How To Guarantee Successful Market Entry

Fail to plan and plan to fail, as the saying goes - setting up in any new market will require strategy and planning. This, unfortunately, is where many go wrong. The leading market-entry agency, Bridgehead, shares their advice on a winning strategy.

You’ve proven demand for your offering in your home market. Success! The next step is getting that product or service into the hands of new customers, in new markets.

Of course, you want to take advantage of the over 746 million consumers living in Europe and 579 million living in North America. 

But, if it was as simple as replicating the exact same strategy from your home market over here, everyone would be doing it.

So where, when, and how do you start? How can you guarantee successful market entry?

This is where many go wrong. You might try to do some marketing, hire a sales team, perhaps hire a lawyer under the guidance of an expensive consultant, or maybe approach a distributor if you’re selling products. To no surprise, all of this rarely brings in the desired results.

BEFORE your sales and marketing plans, before setting up an office of hiring huge teams - you need a Go-To-Market strategy.

What is a go-to-market strategy and why do you need one?

Every successful market entry starts with one. The official definition of a Go-To-Market strategy is:

“A company’s Go-To-Market strategy is a blueprint for how they will successfully deliver their unique value proposition and reach target markets, channels and customers to achieve competitive advantage.”

It’s essentially an action plan setting out how you will sell your product or service to reach your target customers and gain a competitive advantage.  It will enable you to accelerate entry into your new market, establish a clear presence and quickly generate income streams, giving you a competitive advantage.

It sounds simple, yet so many fail. Make sure to follow my top tips for a successful market entry.

Successful market entry tips

International expansion doesn’t have to be a leap of faith. Follow Bridgehead’s advice to increase your chances of success.

  1. Do your research
    Research allows you to make informed decisions. It enables you to gain a deep understanding of your target market and how your potential customers are likely to receive your product or service.
  2. Focus on sales
    Don’t get distracted at the early stages by other things on the to-do list, such as appointing lawyers and accountants, it isn’t necessary, yet. ‘Put the horse before the cart’ as we call it, and generate a pipeline.
  3. Establish a differentiated position 
    Your offering needs to solve a problem and solve it better than the substitutes and alternatives. What’s your unique value proposition, to this specific audience in this specific market?
  4. Local and cultural differences matter
    Many underestimate the resources required to navigate language and cultural barriers. Be mindful that even when countries share the same language, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t cultural variations between these countries or even regions!
  5. Create a Go-To-Market strategy
    Prepare a detailed strategy outlining your how you will sell your product or service to reach your target customers and gain a competitive advantage with your unique value proposition. To win big your strategy must be innovative, different, and very compelling.
  6. Get help
    If asked about any regrets, most successful business owners will tell you they wish they had gotten help sooner. So seek advice and get help. Whether that’s using your connection that has ‘the in,’ or r working with a local agency that has the knowledge and network for rapid results - you don’t have to do it alone.
  7. BE PATIENT
    A worthy strategy will take time and effort to put together. Your network won’t result in sales overnight. New channels will take time to become productive. Be patient, and keep at it - it will be worth it.

For more tips on creating a Go-To-Market strategy download Bridgehead’s top tips ebook here.

Managed Risk And Competitive Advantage: How Does Sustainability Help Startups Achieve Unicorn Status?

Currently, there are over 1040 financial technology, cyber security, and other startups in Lithuania. Although there is no shortage of potential for growth both in Lithuania and globally, start-ups face obstacles: some cite a shortage of skilled professionals, others point to the regulatory environment or lack of finance. These complex problems can be solved by a full-fledged sustainability strategy that attracts the attention of both investors and talented employees.

According to investment bank Morgan Stanley, almost 90% of investors say they are interested in investing in sustainable businesses. The actions that a growing number of companies are taking today will become the market standard within five years, giving start-ups investing in sustainability today a competitive advantage.

"Fundraising is still the biggest obstacle for young entrepreneurs, but investors are increasingly looking for companies that contribute to solving environmental and social problems. Decision makers used to think that a responsible approach to the environment hindered rapid business development but today sustainability is one of the most important catalysts in the startup ecosystem," says Austė Valikonytė, co-founder of Sustain Academy.

According to A. Valikonytė, finance is also an expression of sustainability, but it is not primarily about attracting as much investment as possible or simply being profitable but more about having a sustainable business model that can withstand challenges and continue to operate as circumstances change.

"The startup business model is all about solving a specific consumer problem, which is why so many businesses create innovative products that make everyday life easier. On the other hand, climate change, pollution, or social inequalities are also 'everyday consumer problems, and a business' commitment to solving them raises the value of its product in the eyes of its customers," stresses the sustainability expert.

Competition not just for consumers or investment

Investment alone is not enough for startups to bring an innovative product to market. Only a team of highly qualified and skilled professionals can create something that has never been attempted before in a short timeframe. With demand outstripping supply in a dynamic labor market, startups compete for attention by offering higher material rewards and emphasizing the meaningfulness of their activities.

