MIT Global Start-up Workshop 2013 discussing taking start-ups global


by Maarit Koobas, Enterprise Estonia

The MIT GSW is the world’s premier workshop dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and building entrepreneurial ecosystems globally. The annual MIT Global Start-up Workshop (GSW) brings together entrepreneurial leaders, financiers, students, professors, government agents and private parties to build a global support network for entrepreneurship. This year’s MIT takes place on 25–27 March in Tallinn, Estonia.

Tradewithestonia.com managed to attend the first day of MIT GSW and made some observations about the panel “Taking a start-up global”. The main speakers in the panel were John Metcalf, co-founder and managing director at Demand Analytics, a company which builds tools to gather and visualize real-time data to enable companies, individuals, etc. to make better decisions. The speakers from Estonia were Kristi Poldsam, US regional manager from Textmaster, and Kristjan Hiiemaa from Erply. Erply is an enterprise software company focusing on the point-of-sale and inventory management technology. This company out of nowhere, as Kristjan Hiiemaa himself has said, is now very close to crossing its 100,000 customer mark.  Textmaster is a translation, proofreading and copywriting company operating in five different countries. The company brings together copywriters, translators, etc. and provides its services in eight languages. The company started from France and was global-minded from day one. Kristi Poldsam says that whether to go global or not – it all depends on the company and its area of activity.

Picture: From the right Yrjö Ojasaar, John Metcalf, Kristi Poldsam, Kristjan Hiiemaa

The speakers brought out their ideas about starting a company, going global and  their biggest mistakes. John Metcalf pointed out that it is important to build a company fast and fail fast, if needed, when you realise  that the idea does not work. Poldsam  added that it is important to not spend too many resources before an idea has proven itself that it may work and is right.

When a start-up is thinking about going global,  one option is to use venture capitalists because, as Hiiemaa said, “You should be ready to spend a lot when going to unknown markets”. “Erply would not have succeeded without venture capitalists (VC) as US market needs a lot of money. Also, without VC it is harder to build trust towards your company, ” Hiiemaa added.

An app market was taken under consideration as it seems like there is a boom of apps. Everyone who wants to become an entrepreneur starts from an app because we all “want to be developers”. The speakers encouraged the audience to stop building these " stupid apps" and just joining someone who has better ideas, who is going to change the world or who is going to make impact in the world.

But if you already have a very good idea, success and succeeding in foreign markets may largely depend on the team. Poldsam thinks that the biggest challenge is finding and hiring good people. It is important to have people who are start-minded. If you feel the team does not work, it is better to let go some persons sooner than  regret  later.

Metcalf  thinks that the best people in the world already have their own brand. “More and more people want freedom and independence and at the same time corporations want a few people on demand. And this is where we are heading. We take care of a project and then we let go and move on.” In his view this is a good thing and for Demand Analytics it works and it may also work for other similar companies.

Hiiemaa recommends trying to find people from “dying companies”, from companies that have failed because these employees already know the scenery and have the know-how.

The last point that was made was that although it seems like the start-up, especially the apps market is so full,  start-ups and start-up entrepreneurs are still very much needed.  Big companies should love start-ups, because they are the innovators who are going to solve big companies’ problems.

If you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur you should think about a specific area and find something that you really like to do. Considering that about  80% of the VC´s portfolio  fails it is better to do something that you love and fail than do something you are not happy about and then fail.

More information about the event can be found here: www.mitgsw.org