Google was one of the presenters at the Nordic Seed Capital Summit in Stockholm on 30 May, organized by Nordic Innovation and coordinated by Nordic Investment Solutions. Read the interview with Nicholas Heller, Principal for Google’s new business development in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and get his advice to entrepreneurs and to startup companies with global ambitions.
- How do you, as an entrepreneur, take your idea from theory to practice?
- The process is actually less about a good idea and more about the execution. It is about doing something instead of only talking about doing something. It is about making the effort to form a team with complementary skills and create a bare minimum product to show to potential users to get some feedback. Feedback is crucial to know whether you are on the right track and be able to adjust your product. The story of Google started at Stanford University, where the students were used as a test panel. In general, a university is a good place to test out ideas. It is a safe environment with a young audience that allows you to take some risks. Today Google use its own employees for getting response on new ideas. The importance of feedback is never ending.
- Would you say that the same principles go for other types of innovation, for example service innovation?
- Yes. It is really about preparing yourself well enough to go to the market as quickly as possible and get the feedback. It doesn’t matter if you are into product or service innovation, you must be ready to continuously recreate and improve your idea.
- What is your advice to small companies that are struggling to grow bigger?
- It is not easy to grow a company from 10 to 10,000 employees. First of all, good entrepreneurs believe in their own ideas – you need to have a vision to make other people excited. It is about thinking globally from the start. You also need good data and the ability to articulate your idea. In addition, cross-border cooperation between small countries like the Nordic countries can make it easier for the entrepreneurs to think in a broader perspective from the start.
- Why are US companies generally in front when it comes to growing large businesses? What can the Nordic countries do to keep up?
- USA is one big, homogeneous market, which gives a great advantage. It means that you at an early stage are able to build up a critical mass to ease the entrance into other markets. Secondly, the tolerance of risk taking is bigger in the US. There is a mentality that says that without taking a risk you will not be awarded. Finally, thinking big is a must. If you show your business plan to a venture capitalist without having ambitious visions you might be rejected for that very reason.
- How can governments create a fruitful infrastructure for growth companies?
- Encourage. Make it easy to start a company, give incentives/subsidies, tax breaks – basically break down bureaucratic barriers. Another thing is the benefit of cooperating across borders to share knowledge and experience, especially in small countries as for example the Nordics.
- The world is changing faster than ever, and many companies fail to keep up with the new trends. What is your advice to these?
- A company has to be like a person, it must be dynamic and flexible. It must constantly be willing to learn something new. It also must know where the market is moving – see new trends and understand these in order to understand where it will be making business in the future.
- In your presentation at the Nordic Seed Capital Summit, you said that it has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur, can you explain what you meant by this?
- The market is bigger and the technology is cheaper and more accessible than ever. A small team can easily reach a large number of people at a small financial cost. Take advantage of this! What is really needed is the courage to try. It is not easy, but it is easier than you might think.
See the presentations from the Nordic Seed Capital Summit 2012: