10 Things about Starting a
Company

Kevin Wong
Co-Founder, COO, Nulogy
Me
10 Things about Starting a
Company
What they tell you
&

What they don’t tell you

Kevin Wong
Co-Founder, COO, Nulogy
1. Innovation

Think different.

Little innovation is truly new.
2. Sales
Good sales people are hard to
find.

Find one that shares your
passion and work ethic.
3. Product

The best product never wins.

But to start, it’s all you have.
4. Marketing

Do your market research.

You can’t afford real
market research.
5. Management

Get the right people on the bus.

Keeping them on the bus can
be as hard as getting them on.
6. Partners
Get good lawyers and
accountants.

Pick partners that share your
entrepreneurial spirit.
7. Critics
That’ll never work.

I don’t really understand
what you’re doing.
8. Ego
Startup investors are investing in
YOU.

Your greatest strength can be
your greatest weakness.
9. Growth
What got you here, won’t get you
there.

Those who cannot remember the
past are condemned to repeat it.
10. Life
It always seems impossible
until it’s done.

The work is infinite.
Know your limits.
Followup
Me
kevinw@nulogy.com
@knwong
Geoffrey Moore – Crossing the Chasm
Don Norman – Emotional Design
Jim Collins – Good...
10 Things About Starting a Company: What They Tell You & What They Don't Tell You
10 Things About Starting a Company: What They Tell You & What They Don't Tell You
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10 Things About Starting a Company: What They Tell You & What They Don't Tell You

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I was invited to give a presentation on entrepreneurship at the Innovation Factory in 2012 and this is what I shared.

