What we learn from visiting startup hubs around the world
    This plane is going to Lisbon, the Pilot says out loud in the cabin. On the plane sits among others 25 entrepreneurial peeps from Vertical Strategy - on our way to Lisbon, one of Europe’s fastest-growing startup hubs to get inspired by the entrepreneurial vibe. Last year in Tel Aviv we were surprised to learn how the military background of many successful startups was paramount to their success. Startups are working in new ways, that we know, but how important culture, trust, and mindset is when creating a startup environment was inspiring to see in its utmost form – something that large corporations must find ways to copy if they want to move from “implementing agile processes” to “creating sustainable innovation capabilities”. I’m sitting on the plane going to Lisbon, Portugal looking at the 25 young and excited people from Vertical Strategy. We are all passionate entrepreneurs but also ambitious business consultants. We help corporates infuse the DNA of a startup to accelerate growth and find the next big business opportunity. This year we are taking the entire company to Lisbon to get a better understanding of one of Europe’s fastest-growing startup and tech scenes. In our daily work, we mix the soul of a startup with the muscle of a corporate in our quest to help large organizations become more innovative and embrace new (digital) business models. But what is it that makes startups so special? What is it that makes them strive in this fast-changing business environment? We know already from our previous research and thousands of hours spent with startups and corporates over the past 6 years that some of the things that characterize fast-growing startups, is their continuous focus on customer insights, their rapid preto-typing and testing ideas with a live audience and their ability to work in short sprints with agile decision making. So obviously a large part of the secret sauce is a new and agile process to innovation and business development. One that many corporates are learning from and adapting these days. And with good reasons. In our work with large companies like Mærsk, Danske Bank, Grundfos, Novozymes, Lowrance, Airbus, Virgin, and others we have seen how new ways of working can accelerate the speed and novelty of getting new and successful innovation to market. Last year our annual inspirational trip went to Tel Aviv in Israel Here we met a series of startups and corporate startups incl. Coca Cola Bridge, Citi Bank innovation, Google labs, University of entrepreneurship and a series of startups. Israel has become one of the major tech and innovation hubs in Europe. But why is that? During our visits to these interesting companies – large as well as small – we had an interesting learning that went beyond what is covered in the textbooks of rapid growth and innovation. Being a country in constant war brings a lot of uncertainty into peoples lives. For that reason, the perception of risk changes, and then so does the fear of failing. One of the most important characteristics of young entrepreneurs is their ability to take calculated risks without being afraid of failing and to have a structured process in place where their “mistakes” turn into valuable learnings and therefore leads to fast pivots. A cultural element where many corporates fail. Worst of all are those corporate cultures where people cover up their mistakes (or learnings as I like to call them) to not get personal disrespect from leaders and colleagues. And rather than pivoting to a new and better direction, the mistakes are amplified in a long game of continuously covering up until finally one day 4 years later the innovation is launched unsuccessfully and then forgotten about or blamed on someone else The interesting learning from Tel Aviv was that many startups were formed out of people who had worked together in the military. In Israel, everyone has to spend several years in the military – both men and women. As people in the military has to build very strong trust in each other these small formations can go into the business space knowing that they would have each other’s back. A strength that has turned out paramount for building a strong and agile learning culture where failures are turned into valuable learnings which are then used to create great pivots or new opportunities and eventually leading to successful companies. So one questions that have been on my mind for a long time is: How can we build cultures of small formations with large trust in each other and enough freedom to act within the mandate they have? At Vertical Strategy we try to live by these principles. Setting up small teams of cross-functional competencies that would normally find it hard to work together and then infuse a culture build on trust and openness. In this way, we have been able to build small flexible squads of strategists, entrepreneurs, customer researchers and concept designers to approach difficult and complex strategic growth challenges for large corporates by applying a wide set of lenses to allow for creative yet structured problem-solving. Hence we have in principle build small startup tribes that can take on corporate challenges and co-create with the internal teams of the companies we work with, to create an entrepreneurial process, mindset and DNA. This year, as I started out, we are going to Lisbon. To visit what is currently one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial hubs in Europe. I’m overly excited to see what we will learn from this endeavor and how that will change our approach to corporate incubation, accelerated growth and radical innovation in the future. Follow our LinkedIn channel for more information - we'll be posting a lot of about our experiences in the next couple of days!
