3 myths about entrepreneurship everybody should know

More people are starting their own companies and there’s a meriad of reasons why they should. You’re your own boss, you have a great plan you want to see realised, you can spend 40 hours a week doing what you like and more. However, if I told you a large deal of people are starting their own “companies” because of the bad economy (they’re freelancing/ taking any assignment in order to get by) the idea of entrepreneurship quickly becomes less glamorous. Additionally, you won’t spend less time working on your company because you work from home; you’ll work more. You hardly have chance of better dividing your time between entrepreneurship and you family, because all your time will be devoted to your company.

This might be a bit blunt but there’s truth in these statements. Here are some things I’ve learnt from working with entrepreneurs day in and day out.

Entrepreneurs are those people you see at the Coffee2Go

If there’s one thing I’d immediately like to point out, entrepreneurs don’t spend hours and hours sipping coffee, typing away the hours in serenity and gazing outside. The only reasons the average entrepreneur would visit a coffee company is because he’s got nowhere else to take a client or because he’s having a breakdown and can’t see another revised cash flow prognosis.

Of course entrepreneurship is about realizing a vision that you’ve cooked up with your buddies at the bar, but the execution of your big dream won’t take place at the local coffee shop. It’ll most likely take place at your living room, a little corner of one of your investors’ offices or an incubator 2×2 M2 office where the rent is low, the internet barely existing and the coffee, well.. not as good as that of the coffee company.

It’s fun

They don’t call entrepreneurship a “financial and emotional” rollercoaster for nothing. Yes, it can be uplifting, thrilling, exciting, fun and adventurous, but make sure you take into account there will be quite some downfalls too. From partnerships not working out to your own friends and family downright rejecting your business dream. It’s tough to hang in there when you experience major drawbacks and the long-term rewards you were looking for are further postphoned.

On the positive side you’re building a legacy. It won’t be an Alexander-The-Great-legacy, but you’re building something larger than yourself, allowing you to develop yourself beyond whatever would’ve been possible without the challenges and ambitions you carved out. You’ll experience the freedom of making your own decisions. Don’t think you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Work weeks still start at Monday and you’ll still have to deal with angry customers, but how you deal with it is up to you. You can plan you own appointment, have a flexible schedule and decide in what direction the company is going. In the end, you decide what’s important, good or the right direction to take.

You thought it all out

Entrepreneurship is an adventure because you don’t know what’ll come up next. It’s like going on a trip around the world: you can ask friends for advice, buy dictionaries, get your tickets up front, arrange hotel and double check your to-do list with your family, but you’ll still run into the unexpected. Locals only speak a dialect, you didn’t need that first aid kit, your hostel is closed due to a gas leakage so now you’re being relocated to a Ritz. It’s extremely important to prepare well and recognize even the possibilities you don’t have a solution for. Just don’t expect that your preparation will get you through unscathed.

This means that your family has to support your entrepreneurial dreams 100%. It means being sensible about inviting friends as partners to the company, being sensible about working hours and holidays, and being realistic about money and alternatives if your company doesn’t work out or goes bankrupt.

In short, entrepreneurship is a very rewarding way of earning your money, but not always an easy one. You hardly have money in the beginning and the chances of failure are large. But if your environment has your back, you have well developed plan and a financial Plan B, starting your own company – even if you fail – will certainly leave you without any regrets!

Premier Mark Rutte start crowdfundingcampagne voor investeringsplatform Symbid

Goed nieuws voor crowdfundingplatform Symbid, waar ik werk als campagnemanager. Afgelopen zaterdag werd het European Centre for Entrepreneurship (Rotterdam), waar Symbid is gevestigd, geopend door premier Mark Rutte. Tegelijkertijd startte hij ook de crowdfundingcampagne voor aandelen-crowdfunder Symbid.

Premier Rutte zei bij het luiden van de gong waarmee de handel werd afgetrapt, initiatieven als Symbid te ondersteunen:

“Ik juich het van harte toe dat bedrijven voor hun financiering ook geld ophalen bij particulieren als versterking van het eigen vermogen. Het leidt tot grote betrokkenheid van kleine investeerders.”

Investeringsplatform Symbid financiert zichzelf

Waarom start je als crowdfundingplatform een campagne voor jezelf? In ons geval is het al langere tijd mogelijk om als investeerder Symbid-aandelen te kopen, maar dan wel alleen via de Amerikaanse beurs waar we sinds december 2014 genoteerd staan aan de OTCQB in New York (tickersymbool SBID).