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  • THANKS for the kind introduction and the opportunity to speak to everyone todaySo this is a WELCOME BREAKbecause I don’t find I get a chance to step back from work that oftenWhen I thought about what to speak on today, I didn’t want to just play back my story, but instead try to share some ideas which might really help the entrepreneurs in the audienceWe got lots of great advice and read lots of books as we started our company, but lots of the details are often missing, and we had to figure it out ourselvesI wanted to share today were some thoughts that I would’ve liked to receive earlier on starting my business and that could’ve saved me a lot of timeSo today I thought I would share 10 things that no one ever told me when starting NulogyIf just one of them is useful to you, I’ll consider my mission accomplished
  • Co-Founder and COO at Nulogy
  • We make really complex enterprise software that helps big brands like P&G and Sony launch customized consumer products
  • - I have a pretty diverse background software dev, consulting, product management, strategic planning / marketing- But am definitely an entrepreneur at heart- So this is a WELCOME BREAKbecause I don’t find I get a chance to step back from work that often
  • When I thought about what to speak on today, I didn’t want to just play back my story, but instead try to share some ideas which might really help the entrepreneurs in the audienceWe got lots of great advice and read lots of books as we started our company, but lots of the details are often missing, and we had to figure it out ourselvesI wanted to share today were some thoughts that I would’ve liked to receive earlier on starting my business and that could’ve saved me a lot of timeSo today I thought I would share 10 things that no one ever told me when starting NulogyIf just one of them is useful to you, I’ll consider my mission accomplished
  • What company was named most Innovative Company in the World for the 3rd year in a row?Apple. Think different has been their slogan for 15 years.Entrepreneurs around the world pray at the alter that is Apple when it comes to design and innovation.The reality is that Little Innovation is truly new. While Apple got all the credit for their innovation with the iPhone, Canadian designer Bill Buxtonwas pioneering multi-touch interfaces, including the pinch zoom in 1983 in Toronto, the same year that Apple released the first computer to use a Mouse.It took 25 years for other technologies to get to the point where multi-touch interfaces could be a reality. My point is that chances are your nextinnovation, even if it seems like a revolutionary one, has already been thought of decades ago by someone else. Nulogy’s entire business has been built off of products with incremental but valuable advances over existing solutions.So look around and innovative ideas will be everywhere. Particularly in your customers and employees. It’s not how new an idea is, but how well you execute on it and if the time is right for the innovation. The time wasn’t right in 1983.
  • What company was named most Innovative Company in the World for the 3rd year in a row?Apple. Think different has been their slogan since 1997.Entrepreneurs around the world pray at the alter that is Apple when it comes to design and innovation.The reality is that Little Innovation is truly new. While Apple gets credit for their innovation, Canadian designer Bill Buxtonwas pioneering multi-touch interfaces including the pinch zoom in 1983 in Toronto, the same year that Apple released the first computer to use a Mouse.It took 25 years for other technologies to get to the point where multi-touch interfaces could be a reality. The time wasn’t right in 1983.My point is that chances are your nextinnovation, even if it seems like a revolutionary one, has already been thought of decades ago by someone else. Like everything else, Innovation is largely perception.Look around and innovative ideas are everywhere. Particularly in your customers and employees. It’s not how new an idea is, but how well you execute on it and if the time is right for the innovation.Our entire business has been built off of products with incremental but valuable advances over existing solutions.
  • Sales is the lifeblood of any company, but particularly for a startupMost entrepreneurs remain the best sales person in their organization for a long timePassion, hardwork. Moreso than innovation, passion and hardwork lead to entrepreneurial success.Most startups will go through several sales people before finding a fitMany suggest to hire slow and fire fastWe went through the same thing 3 years ago I had a sales executive and sales engineer team that was seasoned and on paper perfect for the job. Neither of them worked out. Fast forward to today and they have been replaced by much more junior sales people that share our passion for the business, and are willing to put in the hours to get it done, whether it’s the exciting work, or the dirty work of sales. And they are doing over twice as well as the previous team.So find sales people that share your passion and work ethic.
  • Sales is the lifeblood of any company, but particularly for a startupMost entrepreneurs remain the best sales person in their organization for a long timePassion, hardwork. Moreso than innovation, passion and hardwork lead to entrepreneurial success.Most startups will go through several sales people before finding a fitMany suggest to hire slow and fire fastWe went through the same thing, and what we’ve looked back at what’s made those work out and those who haven’t it’s that they share the entrepreneur’s passion for the business, and are willing to put in the hours to get it done, whether it’s the exciting work, or the dirty work of sales
  • So while in the long run, and for more mature companies, having the best product does not ensure success at all, when you are starting out, it’s all about product quality.When we started out and had little credibility, a superior product offering was really all we could offer to customersOur first customer was MARS, one of the largest private companies in the world.If you can promise the moon, sales is easy. But it has definitely been true that the market perception of what our solution can do has been as important to our success than what it actually does. That will bring customers in the door.However what keeps them is that the product actually lives up to the back of the box, and delivers a tremendous amount of value, with nothing comparable to it.Proud to say that Nulogy has the best software solution in the industry hands down
  • Every guideline for a business plan calls for some market research. The idea is that this is a necessary step to answer the 4 P’s of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion, Place, or the modern version, the 4 C’s: Cost, Consumer, Communication, Convenience.When you approach many financial partners, this is a required document. We found this very frustrating for many years.Two reasons for this:1) True market research is extremely expensiveWhen I worked at Microsoft, I was in the Strategic Planning group and we had access to the full suite of offerings from Gartner, Forrester, IDC, Frost & Sullivan, and many more. But a small company cannot afford this kind of research.2) As Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, and the illustrious Don Norman (VP at Apple, HP, faculty member at Harvard), both emphasize, true innovation will always lead the needs of the marketIf you are doing something really new, then by definition there will be no information available on what you are doing. So the more innovative you are, the less likely there will be any useful market research available to you => or it will be very expensive to get it, because you’ll probably have to do it yourselfWhat we did instead is to talk to as many customers and prospects as possible and build just the minimum amount of new product necessary to satisfy their most important needs, get it out there to get feedback, increment and do it again. This is called being Agile in software, but can apply to other industries as well. One of Nulogy’s value’s is Agility in Everything.So don’t waste time on market research, get out there and start testing things with real customers.
  • Who has ready Good to Great, Jim CollinsHire A players and the rest will sort itself outRetain A players, can be just as hardThey are highly motivated, could be doing something elsewhere, leading elsewhere, getting paid more elsewhereWon't feel challenged and will leaveMy advice on this Make sure you listen to them genuinely, but don’t be shy to give them 2 things:Clear constructive feedbackVision for how their career can grow at your companyEmployee example Spend as much time or more making sure you retain and develop your top talent as you do bringing them in
  • It’s sensible advice to make sure you get good lawyers and accountants up frontBut what makes a lawyer or accountant “good”We’ve found that we’ve had a lot more success with firms that share our entrepreneurial spiritDoesn’t have to be small, but it often will beWe started with a large Canadian law firm but found that the level of service Now boutique IP and CorporatePWC large, but special relationship through Vision To Reality programGreat benefit showing PWC logo on financials
  • For every entrepreneur there are a dozen critics.Because it’s much easier to tear an idea down than to build it upWe have a complex business: Market is unfamiliarBusiness model is newProduct is complexWhat I’ve realized though is that a lot of the critics aren’t really against you, they just don’t really understand what you are trying to doWhen I hear someone critique what we’re doing, rather than dismissing them or getting frustrated, the approach I take now is to figure out what they don’t get and educate themIf you want to get through to them, need to first educate them. Critics can become great supporters.For example, once had an investor who struggled for a while with the size of our market, thinking that it is too small to grow a successful businessHe looked at our market size, and made typical assumptions about where we would cap out at a market share percentageHowever we had intentionally focused ourselves on a very specific market which meant that we would be able to achieve a very large market share of this segmentThe result: theindividual is now an investor in Nulogy and a big proponent of our businessImage: two bar charts
  • However your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness because it opens blind spots, and leads you to tackle every problem the same waySo you need to find a team that complements you. Not just smarter than you. That’s great too. But want some people who are complementary as well.One of the reasons that we appealed to one of our institutional investors is because of the unusual leadership model where all the team leads are very complementary to each other, making for a very well rounded, and low-risk leadership teamWe’ve done a lot of psychology and communication exercises like Myers Briggs, and one that I recommend everyone do is the Johari Window because it will reveal the blind spots in your personalityOne thing which I’ve had to do is learn to shut off my brain in certain situations. I tend to be very logical and can “explain away” feelings that I have. This has come to bite me on certain hiring decisions when my gut felt like something was off and things turned out not to be a fit.Image: Johari Window
  • Famous book by Marshall Goldsmith called What Got You Here Won’t Get You ThereVery true perspective that to grow you need to be constantly evolving.But following this blindly can also lead you into trouble because while looking forward and not dwelling in the past is important, it’s a big mistake to forget about it entirelyAnother famous saying from Harvard professor George Santayana Agile practice called a Retrospective that is invaluable, every 2 weeksBut also any time we’ve had a major challenge, we’ll do a cross-team session, where no blame is laid, but talk about what was Good, Bad, PuzzlingHave monthly meetings called “townhalls” and do a retrospective for the whole company once a year in itSo to make sure you don’t repeat past mistakes, I recommend doing a “retrospective” after every major milestone in your company, whether good or bad
  • Work Life Balance:Parting note I want to start with a quote from the amazing Nelson Mandela who said that “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”That quote really sums up entrepreneurship in my opinionEvery time someone says that’ll never work, or something is impossible, an entrepreneur somewhere is toiling away at making the impossible possible.Successful entrepreneurs are invariably very hardworking, but one thing I’ve had to share some advice a few times before is that when you’re in an entrepreneurial environment, particularly in a leadership role, there is really no end to the work that you can be doing. There is always something that you could be doing that would move your business forward, whether it’s making one more call, or email, or spending one more hour perfecting a presentation or feature. While everyone has different limits, I think it’s really important that entrepreneurs think about what is sustainable for themselves and their employeesIt’s about finding away for everyone in the company to feel intrinsically motivated, not externally motivated by youParticularly true because most businesses are not successful overnight. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.One of the keys to success is that 4 executive founders of Nulogy still remain in the company and this balance has been really important for this- I personally do wedding photography as a hobby, and stay actively involved in a couple technology non-profits. So make sure you and your people find an outlet outside of work to keep some balance and sanity!
  • 10 Things About Starting a Company: What They Tell You & What They Don't Tell You