  • Startup Factory
    Visit to Fabrica de Startups - Lisbon Vertication 2018
    Lisbon is quickly growing as a startup hub – in part driven by low cost of highly educated labor and a comfortable lifestyle. To support the ecosystem, a range of public and private institutions have sprung up. Among these is Fabrica de Startups, a for-profit organization focussing on connecting ideas, start-ups, corporates and team members. We visited Fabrica de Startups as part of our Lisbon round trip to get an insight into what makes the vibrant startup environment in Lisbon tick. What makes Fabrica de Startups different is their idea driven business model and close ties to corporate partners. Not only were we inspired by their business model and ability to bridge the startup-corporate gap, they also cemented our own ideas about how to set the team and how startup-corporate collaboration off-site create value. What makes a successful startup different, or rather, how do you guarantee success for a new business? Venture capitalists will tell you a young investment is all about the team. With the right team, you can change the world. In turn, this, of course, begs the question: What makes a good team? After having run accelerator programmes and facilitated startup-corporate partnerships for years, the key differentiating factor Fabrica de Startups flagged was the team. Any startup aspiring to achieve greatness should have: The Hacker – this the commercially focused role, who brings growth and validation to the business model The Designer – the person on the team that makes the solution truly usable by ensuring the end-user can leverage the solution fully The Hustler – the techie on the team that builds the actual product and makes everything work So you have the right team, but where do we go from here? How do we choose the right idea and how can we accelerate? In the experience of Fabrica de Startups, akin to our own adaption of the SPRINT methodology, the ideas need to be rapidly tested with end-users and iterated on. The mantra to follow during the first months is “build fast, fail fast, learn fast”. One the solution has been validated with users, the actual product can be built and the business start to form. Whether you are a startup launching or a team in a corporate working on a specific problem, this framework can be a useful tool in building a solution users actually want. Ok, but how does this tie up with corporates and startups working together – aren’t they normally competing? The model Fabrica de Startups has built centers on building startups to tackle actual business issues corporates face. Therefore, the corporate can outsource the problem solving to a range of competing teams composed of employees from the corporate and entrepreneurs. Hence when the problem is solved, and the solution found, the corporate can immediately plug it into their business. Even for the failing teams, the employees have been exposed to new ways of working and an innovative environment. In the experience of Fabrica de Startups and their partners, this has been a tremendous driver of innovative thinking and development when the employees come home to the mother company. In turn, the startups and entrepreneurs know from the start they are tackling an actual pain and there is a market ready to purchase when they solve the issue. Therefore, the risk is lowered in the launch of the startup Ok, that all sounds great, but how do I tap into such an ecosystem? Many corporates don’t have access to or green light to enter into partnerships, that by nature cannot have a very clear P&L target and tangible value proposition. Therefore, many global companies have started to form their own incubators and accelerator programmes. This is a way to achieve the ecosystem solution but maintain a large degree of control. The setup may not have a target P&L for the five-year plan, but the value proposition is clear: Corporates become more innovative, attract talent, retain employees, and learn – all while retaining a venture upside.
    Hacking the team integration process: A short cut towards performance
    By Jens Marius Bjerre-Petersen I recently joined a group of growth hackers, entrepreneurs, strategist and designers called Vertical Strategy. The timing was great as I made it just in time to join the Vertication in Lissabon, Portugal where we were to socialize and explore the vibrant local startup scene. During my time in university we were once ordered to go and drink some beers with our new group. A strange type of assignment, but none the less one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned. A group of people have to become a team before they can do great teamwork. So what do you do when a high performing team, with a unique and defining culture, has to expand? How do you contain (and develop) that same culture thereby ensuring the quality and edge of your deliverables? I could think of no better scenario than mixing the entire team, of trained dogs and recent hires, in a professional and social gathering, sprinkling a little sunshine and cocktails on top. When reflecting upon the outcome of such a trip I would like to mention a few highlights: sharing a double bed with your new colleague, who you’ve recently met. quizzing about the most memorable/embarrassing moments of our lives (which I won’t share). breakdancing in the middle of the night with a senior partner. discussing the vision and next steps of our company. All experiences which benefits the purpose of my own onboarding process while also emphasizing one of the main pillars at Vertical Strategy - the soul of a startup. In a world filled with buzzwords and intangible messages it’s comforting to experience the weight behind the words. The soul of a start up can be many things, but to me the key cultural carrying elements are the shared entrepreneurial passion and the intimacy of being friends before colleagues. Two things that are prioritized focus areas at Vertical and are carried out by making a new group of colleagues wine and dine in one of the up and coming startup capitals of the world. The team spirit is thriving at Vertical. Bringing in new people can be a challenge to culture and there’s a risk of being caught in the forming stage of a group development process. In Vertical the team expansion is an opportunity. The internal social activities, such as Vertication, daily office ping pong matches and the internal editorial Vanity Vertical, accelerates newcomers like myself directly to the performing stage and the team spirit is maintained ensuring the aforementioned quality and edge of our deliverables. Being a Vertipal is great - you should try it!
