I helped create 60 start-ups in 6 years, IAm Martin Bjergegaard AMA
Welcome Everyone, today’s AMA from London Real is with successful entrepreneur Martin Bjergegaard.
He has been a recent guest on London Real: http://www.londonreal.tv/episodes/martin-bjergegaard-winning-without-losing/
…. where he talks about being a businessman with a work/life balance, the 3 W’s of Rainmaking, the Macho and Martyr card people pull, and much more!
Rainmaking, the company he co-founded has helped create 60 start-ups in 6 years:
The author of “Winning Without Losing”:
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Now, let’s get down to business with the great Dane himself Martin Bjergegaard ….. .
EDIT: Thanks for the questions, keep them coming, Martin is gonna take a break for today but will be back to answer the best questions.
my best tip for work/life balance as an entrepreneur is: form a team of great co-founders. If you manage that, then you can become very successful without sacrificing anything
Hey Martin. Can you advise how a sole founder should go about finding co-founders for her/his startup?
my best suggestion would be to go to Startupweekend - and the likes - it's a awesome way of finding co-founders
Brilliant, I'll check it out. Thanks!
time's up, I am off to a party at my friends place - thanks for all your questions and comments, it's been a great pleasure!:-)
Being from North America, I think theres a definite unbalance between work/life. It seems that not enough people are following there actual passions, and just working for the clock. I see a lot of people just conforming to living a life working for some other entities benefits and not there own. I've spent quite a bit of time travelling in Europe, Oz, and NZ and there definitely seems to more of a balance between work/life. Any ideas why that is?
I totally agree; life is all about pursuing your passions and enjoying the journey, I mean what else should it be about...? in the US, as well as in the rest of the world, far too many people behave and think as if they didn't have a free will. If they are happy then it's fine, of course - but if not, then it's a shame
I'm in highschool, 16 years old, and about a year ago I started an organization aimed at helping teenagers around the world. We're currently at the stage of finalizing the name, and we're finding it extremely difficult to come up with a name that would fit the company and also has available domains. Do you have any tips?
Also, I read that you were a Management Consultant and McKinsey; have you ever attended the McKinsey party at the WEF?
Finally, I'm presuming you made a large sum of money by the time you were 25; do you have any tips on how to continue leading a balanced and well rounded life even after making money at a young age?
you are lucky to have so many great adventures ahead of you:-) name: in my experience the name is not really that important. I mean "Apple"...? McKinsey: no, I didn't - I was just pushing powerpoints and fighting with excel rich: I didn't own anything at 25 - had actually just closed down a company to go to school and finish my master. Anyway, money is not really important - not to your happiness, not to your opportunities - it just often feels that way - but I had just as much fun when I was 25 as I do today, so don't wait for anything, you got everything you need already now
I tried saying your last name out loud but just wound up coughing. Can you tell us how to pronounce it properly?
yeah, I know - it's very difficult for non-Danes:-)
Given that many startups are presently working to disrupt the education space, do you think that universities will have to adapt so as to remain competitive over the course of the next decade?
Universities are completely f.... up. They need to change, no doubt. I actually wrote a blog post about that - just gimme a sec
here it is: http://rainmaking.co.uk/?p=801
Have you ever attended any of the Silicon Drinkabout events, hosted by the 3 beards?
not yet - are they good?
Yes, I really appreciate what those guys are doing. That said, sometimes I feel that people mostly talk to people they know already, so it can be difficult to break into their circles.
ok - I will test it out next time:-)
Hi Martin, I've wanted to do a start up for so long but I enjoy my current job. I feel the lack of experience and business skills hold me back. Is there a way I can get started without sacrificing my life/current job?
of course, you can start in your own time - but 95% of the times it doesn't work, unless it's really for a limited time period - where you test something, and are ready to quit your day job the moment it takes off. Starting up a new company is, in my view, not a part time gig - it doesn't match well with a full time job on the side. There is actually a chapter about this in the book we have just released, the chapter is called "Go all in"
I run a web design company aimed at start-ups and SME's. I wanted to offer an affordable web solution to people who wouldn't usually consider a website because of the big expense etc.
My question is, how would you recommend exposing my product to as many new and small businesses as possible?
sounds like you are in a "red ocean" market. What are you truly passionate about with the project? When you find that, then use that as your basis of a story - a story that people will care about. Maybe have a look at Simon Sineks TED Talk
What are some of your favorite startups building?
the last 3 years I have been heavily involved in building a crowdfunding platform for charities - www.betternow.org. I like that one:-) our company http://www.latestinbeauty.com is having a really nice traction. And we have just launched a very cool fantasy football game http://www.ultimatemanager.com - to name a few:-)
Funny, I have been working in the charity space too.
cool- in what capacity?
