The Edge: R&BD established cooperation with Chinese counterparts in the area of science parks and business incubators

As an innovative company that strives to always be at the forefront of current technological developments, The Edge: R&BD established cooperation with Chinese counterparts during a workshop on planning, construction and administration of science parks and business incubators that took place in Shanghai on December 9th – 23rd, 2018.

The event was sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China and organized by Shanghai Co-Way International Technology Transfer Centre – a state-owned company, providing consultancy in tech-transfer and enterprises internationalization.

Its main objective was to share the Chinese experience in the field and strengthen mutual understanding of the policies supporting the development of hi-tech industries with partner countries along the „Belt and Road“ – a development strategy proposed by the Chinese President – Xi Jinping, focused on strengthening cooperation between China and the rest of Eurasia.

Attended by Malvina Ilieva – COO and Co-founder, the workshop gathered a number of key stakeholders that shared best practices regarding the country’s model of promoting innovations and turning it into one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world.

31 Tech Predictions for 2019 – Things will be different this year.

Predicting the future is hardly an exact science, but when you watch an industry closely it is possible to identify trends and chart a course for where things are likely headed. Here are predictions made by 31 successful executives who believe they can see what will be different in 2019.

1. Amazon’s next move will be in hospitality.

„In the past year, Amazon has entered new spaces like grocery and health care, has hinted at venturing into banking, and is even selling live Christmas trees–so what’s next? If you look at consumer share-of-wallet as an indicator, one other area that’s ripe for Amazon expansion is hospitality. They’ve just started dipping their toes into local services like house cleaning and handymen. I see great potential value for Amazon to venture into travel and restaurants and leverage its enormous customer base to capture a share of the hospitality spend in 2019.“

–Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar, a customer-engagement platform used by more than 500 retailers, including Sephora, Patagonia, Home Depot, and Gap

2. Cyber attacks will move into the real world.

„[Next year] will be the year of cyber-physical hacking. We’ve seen the damage a ransomware attack can cause on a company’s digital assets, but what happens when we move beyond cyberspace and into the real world? From attacks on manufacturing equipment to surveillance cameras to data centers, we’re talking about extremely costly and damaging events that have the power to shut down business operations entirely. Unfortunately, this could be the year of the cyber wake-up call the industry has warned about for years.“

–Amit Yoran, first-ever director of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team and current CEO of Tenable, which just had one of the biggest cybersecurity IPOs in five years

3. Security will move upstream.

„Everybody is waking up to the fact that data security is a critical problem that needs to be addressed earlier in the development process. This is true not only for customers whose data is on the line, but also for business leaders and software developers who are charged with protecting it. Today, these parties are trying to understand how they can incorporate security into their DevOps process. In 2019, businesses will implement what they have learned. Tech leaders will educate developers on how to avoid errors like coding security holes into their apps. Additionally, developers will increasingly add security detection features at the code level. Not only will code be better protected against intruders; it will watch out for anomalous activity as well.“

–Derek Choy, CIO of Rainforest QA, an on-demand quality-assurance testing company that was recently named one of Inc.’s 2018 „Best Places to Work“ and services hundreds of companies, including Adobe, Oracle, and SolarWinds

4. Customer success will be the new growth for startups.

„As the foundation for growth within a B2B organization, customer success will play a more critical role within companies in 2019. Traditionally, enterprise sales were focused on new logos, which missed opportunities to nurture existing customers. Growth would then suffer as a result. Without a stable base of customers, companies can’t grow as fast because they are constantly filling a leaky bucket. In 2019, we will see a new lens on customer economics, from churn to retention and cohort growth.“

–Dale Chang, operating partner at Scale Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in early-in-revenue enterprise software companies such as DocuSign, Box, and HubSpot, and raised $400 million to close its sixth fund earlier this year

5. The workspace will evolve.

„The rise of A.I. and automation software means humans are moving away from repetitive tasks and are increasingly focused on tasks only humans can do: think creatively and interact with other humans. For workspaces, this means people spend less time sitting at their desks and more time in a diversity of settings. The most innovative companies are no longer thinking about workspace as a single location, but rather a network of spaces that employees can access based on what they are trying to achieve–brainstorm a new product, train a new sales team, impress a client, or work quietly on their own. Uber and Spotify have revolutionized access to music and mobility, by giving everyone a private driver or a personalized playlist for a specific occasion. Employees will increasingly expect the same level of choice and diversity from their workspace.“

–Dror Poleg, real estate and strategy adviser at Breather, a provider of space-as-a-service across 10 cities, serving more than 500,000 people and used by companies such as Spotify, Away, and Tesla

6. People will stop talking about containers.

„Containers are the hottest topic in enterprise IT since the cloud itself. For a while, everyone was obsessed with what technology leaders like Google were doing with the technology, and the top three topics of conversation at any DevOps meetup were containers, containers, and containers. But as the rubber hits the road, enterprises are increasingly driven by what containers allow them to achieve–multi-cloud operations, highly-available global scale applications–rather than the technology itself. So as container adoption radically accelerates, people counterintuitively talk less about containers, and more about the apps and services that containers enable.“

–Murli Thirumale, co-founder and CEO of Portworx, a cloud-native data-storage company used by enterprises including 92 of the Fortune Global 1000

7. Health care will become a B2C industry.

„Thanks in large part to digital technology, rising health care costs, and increased competition, patients have become empowered consumers. As a result, they will be expecting more from health care. Much like the retail industry, patients want easy, seamless, and transparent consumer-like experiences. We will see more and more patients become discerning shoppers, comparing prices for physicians and health plans and expecting accurate upfront costs for services, just as they would with other products. They will increasingly look for ways to receive care outside of traditional doctor’s office visits by exploring digital health care options such as telemedicine and chatbot technology. Health care organizations are going to feel the pressure, and put even more emphasis on patient engagement, transparency into health care costs, quality, and value-based care. Consumers won’t stand for anything less.“

–Matt Hawkins, CEO and board member at Waystar, a technology platform that simplifies and unifies the health care revenue cycle to improve the financial health of more than 440,000 health care providers

8. Soft skills will become the differentiating factor.

„Technical skills have been the holy grail of hiring in years past, but these skills have rapidly declining shelf lives. The rise of A.I. and automation means employees are increasingly tasked with jobs that only humans can do: thinking creatively, using judgment, employing empathy, etc. Adaptability will be the most durable skill in the years to come, as the ability to learn and adjust becomes more important than any one skill. Companies, as well as education systems, will need to shift how they assess and train people accordingly.“

–Jeremy Auger, co-founder and chief strategy officer at D2L, a LMS platform serving millions of students across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia in K-12, higher ed, and corporate institutions

9. Traditional IT and operations will vanish.

„The best-performing companies of 2019 will be developer-driven. Developers will need to be in the driver’s seat at all times and in the room when decisions are made. Traditional IT and operations will disappear and instead, they will support the needs of development and engineering teams. They will be measured on driving developer velocity versus server availability.“

–Steve Burton, DevOps evangelist at Harness, a continuous delivery startup with Fortune 500 customers and 300 percent headcount growth in its first year

10. Agile development will play a bigger role across the organization.

„In 2019, the role of agile will take on a broader role in product development–one in which developers and designers will use agile processes to enable experimentation, not just development. Just as agile comes from collaboration and cross functionality, so should experimentation–the more data, the more collaboration, the better. They’ll test ideas early on, measure the results of their campaigns and make logical improvements, all based on data. As consumers continue to demand more personalized experiences, we’ll see more organizations lean on this experiment-driven approach, which will help them to quickly pivot when things aren’t working out and focus their time and resources on developing products that matter most to their core audience.“

–Bill Press, SVP of engineering at Optimizely, which powers thousands of digital experiments every month, serves a billion impressions per day, and is used by more than 26 Fortune 100 companies

11. Technology will play a bigger role in improving workplace wellness.

„The changes rocking the workplace–driven by new technologies, a tight labor market, and the exponential growth of employee data and tools to make sense of it–are showing no signs of letting up. At the same time, employees are under more pressure than ever before, with a recent Gallup poll finding 44 percent report feelings of burnout at work. In 2019, technologies designed with empathy in mind–that augment the human touch, rather than overpower or direct it–will come to the forefront as employers increasingly prioritize the holistic wellness of their people as the foundational way to improve their organization. Specifically, we will see businesses go beyond basic wellness programs, and increasingly turn to transformative technologies that improve workplace wellness through a true understanding of the employee experience. Maturing technologies like A.I. and natural language processing will help companies instantly understand their employee’s day to day lives, including critical qualitative insights like how they feel and why. As you can’t fix what you can’t measure, this will directly lead to actionable insights that actually improve organizations, not just drown them in more data.“

–Armen Berjikly, senior director of growth strategy at Ultimate Software, an HR tech software company with 4,400 customers and employees in 160 countries

12. For blockchains and B2B, real transaction volumes will start to flow.

„Blockchain in the B2B world has been all hype with no significant transaction volume, but there are signs that this will change in 2019. To deal with cash flow, financing, settlements, and other ways of sharing value at scale, you need to get past the current hour-by-hour volatility and ensure a stable medium of exchange. The emergence of mature stablecoin players such as TrueUSD (backed by IBM and others), USD coin (backed by Goldman Sachs and IDG) and DAI stablecoin (an algorithmic stablecoin) signals the start of a transition from a floating bubble crypto-economy to an internet of value tethered to the established economy. In addition, after years of talk and discussions, it seems that Ethereum and Bitcoin are implementing architectural changes to address the scalability challenges that have been considered a barrier to widespread adoption. For B2B blockchain use, 2019 could be a significant year.“

–Gert Sylvest, co-founder and SVP of global network strategy at Tradeshift, a supply chain payments platform that connects 1.5 million companies across 190 countries and processes $500 billion in transaction value

13. Companies will hire more candidates from nontraditional educational backgrounds.

„The workplace is constantly shifting and the market for talent in the tech industry is evolving even faster than most others. With skills and talent coming at a premium, managers are looking at non-traditional education programs such as coding bootcamps to fill developer positions, especially as debates around the value of a four-year degree rage on. Bootcamp students learn more immediately applicable skills for the workplace, and hiring managers are taking notice of the value. Some notable tech companies have even eliminated college degree requirements all together, opening the door for an influx of hires from non-traditional backgrounds.“

–Loren Boyce, director of talent acquisition at DigitalOcean, a cloud platform for building modern applications, with a community that is more than 3.5 million developers strong and a $200 million run rate

14. Voice tech will not kill the keyboard or the display.

„Consumers use more devices than ever when interacting with brands, and with the launch of smart panels like Facebook’s Portal, yet another device is being added to the brand journey. Smart panels won’t replace keyboards, smart speakers, or mobile voice search, but supplement any and all of them. People don’t think twice about using different devices, they just want flexibility and ease of use, and they expect brands that they have a relationship with to keep track of their info no matter how they are making contact. What brands really need to keep top of mind is that smart panels will offer new opportunities to make human connections with customers and provide the emotional support people need when making difficult purchases.“

–Ian Dailey, senior director of product marketing of Invoca, a marketing software company that uses A.I.-powered call tracking and analytics to power 100 million calls to brands per year

15. Industry consolidation will continue in cybersecurity.

„Following the recent IBM and Red Hat deal that just took place and what it meant for open source, the trend of industry consolidation will continue in cybersecurity. Next year, smaller security players will be snapped up for a variety of reasons–for talent, for a company’s underlying technology, to boost sagging toplines of legacy security or networking vendors trying to modernize themselves, etc. In addition, some traditional large public security vendors have stagnated due to their legacy on-premise box-oriented architectures and are ripe for private equity firms gobbling them up, being split up (especially those with consumer and enterprise businesses), or a combination of both.“

–Sanjay Beri, founder and CEO of Netskope, a cloud security startup with a total of $400 million in raised funding that also grew its subscription numbers by triple digits in 2017

16. Brands will shift to using innately intelligent marketing technology.

„As customers become more discerning and data-savvy, their expectations around how and when retail brands communicate with them will continue to rise. This will push more brands to take a more sophisticated approach to marketing tech, adding extra layers of innate intelligence through machine learning and A.I. into their marketing stack and freeing up human marketers to do what they do best–create. We will see a broader shift from rule-based marketing–where the marketer defines all the logic–to innately intelligent marketing, where the marketer only sets the framework, and the A.I. takes it from there.“

–Pini Yakuel, CEO of Optimove, an A.I.-powered customer-relationship management software that helps over 300 brands like 1-800-flowers, Adore Me, and Freshly send emotionally intelligent and personalized communications to its customers

17. Financial companies will use artificial intelligence, but not for financial advice.

„As we enter 2019, more financial services firms will test and implement artificial intelligence as a fundamental part of their businesses, but it won’t actually impact the advice they give to consumers. Instead, A.I. will be used for very niche, back-office applications that clients won’t see. That’s because in its current state, A.I. is effective at solving a very narrow, well-defined set of problems. It is not good at solving open-ended, situations with lots of roads to take. However, that won’t stop many companies from emphasizing their implementation of A.I. in hopes of impressing consumers.“

–Dan Egan, director of behavioral finance and investments at Betterment, an online financial advising platform with more than 150 employees, 300,000 customers, and $15 billion in assets under management

18. More companies will turn to synthetic biology for innovation.

„Biology is already changing the way we live, eat, manufacture, and treat human health. In the next few years, synthetic biology–a $40 billion industry–will be the premier technology of the 21st century that will be used to solve real-world problems facing millions. We will see more collaboration between science, technology, and engineering communities, along with more involvement by the next generation of local leaders solving local problems all around the world, in a safe, ethical, and responsible manner.“

–Meagan Lizarazo, EVP at iGEM, a nonprofit foundation advancing synthetic biology innovation within its global network of 35,000 people through education, competition, and industry collaboration

19. The CIO will strike back.

„The days of forgetting that the ‘I’ in CIO stands for ‘information’ are over. The CIO role will become more identified with leading a company’s data and information strategy than with infrastructure and security. Much like digitization and data have transformed the CMO role, the CIO role will be unrecognizable from its current form in a few years. We can expect this process to pick up steam in 2019.“

