INSIGHTS

cletusthankgod

MVP-Academy-Program-Insights

PRODUCT

DEVELOPMENT

& METRICS

THE STARTUP

FRAMEWORK

BUILDING VALUABLE

CONNECTIONS

CUSTOMER

DISCOVERY

& VALIDATION

STORYTELLING

& PITCHING

PROGRAM

INSIGHTS


Hello,

If you’re a tech startup founder, you’re working on a tech product with

global potential or you’re exploring your options to start a tech business,

this eBook might come in handy. It provides key insights from experienced

tech professionals that joined the first two editions of MVP Academy to

deliver hands-on workshops and help the startups in our batches build

better products and businesses.

“The alumni have

raised more than

1 million USD

in seed funding

to date.”

BOGDAN IORDACHE

PROGRAM DIRECTOR

MVP ACADEMY

To put things a bit into context: MVP Academy is an accelerator program

that helps tech entrepreneurs refine their products, bring them to market,

generate sales, and raise money. All these by offering product and business

consultancy, access to tailored educational resources and an

international network of 400+ mentors and 700+ startups, a funding

pipeline, recruitment opportunities and training.

The results of the program speak for themselves: 13 out of the 28 startups

accelerated so far have launched their products on the global market and

the alumni have raised more than 1 million USD in seed funding to date.

An important pillar of MVP Academy is know-how: startups have access

to educational resources adapted to fit their development needs and

attend dedicated workshops and case studies that help them acquire key

competences. Top-notch professionals in the tech industry join the

program to deliver these workshops and share best practices with our

startups.

If you did not make it to MVP Academy or you’re just looking to learn

more about how you can build a better product and business, this eBook

presents key insights from the workshops we’ve been organizing over

time. Inside it you will find:

Building a startup? Do it right!

The golden rules of customer development

Metrics, metrics: measure to optimize

Storytelling and pitching advice

DOs and DON’Ts for an effective networking strategy

We hope this information comes in useful! Let us know what you

think and, if you want to stay tuned to our latest updates, follow us on

our blog and Facebook page!

Enjoy your reading!


“In the beginning, all early stage tech

startups have the same type of problems and

face similar concerns”

BOBBY VOICU CO-FOUNDER, MavenHut

BUILDING A STARTUP? DO IT RIGHT: KEY INSIGHTS FROM BOBBY

VOICU, MAVENHUT CO-FOUNDER

One of the most successful and fastest growing startups in the region, MavenHut builds

social games with a classical flavor, their most well-known title being Solitaire Arena, a

multiplayer solitaire game with more than 10 million users. Bobby Voicu, one of its 3

Co-Founders, shared valuable insights on building a startup the right way with the tech

startups accelerated in MVP Academy.

“In the beginning, all early stage tech startups have the same type of problems and face

similar concerns”, as Bobby pointed out in the beginning of the discussion. That’s why it’s

important to listen and learn from the experience of those that did it right: MavenHut is definitely

a case study worth looking at.

For MavenHut, it all started out at How to Web Conference 2011, where Bobby met

Eoghan Jennings from Startup Bootcamp Dublin and was invited to join the accelerator

(check out the full story here). He joined the program with his 2 Co-Founders (Cristi

Badea and Elvis Apostol) with the idea of building a platform for real money gaming that

turned into what MavenHut is today: a social gaming company offering a better

gameplay and bringing social features into classical games.

The rest is history by now: they built great products with more than 20 million users worldwide,

they launched new titles (some of them successes, some others being ropped over

time), they won several industry awards, they raised money and they now have a 35 people

team working from their headquarters in Bucharest. More important than this though, they

had an eye opening experience and they’ve learnt lots of valuable things along the way.

If you’re building a startup and you’d like to do it right, here you find some best practices

shared by Bobby.


FIND THE RIGHT CO-FOUNDERS

Having the right team is what makes or breaks your startup further on, so it’s important to

choose wisely your Co-Founders. Bobby met Elvis and Cristi one year before starting Maven-

Hut: they had a small studio making games for hire, and Bobby was their client. They had a

great history of collaboration and complementary skills, so Bobby brought them together

when he was invited to join Startup Bootcamp Dublin, being confident that things would sort

out well in this formula. And they did!