This trend is particularly evident among the growing number of Generation Z in the labor market. According to Deloitte, young professionals expect not only creative freedom but also adherence to ethical standards and corporate accountability for its promises.

"A company's commitment to tackling global challenges, contributing to stopping the climate crisis, or reducing pollution can be a differentiator for an employer and attract young talent. But it won't be enough to make empty promises or to have a recycling bin in the office kitchen - a startup will have to back up its actions with concrete actions that will feed into both the company's strategy and annual sustainability reports," notes the co-founder of Sustain Academy.

Sustainability programs businesses for growth

The Harvard Business Review estimates that 70% of consumers want to buy goods and services from sustainable businesses, and the European Union's Green Deal targets over €1 trillion over a decade to develop a sustainable economy. Trends show that business sustainability will become a necessity in the next five years, so businesses that invest in sustainability now will be able to reap the rewards earlier.

"Sustainability measures are sometimes thought of as a cost of doing business, but in a changing context, they are becoming an investment that delivers greater business efficiency and lowers costs. For sustainability to work, it needs to cover as many different market areas as possible - from retail to energy, from transport to education. Sustainability should be understood as a kind of network or system, where a change in one segment leads to a rebound in another, thus amplifying the results several times over," says Valikonytė.

The energy sector could be taken as an example of sustainable development. No industry can operate without electricity or other forms of energy, so the use of renewable sources or other steps towards sustainability has an impact on the whole economy. So startups should not forget that their sustainability is not only measured in terms of the risk-proofness of their business model or their internal initiatives, but also in terms of the partners they choose to develop the business. If they are unsustainable, the startup's contribution to a sustainable economy will also be lower.

"The United Nations identifies as many as 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and they are certainly not all about ecology or climate change - poverty reduction, gender equality or access to education are also important. Therefore, every startup can discover and contribute to a sustainability perspective that is close to its heart - the more different areas of sustainability that a startup can bring to its horizon today, the more prepared it will be to meet the challenges of tomorrow," says the co-founder of Sustain Academy.

Tips on how to apply sustainability principles to your startup:

  • Start small and every day. Encourage recycling in the office, have a vegetarian or vegan lunch with colleagues once a week, and encourage your colleagues to switch from their car to another environmentally friendly vehicle.
  • Develop a corporate sustainability strategy. There is no shortage of examples of what to include in this document - the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the GRI standards, ESG indicators, or the requirements of the B Corporation certification. Don't forget to set ambitious but achievable strategic goals, from pay to specific targets for reducing carbon emissions.
  • Be accountable to your stakeholders and encourage them to be the same. Your customers, employees, and investors are not only the engine of your business but also fellow citizens and inhabitants of the same planet. If you collectively create a positive impact, share what you have done for the environment or society. One of the most commonly used formats is annual sustainability reports (such as GRI Sustainability Report or Global Compact) which summarise economic, social, and environmental sustainability achievements.

_________________

Sustain Academy - the first sustainability academy in Lithuania. Established in cooperation with independent experts, academics, and business representatives.

Sustain Academy is happy to open a call for a Sustainability training scholarship. This year Sustain Academy has decided to dedicate scholarships for startups in order to encourage the growth of sustainable businesses. Deadline: 30th of September. Apply here: shorturl.at/bctQW

Top 5 Errors to Avoid When Expanding Your Business Into Global Markets

Starting a business is not for the faint-hearted, as any entrepreneur will tell you. Faced by numerous pitfalls (some of them invisible), you rely on expert advice to guide you through.

If you’ve decided to expand your business globally, just like in those early days, you’ll need to seek the benefit of expert knowledge to help guide you through those first tricky steps.

Bridgehead International Agency‘s handy list of top 5 mistakes businesses make when expanding into overseas markets will help you avoid making those same mistakes.

  • Appointing lawyers or accountants too early

Question: Why would you appoint a lawyer or an accountant before gauging the actual demand for your product or service offering in your new target market?

Many government support agencies are keen to introduce you to them; however, we firmly believe that the most effective first step is to evaluate the market.  Speak to your potential customers and start to build a sales pipeline.  This provides the backup and evidence required to incorporate and invest within your target market and allows for a swift ROI.

  • Not having a Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy

To maximize the potential of your product or service offering, we strongly recommend that you create a Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy for each market you want to penetrate. Having a GTM strategy will be pivotal to your success.

Begin by undertaking thorough market research, encompassing both primary and secondary research. Ultimately, market research will help you to determine the level of demand for your product or service offering, and how and where your potential customers would expect to access it.

Once your research is complete, you can use it to fuel your GTM strategy. A solid GTM plan will incorporate who your target audience is, product-market fit, competitive landscape, pricing, distribution channels, marketing and sales strategy, budget, and resources.