20. Tech companies will stay private longer, which means more pressure to ensure liquidity.

„Capital markets data show that the median age at which companies go public has increased from 6.3 years in the 1980s to 10.2 years in this decade. In 2019, CEOs and their boards will continue to balance the needs of a wide range of stakeholders as they evaluate whether and when to go public. We will likely see the two largest IPOs in history if Uber and Airbnb both go public as expected more than 10 years after they were founded. But in a world where staying private remains an attractive path for many companies, ensuring liquidity for both investors and employees prior to major exit events will be a critical tool in helping these companies sustain their momentum.“

–Kelly Rodriques, CEO at Equidate, a stock market for private tech companies that has completed over $1 billion in transactions

21. Your customers will be as powerful as your board.

„Today we live in a subscription economy. And like it or not, your customers are at the epicenter of your business model. Jeff Bezos coined the term ‘the divinely discontent customer.’ Think about it–we have all become this customer. And we expect that your business consistently delights and delivers your service conveniently–in the way we want it, and with the outcomes we expect. We have become your second board of directors and we will have increasing power in the future, so you’d better build a healthy ongoing relationship with us if you want to succeed.“

–Mark Heller, VP of global brand and communications at Zuora, which provides a cloud-based subscription-management platform that functions as a system of record for more than 1,000 subscription businesses around the world across all industries

22. More companies will create sustainable ethics codes for the use of data.

„Privacy experts, regulators, and the public will push companies to establish sustainable ethics codes that better address the challenges of a digital world–forcing new standards for the complex uses of collected, inferred, and derived data sources. Ethics policies will be incorporated into the governance of data analytics–and particularly A.I. and machine learning–so that companies can defend their commitments to the ethical use of data, fend off public pressure, and avoid backlash. But companies will have to bring great minds together to figure out how they can measure and track transparency, accountability and ethics for themselves and their clients and partners.“

–Barbara Lawler, chief privacy and data ethics officer of data analytics company Looker, which has received $180 million in funding from Google Capital G, Redpoint, First Round Capital, and Kleiner

23. The next wave of A.I. startups will generate new data with each use.

„Some of our A.I. emperors have no clothes. Expect to see a wave of once-hot A.I. startups shut down or get acquired as their technology stacks are exposed as commoditized algorithms at best or smoke and mirrors at worst. At the same time, a new wave is on the horizon: A.I. startups that create proprietary data by providing products that generate new data each time they’re used. We call these coaching networks and believe they represent the future of enterprise software.“

–Jake Saper, partner at Emergence, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage enterprise companies that recently unveiled ECP V, a $435 million fund over 35 percent larger than its last raise, in 2015

24. Visual data and A.I. will dramatically expand the value of communications services.

„In 2019, visual data and artificial intelligence will provide a more valuable and personalized experience in communications. Imagine a meeting where each participant can see each other’s LinkedIn and other social media information; where meeting notes and action items are automatically synthesized and distributed to stakeholders; where the next meeting is automatically scheduled based on in-meeting discussions and based on participants’ calendars; where digital signage is customized based on who walks by it or where the last few documents the participants worked on are automatically pulled up on the screen. Deals will close faster, the administrative work around meetings will shrink, compliance will have complete meeting records, and virtual meetings will become even more productive and valuable than in-person meetings. With the audio conferencing industry shrinking and the video communications industry growing, and with the ability to store massive amounts of data in the cloud and the computing power to analyze it, we believe visual data and A.I. will disrupt the communications space in 2019.“

–Oded Gal, head of product management for Zoom, provider of enterprise video communications, which is ranked third on the Forbes 2018 Cloud 100

25. Multi-cloud will reduce costly downtime.

„Just as multi-data center deployments became the new normal years ago for companies that have been successful at digitally competing in their chosen market, multi-cloud deployments will begin to usurp their place. The Uptime Institute’s latest report shows that, while single cloud designs can benefit enterprises, they’ve become the second-leading cause of application downtime, much like single data center deployments were in the past. Those moving their data-driven apps to the cloud will need to architect them in a way so they are hybrid and multi-cloud in design to ensure zero downtime and uniform performance for their global customer base.“

–Robin Schumacher, SVP and chief product officer of data-management company DataStax, which supports more than 400 of the world’s leading enterprises, including Comcast, Macy’s, and Macquarie

26. The online marketplace will become the new traditional business model.

„Marketplaces will continue to be the new department store. [This year]–2018–saw the death of the beloved Toys R Us. Sears and JCPenney are having their fair share of struggles as well, despite once being successful forces in retail. Marketplaces are continuing to thrive. In 2019 and beyond, we will continue to see marketplaces take over as top revenue drivers in retail versus the traditional department store. Even though some retailers like Walmart or Target are working to innovate beyond their traditional business models, this won’t be enough to save most department stores from slight (or in some cases, rapid) decline.“

–Greg Chapman, SVP of business development at Avalara, a maker of tax compliance software that offers more than 500 hundred prebuilt connectors into leading accounting, ERP, ecommerce, and other business applications

27. 5G will go full throttle.

„Businesses will need to start preparing for how they will leverage 5G to gain a competitive edge. Across almost every vertical, increasing network bandwidth and speed while lowering latency can improve efficiencies at nearly every department level. But while businesses can be near certain about how they can effectively apply 5G to improve operations, predicting what security threats will come is going to present a significant challenge for IT. With IoT growth posing huge unknown risks to enterprises with the introduction of 5G, businesses will increasingly need to invest in both technology and employee training to prepare for the next generation threat landscape. What’s more is that 5G will not only give rise to new threats, but it will also provide cyber criminals with new opportunities to carry out attacks that we have seen grow in popularity over the years with greater force and impact. With this in mind, even an organization that does everything right to combat threats posed by 5G could still be impacted just as easily as those that are less security savvy.“

–James Willett, VP of technology at Neustar, a neutral provider of real-time information services with more than 11,000 clients worldwide

28. The demand for enterprise risk management will increase.

„Risk management is going to become an extremely critical topic for both the public and private sector next year. As a nation, we are facing complex geopolitical issues and state-sponsored attacks targeting our businesses and government on an enormous scale. Large financial institutions and Silicon Valley companies have already experienced billions of dollars in losses due to decisions being made without effective enterprise risk management. Data is both an asset and a liability and next year we are going to see the regulatory environment become even more complex around data governance, which will see enterprise risk management become a huge priority for the C-suite and board.“

–David Pigott, chief compliance officer at Neustar, a neutral provider of real-time information services that provides more than 11,000 clients worldwide with the power to make the most well-informed decisions to grow and guard their business

29. Cybersecurity becomes more than just an IT problem.

„Year-end cyber predictions often focus on specific threat categories and whether or not to expect an increase or decrease in their activity. [Next year], however, promises a more fundamental shift in the cyberthreat landscape, for example the impact of social media as an exploding vector for malicious activities and the implications for businesses protecting their assets. Cybersecurity is not an IT problem–it is far wider than just computers and the threats ahead in 2019 will make this painfully obvious.“