Fantastisch spannende ontwikkelingen natuurlijk voor zo’n relatief klein bedrijf met zulke grote ambities. Vanuit onze vrienden, familie, kennissen, klanten, zakelijke partners en oud-ondernemers is er dan ook erg positief gereageerd en hebben we ontzettend vaak de vraag gekregen of zij niet ook konden investeren. Via de OTC notering is het echter alleen mogelijk om te investeren vanaf EUR 25.000; vaak een te hoog bedrag voor onze omgeving.

Daarom zijn we afgelopen zaterdag gestart met een crowdfundingcampagne waardoor iedereen kan investeren in Symbid Crowdfunding B.V. Het op te halen bedrag is EUR 200.000, waarvan op zaterdag zo’n EUR 130.000 werd opgehaald! Inmiddels staat de teller op 75% financiering.

Hoe bevalt dat nou, zo’n campagne?

Als campagnemanager bij Symbid zorg ik er met mijn collega’s normaal gesproken voor dat andermans campagnes worden gefinancierd. Het is natuurlijk ontzettend leuk om nu eens “voor jezelf” aan de slag te gaan en alle stappen te doorlopen die ondernemers doorlopen.

Het is heel goed om te merken dat eigenlijk alle informatie die je ondernemers meegeeft klopt. Van planning tot en met de pitch video en van het benaderen van het eigen netwerk tot en met het uploaden van heldere informatie. Zeker het idee dat je je pitch ontzettend goed moet voorbereiden (informatie en alle investeerders op voorhand klaarzetten) voordat je je campagne start is heel erg waar gebleken. Door een goede coördinatie van het Symbid-team en alle netwerken van de teamleden, plus het tijdig informeren van deze netwerken, schoot de teller “ineens” naar 65%.

Leermomentje? De hoeveelheid vragen die er komen van zowel het eigen netwerk als onbekende investeerders. Vragen over de website, betaalmethoden, juridische structuur, duur van de campagne, kosten, te verwachten dividend, inspraak en zeggenschap: alles komt voorbij. Tip voor degenen die zelf gaan crowdfunden: verzamel de eerste tien vragen die je ontvangt en formuleer hierop standaard antwoorden. Hiermee gaat het beantwoorden van deze vragen sneller en kun je investeerders beter te woord staan.

Meer weten?

Lees het volledige persbericht op Emerce, of bekijk de campagne op Symbid.com

Equity Crowdfunding: Is It Hype- Worthy?

Crowdfunding is hot, kick-starting not only our companies but entire economies. It is the go-to miracle measure to create ambassadors, marketing, money and products out of nowhere.

These expectations came into existence after major crowdfunding successes, like that of Pebble Watch. There are different types of crowdfunding however, and each type of crowdfunding benefits a specific type of company or a specific need within that company. Let’s look at the differences to get a grip on how crowdfunding can help your start-up!

Continue reading my article on CitizenTEKK

3 ways incubators and accelerators will help you kick off your business!

Founder of a startup or thinking about starting your own company? Then you’ll need all the help you can get, including that of accelerators and incubators! But what’s the difference and why should you want their help?

Accelerators vs. Incubator

Crudely put, accelerators are short term, incubators are long term. The latter are often part of a larger company or institution, such as a university. In the last five years the call for universities to valorise (make useful) the knowledge they produce has grown, and incubators are one way of doing that. In combination with an increased number of people that want to start their own company,the need for expertise about entrepreneurship has grown, too. Accelerators focus on speed and getting things done. Intensive coaching, clear deadlines, resources and a cut out, step-by-step program are what characterise these initiatives. Incubators are great for in-depth knowledge and testing.

Dutch entrepreneurs can check Gerben Derk’s article (“Startup incubators en accelerators wie zijn ze en wat moet je ermee?) for more information about the differences.

So why participate in one of these programs? To quickly and efficiently counter the pitfalls that all entrepreneurs will run into at some point during their exciting startup development: lack of time, lack of results and making unnecessary mistakes.

Lack of Time

True, signing up for a program will not literally create more time, but it does create the focus necessary to do more in less time. Seeing that most programs require you to sign up with not only a clear business plan but also a clear approach of what you’re going to accomplish the next months, it’s obivous that even only applying might get you started. Additionally, you don’t need to waste time on finding a cheap but sufficiently equipped office that’s also easy to reach, setting up your internet connection or arranging a coffee machine. Somewhere. Everything’s there and available at a low price.

Lack of Results

Startup dreams are great but in the end you want to see some results, even if it’s just to verify your hard work actually produces some kind of output. Additionally, if you have investors or partners, they’ll want to see some results too. For investors the incentive is clear: you’re using their money, to get them more money. But friends and family will also be very disappointed if your startup isn’t able to deliver your promises.