  • Not Assessing the local competition

In each new market, you will likely encounter new competitors. It is vital to understand what the competitions are doing. Understand what their unique selling propositions (USPs) are, so you can counteract any competitive advantages. Who are they targeting? Which channels do they use?  If your own product/service has a competitive advantage, make sure that you communicate this to your target audience.

Even massive companies with global swagger can sometimes pay the price for failing to respect their local competition.

A classic example is Starbucks’ disastrous entry into the Australian market.  Opening their first store in 2000, and expanding to 84 outlets across the country, they were eventually forced to close 75% of their stores after 8 years, incurring a loss of over 140 million dollars.  Failure to analyze their competition was a critical factor; with competitors, such as McDonald’s McCafe and Gloria Jeans offering a more competitive price, and a beverage range better suited to local market tastes.

One good option can be to work with established local partners within the supply chain. They have the necessary local knowledge and expertise. By building local relationships, your transition could be a lot smoother.

  • Not adapting your product or service offering

Companies often assume that they can launch identical products in different markets.  This ignores the fact that they’re dealing with different customers.  Be mindful to tailor your product or service, to appeal to the local market.  This could be product modification, images, packaging, or marketing.

If the product doesn’t resonate with the local market, it will need adapting and localizing, to drive sales.

Let’s look at McDonalds. This fast-food behemoth’s global success can largely be attributed to standardization and adaptation.  The chain always adapts to the needs of the local consumers.  In Germany, a country renowned for its love of meat, their burgers combine Nürnberger sausages with beef. Their outlets in Germany also serve beer, a traditional accompaniment for food. In India, McDonald’s adapted their menu by replacing beef with chicken. Their “Maharaja Mac” is the local version of the classic Big Mac.  The list of their local adaptations is both extensive and impressive.

  • Failing to adapt your sales and marketing channels

Many companies believe they can enter new markets by replicating the strategies that have served them in their domestic market. 

This lazy assumption is a common trap that many businesses fall into.

Choosing the best distribution channels for your product is vital, and these can only be identified with extensive research.  One of our clients is a Singapore-based business called Oaxis, which manufactures cameras aimed at children.  For 4 years they attempted and failed, to penetrate the UK market.  During this time, they worked with 5 different distributors. After appointing Bridgehead, we developed a GTM strategy for them, encompassing competitive benchmarking, and targeting specific partners across retail, e-commerce, and distribution.  We identified key target customers and 5 different channel partners.  Major retailers such as Selfridges, Shop Direct, and Dixons became resellers of their product range.  Within a year, they hit $1m in revenue. 

Your market research should identify which marketing channels deliver the best results in each market.  For example, in China, with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube being banned, their biggest social media platform is WeChat, largely unheard of in the west.  It is used daily by over a billion active users, for restaurant bookings, flight bookings, shopping, transferring money, paying bills as well as creating posts.  Unsurprisingly, this is the most popular tool for social media marketing in China.

Conclusion - seek (expert) advice

If you take just one thing away from this article, it’s that you should always seek expert advice when going into overseas markets. You don’t want to waste your time and money working with the wrong distributor that doesn’t bring in sales, or the wrong consultants that have big visions that are far from reality and do not realize.

More about Bridgehead International Agency

Bridgehead International Agency has achieved a pipeline of over £2m inside 6 months for a SaaS SME, secured sales with key distributors and channel partners, with purchase orders value of £500,000 achieved in 90 days for a UK wearables brand, grown a Scale-up’s sales pipeline from £4m to £18m in 9 months and many more. More information here: www.bridgeheadagency.com

 

Efficient Use Of Cloud Services Is A Saving Tool

Do you remember the time when every single company used to have its own set of servers often visited by a dedicated IT expert? Some organisations would even allocate a whole office room for storing an increasing amount of corporate data.

Nowadays this is has become a picture of the past, while digital data storage in the so-called clouds is becoming a part and parcel of organisations’ everyday life. The global pandemic has fuelled the popularity of digital businesses, speeding up the decisions to move towards cloud computing services. Now clouds are used to store resources of not startups alone, but also of e-commerce shops, technological companies, and conventional businesses.

Indeed, a growing number of new customers start using the cloud computing services of such giants as Microsoft, Amazon, or Google. One of the major challenges currently faced by service users is the progressively growing costs of cloud computing which often go above the corporate budgetary plan.

According to the data of US company Flexera, annual costs for public cloud computing services usually exceed the planned budget by 23%. Vilius Žukauskas, a co-founder and chief operating officer of CAST AI startup, which is developing an artificial intelligence-based cloud computing optimisation platform, is not surprised by this figure as organisations are often unaware of how to cut down on the costs due to inefficient use of cloud services.

“Any costs optimisation starts from a detailed analysis of the invoices received. The invoices for cloud computing services are often long documents that are complex, difficult to understand or compare. Often cloud computing companies use different pricing of the services, for instance, Amazon company calculated the price for certain services by the number of inquiries received, while others – by the number of gigabytes used. If an organisation is using services of different cloud computing service providers it becomes difficult to compare them if there are any overpayments or whether all the services received are used efficiently”, said V. Žukauskas.