“I think that one of the most important things we did in the beginning was that we decided to

have equal parts in the business, no matter the initial investment any of us brought. By doing so,

no one could ever have the impression that he’s working for the others and we avoided possible

misunderstandings. Besides this, we agreed from the very beginning that we’ll be fully committed

and nobody will get involved in other projects besides MavenHut”, said Bobby.

DEFINE WHAT SUCCESS AND FAILURE MEANS

Communication with your Co-Founders is key, so it’s important to make sure you have the same

understanding of concepts. One of the main points here is to discuss at length with your

Co-Founders and get to an agreement on how you define both success and failure for your

startup. This will help you avoid unnecessary discussions later on. It’s also important to set a

Co-Founders’ Agreement straight from the very beginning and define the vesting procedures

to be applied in case you loose some people along the way (this may be a gentlemen’s agreement

in the beginning and you should formalize it when you raise money later on).

SET A CLEAR-CUT DEADLINE

“It may seem counterintuitive since you’re building a product to make it work, but the second

thing we did was to set a clear-cut deadline for closing the company. We took into consideration

that the gaming business is cash hungry and we decided to close the company on December

31st 2012 if we didn’t manage to raise money up to that point. This comes along with a different

mindset and it gives you a lot of focus since you can’t afford to wait. Without an investment, we

couldn’t have grown as we wished for, so we were committed to closing the company irrespective

of the results we obtained – no money meant the results were not good enough for the

market we were operating in”, remembers Bobby.

VALIDATE YOUR PRODUCT WITH THE MARKET

One other thing you should do right away is test your idea and validate the product with the

market. MavenHut did so with a landing page and less than 200 USD, all these in order to

understand whether users are potentially interested in playing solitaire online with

their friends. Here’s a blog post describing how they did it!

And don’t fall into the trap of believing that many users are always great! This can turn into a

problem sometimes, and the guys from MavenHut experienced that when their server crashed

5 times in 3 days. And when talking about users, pay attention when onboarding them and

work on a business model that scales in terms of user acquisition – you must have a clear go to

market strategy and know the sources that will bring you users and how much each additional

user will cost you.


NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK

“As an early stage tech startup, you have two objectives when networking: to identify financing

opportunities and to further develop your company. Bear them in mind and remember that

most of the people will meet with you if you know how to talk with them. And always look for

warm entries: getting intros are a sign of your hustling capacity and investors always appreciate

this”, said Bobby.

You will invest lots of your time and energy in talking with people, and most of it will just be

wasted, so make sure you get the most out of each meeting. In order to do so, Bobby advises

to always ask two questions:

1. Can you introduce me to somebody that is potentially interested in what I do? You

may be surprised, but most people will be happy to make further introductions. “For

example, I met investors that told me they are not interested in gaming, but got me introduced

to other investors that were”

2. How would you improve my presentation? It’s important to understand what is not

clear for the people you’re talking to and what they did not understand, because this

helps you perfect your pitch, which brings us on to the following point in this story.

PERFECT YOUR PITCH

Your pitch has to tell a story, and in order to get to the finest version of this story you have to

pitch each and every person you meet (and it’s not only about the money). If you’re curious

to see how a great pitch looks like, check out the MavenHut pitch from Demo Day at Startup

Bootcamp Dublin.

“In our case, Cristi was focused on building a great product, while I was working on the story.

And if you don’t have to talk with everybody about your product because they don’t understand,

it’s useful to tell your story to as many people as possible. I was always testing this with my

mother: if she was not getting what I was telling her, I still had to work on it. And your story gets

better with every single person you pitch”, explained Bobby.

RAISING MONEY IS A FULL TIME JOB

It took Bobby Voicu 100+ meetings and 6 months to raise money: raising money is a lengthy

process and the best thing to do here is to have a Co-Founder that’s completely dedicated to

this. And he should understand that he’s not asking for money, but offering an opportunity: an

investor will only give you money if he sees that opportunity, so you’d better know how to present

it to him.