–Raj Samani, chief scientist at device-to-cloud cybersecurity company, McAfee, which has more than 92,650 corporate customers worldwide and monitors 400 million consumer endpoints

30. A tsunami of SMBs will abandon their attempts to maintain their own IT.

„Small and medium-size businesses face ever-greater complexity around supporting a rapidly expanding remote workforce and taking advantage of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, multi-cloud storage, and big data. As a result, in 2019, we will see a tsunami of SMBs abandoning their attempts to maintain their own IT infrastructure in favor of a service approach that relies on a single, expert provider that can pull together the resources and solutions necessary to deliver a simple, integrated, and fully managed IT environment.“

–Dennis Curry, deputy CTO of global technology company Konica Minolta, which has over two million customers in 150 countries

31. Gig workers will be younger and more selective in their career choices.

„The rise in today’s gig economy obviously means more options. However, Millennial and Gen Zers are proving to be more selective job seekers than older generations, so companies will need to rethink their recruiting strategies in how to attract top talent from a pickier crowd to begin with.“


5 Entrepreneurship Truths Nobody Tells You About

There’s no denying that entrepreneurs are the new rock stars. We are bombarded with exciting tales of overcoming adversity on the road to success and the message is often that you too could quit your day job, launch a successful venture and reap the multi-million-dollar rewards. Here’s a reality check.

The fact is that three out of four venture-backed startups fail. Why? Because founding a company is harder than most of us imagine. Behind the glamorous image of entrepreneurship lies a rollercoaster of epic highs and crushing lows that can produce great rewards, but also negatively impact your relationships, quality of life and even your health.

To give first-time founders an insight into what they can really expect, here are five realities I wish I knew when I began building my own business.

It’s a common belief that the founder of an organization is its wise chief navigator who single-handedly steers the way to success. I found this to be a gross misconception. If a startup business is to flourish, the founder must set their sights on gathering the right people around them, as you can’t always be the smartest person in the room.

This might sound like an obvious statement to make, but it can be surprisingly difficult for a founder to hand over control. Assembling a strong team requires humility: the founder must accept that their skills have limits and recognise where they need to add the abilities of others. When I launched my company at the age of 25, it quickly became clear that while I had bucket loads of ambition, I needed a great management team and guidance from experts. Not only did I hire a management team of people who are all my professional seniors, I also quickly onboarded advisers with 20+ years worth of advertising technology, telecoms and business experience. The move paid off; my company grew quickly and many of my mentors later became my investors (and some even board members).

Pragmatism over idealism (almost always)

Founders are often idealists by nature. We start our own ventures because we want to solve problems we see in the world and, fuelled by the entrepreneurial fairy-tales that are so prevalent in today’s society, it often seems like creating the ideal company that runs just as planned should be achievable.

But perfection isn’t a realistic goal. Indeed, it’s highly likely that many of our best-laid-out plans will go awry somewhere along the line. A project you’ve always wanted to implement and spent 100 hours per week developing may turn out to be untenable. A friend who stepped in to fill a role might be the wrong fit for your firm. At such times, there’s no room for idealism — particularly when the situation hinders business prosperity.

To build a successful company, founders must be pragmatic: prepared to put emotions aside and change course, halt unfeasible projects after much blood, sweat and tears went into them, and make tough decisions. Although this sometimes means letting go of the original dream, a logical focus will likely propel company growth further than blind stubbornness.

The devil isn’t always in the detail

Quality is crucial to win customers and stand out against your competitors, yet it doesn’t follow that founders should try to preserve standards by acting as the main quality control checkpoint. While at first, you might be able to assess all operational elements — from customer emails to service delivery — an overly detailed-focused approach will become impossible to sustain as the company expands.

I was heavily involved in creative output at the beginning of my startup journey. As a former designer in the ad industry frustrated by restrictive banner formats on mobile, I wanted to design an experience of mobile ads that utilise lock-screens within a non-disruptive experience to the consumer. As our client base increased, so did business areas demanding my attention; be that strategy, shareholder management, or revenue flow. I just didn’t have the capacity to oversee each detail anymore and, consequently, had to hire and trust in a skilled team of experts to keep the quality bar high. If you build the right workforce, it’s important to have faith in them and let them shoulder their areas of responsibility, even if it doesn’t always end up exactly as you imagined.

Everything else comes second

It’s common knowledge that establishing a new business will disrupt your personal life, but I believe the full extent of this disturbance is less widely acknowledged. Firstly, it’s not unlikely that you will work many 16-hour days on zero salary, at least for the initial months, or even years. Secondly, you’ll definitely spend less time with your significant other, family and friends. Thirdly, you might need to eventually move country and leave your home network behind, which can be lonely at times, but helped once more by assembling a great team. Finally, it will rapidly become apparent that no one else is quite as dedicated to accomplishing your vision as you are. So, if you aren’t ready to give up a portion of your private life for the business, you may not be able to really make your entrepreneur dream happen.

It’s not for everyone (and that’s OK!)

There’s something very enticing about the thought of leaving the typical 9 to 5 routine and setting up as your own boss. Yet the actuality of entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. For those who understand and embrace the pressure, sacrifice and strain that come with starting a business, it is usually a rocky road to victory. For a large proportion of people, however, the harsh reality of going it alone can outweigh the benefits. And that’s ok, because what matters most is choosing a career you are comfortable with. If your health and happiness are in jeopardy, it might be time to re-evaluate which path you want to follow.

None of this, however, is to say that entrepreneurship is a bad route to take. There are many benefits to building a company from scratch; not least of which are the freedom to innovate and the ability to structure your time and focus. It’s just that the advantages usually get the most attention, while the less romantic side of entrepreneurship is left out of the spotlight. So, before they are drawn in by the glow, it’s imperative for prospective first-time founders to consider the less glamorous aspects of being an entrepreneur and ask themselves: is this really the right decision for me?


How Open Innovation Can Reduce The Costs Of Innovation

There are few organizations that don’t wish to innovate, but whilst most aspire to develop creative new products, services and processes, the evidence is mixed as to their ability to do so successfully.  A big contributor to this gap is the cost of innovation.

A recent study from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research highlighted the growing costs involved in innovation. The research shows that companies are investing far more than their historic peers to achieve the same results. Organizations today are devoting approximately 20 times as many people to R&D as their peers did in 1930, but the output from all of this endeavor is not rising in unison.

“It’s getting harder and harder to make new ideas, and the economy is more or less compensating for that,” the authors explain. “The only way we’ve been able to roughly maintain growth is to throw more and more scientists at it.”

This tremendous investment has seen expenditure on R&D doubling every 13 years purely in order to maintain the same level of output.  What’s more, this is not a case of particular laggards dragging the pack down, for this diminishing productivity is consistent across sectors. When it comes to innovation spending, the challenge for large companies seems to be about spending smartly. To be able to grow and innovate at an increased pace, companies need to reverse this predicament by spending less and innovating more.