    How does the Lisbon investment and startup environment compare to the rest of Europe?
    We analyzed the investment and startup environment of Lisbon compared to other European Capitals. Despite a smaller size and absolute investment amounts, the number of startups per capita in Lisbon actually equals that of London - although falling far behind Amsterdam and Dublin, according to CrunchBase data. Read more about the Startup and VC landscape of Lisbon in the infographic below.
    Visiting Village Underground
    Located next to LX Factory and near the old Lisbon docks, entering Village Underground can seem confusing and overwhelming at first. The place is composed of 13 maritime containers and 2 disabled buses arranged like Tetris and with bright colors, cool graffiti and clever details all around: A wooden swing, a bridge to get from one container to the other, an outside area to sit, meet and relax and a big half pipe behind the complex. Village Underground that everyone only calls "VU Lisbon" has become a well-known workplace for creatives as well as a cultural- and event space. During our trip to Lisbon, parts of our group met up with Matheaus - one of five people running and managing VU Lisbon - who showed us around the trendy area. VU Lisbon was initiated by Mariana Duarte Silva and opened in 2014. When working in London, Mariana had a desk at VU London herself and was amazed and inspired by the entire concept. Therefore, she decided to take it to Portugal, her home country, and build a second creative space. Today, VU Lisbon hosts around 60 people who are, among others, working on virtual reality products for google, building an energy drink company or are designers, developers, event organizers or architects and who value the tight-knit group of people. "Community" and "close" were terms repeatedly used by Matheus during our tour. VU Lisbon aims at bringing interesting and exciting people together and sees personal fit as a key criterion for renting out their work places. Interestingly, VU Lisbon has no intentions to expand its space to be able to host more people, but rather wants to remain the cozy and small bunch of people. At one point, VU Lisbon had made first steps into incubation, but decided to stick to its core and follow the community-only approach as they felt it would have been too much time and effort and they were not sure whether they could be successful with the available resources. In general, residents highly appreciate the close community and friendliness and value the fact that they really leverage the entire group of people: Residing designers support others with their creativity and skills, people make use of their personal as well as professional network and residents pitch ideas to each other to improve their businesses. Work places can be rented on a monthly or hourly basis. Each container can be shared by up to five people and work places cost around 200€ per person per month including all utilities. During our tour, we also visited the common areas, such as the meeting room, recording studio and cafeteria - all only a few steps away from the residents' desks making it a very convenient place to work at. Besides the working areas in the containers and buses, VU Lisbon has started to use the warehouse space in one of the buildings around as a public event space. In the past, companies such as BMW or Ducati have used this space for product launch events while others have hosted their Christmas parties in there. Companies thereby hope to benefit from the creative and innovative environment and even use it for their product and brand positioning. What remains after this great visit are a few key takeaways. Firstly, use the diversity in terms of skills, backgrounds and experiences to help each other out and thereby grow the community as a whole. Secondly, a work place in a creative environment fuels new ideas and innovative solutions - something that we at Vertical try to create with our open office space as well. And thirdly, never lose sight of your core and only expand your offerings in case you really feel they add significant value to your customers. All in all, the tour through VU Lisbon was inspiring and great fun at the same time. We hope the video can give you a first impression of VU Lisboa.