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The best way to avoid time wasters to maintain high productivity

I’m in that awkward situation that I don’t have time to talk to everyone and respond to all the requests I get. Sounds familiar? 

"It’s not what you know, its who you know" they say. But frankly speaking I think success is equally connected the simple formula: how much do you output. There are many situations where your company would have benefitted more from you being back at your computer, than drinking coffee with even the most interesting person. 

So on one hand we’re taught that Saying No is the key to high-productivity, and on the other hand that we need to well-connected and in touch. So what to do? 

Personally I love and rely on my network. I’ve spent year building it up and it contains many people I feel privileged to know and work with. But I get 30+ emails a week from people who’d like to get acquainted in some form. But if I drink coffee with 30 people a week, I won’t be able to do anything else. And all niceties aside, I am in my job to serve the company, my colleagues and my investors.

But that doesn’t makes it less unpleasant and awkward to saying no to people who’ve been introduced to you, or who write for help. I find it really awkward because it goes against all politeness, and against my own values of paying it forward. 

So how do you sort? Everyone means well. And output is different for each person, i.e. what’s a productive conversation for one person is sub-optimal use of time for some one. (Actually time-waster is way to harsh a word to use, but “sub-optimal use of time” would have made a terrible head line).

Right now I am working with this prioritization of incoming non-business critical requests:

Typically yes:

- Anything from someone I rate highly
- A specific collaboration opportunity, input on specific matter
- Someone who has been intro’ed by someone I rate highly
- Intro request, as long as it is mutually relevant for the parties

Typically no:

- for general feedback on their startup
- intro request which doesn’t appear relevant for the recipient/ to people I don’t know sufficiently well 
- to “get generally acquainted” because they are also in startups/travel
- to interview me for a uni project, survey etc

I normally say no something like: 

"Nice to meet you! I like your app/product/company, very cool. Do you have an idea for how we could benefit each other? Then I’d love to Skype, otherwise I try to avoid general-meet-and-greet calls as they are often not productive. Am sure you are super busy too! Do you have a plan or a concept in mind?" 

So if you want to reach me, short and specific emails are most likely to get a reply. And email over calls and voicemails. And requests that don’t cost me too much time.

The reason I am sharing this is that I find it awkward to refuse requests, and am looking for the best way to stay polite while have maximum productivity. I am not unique in this, everyone gets irrelevant requests, many people many more requests than me. So, how do you manage productivity and staying polite?

Something is bubbling in the Copenhagen startup community!

A short run down of #cphftw, startup village, founders house and the other grass root initiatives happening in Copenhagen right now. 

The talk starts with a bit of a run down of the uncertainties of starting a startup, which the audience found hilariously entertaining, being mostly 55+ years old directors from the traditional IT industry.  

This video was shot and edited by DanskIT, from my talk at their annual general meeting. It demonstrates how I switch into a bizarre halv-jysk dialect when presenting in Danish #suitablyembarrassed

A farewell to Simon Schock, tragic death of my cofounder in Founders House

Yesterday I did something I hope I’ll never do again. I went to put flowers on the grave on one of my co-founders, a friend not yet turned 30.

Simon and built Founders House together. Together with our three other cofounders Angie, Christian and Mike, our MD Zenia and the people in the house we’ve been on an inspiring, tough and fun journey the last three years. Simon was only 29, and generally fit. He died of a heart attach while rock climbing in France.


Today, co-working spaces are mushrooming up everywhere, but back when I came to Simon and Mike with the idea, there were no co-working spaces focused on startups. And it was a totally foreign concept to build one with “elitist” admission criteria, only for the most ambitious. It went against the grain of Scandinavia social democratic culture where everything must be open to everyone. But I wanted something more ambitous, more similar to talent training in sports. Simon said yes before I had finished the first sentence.

We’ve since built up Founders House up to be the best place to start an global tech startup in Denmark. We’ve done it with our own money, without  support from state or sponsors, working for free and investing any small surplus (co-working spaces is a terrible business) into making the house better and more fun (champagne for parties come to mind). You need a certain kind of cofounder to do that. Simon was perfect for it.

When I remember him, I will try to take with me the good stuff and the lessons I have learned from him

Lesson 1: Focus on the big stuff. The stuff that matters

Your biggest risk at an entrepreneur is opportunity cost. Are you sure you are working on the thing that could have the most impact? Time is your most limited resource, so select carefully and make sure you spend your time and tears on things that can have a big impact, for you, your career and your customers.

Lesson 2: Systems matter

Simon was super focused on optimization. Building systems and models that could ensure the most effective output in the companies he was involved with, and of his own time. He would spend hours analyzing with enormous spreadsheets, to make sure he was making the right decisions. And he would carefully build up processes that could be replicated across the companies he was involved with.

Lesson 3: Enjoy life while building your business

Because Simon had build up systems, and made sure to have good people around him, he was able to lead a good life while being an entrepreneur. An interest shared by his lovely French girlfriend, he was an fantastic cook, loved good wine, travelled frequently and did rock climbing. Today I am so glad he prioritized that too.

Simon’s death was a tragic reminder that life is short. I can’t change what happened, but I can work to become a better person, and a better entrepreneur from the lessons I’ve learnt from it. I will try to do that.

My thoughts go out to the family, his cofounder and close colleagues in Sortedam Ventures, and his girlfriend.  


PS: On a practical note. Simon was no longer involved operationally with running Founders House, which continues to grow and run as per usual. Similarly, Sortedam Ventures will be continued by his co-founder Mike.


