Push the pedal to the metal!

We’re jumping off a cliff, so we might as well go as fast as we can…

Ok, so I hired someone. We’re running out cash, so I thought: Why the hell not spend it faster, right? Let’s blow it all as soon as we can!

Well, I might have given it a little more thought than that. (I might even have asked my board for permission — thanks guys — lova ya!) The way I figure, we basically have two choices:

  1. Reduce costs until no one is doing anything, and then slowly bleed to death… or,
  2. Do everything in our power to start generating revenue, so we can all live happily ever after.

The choice was obvious.

In our case “everything in our power” means, stop messing around, and start selling. Problem is, I’m not that great at it. That’s a half truth by the way. I’m actually pretty good at selling big complex projects. I’m good at building trust and long lasting relationships. I’m even good at listening, understanding the problem and coming up with valuable solutions. But picking up the phone and calling strangers - not my thing. Back in my consultant days I spent years building up networks, and it worked. But that was within IT organizations, or operations, or even sourcing. Now we’re targeting the revenue side. Product managers, business development managers, innovation magers, CEO’s. My call list consists of two people, and I’ve already called them — twice. So it was time to bring in reinforcements.

Enter Mr. Sales Guy! Mr. Sales Guy is a friend of mine. Someone I’ve known for a while. He’s experienced in the startup world, has a strong network and has sales experience from previous roles. He also just happened to be available. We have actually talked about doing something together for a while, and this time the timing just seemed to be right.

Having been super-transparent with our current situation (yes, he reads this blog), we’ve agreed to do a test period until end of June. He’ll be working part time (two days per week) and get paid both a salary and a commission on sales. He’ll be invoicing from his own company, so in legal terms he’s a contractor not an employee, but you get the point.

The goal has always been to hire a “sales person” to the core team. In our strategy document we call the role “Head of Customer”. The responsibilities include gathering customer insights, aligning products to customer needs and leading our sales efforts both for internal and external projects. But for obvious reasons, the focus until summer will be sell sell sell.

Which brings us to our sales strategy.

Our primary product is Startup-as-a-service. It’s a 6 week market-validation project where we take an existing idea (or come up with a new one) and test it in the market. We build a concept, a prototype, do customer validation, and develop a plan. This gives the customer enough market insight to know whether or not they should move forward with it. It also gives them something tangible to touch and play with, show their bosses, and use as a ‘flashy demo’ when asking for the big bucks (Yes, corporate product development tends to cost big bucks, most of which is usually wasted building the wrong thing.). Anyway, moving on…

Our target customers are large corporations. Companies that are constrained by their history. Companies where politics, processes, governance and legacy makes it hard to be innovative, and even harder to be quick. Companies at risk of being disrupted, or companies already feeling the pain of new technology and new business models.

  • Eniro was disrupted by Google, and are desperately looking for new revenue streams. We can help.
  • Scandic and other hotel chains are being disrupted by AirBnB, and need to rethink the future revenue streams of hospitality. We know you guys are scratching your heads. We can help.
  • Stora Enso and other paper producers are being disrupted by digital media, and need to find new use-cases for their paper, or ways to expand into other industries. We can help.
  • Electrolux, and other electronics producers are being disrupted by Internet of things, and need to be creative about their products of tomorrow. Guess what… We can help ☺

We are 100% sure (well at least 95%) that these are smart companies, with great ideas. The question is, how quickly are they able to test their ideas? Focus groups are dead. Can they develop a prototype in weeks, and test them with real clients? We can. It’s what we do. Another question is, do they have the ability to see things from a new perspective? Most breakthrough ideas come from an urge to challenge the status quo. Taxi Stockholm did not come up wit Uber. Why would they? Startups think different, which is why I’m willing to bet that most breakthrough innovation will come from the outside.

To be specific we’re targeting companies with more than a billion (‘miljard’) Swedish kroners in revenue. In 2012 there were about 800 of them, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to track a few down. We’re looking for people responsible for generating new revenue: business developers, product developers and innovation managers. And their bosses. What we can offer is an alternative to the way they’re already working:

Want to expand capacity? Tests something really quickly? Try a new method? Or perhaps challenge your internal development? Give us a call (My personal mobile number is +46 (0)70 400 2644 btw, call me.)

Right now our biggest challenge is getting in front of as many relevant potential customers as possible. I’m convinced we can offer something of value. Be it a full 6 week project, a 1-day idea generation workshop, or something else. And this is why I’ve brought on board Mr. Sales Guy.

So listen up internet… this is one area where we could really need your help. Do you know anyone in these positions, at these companies? Send them a link to this blog post? Or even better, introduce us in an email so we can buy them lunch, and talk about the benefits of acting like a startup. (My personal email is: firstname@seednordic.se / just remember to replace ‘firstname’ with ‘kenneth’, ok?)

Other tactics include customer events. End of May we’re inviting a handpicked group for an exclusive startup dinner at the ‘castle’. We’ll have speakers from SJ, Klarna and our partner organisation in Finland talk about how they’ve developed products in half the time at half the cost by acting like a startup. We’re also considering doing a larger open event early June on the same topic. Contact me if you want an invitation?

We’re also considering writing articles about what we do, to provide free advice. The “Do-it-yourself-only-to-realize-you-need-help-anyway”-type articles.

Finally we’ll be contacting relevant customers directly through email, LinkedIn and the oh so dreaded “Cold Call”. It’s never fun, but done right it can be effective, or at least so I’m told.

That’s it for tonight. I’m super excited to be bringing on Mr. Sales Guy! So with new costs and no new revenue, 114 days just became 102. But hey.. Who’s counting anyway, right? The race is on!

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Kenneth Hellem,
CEO, Seed Nordic

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