Although cloud computing service providers offer various tools allowing for more efficient use of resources, the root cause is usually hidden not in the technological, but in a human factor, i.e., inefficient use of cloud computing services is linked to the lack of competence and experience in how to handle these resources.  

“We’ve been repeatedly hearing stories of organisations suffering enormous losses due to inappropriate management of cloud computing services. One of the most notorious cases happened in Adobe company when a software developing team at the time of testing a new product installed a wrong algorithm which augmented the invoices for cloud computing services up to USD 80 thousand per day. It was only after the company received an invoice for over half a million US dollars that the Adobe staff finally realized what has happened. This would not have happened had there been regular monitoring of cloud computing resources and appropriate configuration of system notifications”, said V. Žukauskas.

He pointed out several key reasons why the reserved resources are not used, not fully used, or are overpaid:

  • An organisation is not well familiar with the infrastructure of a cloud computing service provider and does not use tools enabling to apply different types of data calculation and storage; 
  • A too large amount of resources is acquired and forgotten after a while;
  • Forgetting to disconnect from the servers while not in use; 
  • Too little attention given to budgetary control of cloud computing services;
  • Inappropriately configured notifications and alerts in the cloud computing platform.

Organisations intending to optimise cloud computing costs should assess the scope and nature of the resources that they really need. Admittedly, forecasting the future scope of services is a relatively difficult and yet a doable task. Most importantly, systemic and regular monitoring has to be carried out and reports on the use of resources have to be carefully analysed. Some cloud computing service providers have special tools allowing them to forecast planned expenses several months ahead and get recommendations for savings. The possibility to select what and when is needed is, perhaps, the greatest advantage of cloud computing, but this skill has to be mastered properly.

“Costs modeling is one of the best means of cost optimisation. I would suggest analysing carefully the pricing of a service provider and planning the necessary resources in view of the current stage and budget of each individual project. You should estimate the resources required for all stages of work and the planned expenses; then, in view of the pricing of the service provider, develop a multi-level plan of expenses. By summarising all the data in one location you will find it easier to understand your future needs and trends”, suggested V. Žukauskas.

Not least important is envisaging the peak times of using resources. This can be done by using regular data analysis and forecasting the impact of external factors boosting the user traffic. 

“It is important that organisations realized that there can be significant savings while using cloud computing services – what you need is to develop a strategy, use the relevant tools and do this consistently. While organisations may not be successful in their attempts to cut the fees charged by cloud computing service providers, they could at least save by not overpaying for these services”, emphasized V. Žukauskas.

Startups And Cybersecurity: How To Deal With A Cyber Attack?

Cybersecurity is fast becoming a significant concern for many startups in 2021 with data breaches carrying major legal ramifications. Every business must put in place appropriate technical and organizational data security measures to protect their clients’ data and prevent cyber-attacks.

Foreign countries’ practice shows that companies are generally subject to higher or lower fines for breaching GDPR for the implementation of inadequate security measures, which lead to the leak of personal data. Also, the data subjects can meanwhile ask for compensation from the company for the leak of their data.

The ECOVIS ProventusLaw Data Protection, Cyber, and IT Security, Operational Risk Team has developed prepared the following reminder how to act in case of a data breach:

Recommendations for business:

  • implement breach detection, investigation, and internal reporting procedures at your company. You will be prepared in advance for crisis management, this will facilitate decision-making, responsible persons to deal with, etc.;
  • keep a record of any personal data breaches and an investigation report;
  • report certain personal data breaches to the relevant supervisory authority. It must be done within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach;
  • where feasible ensure fair communication with affected data subjects, explain to them how to mitigate the risks. If the breach is likely to result in a high risk of adversely affecting individuals’ rights and freedoms, you must also inform those individuals without undue delay;
  • ensure both external and internal communication about what happened;
  • make an action plan how to prevent similar issues in the future;
  • train your staff;
  • use salt (cryptographic) method for passwords, where certain characters are inserted in each password during encryption. In that case, stealing the password hashes would be worthless.
  • ensure continuous monitoring of IT systems, improvement of cybersecurity systems;
  • perform regular IT security tests or/and audits;

Recommendations for consumers: 

  • to change the leaked email password;
  • do not use the same passwords for different logins into different systems;
  • do not use work e-mail accounts for personal services;
  • use a password manager to create different passwords for all sites;
  • consider changing personal documents (to prevent your data from being used for fraudulent purposes);
  • warn the relatives of possible cases of fraud and false reports against them;
  • do not distribute or share stolen personal data or references to it, as such behavior only contributes to the committed crime.

Such experiences also encourage businesses to take appropriate action in further activities.

20 minimum organizational and technical requirements and measures shall be implemented in each organization.