    1. 1. 10 Things about Starting a Company Kevin Wong Co-Founder, COO, Nulogy
    2. 2. Me
    3. 3. 10 Things about Starting a Company What they tell you & What they don’t tell you Kevin Wong Co-Founder, COO, Nulogy
    4. 4. 1. Innovation Think different. Little innovation is truly new.
    5. 5. 2. Sales Good sales people are hard to find. Find one that shares your passion and work ethic.
    6. 6. 3. Product The best product never wins. But to start, it’s all you have.
    7. 7. 4. Marketing Do your market research. You can’t afford real market research.
    8. 8. 5. Management Get the right people on the bus. Keeping them on the bus can be as hard as getting them on.
    9. 9. 6. Partners Get good lawyers and accountants. Pick partners that share your entrepreneurial spirit.
    10. 10. 7. Critics That’ll never work. I don’t really understand what you’re doing.
    11. 11. 8. Ego Startup investors are investing in YOU. Your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness.
    12. 12. 9. Growth What got you here, won’t get you there. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
    13. 13. 10. Life It always seems impossible until it’s done. The work is infinite. Know your limits.
    14. 14. Followup Me kevinw@nulogy.com @knwong Geoffrey Moore – Crossing the Chasm Don Norman – Emotional Design Jim Collins – Good to Great Marshall Goldsmith – What Got You Here..

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