Many young people want their own businesses

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

“Many young people want their own businesses. The barriers to starting an Internet business are low. Viral marketing via a personal e-mail list and a few key mentions on prominent blogs can potentially catapult a good idea into a successful business. Since young people can effectively fund their own companies this way, they may not want to pay their dues by working for someone else and learning the ropes. The flexibility of owning a company is not only appealing, but also a way to avoid menial labor at the bottom of the corporate ladder. In fact, many young people are choosing the excitement of entrepreneurship over the stability of a good salary.”

– from Boston Globe

Via Flempo.

[tags]startingcompany, college, university, entrepreneur [/tags]

Skriv kommentar 9. juli 2007 kl. 21:41

The Danish Entrepreneurial Mindset

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

City Hall Square in Copenhagen

Pelle Braendgaard has on his blog Stakes Ventures just made a blog post about Danish Entrepreneurship and some of the challenges the Scandinavian mindset poses to us Scandinavians.

“The entrepreneurial tradition thing is a sad thing. In 1988 when various business associations in Denmark needed young Danish entrepreneurs to send to various EU conferences, I was the only person they could find. Yes I knew several others, but it really was not a common thing to be an entrepreneur in the 80s in Denmark. I can see people of my generation are really scared of the idea of entrepreneurship.

However as I mentioned at the talk, I think computers, games, mobiles and the Internet has had a big impact of the generations coming after mine. Dane’s in the 20s are a lot more open to the idea of setting up shop than my generation. I can only assume this trend will grow. From the Copenhagen.rb meetings I can see that there is a definite change in the mindset of people.”
Stakes Ventures: Silicon Vikings talk on Danish Entrepreneurship

I think Pelle is right that Danes in our generation (people in their 20s) are more willing to try for themselves as opposed to solely being an employee. When Femi came to Denmark from UK he said he was surprised to see that there was a lot of my friends and people in general who at some point had their own small company. We do however still have a lot to learn from the Americans on being bold and thinking bigger.

Where Pelle mentions some of the constraints of setting up and operating a company in Denmark as a stumbling block – I would emphasis the flexibility of the Danish system as a contributing factor to why I created astartup instead of becoming an employee.

  • I could get unemployment benefits straight out of university while I was growing my company. (The paperwork is a hassle, but at least I got some money for rent)
  • Starting a personal partnership (I/S) is super easy. One (1) paper form and you are in business. The disadvantage is that you are fully liable for the company but starting a software company does not involve any big investments so the risk is not big in my case.
  • The economy is strong and there is a shortage of people in IT. Even though this might change for now it has been an assurance for me that if everything fails in my business it is easy to go out and get a job.
  • There are a number of governmental institutions and non-profit networks emerging focused on startups and entrepreneurship.

To me the threshold to get started in Denmark is very low. It is when the company is starting to mature and money is starting to roll in that the problems occur. Changing to a limited company and the huge taxation that follows will then be a major issue. My perspective on this mater is further enhanced from Femi’s experience in the UK, where his perception is that the threshold of starting a small company requires significantly more work, whereas the benefits outshine those of the danish equivalent once established and money begins to flow.

2 kommentarer 2. juli 2007 kl. 10:00

Business plan? – oh yeah that thing…

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

File box Today I was talking a lot with a new client of ours about how to go about doing a business plan for the company he is about to start. And then I realized that I hadn’t seen our plan since we made it.

I still believe that it is a good idea to write a business plan because the most valuable aspect is the proces you go think and talk about before you start. The best advice we were given back then was:

Make your business plan, go through the process and file it

That was also my advice today. Because we might have had some hopes, expectations and ideas of were would be a year from we started but we have ended up in a very different place and with very different clients. Not to say that it is not good to plan – we have a lot of plans – but the business plan is staying in the files.

On the same note I just watched a very inspiring panel talk called No Plan, No Capital, No Model… No Problem moderated by Guy Kawasaki. Here are five different people from businesses that started out from scratch, didn’t get external funding and ended up being successful. A key in all these companies is that they stay like micro-companies for a long time and only at a very late stage start to grow their teams.