Investors love hard numbers and demographic data, because they sometimes have limited

knowledge in your industry, and these numbers will help them see patterns they are more

familiar with. Choose the right numbers to discuss and make sure you understand them: generally

investors are interested in your retention and virality KPIs – make them count! Last but not

least, the numbers are only important as long as they tell a story, so take one more look at the

pitching section and work for telling one hell of a story to make sure you catch the attention.


BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR INVESTOR BASED ON TRUST

“I learnt that we need to communicate constantly and that you can say “I have no idea what I’m

supposed to do here” without meaning that you’re no longer getting the investment or that

you’re a bad entrepreneur. And Bill Liao, the partner we work with at SOS Ventures, really put

in the effort”, said Bobby.

GET THE MOST OUT OF THE PROGRAMS YOU ATTEND

You’ll be spending lots of time attending conferences, events or programs that are designed to

help you, so it’s important to do your homework and be prepared in order to get the most out

of them.

“You’re now attending a pre-acceleration program, and here there are people that want you to

succeed and are interested in helping you out. Make them work, ask what you need, build connections!”,

advised Bobby the MVP Academy Class of 2015.

HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Last but not least, and you’ll definitely get there if you’re doing it right, it’s important to hire the

right people and bring the relevant persons on board.

“At MavenHut, we hire for attitude and we do this efficiently. The more people you hire, the more

complex problems arise. This is why we prefer to work with third parties whenever we don’t need

to hire a dedicated person.” told Bobby.

Building a startup the right way it’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s definitely a rewarding journey:

you’ll learn lots of valuable stuff along the way, most of them the hard way. However, as

Bobby pointed out, you should understand that your opportunities are not limited to the product

you’re building right now.

“What’s the worst that can happen? You’re very good at what you do, you get an intense

learning experience and you build lots of connections, so if you fail you’ll find a job in no

time. And it’s very interesting because, as opposed to football, in entrepreneurship you only

need to succeed once. Until that point, you just have to try, learn continuously and get the

most out of the experience!”, concluded Bobby.

CASE STUDY WITH

BOBY VOICU

CO-FOUNDER

MAVEN HUT


“Just try to design your business around

customer behavior, not intention, since the first

is measurable or recallable.”

SALIM VIRANI FOUNDER OF DECISION HACKS

THE GOLDEN RULES OF CUSTOMER DEVELOPMENT

There are several reasons why startups fail, but for sure the one that customers don’t care is not

among them. Instead, as harsh as it may sound, is that you don’t!

So you’d better work out what matters to your customers instead of complaining about them!

Customer development comes to the rescue here, as Salim Virani, Founder of Decision Hacks

and Founder Centric, explained.

Serial entrepreneur, Salim has started Founder Centric, Leancamp and 5 other tech startups,

his early successes ironically funding his later failures. He’s worked with a bunch of startup

thought leaders, designed education programs for Europe’s top accelerators and universities

such as UCL and Oxford.

So what’s customer development all about?

Customer Development is a four-step framework used for:

Customer Discovery: Discovering and validating the right market for your idea

Customer Validation: Building the right product features that solve customers’ needs

Customer Creation: Testing the correct model and tactics for acquiring and converting

customers

Company Building: Deploying the right organization and resources to scale the

business

Steve Blank, Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and reputed academician, now lecturing at

prestigious US universities such as Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, or Caltech, among many

others, developed the methodology that is known to have put the basis for the Lean Startup

movement. For more information on the entire process check out some of Steve’s explanatory

talks, as well as the Customer Development Manifesto, a series of blog posts he’s published on

the topic.

THE STARTUP DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

When talking about Customer Development, the biggest challenge for your early stage tech

startups is to do the customer discovery and validation right in order to help you get through

the three consecutive stages towards a successful business:

Problem – Solution Fit: Finding the problem that is important for your customers, as well

as the best solution for it

Product – Market Fit: Turning your solution into a product in accordance with the market

you find fit for it

Business Model Fit: Choosing the business model that will turn your product into a

viable business


And of course the key to doing it right stands in communication: talk to your customers, understand

their needs & wants and make product decisions in accordance to the results you find in

this process. Unfortunately, this is easier said then done, and this is why Salim joined us to offer

valuable advice and share some of the golden rules of customer development with the MVP

Academy Class of 2015. So here are a couple of things to bear in mind if you want to do sort

things out properly.

