To support his statement that ideas of themselves are worthless Henrik Scheel says there were social media sites before Facebook and search engines before Google.
“So, becoming a successful entrepreneur is all about the execution of the ideas,” the Silicon Valley based Dane told a standing room only audience at Geelong Entrepreneurs fifth breakfast seminar recently.
“To successfully execute ideas, aspiring entrepreneurs should not only share them but do so by opening up their networks of contacts as Silicon Valley demonstrates so readily.”
If this advice for entrepreneurs in the Geelong region is generic, it is underpinned by links between industry and the education sector which explain Mr Scheel’s second visit to the region in less than 12 months.
As a lecturer for SPARK@Deakin, a program run by Deakin University he is involved in an experiential program designed to give students, staff and alumni the opportunity to see, experience and relate to the early stages of the entrepreneurial path from a commercial perspective.
Drawing on his own background as an entrepreneur Mr Scheel articulates his thoughts on entrepreneurialism with a clarity and directness for which Scandinavians are known and which sees him in demand in many countries.
Largest of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs he says is the temptation to fall in love with the product or service they create, rather than the problem they are trying to solve.
Allied to this challenge is the risk assessment in which entrepreneurs should ask two questions. Market risk poses the question, should we build this to solve a real problem. The product risk asks can we build it.
This can lead says Mr Scheel to the need to overcome conventional wisdom about when to launch a new product.
“If you’re not embarrassed by the initial customer feedback about your new idea then it is arguable that you have launched it too late into the market. In other words, feedback helps refine that idea in line with the problems that the market would like to see solved.”
A second challenge says Mr Scheel is to find people you can trust. Surround yourself with people who share your dreams and have complementary skills.
Moving to Silicon Valley he found himself in a culture that exudes self-confidence and one that is characterised by cooperation, not by a “what’s in it for me mentality”.
“The US encourages people to be top performers, to open up their networks of contacts to those they meet. An inclusive mentality is a pre-requisite to successful entrepreneurialism.”
“Problems, solutions, markets and the business are the four elements of any pitch and of these, problems are by far the most important to get across to an investor. Also bear in mind that big investors invest in teams, not in ideas,” Mr Scheel says.
So to pitch an idea successfully, entrepreneurs need to understand the background of a potential investor. Is that person a large scale venture capitalist or an angel investor or social entrepreneur who might see the benefits to communities of a particular new product or service?
Another entrepreneurial challenge is facing up to failure. Mr Scheel cites Finland’s national day of failure which he says exemplifies “that if we are to move forward we must be encouraged to examine where we have screwed up.”
In 2010, having founded two companies in Denmark before specialising in strategy development and innovation management at a global clean energy provider, Henrik Scheel moved to Silicon Valley where he founded Startup Experience, Inc. – a company that delivers interactive workshops aimed at solving social problems through entrepreneurship.
Explaining the interest of high school students and university undergraduates in the Startup Experience courses, he cites a figure that 90 per cent of jobs today are with companies that are less than five years old further highlighting the importance of an entrepreneurial culture in post-industrial Geelong.
“In a world where the job description for which someone has trained no longer exists, how to learn new skills is critical. Being an entrepreneur is no longer a choice,” he says.