Fruit getting higher and higher

This is probably the case because innovation is becoming harder to achieve.  Previous research has highlighted how a growing proportion of innovations are what’s known as recombinative.  This means that innovations take existing ideas and technologies, and apply them in unique ways.  Over nearly 150 years, around 40% of all patents fall under this category of innovation, with the ratio changing considerably as we approach the present day.

The potential for such innovation to make a profound impact is highlighted by Martin Weitzman, who describes the potential for recombination in his seminal paper on the topic.  He describes the ‘fixed factors’, including buildings and hardware, that exist throughout society, and the value we can derive when we find new ways to improve these assets.

Open innovation – collaborating with external companies toward innovation goals – offers tremendous potential for supporting just this type of innovation whilst also helping to tame the costs associated.  Rather than inventing the wheel from scratch and in house each time a company wants to improve a product, service or process, organizations are partnering with a wide range of external parties such as startups and independent software vendors to tap into their ideas, insights and solutions.

As well as providing a broad range of ideas, perspectives and insights to tap into, there are also clear commercial advantages.  By turning to open innovation approaches like running proof-of-concepts with startups and technology vendors, you’re reaching a large crowd of potential partners relatively easily.  What’s more, you are usually only paying participants if a solution is found, thus giving you not only a practically risk-free source of innovation, but also one that has heavily reduced costs by not requiring you to fund the failures that are an inherent part of innovation.

Accelerating time to market

Data science platforms like Kaggle and Innocentive offer a great way to attract relatively standalone solutions, but there remain considerable hurdles in integrating these solutions into complex systems or scaling up ideas for a mass market.

Innovation obstacles like customizing testing environments, testing external technology solutions, dealing with security restrictions and complying with regulations cost an organization time, and time costs money.

At the recent European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) INNOVEIT event, EIT Chairman Dirk Jan van den Berg highlighted the incredibly long timeframes to get new innovations to market, citing an average of seven years in energy and ten years in healthcare.  Even in relatively agile industries, such as digital, the time to market is still typically measured in years rather than months.

It’s a gestation period that can see the risk of failure increase significantly, and one that open innovation can help to overcome.

Companies such as prooV are at the forefront of efforts to make open innovation more accessible, efficient and effective for companies.  Their platform centralizes and streamlines the entire proof-of-concept process to make testing and evaluating new technologies faster, more customizable and more data-driven.

On the prooV platform, enterprises can test, evaluate and compare several technology solutions in the same proof-of-concept, rather than running a different proof-of-concept for each technology and having to compare the results afterward. This cuts out tons of logistics, time and effort, thereby slashing innovation costs.

“Proof-of-concepts should move innovation forward, not hold it back,” Toby Olshanetsky, Co-founder and CEO of prooV said. “Before adopting any technology, large companies with complex infrastructures and vast customer bases need to test and evaluate multiple solutions. Managing the entire process on one platform and being able to test and evaluate more than one vendor at a time cuts down on the time and money enterprises need to invest in PoCs while providing enhanced value.”

Beyond cutting the costs of innovation, such PoC’s can also help to generate the kind of data that helps to secure buy-in from across the organization.  The politics of innovation is something that Tuck Business School’s Vijay Govindarajan has touched upon numerous times, not least in his book The Other Side of Innovation.  The reality of scaling any innovation is that it will require buy-in from a much larger group of people than were involved in testing and developing the innovation.

Whilst securing things like board level buy-in and ensuring the financial and political power center of your business are represented in the innovation team, securing data to prove that your innovation really does what its supporters claim it does goes an awfully long way towards securing that buy-in.

“Chasing new horizons is the exciting part of innovation, but it is also the risky part,” Olshanetsky said. “Providing data about how solutions hold up to business and technical metrics that matter to your company showcases the benefits of open innovation and increases the chance of getting support from decision-makers.”

Innovation will never be free from risk, and we should never regard open innovation as a panacea to the various challenges associated with innovation, but when done effectively, it can help to mitigate many of those risks and give you a better chance of securing the results your organization needs. Open innovation with proof-of-concepts can solve core innovation challenges by ensuring internal buy-in, speeding up time to market and decreasing costs throughout the entire process.


5 Ways to Innovate 21st Century Business

Anyone who lived in the time of legends such as Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein could be forgiven for thinking everything that can be invented already has been invented. Of course, if we’d stopped there, we wouldn’t have the computer or the internet. The past century of our history stands as a testament to human ingenuity and our persistence to make things better.

While innovation still is possible, much has changed. Ford’s invention no doubt was heralded as something just short of a miracle. Today’s feature-laden minivans, hybrids and electric cars mean any new entrant in the vehicle market will also need to enable flight if it’s to be seen as anything other than an also-ran. Competition is fierce and becoming even more so in the current climate.

This trend has forced entrepreneurs and business owners to evolve their views on innovation. Innovation in the 21st century demands we retrain ourselves to find pockets of spaces within industries where we can create a more fulfilling experience for customers. Here are a few proven ways to leverage that inspiration to sustain or build companies.

1. Ease the burden of responsibilities.

Many people work more than one job to satisfy all their financial responsibilities. This makes it difficult to juggle work and family duties.

Even so, this shift has created a business opportunity: the errand-services industry. These businesses exist to make people’s lives easier. Services range from the exceptional to the mundane – from dog-walking and grocery-getting to doing laundry, caring for elderly family members or performing concierge services.

All one needs to make a start in this industry is a willingness to do whatever his or her clients ask. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn how many people are willing to pay someone else if it means reducing their non-work responsibilities. After all, skipping hours on the job typically will be more costly for them.

2. Facilitate business operations.

In the words of Cova CEO Gary Cohen: “In the course of running a business, you will find that there are functions and responsibilities that you need to carry out to ensure the smooth and optimal running of your business. These services are usually such that even though they may not be increasing revenue, not handling them will certainly prove costlier for you.”

Third-party companies take care of many of these functions. Software-as-a-servic (Saas) companies such as Dropbox help people save vital business documents in the cloud. Many small businesses, in particular, rely on payroll and accounting software such as QuickBooks or payment-integration systems such as PayPal and Square.

3. Upgrade a product or service.

In the Babylonian era, toothbrushes – or more aptly, chew sticks – were made by fraying the end of a twig. In 1498, the first true toothbrush was made by rooting Siberian pig-hair bristles into a handle (typically made of cattle bone).  The efficiency of modern electric toothbrushes would put all their predecessors to shame.

What’s the lesson? Upgrading a product or service has been a viable strategy for a very long time. And so long as creativity remains, this breed of innovation won’t become obsolete.

VitaCup’s CEO suffered a vitamin deficiency as a child. As an entrepreneur, he discovered a way to make conventional coffee and tea healthier by infusing them with vitamins. People now can get all their necessary vitamins in America’s most-consumed beverage – without sacrificing taste.

Uber is worth billions today, but it grew from an idea to improve and streamline the transportation industry. Getting everyone in on the action is the perfect way to hitch a ride.

4. Create a meeting point.

People’s need for problems to be solved as quickly and easily as possible led to what I like to call “bridge companies.” In our digital world, these businesses often emerge as online platforms. Fiverr and Freelancer are among the industry’s biggest players. Both help people easily complete work-related or personal assignments.