LISTEN AND RESPECT THE POINT OF VIEW OF YOUR CUSTOMERS

Customer development isn’t sales! You don’t have to pitch your product, explain why it is great

and how it will solve all the problems in the world. Instead, listen to what your customers have

to say and be flexible in meeting their needs.

“When talking to customers, learn and respect their point of view, listen to the specific words

they use and pay attention – that might help you build a better product to solve their problem,

find a better angle for your pitch, or a better explanation of the true problem your product is

solving for them”, advised Salim Virani.

UNDERSTAND FIRST, VERIFY LATER

You’ve probably heard before the saying that “assumption is the mother of all failures”! Oh

well, it is and it’s important to verify all your assumptions with your potential customers. Before

making assumptions, however, you’d better understand your customers.

“Especially in pre-product interviews, it’s important to ask questions that allow you to UNDER-

STAND your customers’ behavior, instead of looking to verify specific assumptions. This will

give you better chances to find the best solution for the problem, and find the true and most

painful problem of your customers”, said Salim.

USE THE MOM TEST

How much of what you believe about your customers is wrong? Generally, pretty much, and

we’ve got some more bad news here: people are going to tell you what you want to hear,

especially if you want to hear it. This is why you have to shape the conversation such that you

ask questions so good, that even your mom will not be able to lie to you.

So what should you ask your customers about in order to pass the mom test?

Ask about the past – because nobody can predict the future. “How much did you pay to

solve this problem before” instead of “How much would you pay for x”

Ask about facts – because opinions do change. “How did you solve this problem?”

instead of “How would you solve this?”

Ask about specifics – because generalities hide the truth

And finally, remember that the burden of truth is on the observer so it’s up to you to get the

information straight. We recommend you to check out The Mom Test, a book written by Rob

Fitzpatrick, if you want to learn more on the topic.

AVOID TALKING ABOUT YOUR PRODUCT

This is extremely useful, especially in the early interview. Pre-product conversations are very

valuable, so try to postpone talking about the product for as much as you can. If potential customers

are genuinely curious, you can attempt to turn them into beta testers later in the process.


LISTEN TO THE SIGNALS

Conversation is a skill, rather than a process, and you’ll become better at it as time goes

by. Listen to the signals your customers give you in order to identify potential opportunities

and always pay attention to:

The obstacles they talk about. Problems and frictions indicate areas where you can be

of help.

Their goals. These tell you where you fit into the bigger picture of their life.

Their actions. These give you a sense of whether they care enough to do something

and, if they do, what their options are

When identifying these signals, use anchor questions to go into specifics and get them to talk

more about it. These are questions and remarks such as “Interesting… tell me more about that”

or “Can you help me better understand?”

MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS WITH YOUR TEAM

The trick to making decisions as a team is to share insights and decide together. You should

talk about things, build common knowledge, and discuss what’s not clear. This will not only

help you make informed and assumed decisions, but it might also bring some extra questions

that need to get answered in your next interviews.

“If you have multiple people running customer interviews, or if you have one person running

interviews that needs to be in sync with the team staying in the office, you should gather all

the meeting notes, put them on a table, ask everyone to read through, and point to the things

they don’t understand”, recommends Salim.

USE THE PRODUCT / MARKET PRISM

And this is where Decision Hack, the guide Salim is working on, comes into play, helping

you dislodge tough decisions & get your momentum back. What’s it all about? Oh well, you

have to remember that your customers always have options available, so you’d better look

at the following 6 things when making your product decisions:

Time: when do they need your product

Money: how much money are they able to spend for it

Different buying triggers: when do they generally buy stuff

Context: the setting where they generally decide to buy stuff

The general standards they look for in a product

General measurements they take into account

“In the end, you don’t get to tell your customers what their needs are, but they don’t get to

tell you what your product is. Just try to design your business around customer behavior, not

intention, since the first is measurable or recallable. And remember that if you’re in the mindset

of a learner trying to understand the customer, you’re doing great!”, concluded Salim.