Hi Martin is there any stocks you would recommend to buy ?, if you do buy any
I used to by stocks, but I stopped. I felt it gave me some fake ups and downs in my life. The sun could be shining, and I had just built something great in my start up - but then I lost on the stock market, and felt bad. What's that about?? What's real in my life is my health, the people I love, and the start ups I build. I don't wont any distractions to that. Of course, that's just how I feel - and I know that for other people investing in stocks can be fun and exciting
Hi Martin, I am a high school student who is starting a company after my idea won a social entrepreneurship competition. I was wondering if you think that the business plan is a good route to begin working on the start-up, or, like i've heard so many times, the business plan is dead and other ways are more beneficial to getting one's business up and running.
I think what needs to drive entrepreneurship is your passion. Start the thing if you cannot help it - otherwise keep looking until you find something you really want to do.
What do you think about the APP market ?
In general, I would say that the trick is to find the combination between something you are sincerely passionate about - and a real problem (or opportunity) in the world. I try not to think so much about whether my next company should be in that or that industry, whether we should be BTB or BTC, etc. - but more ask myself; what would be amazing for me to do and build at this stage of my life? the benefit is that you are much more persistent, dedicated and convincing then
What was one of the greatest risks you took in starting one of your Start-Ups?
I have been close to bankruptcy many times in my time as an entrepreneur - however, always managed to find a way - and pay everyone almost on time:-) the biggest risk... hmmm... I will have to think a bit
it was probably one of the biggest risks to launch Startupbootcamp - our accelerator that this years helps create, and invests in, 70 start ups all over Europe. Because it did receive a substantial investment, and the payback time can be quite long with a business model like that
Are you looking to invest in anything these days?
via our accelerator http://www.startupbootcamp.org we get involved with, and invests in, 70 start ups during 2013. Besides from that we are going to start up 2-3 new "own" companies during the next 6 months
And these are all tech companies, correct? Or, have you ventured out of tech at all, or thought about it at least...?
absolutely, we have been doing other companies too. I am not sure that was smart, but so it was. For instance we own a chain of beauty clinics in UK: http://www.trueskin.co.uk
Thanks for doing an AMA! My question is about Management Consulting. Did you enjoy your time at McKinsey, and do you feel it was useful in your future entrepreneurial activities? If so, in which ways?
I hated it - but it served a purpose at the time: I needed to test if I wanted to continue as an entrepreneur, or if I wanted to pursue a career within consulting or big business. I found out that I am an entrepreneur by heart. Did I learn something? Absolutely, but I am not sure how relevant it was for being an entrepreneur. Some of the learning was useful, while some of it was directly counterproductive - and took me years to "unlearn"
Makes sense. If you have time, I'd love to hear more details in what you had to "unlearn", and maybe a couple of the more useful skills/things you learned there?
I'm so curious because I am going into Management Consulting myself, with aspirations to be an entrepreneur afterwards.
unlearn: to focus mainly on plans, calculations and powerpoint. It's fine a a management consultant, but can easily become a distraction for an entrepreneur
What is your advise on partnerships?
what kind of partnerships do you mean?
I guess cofounders.
that's a big topic! In my view it's all about hooking up with the right co-founders. People who have similar values as you, but different skills. People you truly like and want to become friends with. And that are passionate about the same journey as you. Makes sense?
How hard is it to be a successful entrepreneur in health care or biotechnology? Any tips for one aspiring entrepreneur of that kind?
if you are passionate and knowledgeable about health care or biotech then I think you have a fair shot at success. If you are passionate but not yet knowledgeable, then I would suggest to go work for the coolest team within the area for a year - and then setting up on your own
great to see all the new questions - I have answered as many of them as I can. Hope it ads some value, even though it's just short answers, and I definitely don't know it all, just sharing my opinion.
One thing that has come up a couple of times is the question like "can you really have made 60 companies in 6 years?". You're right to ask that - and of course, I haven't. Not on my own at least. We were 4 co-founders who established Rainmaking 6.5 years ago. Since then we have launched 15 companies, of which 10 are still alive (3 sold, 7 still in our ownership). 3.5 years ago we set up Startupbootcamp because more and more entrepreneurs came to us for different kinds of support. We wanted to help but we did not have the structure. Therefore Startupbootcamp. Since then 50 companies have come out of Startupbootcamp. As for me personally I have been running 3 companies within Rainmaking as CEO, each for about 2 years - and every time been quite focused on that particular start up (spending 75% of my time on that, 25% on other Rainmaking and Startupbootcamp stuff). Of those 3, one is very successful (10+ million GBP in revenues this year), one we closed down because it didn't work, one is prosperous but still a question mark in terms of financial performance (has a huge social impact though). Now I am looking to do my next venture. Hope this explains the title a bit... and sorry for the confusion it has caused.