1 kommentar 26. juni 2007 kl. 22:05

Ostrava on Rails

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

I’m sitting in a restaurant in Ostrava in the Eastern part of Czech Republic. We went out here to participate in the first Czech Ruby on Rails conference. Ruby on Rails is the programming framework we use to do most of our development. It’s a fairly new framework that has been gaining a lot of interest over the past two years which is why this conference is held in the first place.

It has been a really good experience with a number of interesting talks by some of the companies we admire like 37Signals (who have built the successful project tool BaseCamp) and jadedPixel (who have built the equally successful online store system Shopify). Apart from that we have met some great people from countries around here that all work with Rails.

Apart from the food for thought the socializing has been a lot of fun. One more day here and we head back to Prague again.

[tags] rails, ostrava, conference, ostravaonrails[/tags]

1 kommentar 23. juni 2007 kl. 11:20

Prague – but why?

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

Arrived in Prague
– When we told people that we were moving to Prague for six month – everyone without exception asked “why?”. The “why?” was usually accompanied with a frowning face and a look that said “are you crazy?”. Let me try and see if I can explain it…

Our goal of starting our own company has been to enjoy life and gain experiences while making money building software that works. We started this company to let us try something we probably wouldn’t experience if we were working for an employer.

After setting up the company and working in Copenhagen for about 8 months we realized that it is not crucial for us to be stationed in Denmark to work for Danish clients. We had Danish clients but also clients we’d never met and who were sitting in US, UK and Germany. We were web workers and all we needed was (roughly) a chair and good Internet and we could do our work. When we truly realized this fact and our lease in Copenhagen was nearing an end, we started to look at a map – in the beginning just for fun – but quickly it became apparent that we had to try to move to a different country.

We settled on Prague for a number of reasons – cost of living is cheaper (since we are still paid by Danish rates), trains and flights are frequent and cheap to Denmark and the rest of Europe and finally Prague is a beautiful metropolis with a thriving night life.

Our plans for our Prague adventure is to stay here for six months as a “work holiday” where we can get more value for our buck while we focus on developing products for other companies and one of our own products. Arb Design the company is still based in Denmark in terms of tax, VAT – it’s just the two owners that are sitting in Prague for a while.

– After explaining this some people said “I guess it makes sense in a way” or “I wish it was me” – and a few continued to shake there head.

We have now been in Prague for nearly three weeks and moved into our new apartment Sunday and it already feels like home. At times we have asked ourselves whether or not it was a good idea to make this move – now I know it is.

2 kommentarer 20. juni 2007 kl. 15:47

20 kg + carry on

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

It’s been awful quite here on our blog for a while.

We’ve been busy moving out of our place in Copenhagen and finding refuge in Jylland for a couple of weeks before we are migrating south. For past two weeks we have worked out of my parents attic and right now we are staying with a friend in Frederiksberg before heading out Friday.

This is the third time I’m moving this year so I’m getting better at throwing old and unused stuff away. But still it has been a challenge to squeeze my possessions for the next six months down to 20kg and a hand bag.

[tags] travel, prague, business, moving [/tags]

1 kommentar 31. maj 2007 kl. 10:13

Start a company while studying

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

If a high school kid asked me for an advice today for how to get through university, it would be to start a company while studying.

While Danish universities provide some hands on experience and real-life collaboration there is a lot of things that can’t be taught in school.

During my studies in computer science and communication I think about 10-20% of my year started their own company (mostly as sole proprietors). It was easy to start and pretty easy to find costumers who wanted something done with IT. I started two companies while studying one by myself and another one with 4 of my friends. None of the companies were a huge success but I learned how to do the books and the experience I gained made me confident that starting a company for a living would be doable.
Most of the people who started companies shut them down when they graduated and got ‘real jobs’ but as far as I know there are now four people living the life as entrepreneurs from my year.

My years in university have taught me a lot and I don’t regret it. But you shouldn’t go to college just to get a degree. Mike Glanz wrote a post about how all he learned in college was how to ‘work the system’.