“You can optimize your user experience at

every level of your funnel, so it’s very important

to clearly define it. ”

BOGDAN RIPA

DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT, VECTOR WATCH

METRICS, METRICS: MEASURE TO OPTIMIZE

You can only manage what you can measure. You’ve probably heard this old saying before, and

it is widely applicable when it comes to product management. You need to choose the right

metrics to look at and have a good understanding of them in order to be able to optimize every

single stage of your product development process. Bogdan Ripa shared his experience on the

matter in a workshop he delivered during MVP Academy.

Entrepreneur at heart, Bogdan has Co-Founded his first startup when he was only 21 years

old. He started by doing outsourcing work (consultancy for websites, web apps, ERP systems,

analytics tools), but he got bored by doing repetitive things and decided to make a shift and

start building his own products. 6 years later, the company he Co-Founded was bought by

Adobe Romania, where he worked in engineering and product management, until last month,

when he decided to return in the startup environment. It’s then when he decided to join

Vector Watch, one of the most promising romanian startups, as Director of Product.

Bogdan is an experienced product manager that enjoys creating products to help people

deliver excellent online experiences for their customers.

But let’s get to the point! You’ve got an MVP and you’re committed to turn it into a full-blown

product, scale and go big. You’ve probably already started collecting lots of qualitative and

quantitative data, but the real question here is what do you actually do with it and how can you

leverage it to guide your product development and optimize your processes. So where do you

start?

FIRST STEPS FIRST: DEFINE YOUR CONVERSION FUNNEL

The first thing to do, before actually choosing the metrics to look at, is to carefully define your

conversion funnel (that is the stages your users pass through, from the first interaction they

have with your product to the moment when they actually purchase and turn into your customers).

The difficult part here is that there is no generally applicable model of conversion funnel

and you have to understand your users’ journey to define the funnel that’s adequate for you

(a couple of in-depth examples are provided in the SlideShare presentation that Bogdan

kindly shared with us).

“You can optimize your user experience at every level of your funnel, so it’s very important to

clearly define it. However, limit the number of levels you include, otherwise it will be very

hard to measure and optimize every single level”, recommends Bogdan.


CHOOSE YOUR METRICS

Once you’ve got your conversion funnel straight, you should proceed to choosing the right

metrics to analyze. Closely monitoring these metrics will help you optimize your product development

process based on the information provided by data.

Here are a couple of metrics you should take into consideration when making product decisions:

Monthly Active Users (MAU): number of users that are actively using your product over

a period of one month (you can also take a look at DAU – daily active users, WAU –

weekly active users, or YAU – yearly active users)

Churn rate: the percentage of customers that you lose over a specified period of time

Retention rate: this is the opposite of churn, reflecting the number of users that you

keep over a specified period of time

Average lifetime of a customer: the average period of time that a customer keeps

using your product / being active in your application

Net promoter score (NPS): indicator that measures customer satisfaction and the likeli

hood that your users will recommend your product to others

Virality factor: number of free users that starts using your product for one paid user. A

virality factor higher than 1 will show exponential growth and will help you get the

graphs investors want to see

Customer acquisition cost (CAC): how much does it cost to bring on board one more

user

Average Revenue per User (ARPU): how much revenue every user brings you

For more information on how can you compute and interpret these indicators, check out

Bogdan’s presentation (also embedded at the end of this post). And bear in mind that

besides all these metrics, there are several other industry-specific indicators that you should

consider in order to understand where you’re standing right now and how can you constantly

improve your product and user experience.