10 minimum requirements for organizational data security measures:

  1. Personal data security policy and procedures. The security of personal data and their processing in the organization must be documented as part of the information security policy.
  2. Roles and responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities related to the processing of personal data must be clearly defined and distributed in accordance with security policy.
  3. Access control policy. Each role related to the processing of personal data must have specific access control rights.
  4. Resource and asset management. An organization must have a register of IT resources used to process personal data, and the management of the registry must be assigned to a specific person.
  5. Change management. The organization must ensure that all changes to the IT systems are monitored and registered by a specific person.
  6. Data processors. Data controllers and processors should be defined before any personal data processing activity is initiated, document and reconcile mutual formalities. The data processor must immediately notify the controller of any personal data breach detected.
  7. Personal data security breaches and incidents. An incident response plan must be established in a comprehensive manner. Violations against personal data must be immediately reported to the management and competent authorities.
  8. Business continuity. The organization must establish the basic procedures to be followed in case of an incident or personal data breach, in order to ensure the necessary continuity and availability of personal data processing by IT systems.
  9. Staff confidentiality. The organization must ensure that all employees understand their responsibilities and responsibilities related to the processing of personal data.
  10. Training. The organization must ensure that all employees are properly informed about the security controls of IT systems related to their daily work.

10 minimum requirements for appropriate technical data security measures:

  1. Access Control and Authentication. An Access Control System must be implemented for all users of the IT system. The Access Control System must allow the creation, validation, revision, and removal of user accounts. Shared user accounts must be avoided.
  2. Technical journal entries and monitoring. The records of technical journals must be implemented for each IT system, application program used for processing personal data. Technical journals must display all possible types of access to personal data records (such as date, time, review, change, cancellation).
  3. Protection of servers, databases. The databases and application server servers must be configured to work properly and use a separate account with the lowest operating system privileges assigned. Databases and Application Servers must process only those personal data that is required for work that meets the data processing objectives.
  4. Workstation protection. Users should not be able to turn off or bypass, avoid security settings. Antivirus applications and their virus database information must be updated at least weekly. Users must not have the privilege of installing, removing, administering unauthorized software. IT systems must have a set session time.
  5. Network and communication security. When access to used IT systems is carried out online, it is imperative to use an encrypted communication channel, i.e. cryptographic protocols (such as TLS, SSL).
  6. Backups. Backups and data restoration procedures must be defined, documented, and clearly linked to roles and responsibilities.
  7. Mobile, portable devices. The procedures for administering mobile and portable devices must be identified and documented, with a clear description of the proper use of such equipment. Mobile, portable devices that will be used to work with information systems must be registered and authorized before use.
  8. Software Security. Software used in information systems (processing personal data) must comply with software security best practices, software development structures, and standards.
  9. Data removal. Before removing any data storage media, all data contained in it must be destroyed using software designed for that purpose, which supports reliable data-erasure algorithms.
  10. Physical safety. The physical protection of the environment, premises in which the IT system infrastructure is located, must be implemented from unauthorized access.

The implementation of these requirements will help organizations to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation. It is important to note, depending on the activities and collected data, the organizations shall implement additional measures to protect their clients‘ personal data.

Recommendations are prepared by certified as Information Privacy Professional/Europe by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) ECOVIS ProventusLaw Data Protection Team Lead - attorney at law Ms. Loreta Andziulytė (CIPP/E).

8 Reasons Why Early Stage Startups Fail

Global statistics show that 9 out of 10 startups fail before even developing their ideas: 20 percent of them die in the first year of their existence, another 30 percent in the second year. What are the biggest and most common mistakes made by early-stage startups and how can they be avoided? Mentors of the TechHub startup pre-acceleration program at the Agency for Science, Innovation, and Technology (MITA) share their insights on the topic.

Unreasonable level of self-confidence

Startup founders often feel they have all the skills and knowledge necessary for a new business and that they can solve all the problems alone. However, in a market where speed has such an impact, it is important to take all possible help – participate in training sessions, consult with experts: “Mentors play a very important role in the life of startups, not only providing the necessary knowledge, avoiding critical mistakes, but also motivating them. TechHub startup pre-accelerator is unique for our intensive mentor supervision throughout the training period,” says Gintas Kimtys, Head of MITA.

No market need

As world statistics show, the main reason for startup failure is creating the solution to an irrelevant problem. The head of TechHub pre-Accelerator dr. Gediminas Rumšas observes that teams enrolling in the program are often convinced of the need for a particular innovation, but this is based on their personal perspective and not on market analysis: “Startups tend to offer solutions to problems that are interesting only for themselves and not for consumers. In this case, failure is unavoidable. Market analysis, product testing with first customers, consulting with experts can reduce the risk of such an error.”

Not taking risks

Many people think that failure is the opposite of success. However, according to startup mentor Ugnius Savickas, it can be the key to success – the most important thing is to learn from mistakes: "It is not typical for us Lithuanians to take risks, we are haunted by the horrors of bankruptcy and the associated reputation of a failed businessman. As a result, we are too careful, and when we are careful, we do not try something bold, we do not get feedback from the market. This way we fall into the trap of thinking – we want to take into account all the circumstances in order to make a perfect decision. But it's not possible – we have to come to the perfect solution through practical experience, so sometimes we just need to test and experiment more."

