more rigorous over time. On the picture below you can see a phone lying close to his head. Although you cannot hear the sound unfortunately, it played very loud hardcore music..

This world map was hanging in the corridor of the hostel. Visitors of the hostel could pin a needle in their country of origin. As you can see, the large majority of them came from Europe. Also, I tried to pinch a (yellow) needle in The Netherlands. Honestly, I am not sure whether it pierces The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or the North Sea..

Although Loïc and Marcel would take a flight 2 hours earlier than me, I joined them on their way to the airport. In order to go from Trindade to the airport you need to charge the Adante card with a special journey to the z4 zone. Though, I only learned about these different zones after I had checked in with my z2-card. So, I had to buy another card, though the problem was that the machine didn’t accept my debit card. As a result, we managed to arrive at the right platform just-in-time: 2 minutes before it would depart. Thank you guys for waiting, especially given the fact you had to take this metro or else you would probably miss your flight home.

Out of breath we arrived at this platform, to find out we were just in time.

After I had said goodbye to the guys at the airport check-in, I went out for a little adventure since I had more than 3.5 hours until take-off. As you can see in the pictures below there is enough to experience in the neighborhood of Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro (once you pass the tourist zone).

The picture on the top right is most likely a beer factory of the Portuguese beer: Super Bock.

Back at the airport, the return flight went without any problems and I arrived without delays (and with luggage) in Eindhoven. Quite by accident, I met an old classmate from high school in the bus to the train station (Anne). At 21:15 I was back in my student room and had a FaceTime call with my lovely mother who couldn’t wait any longer to hear my experiences in person.

Reflection

One of the reasons, I like journaling so much and why I’ve put together this blog is that it allows you to reflect upon your previous thoughts. In hindsight, you can oftentimes identify patterns that you would never have thought of before. For example, in my application document I mentioned that an idea related to education and data science would be great. In the end, I decided to join Tomás’ group (and idea). Though, if you look back on the start-up we called “EduPortal” it’s actually a combination of Tomás’ initial idea, user feedback and idea 1 and 7 of my “Potential Business Ideas” list (see below). Ideas are worthless, but still a very interesting insight!

Two fragments of my SET-application document (May, 2017).

The last thing I would like to leave you with is another statement in my SET-application document. After all, I believe it’s important to remain realistic, especially in the start-up scene. Having said that, I would strongly encourage you to prove the last phrase of this statement wrong.

“As a start-up founder you simply have to work crazy long hours, get initially paid little to no money and last but not least the chances of your start-up surviving are astronomically low.”

11 Different Entrepreneurs. 11 Different Stories. Are you the next one?

As you could have heard in Antony’s farewell speech “SET is great because of its participants”. I fully agree with that, and that’s why I wrote a personal thank-you-note for all participants. You can check it out HERE. But even if you’re not going to read it, I want to thank you — the reader — for checking out this 25-minute post and sticking with me to the very end. I hope it gives you a good impression of the Summer Entrepreneurship Training 2017 and may even stimulate you to pursue your entrepreneurial spirit one day!

Roy.

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