Google Advertising spearheaded an online revolution that spurred companies such as Admitad – which further specializes in marketing for CPA firms – and a host of others. Each serves as a platform where advertisers can meet publishers who are willing to display their marketing materials.

In this model, entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need to solve the problems themselves. Creating a convergence point adds value (and potential profit) enough.

5. Offer an experience.

Many times, people’s complaints about a product or service have less to do with the quality of the item or assistance received than with how the solution was delivered.

Hotels, for instance, are a massive part of the hospitality industry. People lodge in hotels for a myriad of reasons. But in recent years, a curious trend has arisen: Those who embark on casual travel for vacationing or sightseeing don’t like the idea of staying in hotels. They want to soak up the atmosphere, culture and language. In short, they want to feel what it’s like to be part of the community – and many of them want to bring their pets along for the adventure.

A hotel, though, is loaded with constant reminders that they are visitors. Not so with the home-hospitality experience, whose owners list their primary homes or vacation properties with third-party rental agencies. AirbnbAcmehouse and HomeAway fulfill this need internationally and locally while offering the full range of experiences possible in each locality.


Why A ‘Startup Mentality’ Is Key To Your Success

Envision the work environment of a newly minted startup. It’s a place full of smart, relevant banter and out-of-the-box thinking. It empowers a group of experts, thinkers, and collaborators to utilize their talents to bring an idea to life. It’s directed by a leader who fervently believes in the mission and knows how to inspire people—but it’s also driven by the team that supports and innovates on a daily basis. And most importantly, its mission-driven culture supplies innovators with the tools and connections they need to succeed. Because their goal is to bring a brilliant idea—the kind of idea that can change the world, because it’s relevant, creative, and fills a niche—to life.

Fast, intense, and incredibly purpose-driven: that’s what a startup looks like. Now, think about your own office. You might work for a small, family-owned company, or a large corporation. But chances are, your work environment is not very much like a startup. It’s probably steeped in meetings, routines, and schedules. It probably hasn’t changed much in the last few years. In fact, even though you may have a company mission statement, your leaders and colleagues may not display behaviors that back it up. That kind of stagnant workplace environment stifles creativity and innovation—in fact, it fosters a mindset of „let’s just do it the same as we’ve always done it.“ If you want teams making a difference daily, you need to take some pointers from startup culture. Here’s where you, as a leader, can start.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Encourage more questions. Why is it that many of the brilliant ideas of the last decade have come from startups (think Uber and Airbnb) instead of the boardroom? Because startup teams have a mentality of asking questions. They’re not afraid to reinvent, repurpose, or even scrap the status quo. They look for ways to refine, simplify, and make processes smarter and leaner. Start asking questions like “How can we…?” or “Why don’t we…?” and then follow through on the answers. Get experts and other teams involved. Reach out to old contacts for their input. And then, when you think you’ve got a new solution, stop and ask yourself, “What could use some tweaking?” Instead of sticking with the same-old, startup teams continuously improve and evolve products and solutions. Do the same, and you’ll be well on your way to making a difference.

Embrace change. The workplace is evolving. Since the growth of remote workers, the integration of social media, and the downfall of the cubicle, modern workplaces hardly look the same as they did even 15 years ago. The companies ahead of these trends are often startups. They value flexibility and innovation, not just in their teams, but also in the structure of their workplaces. It’s crucial to embrace these changes in order to appeal to talent from younger generations. But more importantly, it would be foolish to not take advantage of the benefits these changes bring. Who wouldn’t want the ability to hire an expert who’s a perfect fit for the team, even though they live across the world? Thanks to the rise of telecommuting, now you can. And why wouldn’t you want to institute policies that make communication and collaboration seamless and easy? Thanks to the progress of technology and social media, it’s more possible now than ever before. So be flexible like a startup, and get rid of archaic policies and procedures. Embrace the change. Your refreshed workplace will attract talent and inspire innovation.

Make room for mistakes. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. Successful startups know that one good project can take months of tinkering and trial and error. Communicate to your people that the process and effort are just as important as the result. As Thomas Edison said on his path to inventing the light bulb, „I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.“ That’s the startup mentality you need as you’re cultivating innovation in your teams. Make room for error, and understand that not every project will be able to meet the deadline or achieve greatness. But the important thing to remember is that you’re striving toward making a difference with the projects and solutions that do.

Remember why we’re here. Sure, passion for your work can fade over time, especially if you feel like you’re not making a difference. It’s important to remind ourselves and those around us about the differences we do make—and recognize the efforts and achievements often. Do you remember the ideas, the passion, and the world-conquering attitude you had when you joined the company? Revive it in yourself and your team mates by cheering, recognizing, and appreciating the work that is being done.

The unique values and culture of startups give them a leg up on innovation and creativity. But, we’ve seen large, established companies adopt these values and transform as well. It’s up to each of us as leaders to build a culture that inspires innovative brilliance in our own teams and organizations.


Five Steps to Technology Commercialization

The Discovery and Innovation process can be iterative, bouncing in a multitude of directions through trial, error, learning and back, until finally—success. However, the process for commercializing that discovery can be simplified to a five-step illustration of a complex process.

The Opportunity phase consists of identifying the scientific and commercial value of the discovery. For many inventors and scientists, the scientific value may be more straightforward than revealing the commercial value. The commercial value is simply that there is a market and customers who are willing to pay for your technology—that it meets a need, either real or perceived. Key steps in this process include cultivating a professional network in your field of expertise, research and documentation. Proper documentation is critical in this phase, as it will become an integral part of the protection of your innovation. Keep detailed records and do not make public disclosures concerning your idea. Sharing your idea without proper “non-disclosures” may jeopardize the future protection of your concept.

There are several resources available to assist you in the initial evaluation process. The BTCC works closely with researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs to transform their technologies into commercial enterprises. For non-technology-related innovations, Bradley’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship or the Peoria SCORE Chapter can assist in new-venture evaluations and guidance.


Once a meticulous description of the discovery is complete, a patent, trademark or copyright protection process can be initiated. A patent gives you the exclusive right to prevent others from making and selling your invention. Trademarks offer protection for brands, symbols, logos and colors. Copyrights protect original works of authors, composers, programmers and screenwriters. In some cases, acquiring a patent may take longer than the window of opportunity for commercialization will allow.

As the innovation is taking shape, evaluate your business development goals. Do a little “daydreaming” about the future of your discovery. Is this an intellectual property to be developed and sold to enhance the business of an existing company, or is this a technology that will launch a unique start-up company?

Business Case and Commercialization Plan
This part of the process will determine if the innovation or discovery is truly feasible. “Will the dogs eat it?” is a phrase that could describe the development or creation of the business case. It involves a comprehensive analysis of the industry and market, creating the value proposition, and close identification of the customer. It is imperative to hone in on the customers’ needs and expectations in this phase, as it will impact everything from product features to the distribution plan. You will also need to document the business operations, policies, legal structure of the business, marketing and growth plans, financials, and the team needed to make your venture a success. The Peoria NEXT program, NEXT Steps, is designed to provide detailed feedback on commercialization plans and informal networking between innovators and investors.