Falling in love with an idea

Often entrepreneurs are too in love with their idea and consider it perfect, so they don’t want to change. "I dare to say that 8 out of 10 startups are so strongly associated with their idea that any change or improvement desired by users seems like taking something away from the team. Then startups even take a defensive position, do not listen to the suggestions and comments of partners and customers, when at an early stage they should be especially attentive and curious to analyze how the consumer reacts, what he expects,” says mentor U. Savickas.

Perfectionism

Naturally, entrepreneurs want to create a perfect, fully functional product or service right away, believing that it will be their unique value. But perfectionism often hinders business progress: business will never be perfect, especially in the innovation field, where competition is fierce. "The most important thing for startups is to get to know the customer and his habits as soon as possible, to give him the opportunity to evaluate the product and decide whether the solution is good or not. Therefore, the development, improvement, and testing of the minimum viable product (MVP) as soon as possible is a must,” says mentor Vaidotas Deksnys.

Focusing too much on money

Ambitious and visionary startup owners will definitely attract the attention of venture capital, but money should not be the only goal, says mentor V. Deksnys. "Start-ups often prefer to think about money, rather than look for the right markets for products and services and building a consumer base. However, we should first focus on finding the first customers, product development. If they succeed in attracting an investor, startups think it means a successful business. But every year, many well-funded but potentially overrated startups fail,” he says.

Selection team members only according to competencies

Startup founders often make the mistake of selecting team members solely on the basis of professional qualifications or work experience, but without assessing the personal qualities, character, values ​​and impact they may have on the team. "Startups are on an extremely intense journey that requires determination and endurance, so one of the most important personal qualities of team members is the ability to cope with difficulties, tension, pressure, and stress. High motivation, a culture of communication and cooperation, and the ability to enjoy discussions are also important. The most important thing is that the team members could trust each other, receive help, support and encouragement from each other,” says mentor Lijana Kanarskienė.

Lack of communication

In many cases, team members do not clarify personal interests and mutual expectations, do not set long-term team goals and results, and do not discuss in detail both the conditions of being in the team and leaving the team. According to L. Kanarskienė, for the following reasons, team relations will eventually become insufficient: „From the very beginning, it would be worthwhile to create a team culture in which members talk, discuss and consult openly and sincerely with each other while learning to build relationships based on listening to each other. It can be learned from Marshall Rosenberg's book „Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.”

The TechHub pre-accelerator is a three-month training course, during which, with the help of innovation experts and personal mentors, startups will have the opportunity to develop their ideas, gain the necessary knowledge for further business development, meet investors and business angels. Registration for the second TechHub pre-accelerator cycle will run until January 17. The pre-accelerator will start on February 22 and will take place remotely, in Lithuanian or English.

 

TechHub is a project implemented by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA) to help develop early-stage innovative business ideas, encourage intensive start-up growth and sustainable development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The aim of the project is to encourage researchers, scientists, students, and businesses to develop innovative ideas, provide their teams with support and opportunities for intensive growth. We invite you to follow all project-related news on Facebook and LinkedIn as well as  https://mita.lrv.lt/lt/veiklos-sritys/mita-vykdomi-projektai/techhub.

The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. No: 01.2.1-LVPA-V-842 “Inogeb LT”

Experts Advise How to Take Advantage of the Crisis and to Develop Businesses

Although e-commerce is growing very fast in the world and in 2019 alone consumers spent nearly 3.5 trillion US dollars on it, preference is still given to traditional trade, especially in Europe. However, these tendencies are strongly shaken by the coronavirus – normal business models are no longer effective, traditional business comes to a standstill, and only those who manage to quickly rearrange processes and exploit alternative channels survive. Experts say that we have all the conditions necessary for these changes, it is important to act now and to take competitive positions in the market.

After the extreme situation was declared in Lithuania and, later, the country was placed under quarantine, the Public Institution Enterprise Lithuania, which was established to promote entrepreneurship and foster export, received a lot of requests on how to relocate its own business to cyberspace. “In the current situation, business is turning to e-commerce. However, business entities understand that they do not have the necessary tools and skills for that purpose. Some entities are able to refocus quickly and start developing their activities in a new way, while others don’t know where to start, don’t even have an idea how to change their business model to make it successful online“, – Daina Kleponė, the Managing Director of the Public Institution “Enterprise Lithuania”, presents a problem that is currently of particular importance for Lithuanian business.

According to Elijus Čivilis, the Vice-Minister of Economy and Innovation, this crisis is a period of transformation. “It is like a tsunami that will wipe out all businesses that will not be inclined to adapt to alternative opportunities. And today business faces a double challenge – how to create demand on new channels and how to retain its own customer”, – says he.