Any advice to get motivation? What motivates you?
in my experience all humans beings have some core motivation, something they would really like to do and achieve. What it is is unique to all of us - and can even change over time. The trick here in life is to figure out what really excites you, and then - without fear - embark on that journey
Are the any good ways to come up with good start up ideas?
yes, that's a great question. I have tried to "force" myself to get new ideas quite a few times - so far it hasn't worked. I have gotten my best ideas much more randomly. However, there is one thing that I have learned: I get the most and best ideas when I am on vacation. Probably because I leave all the tasks and details of daily life behind me, and that opens up space to creativity and big thinking
You mean mobile Apps? I am definitely no expert, enjoy to use a lot of them, but also know that the vast majority struggle to monetize. But then again those that hit it big can really scale. What do you think?
I'm thinking about creating a mobile development agency(I currently work as a mobile developer, but I'm frustrated as I'm working on the directors vision but not my own. This is effecting my work motivation). However I don't know how gain exposure to larger clients. I'm fairly sure I could scout around for small jobs, but their budgets are extremely constrained.
One differentiator I am considering building is a highly polished client portal. Where clients can receive daily builds of the application which they can download to their phone, and comment on progress or request changes. This with the goal of making development as smooth as possible. Eventually I want the company to move from developing mobile apps, to designing and looking after complete mobile marketing strategies for larger companies.
I'm expecting to start up as a freelancer at first. However im expecting the jump from freelancing to a company with its own office is going to be difficult.
Any advice, especially for gaining clients? I'm expecting many to see me as inexperienced.
seems to me like you already have a strong motivation, great insights and the first parts of a viable plan. It would say, that what you now need is a great co-founder, who is excellent at sales and client relationships. Someone who shares your vision, your values - and could be passionate about this venture together with you
Hi Martin, what if anything in particular would say was instrumental for you to arrive at your business/life philosophies?
maybe getting a daughter - and working for McKinsey (luckily not at the same time:-)
indeed:-) she's so much fun, 6 years now
Any tip for a starting IT services company? We are just starting out with 4 employees, and already having difficulty finding work.
watch Simon Sineks talk on TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html - then ask yourself: "what is our WHY?". If your WHY is not powerful enough (means you can feel it in your whole body, it excites you), then choose another mission. When you are doing something you are truly passionate about, then spreading the word becomes so much less of a problem - to same goes for getting customers
I did watched that. It was a great advice. Sadly, we don't have any speciality just yet. I guess, we need some soul searching to do. Thanks for the advice.
you are most welcome:-)
if a startupfails how much money is lost? what do you think of a startup on a fitness website how hard will that be to succeed
it's up to the founder how much money is lost. I mean, each step of the way you make a decision to take on a certain cost or not. Some start ups almost don't spend any money - that's the beauty of all the opportunities and technology today; you can actually start a business very cheap. Fitness website; you will have to tell a bit more for me to form an opinion:-)
Martin definitely has the right approach to life and work. Excited for this AMA!
thanks, just ask me anything - challenge my openness, it's profound I tell you:-)
I have never been a smoker of pot, however, it is interesting to read how others, namely Steve Jobs, benefited from its use (or was that LSD - I forget). Anyhow, what's your opinion? Do you think that such drugs have an expansive effect on the mind?
not really... and then again, I only tried pot - and just a couple of times when I was around 20 - so I not really qualified to answer...:-) But it's a good story with Steve Jobs though - and probably it's just that; a good story
I'm a college senior from a prestigious school, have a good resume, and want to become a marketer. I've been applying to startups, but they want somebody who has been out of school for a couple of years. What advice would you give me in order to break into the startup scene? Unpaid internships aren't an option, I need to afford my living costs (rent/food/travel), and I live in NYC currently.
take a part time job that can pay the bills - and then find the coolest start up in the area and offer them your help for free. It's all about getting to hang out with the right people - then stuff will happen
Traditionally Nordic countries, and Denmark in particular, has been plagued by the "jantelov" where you're not supposed to believe in yourself and think you can do things better than anyone else - the result being that people with success are viewed suspiciously. Is it your impression that this attitude has changed for the better in recent years?
you are absolutely right, that's a challenge here in Denmark. You need to regularly make fun of yourself and show that you are down to earth, for others to keep liking you. A bit weird, I know. Then again it also has some advantages. I believe humility is important here in life (also as a means of keeping yourself happy), and in Denmark you get socially kicked in the balls when you forget your humility...:-)
I still haven't got around to watching Klown... Looks so funny!
its the best!