The fact that you work with coaches, a schedule, a well thought out plan, the fact that you have a larger network and access to more knowledge will make it much easier for you to produce something tangible. Entrepreneurship is about turning a vision into a result: you can’t do that  when you’re in a room on your own, 24/7.

Unnecessary mistakes

I know it’s very cool to say that you should make as many mistakes as possible, because it will miraculously turn your idea into a operating company. I disagree and so do you, seeing that it’s much better to avoid  wasting money, time and people’s patience as much as possible, and only make well calculated mistakes from which you learn.And there are a couple of things about mistakes that accelerators and incubators can help you with.

A lot of not-so-smart mistakes come from entrepreneurs who pride themselves with being opinionated and stubborn. Though it’s great to have an opinion on what you think should happen, it’s even better to double check it with an expert or a peer before spending the next three months finding out what you could’ve known on forehand. In my experience, it’s better to ask than to assume. And with a co-founder, coach, accelerator network, and a lot of other startups, it’s much easier to find a person who knows a person.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll make mistakes and you’ll make a lot of them that in hindsight were so obvious your beloved and blind-as-a-bat granny could’ve seen them coming. But if these mistakes are the result of you being stubborn or refusing to ask for help, you’re going to have a hard time setting up a company.

In short..

There are lots of entrepreneurs who make it without an accelerator or incubator. But if you’re clear on what you want but don’t know how to get it, participating in a program can be very beneficial. A good coach or program is like a personal trainer: it’s get you off your butt and in shape!

Considering crowdfunding? Burst the bubble first!

It could fund your project, boost our companies, create jobs and maybe even save our entire economy: crowdfunding. Advertised as the go-to digital cash machine if the bank doesn’t get you the money you need, crowdfunding is hard on its way to become a major hype. But is it right to push crowdfunding as the answer to your finance, marketing and user experience-needs? No. In fact, each type of crowdfunding has its own specific bubble to burst before you get started.

Donations – and reward-based crowdfunding

If you know what crowdfunding is, you’re sure to know about Kickstarter. Right now, Kickstarter is only available to U.S. and U.K. entrepreneurs but there are lots of alternative platforms where you can subscribe in order to pre-sell your product.

Consumers on the one hand experience the platform as one where they can either be an early adaptor where they are the first to purchase the product, or where they can choose not to receive anything in return for their financial contribution. In the latter case, they are a donator. For the entrepreneur it means that often the product has to be fully ready for production. Entrepreneurs that only have the idea but still need to get from initiation to first (prototype) production, might experience some difficulties as their campaign might not catch flight.

Peer-to-Peer lending

Lending is big. It’s easier for the consumer (lender) to understand. But it’s also suitable for the more experienced crowd that understands the risks of giving away money to a startup that might not be able to pay it back later. Often, the lender is confronted with different cases, each provided with their own “risk status” in order to give them at least some guidance and understanding of the risk they’re taking.

If you are considering peer-to-peer lending, it’s wise to follow what the banks’ policies are. Though they are often accused of being impersonal and “only looking at the numbers”, there is a reason why restrictions like Basel 3 have been developed. Additionally, banks have reason to amortize EUR 50K- loans: en masse. If you are one of the entrepreneurs that understands this but who is being disadvantaged due to regulations, then peer-to-peer lending could work for you. Remember that you’ll have to pay it back with interest, and sometimes you’ll be severally liable for the entire borrowed sum of money. Societyone in Australia is an example of this type of crowdfunding.

Equity-crowdfunding

Equity-crowdfunding is a tough subtype that demands some explanation. It’s not easy for the crowd to understand that valuation is key in this process and how they will benefit from this. Generally, as a shareholder, you’ll receive profit either by an increase of the value of the shares you’ve bought, or because you receive revenues or dividends. A combination of these profits is possible. This is about everything that the majority of the crowd is interested in. However, the larger the investor, the more likely he will inquire about your financial data, you as a person, the strategy you choose, etcetera. One example of a CAPS-accredited equity-crowdfunding platform is Symbid situated in The Netherlands.

For the entrepreneurs it’s good to know that the higher the investment, the higher the amount of involvement generally is. Also, the solvability of a startup is increased as funding via selling your company is considered as equity. In the past, this has also led official lenders such as banks to reconsider loan application. In fact, traditional institutions like banks, subsidy advisors or governmental bureaus, are more often referring entrepreneurs that they cannot help immediately to crowdfunding platforms. The message? If you can make it with crowdfunding, you can make it anywhere.

This article was posted earlier on Startupjuncture.com