UNDERSTAND THE DATA

Measuring the right indicators is not enough! You should have an in-depth understanding of

their actual meaning and you should constantly test and analyze the results for being able to

constantly optimize your processes. You can do so by using:


Landing pages: standalone pages that you design for a specific purpose (in this case

for testing & validating your assumptions) with the main goal of generating leads that

you’ll further push through your conversion funnel

Cohort analysis: analyzing the user behavior of different cohorts (clusters of users

computed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, generally situated in the upper part of

your funnel - the ones that have just had your first interaction with your product)

A/B Testing: comparing two different versions of the same feature in order to

understand which one performs better for your target market

Test, test, test and constantly analyze the results to get an in-depth understanding of how you

can better solve the problems of your users.

WHAT TOOLS TO USE?

There are several tools you can use to help you out along this process, starting from the very

basic Microsoft Excel, that you are already familiar with us, and going up to several

automated ones such as Google Analytics, MixPanel, KissMetrics or LaunchRock, to name just

a few. Check out Bogdan’s presentation for a more comprehensive comparison between the

tools that you have at your disposal.

“The tools you use for analytics are your personal choice. However, remember that their complexity

has to evolve, as your understanding of the product grows”, recommends Bogdan.

Choosing the right metrics to analyze and understanding them to further optimize your product

are not easy tasks for early stage entrepreneurs. Talking with experienced mentors and

product guys can help you go smoother through the process, and we’re happy that Bogdan

joined us and helped us shed some light on how startups should approach metrics & product

development.

Interested in finding out more on the topic? Here are some insightful articles that you should

take a look at:

Using data to guide product development – advice from Mat Clayton, Co-Founder &

CTO of Mixcloud

3 rules to actionable metrics in a lean startup – an article of Ash Maurya, the author

and founder of “Running Lean”

Vanity Metrics vs. Actionable Metrics – a blog post of Eric Ries, the author of “The Lean

Startup”, recognized for pioneering the lean startup movement


“In order to stand out, your pitch should tell a

story. Storytelling requires time and expertise

and it isn’t a cosmetic thing your marketing

department can throw in the mix.”

ALEX BARRERA

CO-FOUNDER OF TECH.EU

STORYTELLING & PITCHING ADVICE

A great pitch is the business card that will help your startup open doors and convince potential

clients, investors, media and strategic partners. And it’s no easy task to master your pitch to the

finest detail and shape it to tell the right story: this is the subject Alex Barrera, Co-Founder of

Tech.eu, discussed at length with the startup accelerated in MVP Academy.

For the past 5 years, Alex has been running startups and helping others develop their businesses,

while being one of the most active members and connectors in the European startup

ecosystem. He currently mentors startups in more than 12 accelerator programs worldwide

and has a wide experience in teaching them how to master their pitch and tell a great story.

MASTER YOUR PITCH

As a startup, you’ll always be competing for the attention of the audience! And you don’t want

to get them bored, don’t you? Then try to prepare a 5 to 10 minutes pitch that is engaging and

avoid using too many numbers and technical data. This leads you to Death by PowerPoint, the

main reason why people don’t do well in Demo Days.

“Your startup pitch should be exempt of any technical term that your grandma wouldn’t understand”,

advised Alex Barrera.

Using the 10 – 20 – 30 Kawasaki rule may help you out when preparing your pitch and it goes

as simple as that:

Don’t use more than 10 slides in your pitch deck

20 min is the maximum amount of time you can use for presenting those 10 slides

Don’t use fonts smaller than 30 points on your slides


It’s also important to be very observant with the audience and understand what they’re looking

for in a presentation. This is how you catch their attention and the very reason why you should

customize your deck according to the needs of the people you’re pitching. And here are the

three decks that you should prepare for each relevant category of audience:

The Investors Deck: this one should be an executive summary. Include more words,

print it out and put a date to it.

The Media Deck: cut out those financial slides and focus instead on the solution – prob

lem. Make sure you present how big the problem is, how much it hurts, your traction

and your potential users (comparisons with well-known figures always help here)

The Customers Deck: emphasize here how well you understand their problem and

present how the solution you propose translates into direct benefits (savings of time,

money, and pain). Illustrate with a customer story and give real examples and quotes to

support you

HOW SHOULD YOUR PITCH DECK LOOK LIKE?