Is that similar to the Swedish concept of Lagom a friend of mine explained to me?
"lagom" means just about right - not too much, not too little. My wife is Swedish:-)
First off Martin, great podcast!
From taking some Entrepreneurship classes, I seem to understand that essence of an innovator or entrepreneurial mind is that desire for change. What was one of the first things that you wanted to change?
thanks for your kind words:-) I think it has changed over time. To begin with I wanted to prove myself as an entrepreneur, to make money and all that. Nowadays its more about building something, making a difference. That of course doesn't mean that I am a saint - I am fully aware that the driving force behind is my own need to feel significant:-)
Great AMA :) my friend and are starting out in marketing and we want to start a content provider service for various niches. When you're just starting out, what's the best way to advertise and generate sales? What's the best approach to developing long-term business contacts in lesser-known niches?
are one of your strong in sales and client relationships? if not, then look for a third co-founder who is. It's going to be a full time job to attract customers. Seems like a good idea to focus on a niche. As a first step I would say call them up, and try to get meetings with them. Expect 9 out of 10 to say no thanks (at least the first time you try). If you can convince one out of 10 to take a meeting with you, then hopefully you can get your first trial customers. Make them extremely happy (over-invest in delivering top quality to them) - and thus turn them into your ambassadors. More work will follow. Slowly you will build it up
Hi Martin, how does one start a company without anything, the very first one.
you do have something; you have your passion, your skills, your time and your talent. It is not important to have money to start something. Lots of people who are rich and successful today started without any money - but they had belief and went for it. How exactly to do that depends on your unique situation - and you will probably need to think creatively to crack it:-)
Is it common for aspiring entrepreneurs to bounce from one idea to the next, perhaps starting things without finishing them?
Would you say it's necessary (for success) to pick one idea and give it 100 percent, or have you seen people succeed by trying multiple ideas, each on a small scale, until one takes off?
I think it is ok to work on 2-3 things in the very early phase - but be ready to go all in with one of them, the moment it picks up. Focus is key
What do you think about solo founders? I am currently working on a project solo not out of greed, but simply because I want to experience every aspect of doing everything.
I think there is a huge potential in hooking up with great co-founders. Alone is tough... and you cannot do everything - or at least you cannot do everything fast and excellent (no one can)
Thanks for the AMA -- I know at this point its a bit late to be asking questions... but I'll summarize some info from this AMA for those who are late to the game.
1) Make a TODAY, rather than "to-do" list. Make a list of the things you want to do today -- and get them done. Don't think of everything overall.
2) Form a team of great co-founders.
3) Money doesn't buy happiness, your business name doesn't matter... just go for it and do it!
4) If you want to hep a startup... get a part-time job to pay the bills, and then go help them for free!
thanks for summing it up, you nailed it:-)
How was your experience on the London Real podcast and how does it compare to other interview -style meet and greet?
it was one of the very best interview experiences I have had! I was a bit nervous beforehand (because I am not a native English speaker and the hosts seemed so fast paced, from the look of it...) but after just shaking hands with David and Patrick, I realised they were great guys, down to earth and with a lovely sense of humour
Hi Martin, two questions:
1) What's the largest sum that has been invested via startupbootcamp?
2) How does a successful entrepreneur who has the knowledge/experience and track record of good business go about getting funded without understanding standard VC practices ( formal language, formal business plans, etc.)?
1) around 70% of the startupbootcamp teams get funded. I don't know the biggest amount, I have just asked my co-owner who is running startupbootcamp 2) maybe read "Be smarter than your venture capitalist" by Brad Feld - and have a good lawyer by your side
If you could recommend one book about creating a startup which would it be.
Do More Faster Delivering Happiness Winning without Losing:-)
I'm looking to eventually do a start up in the medical field (getting my M.D. now), any advice on getting started? I feel like there's so much to improve in the field, but we don't have the connection to corporate funding or established start ups.
sounds great. How about starting out working in another cool start up within your industry? to learn and to build a network
In December I officially launched my startup with another business partner, but haven't had the launch I was expecting, nor the expected results after all of the very long hours of work I put into it. At what point do you consider its time to stop the startup and move on?
yes, that's the hard question, isn't it? I have tried to be exactly in that spot many times - and it's difficult every time. On on hand it's important not to waste any more time on an idea that has no legs - and on the other hand persistence is often what makes the day in the end. How about asking 5 people you respect, and who knows you are your business about their honest opinion?