According to the Vice-Minister, the crisis will force both businesses and consumers to change. The current restrictions and challenges will move the entire society to a higher digitization level, they will encourage learning new things and introducing a growing number of innovative solutions to everyday life. After the crisis, consumer behavior will be different – the new things learned will become usual, and the discovered alternatives will take root and will continue to be used.

Creating an online store may take only one day

New technologies are very far advanced, and therefore can offer many opportunities for traditional business in terms of how to digitize and move quickly to a virtual space.

According to Mindaugas Ubartas, the Head of Lithuanian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Industry Association INFOBALT, creating an online store may take only one day. “Nowadays there are many Lithuanian and foreign platforms, where own website can be created quickly and fairly cheaply – the price ranges from 5 to 15 euros per month. Certain platforms offer pre-integrated functionalities for e-commerce – delivery, payment options”, – explains the specialist.

He notes that in choosing a platform, it is important to know in advance which market is of relevance. If foreign trade is planned, then it is best to choose a foreign platform that offers integrated international payment methods. If the target is a Lithuanian market, then the platforms that are linked to the banks of our country are more suitable.

Own online store vs an e-commerce platform already in place. Which is better?

Some businesses have hitherto been successfully engaged in trade on international marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay, etc. In the current period, these businesses are experiencing significant growth. However, is it an attractive sales channel for those who are just starting e-commerce?

“Trading through a well-known electronic marketplace, which is reliable and has its consumers, can often be faster and more efficient than an individual online store. But now the situation is more complicated: the high demand for such platforms resulted in their increased busyness, restrictions apply to the admission of goods to the warehouses. Those, who are starting from zero, would have to deliver the goods to the customers by themselves, and this would slow down the delivery speed and increase costs”, – Vytautas Vorobjovas, e-commerce consultant, identifies the pros and cons of electronic marketplaces.

According to V. Vorobjovas, sometimes simpler tools, that allow reaching the user very quickly, are also suitable for business. He suggests considering using such channels as ad websites, forums, various groups on social networks – to be where the user is.

What should be done to make consumers aware of the transition to e-commerce?

Having an online store is not enough. It is important that consumers are aware of it and buy through it. One challenge is to understand what or who makes up the target audience of the business, and another challenge is how to reach it through the Internet and what advertising tools to choose.

Remigijus Kuliešius, the Head of digital marketing company “Raibec”, also the mentor of “Enterprise Lithuania” Business Mentoring Network, says that advertising tools very much depend on the specifics of the business. But, first of all, each company must refine its business processes, single out its competitive advantage and form a unified communication and marketing strategy that could be measured.

“Businesses make a big mistake when they start using many and varied advertising or publicity tools. In such a case, it is difficult to achieve long-term goals and to grow the business consistently. If, for example, consumers already know about the product, are looking for it, then the advertising tools that will help to find it faster are the most important. If the purchase of the product is in most cases driven by emotions, then other advertising channels that can excite the consumer’s desire to buy are effective”, – says R. Kuliešius.

According to him, now is a good time to strengthen marketing and communication, since, during the crisis, certain businesses, that occupied a large part of the information field, are stopping or reducing their advertising campaigns. This leads to falling prices in various advertising channels. Broader opportunities open up for new businesses and for those that move to cyberspace.

A record of the live stream of the expert discussion “Coronavirus opportunities for online business: Consult Expert” can be found here.

Surround Yourself With Those Who Are Better: Advice From A Man Who’s Built An Ecosystem

Rokas Tamosiunas, Entrepreneur and Investor, Lithuania (Vladimiras Ivanovas “Verso Zinios” photo)

Lithuanian Rokas Tamosiunas has built an emerging ecosystem in his home country from scratch, into an established, even if small one. When Tamosiunas co-founded Startup Highway, a Baltic accelerator and early stage fund in 2011, it was the first of its kind in Lithuania and one of the earliest in CEE (Central and Eastern Europe).

Tamosiunas was a pioneer in the tiny Baltic country when he founded his first startup, with a successful exit in 2010. “The words ‘startup’ and ‘mentor’ were not even in the national dictionary,” Tamosiunas recalls. He and his colleagues learned everything they could from Seedcamp and Techstars.

The idea to begin Startup Highway was inspired by the talent emerging from Lithuania, Tamosiunas says. “We noticed a trend – there was a Lithuanian in several of the top startup teams around Europe, so we decided we should create our own accelerator.”

None of the building blocks for an ecosystem – from mentorship to idea-sharing to angel investment, existed. Tamosiunas and his colleagues constructed the foundation for the ecosystem that exists in Lithuania today.

Tamosiunas is now expanding his vision, with a recently structured regional VC fund, called Open Circle Capital, with partners in Lithuania, Finland and Denmark, due to launch next month.

Building an ecosystem from the ground up, in a country with a population of less than 3M has provided Tamosiunas with great insights for startups operating in other small markets:

-PUNCH ABOVE YOUR WEIGHT

I don’t even compare Lithuania with Athens or Belgrade. I compare us to Amsterdam, which is a bigger, more mature market. The only way to get smarter is to play a smarter opponent. To be the best, surround yourself with those who are better.