If in doubt, there is one structure of the pitch deck that you can use to make sure you include

all the relevant information and cut out all the bullshit. And here it is:

1. Problem

2. Solution

3. Market

4. Competitors

5. Technology

6. Business Model

7. Marketing & Sales

8. Team

9. Milestones & projections

10. Call to action

You’ve got to be remarkable when pitching, so make sure you communicate things

clearly, always emphasizing why you’re doing what you do. Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on how

great leaders inspire action may be of help here, so take a quick look at it. And don’t forget

the ice cream theory: the secret is in the toppings, so make sure you add the right ones to

your pitch!


YOUR PITCH SHOULD TELL A STORY

“In order to stand out, your pitch should tell a story. Storytelling requires time and expertise

and it isn’t a cosmetic thing your marketing department can throw in the mix. Find the storyteller

in your startup, match him with your writer and put them to work on YOUR story”, said Alex.

And before you start, there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself:

Who is your protagonist (your persona)?

What’s your cast?

What are the values at play?

Where is the conflict?

Who are your antagonists (competition)?

What are your beats? (competitive advantages)

The more knowledge you have, the better the story will be in the end. Then start connecting

the dots and putting everything together and get out there, share your story! “Don’t wait until

you have everything ready! You should dry run your story as soon as possible and get feedback.

Tell it to your friends, family, customers. See how people react, learn what works and

what doesn’t and ask why”, explained Alex.

Last but not least, don’t forget to keep it short and simple! Say what you have to say with as few

words as possible and always make sure you know who your audience is and adjust the story

accordingly.

“There are three magical ingredients that each story has to contain: a beginning, a middle, and

an end. And as counterintuitive as it may sound, most stories fail because they don’t include

these”, concluded Alex.

If you’re looking to learn more about storytelling and pitching, there are a couple of blog

stories written by Alex that you may want to check out:

5 common storytelling mistakes

Storytelling, what story should I tell – part I

Storytelling, what story should I tell – part II

9 tips to deliver better pitches

The three stages of a startup pitch


“Go to networking events. Learn.

Make mistakes and try to pick up new skills. ”

PAUL RENAUD EXECUTIVE COACH

DOS AND DON’TS FOR AN EFFECTIVE NETWORKING STRATEGY

The most important asset of an entrepreneur is his agenda, and reaching to the right contact at

the right time, using the right approach, can help you attain your professional (and

personal) goals faster and easier. Paul Renaud, Executive Coach, discussed at length

about effective networking and how to build valuable connections with people that matter.

Having more than 31 years of professional experience (15 of them as an executive spanning 10

countries), Paul is a qualified executive coach for any management level and he is specialized

in optimizing performance. His “can-do” attitude is contagious, and he shared with us some

valuable insights, outlining how we can use networking to make a difference in everything we

do.

There’s been a lot of attention on the importance of networking lately, so let’s start by discussing

what’s it all about. According to the Business Dictionary, networking means creating a

group of associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.

And the underlined words in the definition are not there by mistake!

Instead, they emphasize some of the core elements of effective networking: keeping your contacts

active by constantly interacting with them, as well as understanding that you have to think

what you have to offer before actually considering “what’s in it for you” (the mutual benefit

part).

And this is not all. Networking is an experiential process that can be used irrespective of whether

you’d like to develop your customer base, increase your sales, receive honest advice or

simply meet new people. And there are a couple of DOs and DON’Ts that you should consider

if you want to become a master of networking and use this process to your advantage.

DOS

ADDRESS NETWORKING WITH THE LAW OF ABUNDANCE

The law of abundance is the belief that resources are unlimited and by sharing success with

others, a win-win situation is created. This fundamentally contrasts with the scarcity mindset,

founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you

either loose, or it’s a zero-sum game. Individuals having an abundance mindset are better

networkers since they share their contacts, their ideas, and their time, while rejecting the notion

of a zero-sum game and being able to celebrate the success of others, rather than feeling

threatened by it.