“If I had taken Guy’s advice and learned how to make money instead of being an employee. If I had just found Seth’s blog when he started it… I’m not saying all college is a total waste. I am saying that my university was a total waste for me.

Let me break that down.

I went to college to get a degree. My parents told me a degree was “something to fall back on”, it was “security”, and it would “prepare me for the real world”. In reality it took away my preparedness. I’m a surviving kinda guy. I needed to pass college so I did it the best way possible: find out what the teachers wanted and gave it to them. Within a year I wasn’t trying… I graduated top 10 in my class because I was the best at giving the teachers what they wanted… not because I paid attention to anything they said.”

Skriv kommentar 17. maj 2007 kl. 14:50

Make Mistakes Faster

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

The picture below is taken at Menlo Innovations – the place where Femi and I worked when we met.

Make Mistakes Faster!

The poster on the wall right above the clock, is one of the biggest posters in the office. The year I worked at Menlo taught me a lot but one of the key phrases I’ve taken with me. It’s based on that ideology of Make mistakes faster – so you can make it right quicker. When you are not afraid to make mistakes and owning up to them it’s a lot easier to spot them early on, deal with them, learn a lesson and then move on.

Alexander Kjerulf recently wrote about how forgiveness is good for business. And Seth Gordin also states that failing is a thing to embrace and not to fear:

“There’s never been an entrepreneur with a crystal ball. Thereʼs no way to know for sure
whether your business is going to work, whether your targeted customers will buy, whether
your choice of technology is a good one. Youʼre going to be wrong. Get used to it!

In the face of this uncertainty, it seems to me that the very worst thing you can do is fail to try.”

The Bootstrapper’s Bible

This is our last week in Copenhagen and in three weeks we are flying to Prague. When we are in Prague we are going to allocate most our time to a promising project of our own. Will it sink or swim? We don’t know – but we have to try.

3 kommentarer 9. maj 2007 kl. 13:54

Mistakes to avoid

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

I just came across a very useful post on the Common Mistakes to Avoid When Freelancing. Same rules apply for micro companies and I would also add to that short list, a comment I came across from another blog post covering the same topic – you should always be aggressive when dealing with any clients’ breaking of the contract, just because you don’t have a legal department it doesn’t mean that you must accept any situation.

[tags]tips, mcro-company, freelancing[/tags]

1 kommentar 22. april 2007 kl. 14:39

The unusual office

Skrevet af Femi og Michael

Here is a followup post on Femi’s previous post with some links about location of your microbusiness and home.

Web Worker Daily has a post about the connection between your commute and your happiness.

“Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, proposes that you should minimize your work commute (and the distance from your house to your favorite market) for maximum happiness”

In today’s world many companies just need an internet connection and a phone and they are in business. San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting article of the nomadic lifestyle in the Bay Area.

“San Francisco’s modern-day bedouins are typically armed with laptops and cell phones, paying for their office space and Internet access by buying coffee and muffins.”

The author and Chief Happiness Officer, Alexander Kjerulff discovered by accident that having a small, low-rent apartment made him happier and gave him more leeway to do what he wanted.

“In the startup I’ve been running the past three years I’ve been able to take some chances and focus more on building a happy, sustainable business than on bringing home a big pay-check every month. It has allowed the business to grow organically which has paid off immensely now that the business is up and running.”

The Danish tech-writer, consultant etc. Steven Snedker moved 90 km away from Copenhagen and bought a huge house (in Danish) for what a smaller apartment would cost in Copenhagen.

“Some people love the office and the office routines. The chats with coworkers. The cakes and the gossip. These people shouldn’t do telecommuting. Telecommuting is the equivalent of locking your office door and – apart from one day a week – only communicate with people via phone and email.
Telecommuting has the big advantage that you don’t have to look like you’re working on days were you don’t want to work. You can just take the day off.” – (My translation)

The possibilities today for were and how to work is great. So you don’t have to sit at a desk in a office space if you don’t want.

Skriv kommentar 19. april 2007 kl. 12:14

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