This year I have the privilege of being on the 3rd edition of IESE Meets The Valley. This year however I return a different person. I am now an alumnus, I graduated from IESE. Besides I am now an entrepreneur that has raised a little money and is building a product. Besides, Paulo my co-founder is travelling with me allowing for more reflection.
The first day was about getting founded, the idea and the inception of it. These are some things that I learned from the companies we visited.
We started the day with Robotex. This is a company that builds robots used by SWAT teams and emergency response services. The great thing about them being in the trip this year is that they are the only hardware start-up in the program this year. They shared 2 things that we will definitely remember. Firstly their employee #1 shared that they never hired a person for one specific role when they started. A new employee always had to fit several roles. As we move to the next stage with our start-up we will get to the same situation. It was comforting to hear another company (a successful one) share that hiring for a specific role in the beginning is almost impossible. The second thing we took away with us from Robotex were their unconventional sales tactics. Without going into detail, we really realized that perhaps we also need to move towards more unconventional sales tactics to get potential users to see our product.
M&A is human
We spoke to many founders yesterday. Exit round shared their story with us as well as Cooliris. Then in the evening we spoke to 12 founders during the Founders dinner. We heard a lot of people talk about selling their company or how this process works. In fact, one of the biggest take-aways for me personally is that corporations very rarely seem to acquire a company without knowing them. Usually the people involved already know each other for some time or from previous endeavors. What I learned is that if we would seek an exit in the future,we probably would have to start laying these relationships now.
Product is King
But I learned more from Exitround and especially Cooliris. Both of them were emphasizing the fact that an amazing product is key. Sometimes in Europe I feel that especially enterprise software can get away with lower level design standards. Here, just to be part of the game, you need an amazingly engineered and designed product. One of the founders we met showed us their product. I though it looked fine. But he apologized for how ugly it was and that they were improving. We even had a very respected VC tell us personally we need to work on this. Luckily we are spending a lot of effort at this very moment to fully re-build and re-design the platform to be on-par with the rest
Like last years I am affected by the amazing energy that you feel everywhere around you. As one founder told us: programmers over here might be more expensive than in Spain, but they are 10x more productive as well. I feel more motivated than ever to go back to Barcelona in May and build the most amazing product possible. To really WOW our customers. So we are back… and so is the energy.