Today I had the great pleasure of talking at Børsens IT Value conference together some of the fastest moving internet companies in Denmark; Trustpilot, Falcon Social, Stylepit (was SmartGuy) and SimpleSite (was 123hjemmeside).

I love stories of going from zero to 100 in the shortest possible time, and today was both inspiring and interesting. Here are some of the top tips from our talk:

1: The right sales model is the most important thing

They was broad consensus that while product, brand etc is important, what makes a difference between survival and success is a scalable, reliable sales engine. All four spends the majority of their resources on building up a reliable sales team and system.

At Falcon Social almost the entire first round of investment went into establishing proper sales procedures, and at SimpleSite Morten’s core focus is on metrics; measuring in detail the cost and income from new customer. SimpleSite don’t even have a marketing budget as such, they buy based on metrics; below the CAC they buy all the traffic they can get, and above that they buy nothing. 

Subscriptions are (still) the bomb. Both SimpleSite, Trustpilot and FalconSocial are subscription based, and have monthly recurring revenue as their major KPI. Compared to a site like SmartGuy where you have to spend money to acquire each customer each time this model gives considerable advantage.  

2: Product, Sales and Marketing are merging

With super detailed tracking of every lead, conversion, new client and lifetime value the disciplines are merging. To optimize for the best metrics at all stages the different functions need to work together at a rate not seen before. In particular to be able to make growth hacks and move insanely fast for new product development this becomes a competitive advantage. Therefore most of the companies have one major location for the whole team, and see the value in having the development team in the same location as the others (as opposed to offshore dev offices) 

3. Ride the market

"Market beats team, and team beats idea" says Peter from Trustpilot, who raised 240m dkr and hired 200 people over the last couple of years. According to him that was only possible because they built something "people already wanted" and which there was a huge appetite for already. 

At Stylepit they are experiencing a market demand for differentiation. Competing on strictly on prices in e-commerce is becoming a losers game for everyone, therefore they’ve refocused on brand and fashion, and united all their sub sites into one big new brand. Again this is following the market in their industry, in early e-commerce days it was enough to sell nice clothes, now more is needed to win the fight for loyalty. 

4. Success is grit and muscle, not stroke of genius

The overwhelming message of the day was that execution is the real challenge, working with details, testing thousands of growth hacks, building organizations of the right people, raising money almost constantly and getting the sales model right is where the magic happens.

Two of these companies have been around for ten years, another had the founders work for free the first three years. All of them had a least two years of slow moving progress in the beginning. It’s the classical “it takes a decade to become an overnight success”

So if you were waiting for your eureka moment, stop waiting. Just dig in there!


Anonymous asked:

How do you see the current trend on self development and mindfulness in startup teams, and do you use some of it or look in that direction at all in your startup? (In example Wisdom 2.0 conference, Google's Search Inside Your Self programme etc.)

I am a strong believer in energy being a necessary thing for us to be productive and creative, so I believe you need to do things to get energized, not just work.

We don’t do any kind of organized mindfulness, but I believe in simple stuff such as sleep (boosting about lack of sleep is a ridiculous trend in the business world), exercise, silence and holiday. 

As many Europeans I felt on my own body how restorative to both body and mind holiday is. So everyone in the company has 5 weeks holiday a year. On top of that we have 13 public holidays a year in Denmark, and in Everplaces we also give everyone the first friday of every month from October to March off, so thats another 6 days. All in all this is like 43 days a year, which seems crazy for Americans but I find increases quality and contentment.

For silence and concentration we allow everyone to work from home every wednesday. 

For self development we try to mix the tasks so everyone get to do something they find challenging and can learn from, as well as the more mundane which has to be done. And we all engage in workshops and events in our local  environment where there are tech and other topics we want to learn more about. But no formal program. 

I can get a little worried about some of the talk in startups, it sounds like people think this is a rock’n roll lifestyle which involves more massage and beers than hard work. This is unrealistic if you want to make an effort, and it’s a bit sad as it screws up the expectations of people going into the industry. It’s hard work. 

All in all, I don’t have any specific programs, just a lot of respect for everyone in my team, so I try to give people the space they need to stay sane and motivated, they all work amazingly hard, are incredibly motivated and I am proud to work with them. I think that these simple things; respect and appreciation, is more powerful that any program you could make. 

Have you tried anything yourself?


Anonymous asked:

Jeg er ikke i tvivl om dine andre kompetance, og din store passion for det som du gør. Men jeg synes, at dit baggrundsbbillede her tager en hel del af opmærksomheden for det du vil sige eller kommunikere rent skriftigt. Hvis du dæmpede kontrasten og øgede opasiteten i billede betragligt, ville budskabet rent tekst mæssigt stå stærkere på siden. MVH Peter Fonnesbech

Mange tak for det Peter, det vil jeg gøre ved lejlighed. 


Anonymous asked:

How do you see the danger of a survivor bias when evaluating successful startups and try to compare your own startup with them? (in can make your own startup look very unsuccessful and it can give you the impression that all startups become successful)

I am not totally sure I understand what you mean, but from how I read your question then I believe its important to compare oneself with the best, while retaining a realistic understanding of the tough odds. 

Most startups fail, and as founders we need to be prepared that this is likely (statistically) to happen to us too. This can help us stay humble and motivated. 

On the other hand, if your startup does survive, it needs to be able to compete against to best to really make it. So we need to look to the best and learn from them. I think of it as “thinking about what you need to do to win, not just to survive”. Underfunding often bring on a survival-only behavior, but so can an unambitious strategy and just not working hard enough. 

Good luck with your startup! Keep working hard, if you don’t make it big this time, then you’ve learnt a lot to help you next time! 

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