“The Law of Abundance is fundamental in networking because if you understand this law,

believe in it, and start sharing your network, you will receive in ’droves’. It goes something like

this: The world has tremendous abundance. The world is abundant with opportunity, abundant

with clients, abundant with ideas and abundant with good fortune. Networking in line with the

law of abundance mindset has proven time and time again that the more you share with people,

the more you get in return.”, believes Paul.

THE MORE, THE MERRIER

It’s true that sometimes less is more, but not when it comes to networking. Here everybody you

know is a contact and the more contacts you have, the more you learn on a variety of topics and

the wiser you get. First thing to do is to be aware of the networks you have at your disposal: fun

networks (friends, family, service clubs), work networks (both intra- and extra-organizational,

professional organizations, business associations), and play networks (such as social media).

Then try to leverage them by getting to know as many people as possible.

“Every time I meet a new person, I learn something new. This is why I push myself to meet a new

person every day”, says Paul.

EMBRACE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

In the end, it’s your attitude that makes the difference, regardless if you are just starting to

understand what networking is all about, or you feel that you are pretty comfortable with the

concept.

“If you equate networking to something that is boring, manipulative, self-serving, too difficult

and fake, that is what you will end up with. People who like to self-admit that they are not good

at networking have already created their own constraints, their own limits. In fact, the reverse is

true. Anybody can be an effective networker if you follow the right path and embrace the right

attitude. Your attitude will dictate how effective you become as a networker”, recommends Paul.

DON’TS

Once you get these things straight, be aware that there are also several mistakes that you are

prone to make while networking.

DON’T NETWORK ONLY TO GET SOMETHING IN RETURN

One common misbelief is that networking is only about “what’s in it for you”. Leave this mindset

behind, and think first and foremost at what you have to offer and how you can help the person

you’re meeting with. By doing so, you’ll turn into a reliable contact and build a sustainable,

long-term relationship with the persons you meet. Afterwards, just ask for help whenever

needed.

“Don’t approach clients to sell, but rather try a different approach: ask people for their advice.

Networking is basically asking someone for an insight, help, a suggestion or ultimately a contact.

In order to get to that point however, you gotta ask! Don’t give it a second thought. Anybody

who looks down on you for asking for help, advice or a contact name doesn’t deserve to

be in your network in the first place – take their shortsightedness as it is and just move on!”,

recommends Paul.


DON’T TRY TO GET RESULTS OVERNIGHT

Mainly because you won’t and you’ll end up being disappointed and you’ll get caught in the

fallacy of thinking that networking is useless. Remember that networking is not about selling,

but about developing rapport with people. This is why it’s important to get to know them first

and show a genuine interest in who they are as a person, before you start selling something or

talking business.

DON’T RUSH

“Give it time. Networking benefits become obvious only after many months of meeting people

and building connections effectively, which is my easy to remember definition of networking.

You will not see benefits after a few days and you have to be patient”, said Paul.

What’s next? Set your networking objectives straight, prepare your ice-breaker and just start

doing it! It may seem awkward in the beginning, but you’ll get comfortable as time goes by and

you’ll end up being a natural. And don’t forget to listen: the less you speak, the more you’ll

learn about that person and making then feel they are the most important person in the

world will help you out on the long run. Last but not least, don’t forget to always ask the

WDYK question (Who do you know) whenever you need to contact someone that might be out

of your reach.

“Even if you don’t have many contacts (like I did when I first arrived in Romania), you have to

start somewhere. Go to networking events. Learn. Make mistakes and try to pick up new skills.

Nothing in business is more important than to seek and develop meaningful long standing

relationships with people, be it staff, partners or shareholders. Everything in the world we

want to do or get done, we must do with and through people - I wish I had learned this

earlier in my career. Why not embrace networking as a way to get you to the next level?

And don’t forget that the mentors are here to help you!”, advised Paul Renaud the MVP

Academy Class of 2015 at the end of the workshop.

Looking to find more valuable information on how to become a great networker? Then you

should definitely read Paul Renaud’s “A Networking Book”, a book of action that outlines

the basic truths and effective networking rules that you can apply to your personal advantage.

We’ve read it, we’ve liked it and we definitely recommend it further.


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