-LOVE THY NEIGHBOR

Our country is too small a market, but when smaller countries band together, they can be seen as one market. Working with startups in neighboring countries, where cultural differences and distances are small, and skill-set compatibility is high makes sense. *For example, many working for startups in Slovakia and the Czech Republic regularly make the four-hour train journey between Bratislava and Prague.

-BRANCH OUT

Low rent and government incentives can attract startups, particularly regional ones, but when a startup grows faster than the ecosystem, the location can be challenging for recruiting talent. Consider keeping HQ local, with small offices or workspaces in other places where it’s easier to tap skilled people. Bring them to HQ once a month to share knowledge and team-build.

-GO BIG

Big companies bring more than employment. Many Scandinavian companies, particularly banks, set up shop in Lithuania because of our focus on FinTech. They base here, use talent here, and in return, they raise the quality of the local labor pool by educating them on the Western markets. Many go on to start up their own businesses.

-BIG FISH

Don’t be afraid to go after big fish VCs in other markets. In less mature markets, many entrepreneurs go after big VCs out of necessity. But, often startups in more established markets are discouraged from pursuing large VCs in other geographies.

5 Quick Tips For Meeting With Investors From Startupbootcamp

Startup Fair is on the horizon which means startups taking part at it and working hard on their pitches and preparation to meet the investors. Marc Wesselink, the general partner at Startupbootcamp in Amsterdam, was among the mentors who were instructing a dozen of startups this Monday. 

We asked him for five quick tips about what startups should keep in mind when meeting the investors.

  1. Do your due diligence. Always check who you have in front of you. This will help to personalize the conversation.

  2. Make the connection. I have seen many startups talking for 10 minutes without doing any introduction and making a connection with me. However, establishing a connection is of huge importance.

  3. Keep it short. Make a very short story about a) the problem, b) the solution, c) the team.

  4. Keep it stupid simple. Don’t make things too complicated. I have heard many startups mentioning seven different problems they are trying to solve and, at the end, I have no idea what they are talking about.

  5. ‘Stay sexy at the bar’. Just be yourself and don’t try to show your underwear. Just know who you are, have an idea who are you talking to, have a clear picture of your business and your business proposal. Stay cool.

Keynotes From The Seminar On The Importance Of Global Thinking

Focusing on why, instead of what and how, looking for relevant ideas and be willing to list – these three keynotes can distinguish a successful global startup from the rest. Startup Lithuania and Enterprise Lithuania organized the first educational seminar about the importance of global thinking for startups and wannabe startups on July 9th in Vilnius. Three experienced and well-established entrepreneurs came to present the recent trends in the startup world and the key elements that one needs to become successful.

Rockstart Founder & CEO Oscar Kneppers is a successful serial entrepreneur and a celebrated internet publisher, launching several cross-media brands since 1998 – that all focused on new media and technology. After selling his media businesses in 2002 and 2008, Oscar founded Rockstart accelerator in 2011. 

In the seminar, he presented the five mantras that can lead a startup to success:

  1. Step up. Start
  2. Team up. Do it
  3. Stop Talking. Start Building
  4. Learn. Pivot. Start over
  5. Keep up. Keep going

Watch this video for more advice from Oscar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKHdteB6uJU

Founder and CEO of Nextury Ventures Ilja Laurs advised to look for relevant ideas. A serial entrepreneur since 1999, Ilja has launched over 10 successful projects prior to GetJar, as diverse as Lithuania's largest hotel reservation system LithuanianHotels.com, mobile payments service MicroPay and mobile games studio Midas Mobile. Passionate about 3D photography, Ilja is also famous for his photo blog GeoGlance.com. He suggested global thinking as a key strategy to building a successful startup in today’s market.

Ilja praised Lithuania for playing the top role in the following areas:

  1. E-city/ government
  2. Banking/ fintech
  3. Gaming
  4. Mobile

CEO of InsideWarehouse Tadas Deksnys was recently a participant in the accelerator program – the Alchemist. He spent over 10 years developing web-based solutions for successful eCommerce and Online businesses, founded Pet24.lt. His success story was built upon the convergence of Content, Community, and eCommerce, when they started pioneering a solution that turned user-generated content from social networks into actual sales. In the event, he emphasized the significance of aiming to become the top-pier communicator and discussed 7 things that great founders in Silicon Valley do (that good founder, unfortunately, don’t).

Tadas also presented how the change in one’s attitude can make a difference in this business:

  1. The background is not relevant
  2. Listening is the key
  3. I’m willing to unlearn things
  4. I’m willing to ask for help

Overall, the keynote of the event was to come up with ideas that could bring meaning to this world. Attendees were encouraged to not only think about the global market from an entrepreneurial point of view but also take a consumer’s look at what else is needed.