When you retire, will you 'stop-down'?
in believe in a "life in crescendo" - but then again, I am "only" 36 years old, so what do I know about how it is to get old...:-)
two questions have come to mind.
how many of the startups are still companies?
what is the number 1 factor determining success?
number 1 factor: I would say to gather a great team of co-founders.
Hey Martin, Sorry I'm late to the thread and hopefully I can still get this question answered, is outsourcing web development work a viable solution to saving some money on web development or is it too risky in terms of being scammed or being returned a substandard product?
good question. Outsourcing of that sorts of work tends to work better for big companies (that can detailed describe and oversee the work) than for start ups and small companies, where it - in my experience - is necessary to be tied more close together as a team (basically sitting next to your programmer)
Hej Martin. Jeg har ingen spørgsmål, men vil bare ønske dig tillykke med at dit firma går så godt, læste en artikel om dig på Børsen og vil bare sige at du har været en stor inspirationskilde og takket været dig har jeg lavet en lille "sort bog" med ideer. Held og lykke fremover!
How would a business owner in the entertainment field connect with investors?
I have a PPM, a business plan for an individual project with strong data backing up similar past performances and a giant rolodex (digital of course) of contacts in the industry interested in collaboration.
sounds like a good foundation. Depending on the business idea, it might be necessary for you to get some revenue going too, before it is worthwhile start focusing on investors. And then again maybe not - you are have track record and/or something that really does require funding from the get go, and is unique. When attracting investors it's all about networking - and then nowadays also platforms like Angellist can be useful
Do you have any experience or advice for starting an information brokerage firm?
Need more information to do an attempt at saying something useful..:-)
First off, that was a great podcast. My parents own their own realty company out here in the states. It's small office, but it's very family oriented. I was interested in hearing about your experiences (if you have any) with new businesses that open where family members are the founders. Do you find that they succeed more often than not? More importantly, do you find that this makes a work/life balance more difficult?
thanks:-) I have tried my share of family business: my dad had a company, I worked there for years when I was very young, and he wanted me to take it over. I have also 7 years ago started two companies with my brother. It didn't work for us. Somehow our relationships are a lot better without the business to interfere. I don't know why. I see other's that have great joy in similar situations. I would say: if it works, it works. If it doesn't: get the hell out of there...:-)
Hey Martin, wonderful podcast, I wanted to know what are you thoughts on start-ups in emerging market like Africa, Brasil,India and others, its easier to start something in the west but the competition is fierce.
I think you can start businesses anywhere in the world (at least anywhere in the free world) - so the trick is to pick the place where you feel called to live and work. Let your heart make the decision, your brain will play the safe game, and that's not enough to really inspire you
Recently, we had a guy speak to one of my classes about his new line of work. Venture Capital. How often do you have to venture out into the venture capital world? What do you recommend for the startups you work with in terms of gaining some Venture Capital?
I think VC is good under the right circumstances. That is, if you have already proven the basic dynamics of your business, and now need money to scale up. In that case you can raise capital at a decent valuation, and get decent terms. Also you don't risk to scale something that is inherently not working...
Brilliant advice 'Also you don't risk to scale something that is inherently not working'
In the interview you mentioned the work that you guys do in India. How long do you think it will take before a break-out (international) tech startup emerges from that country?
good questions. They do actually have some pretty cool start ups there - but as you say, they have yet to create a Facebook or Google. They have the brains - but their educational system is old fashioned so they learn hard core skills, and not creativity. That's why so far most new ideas come from the West, not India - a country and a people I love by the way:-)
I listen to a gaming podcast. Recently, one of the presenters commented on a new game produced in India. Over twitter, we shared the thought that what is truely exciting about the emergence of such things from the developing world is the fresh perspective that they embody. I can't remember the name of the game, but much Bollywood style fun was had.
Have you ever collaborated with Bjarke Ingels? He is my favourite architect, his work is so refreshing.
I haven't had the pleasure. However, a company we started (and still own) delivered lunch for a long period to his company "BIG", so even though he doesn't know we have actually been feeding him:-)
Why did you guys register rainmaking as a .co.uk? Are you interested in UK startups in particular, or is the UK a convenient hub?
we have an office in London (close to Bond Street Station) - and 3 directly owned companies there. I am in London almost 50% of my time - my new venture is based out of there. And I love London, the energy, the size and the can do attitude
another important, and very practical, tip is: make a today list, instead of a to do list. In the morning (or the evening before) decide what you want to achieve TODAY - and then focus on that. Thinking about all the things that needs to be done overall, will only create stress and inefficiency
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