Building the Team and Securing Capital
Having the right expertise on your team will not only make the project more viable, it is critical to securing the needed capital investment for implementation and commercialization. Investors need to be assured that you have the necessary expertise to execute your plan. In this phase, “you have typically exhausted your friends, family and fools network and need additional funding to move forward,” according to Kip McCoy of the Heartland Capital Network. “You will need to prove to investors that you can make progress on your commercialization plan in a specified amount of time.” Ownership issues and partnership opportunities need to also be considered and outlined for the investors. Peoria NEXT, in conjunction with the Heartland Capital Network, can connect any business to angel investors, venture capital funds and other state and federal grant opportunities.

Executing the Plan and Developing the Product
Your work to this point has been preparation for starting the business or executing your commercialization plan. This phase includes the deal-making negotiations of selling the technology to an existing business or the start-up process of a new business venture. Roughly, the start-up process includes finding a physical location to operate your business, hiring personnel, physically organizing your business workflow, stocking supplies, developing prototypes and general administrative organization.

At every step along the way, your business development plan will need to be reviewed, modified and refined. Peoria NEXT has seasoned mentors to help you with each step in commercializing your technology.



How Academic Research is Driving Innovation and Growth

Most academic research has been closely identified with a niche and ‘enterprises’ seems to belong outside this circle. Research done at academic institutions across the world have deeply benefited science, economy, industry and several other fields. It fueled new discoveries and innovations in these disciplines, which has greatly transformed the world and how we live. Today businesses implement e-Learning to improve efficiency and productivity. Studies show that e-Learning reduces the learning time by at least 25 to 60 percent when compared to traditional learning.

But the acceptance of academic research among enterprises has been low, not because of its lack of value, but due to underutilization.  Out of the thousands of research papers and dissertations produced, only very few end up contributing actual value to an enterprise.

Propelling innovation within an enterprise rests chiefly on relying on information derived from external sources. In this case, academic research from universities seems a valuable cache of information that enterprises can depend on for using in all their crucial processes and operations.

The troves of academic research do need to help drive productivity, innovation, and growth in an entrepreneurial environment. And this is where the real intent of academic research lies: to stimulate positive action, innovation, and progress in an enterprise that relies on it.


Academic Research: A Driving Force of Innovation and Growth

Several research papers have broached the subject regarding the value of academic research in facilitating innovation and growth. Although appearing slightly biased, a look at the facts stated in these papers seems to offer the truth, which is that academic research has a perceivable influence in driving innovation and growth.

The revenues generated by enterprises contribute a major part to economic development. Besides, they promote the creation of more jobs, which improves the per capita income and the GDP of a country. The paper ‘Contribution of academic research to innovation and growth’ clearly identifies academic research as having a consequential effect in the corporate world.

The results derived from the study elucidates Research & Development (R&D) as a major driving force behind higher productivity, quality, and innovation in the products and services offered by an organization. When looking at how large enterprises are investing huge amounts in R&D, the above statement holds true. With e-learning, knowledge is no longer a centralized activity. Through learning management solutions, employees involved in the R&D processes become content producers with robust knowledge.


Research can guide a business to make several improvements to its existing methodologies and processes


Currently, enterprises have begun to understand the scope of using academic research. More organizations now tend to rely on meticulous research for all sorts of purposes ranging from product development to customer behavior assessment. And this calls for a new cooperation between enterprises and universities to share information for the betterment of both parties.


The Synergy between University and Enterprise

Universities across the world are spearheading academic research. Every year, the research output from universities and other major academic institutions have quadrupled. Enterprises can leverage this huge potential in academic research by forming collaborations or tie-ups with universities. Such collaborations enable universities to share their resources comprising of research papers, dissertations, case studies etc. with enterprises.

Mostly, the use of research can guide a business to make several improvements to its existing methodologies and processes. For instance, a company can utilize external academic research sources shared by a university to find better methods for renewing their existing internal research, development, production, and testing.

The continued success in implementing this model has led companies to actively fund academic research in universities. Companies can get early access to the research materials prior to publication, which they can use right away for any of their operations. Besides, funding universities for specific research projects is an effective exercise in public relations as well.


How can Enterprises Benefit from Funding Academic Research?

Funding academic research is the new norm among several top-level enterprises. Even medium and small-scale businesses have resorted to the use of research by networking with academics or by forging ties with local universities. Some ways by which an enterprise can benefit by funding academic research are:

Research Infrastructure – Funding a university will give an enterprise access to the advanced research facilities. The facilities have the right equipment along with skillful research personnel for carrying out the studies. It is a good alternative since it eliminates the costs involved in investing a separate research division and its infrastructure.

Skilled Human Resources – Universities have an array of skillful researchers who are well versed in the process and highly educated. The availability of such valuable resources can benefit a company greatly as it gives them access to the right talent that they need to aid in their specific research projects. It is a more affordable and less risky option than hiring people directly.

Talent Recruitment – Research funding at a university benefits an enterprise in recruitment as well. Universities usually have exchanges of research personnel who comes to work on a project temporarily. Companies can leverage this opportunity to hire personnel to work for them in areas concerning research and development of specific products or services.


Research Upholds Value in Enterprise

Enterprises that make products and services need a thorough understanding of what they intend to make. Every product or service undergoes a careful research and development within the in-house departments. This ranges from the design to its functionality so that it can best fit in with the needs of the end users whether public or commercial.

In today’s context, research has a prior value since customer interests have got diversified and technologies like the internet have spun off massive amounts of useful data. Implementing a proper R&D can be a true advantage for companies to develop products and services that sell profitably and serve the customer needs.

Direct cooperation between an enterprise and a university has produced excellent results that drive innovation and growth. The theoretical knowledge shared by the researchers have made quite an impact on the output generated by an enterprise. The studies bring out the latest insights into specific subjects and knowledge fields.

Adopting these new forms of information have enabled enterprises to fare ahead with the times. It creates true value in the products and services that they create, which in turn nurtures a model that upholds innovation and growth among all levels.


The 8 P’s Of Entrepreneurship

Being a business owner doesn’t necessarily mean being an entrepreneur. If that was the case we wouldn’t need a new and such a complicated word. If you Google “entrepreneur” it will tell you that an entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. However, economists and some of the most successful entrepreneurs would disagree. According to economist Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950), entrepreneurs are not necessarily motivated by profit but regard it as a standard for measuring achievement or success. Peter Drucker who is well known as the father of modern management enriches the definition by emphasizing “change” and “opportunity”. He defines the entrepreneur as “someone who always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.”

The word entrepreneur itself originates from the French word “entreprendre” meaning “to undertake”.

Having met thousands of entrepreneurs from many different countries and cultures and being one myself I came up with the Entrepreneurship Mix 8P’s. And if the word itself seemed complicated back then when I was studying the course “Entrepreneurship” for my exams, today I can say that being an entrepreneur is way more complicated than that.

So here are the eight P’s that I believe set successful entrepreneurs apart. The magic is formed by the intersection of most or even better all of the traits so the order is irrelevant.

The eight P’s of entrepreneurshipNINA ANGELOVSKA

1. Passion

Passion is the key source of energy, motivation and hard work. It is the driving force for every entrepreneur. It is what fuels the moving-mountains attitude and belief that anything can be done. It is what defines the famous “WHY” of the Golden Circle of Simon Sinek. If you are passionate about something you thrive to succeed, you love what you do so much that you want to do more of it. And the more of it you do the greater the chances for succeeding, thus getting better than the rest in your area.  In his book Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo states that passion is the key to mastering a skill. After analyzing hundreds of great speakers and presenters he claims that passion is the one thing in common for all. To use his phrase, which I love, I believe that successful entrepreneurs know “what makes their heart sing”

2. Perception

The story of Bata is the ideal example of this key trait. Bata shops can be found all over Africa, even in its most remote parts. The story behind is that by the end of the 19th century, Africa was opening up its market. Many shoe manufacturers sent their representatives to Africa to see if there was any business opportunity in this emerging market. The majority of them returned home, saying, “Nobody in Africa wears shoes. So, there isn’t any market for our shoes there.” All except for the Bata sales team who reported enthusiastically, “Nobody in Africa wears shoes! So, there’s an enormous market for our shoes in Africa!” The market conditions were the same for everyone and yet it was a matter of perception of the opportunity.

It was the same for me when I was launching the first deal platform in Macedonia at a time when less than 1% of the population was shopping online and e-commerce barely existed (no legal framework, lack of trust, a small share of people with payment cards etc.) Most of my friends with whom I shared the idea though that the market is not ready and the timing is not right and yet my company ( became a success shortly after launching and today is known as the game-changer of e-commerce in Macedonia.

True entrepreneurs can see opportunities where others can’t or don’t.

3. Potential

Research shows that the brain capacity of an average person is far greater than its usage. The most successful entrepreneurs are willing to sacrifice hours of sleep and skip social activities with friends in order to invest in their potential. They don’t waste countless hours scrolling on social media or gossip, they feed their brain with quality content, they surround themselves with successful people. They are always curious about new things. And while there are differences in the potential that each of us possesses the good news is that our brains can be trained. The mind is what the mind is fed and good entrepreneurs feed and train their brains well.

But before this kind of “on purpose” training happens, it is worth mentioning that it all begins with our parents. First with their DNA (which is not in their control) and second with their home growing and teaching (for which they are fully responsible). According to one study by Rauch Foundation 85% of the brain develops until the age of 5. Therefore the environment of a child’s earliest years can have effects that last a lifetime. Therefore governments and entrepreneurship development programs that seek to create more and more entrepreneurs in this world should start by teaching parents how to raise entrepreneurs or people with an entrepreneurial mindset who will use their potential and thrive, instead of pushing accelerators and incubators to find or create entrepreneurs during later stages when brain elasticity is lower.

4. People

When talking about people in companies I always like to quote Zig Ziglar – ‘You don’t build a business. You build people, and people build the business’. People make good or bad decisions. Every single business depends on people (regardless of industry). That marketing manager that made that lousy decision to approve those ugly billboard designs, that salesman that negotiated the best deal that broke the sales records, that customer care person that impacted your perception about a particular brand. Every single thing in life depends on people. The success of a company, of a business unit, of a whole country, depends on the people. Even when we travel and explore new cities our opinion about that city is not solely affected by the beautiful nature or the architecture but people living there play maybe the most significant role – their energy, culture, attitude, hospitality influence our impressions.

Every entrepreneur, leader or manager with a vision needs a team that supports its vision to make it a reality. It is up to the ability of entrepreneurs to find the right people, to communicate the vision, to attract talent, to invest in building and sustaining their skills set, their energy, attitude and positivity.

5. Persistent Learning

Since I was a little girl, my mother taught me to strive for knowledge and be the best at whatever I do. She would say “You can have houses, cars, and wealth but one day it can all be gone. The world is not always righteous. The only thing that no one can take away from you is your knowledge. If you have the ability to acquire knowledge, to be a fast learner you will always be able to generate new income and build new things.”

And today, to add to my mother’s lesson I would say that another thing that no one can take away from us is our passion. What we have in our minds (knowledge) and what we have in our hearts (passion) makes us as unique as our DNA.

Persistent learning means learning anytime, anywhere from everyone. Outstanding entrepreneurs are able to absorb valuable information and knowledge for everyone like sponges. Being a fast learner is a must for entrepreneurs in today’s faster than ever changing world.

6. Permanent Change

Everybody wants change but nobody wants to change. The resistance to change is in our human nature but the faster we train ourselves to accept and adapt to change the faster we will become better. Successful entrepreneurs are flexible, they can adapt and change quickly. The ability to perceive change as a positive thing, to react and adapt to it is one of the most powerful skills. As Charles Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Or as Michael Jackson says “I am starting with the man in the mirror and I am asking him to change his way… If you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make the change.”

7. Perseverance

Imagine you have departed towards your very desired travel destination. You have planned and fantasized about that magnificent place for so long. You start your journey and suddenly there is a big rock standing on your way. So what do you do? If you have some strong friends you might call them to help you push the rock away. If you don’t have any strong friends your solution might be to climb it. But you don’t know how to climb. So you take climbing lessons and come back with your new skill and climb that rock and continue the journey. It is the same in business. The “rock” symbolizes any kind of obstacle you might face (it be a financial issue, can be a marketing issue, you name it). The “strong friends” are the contacts, networks and people you have in life that can help you out. The “climbing lessons” is any new skill that you don’t know at the time or are not interested in but you go and learn it because that is your only way to continue towards your goal.

During the past eight years of extensive hard-work, overcoming barriers, removing rocks, dealing with all sorts of situations, making decisions, working with different characters and meeting people from all over the globe I learned a lot. In fact today I am grateful for all the struggles, for all those ‘rocks’ on my way, for every problem solved (that seemed unsolvable at the moment) because it made me more flexible, adaptable, resourceful and more knowledgeable. It simply helped me gain a competitive advantage and be a better and stronger person.

Nothing in life comes easy (at least success and good things). If you have a mission, if you have a passion it will not be easy. The road will be bumpy, the will be rocks on the way, some of them will be light, some will be super heavy but if there aren’t any rocks one thing is sure – you are not on the right road. It won’t be easy and we should ask for easy because that way no one will be able to copy what we create.

8. Proactiveness

Most people only do what they are asked, meeting the very minimal requirements and expectations (or even worse some under deliver). They need to be delegated and even micro-managed. Successful entrepreneurs initiate – they see the bigger picture and foresee the circumstances. They are proactive instead of reactive, they play offense, instead of defense. And this is what makes them hard to replace in any given environment.


Innovation Camp

The leading Bulgarian company Telelink, Junior Achievement Bulgaria and The Edge: R&BD, are organizing an Innovation Learning Camp for students (12th grade and university). The main goal is to encourage young people to generate innovative ideas for decreasing the level of functional illiteracy among Bulgarian students.

PLACE: JA Startup Hambar, Sofia Tech Park, „Incubator“ Building

DATE: 24 – 25 November 2018

For registration click here: