Investing in a Startup. Is That Safe?

No. I enjoyed a 5K run in the snow today, wearing only shoes and shorts and nothing else. Was it safe? No. The snow was hiding the pits and the ditches. I tripped over the root of a tree once, which is risky when you’re jogging half-naked with no protection. Was it exciting? Absolutely! Snowflakes on naked skin feel amazing. And blood pumping to keep a body warm gives a delightful kick at 7:00 in the morning. Someone in the park said, “Bravo! Are you Swedish?”
Investing in startups is also not safe. They are called high-risk investments for a reason. That’s why you should never invest all your money in the same startup. (Not even when you are the founder!) However, with a decent spread of your investments, you should be able to reduce the risks and increase your opportunities. I do that as well. I personally invested more than € 500K in Agility Scales, and I’m still investing more. I also spend time and resources on Shiftup, my new brand of workshops (which are selling like hotcakes, by the way — the workshop organizers are quite happy.) I also invest time and money in a new series of books, of which Startup, Scaleup, Screwup will be the first one, and I expect more books to follow. And I am still involved in Management 3.0, Happy Melly, WorkshopButler, Wemanity, and more. Some people told me they are hesitant to co-invest with me in Agility Scales and its Mind Settlers platform because our future cash flow is so uncertain. Sure, I understand. We intentionally don’t do any marketing because the product isn’t ready to be used on a large scale yet. From the research for my new book, I learned that the average time until startups reach product/market fit is three years. This average is probably longer for startups with so-called blue ocean strategies, that operate in largely unknown terrain.
The average time until startups reach product/market fit is three years.
Our Agility Scales startup now exists one year and nine months. I do not expect any great successes until at least three years have passed. Do we have that time? Sure we do. With my income from other sources, I can support the team, with a minimally required burn rate, to keep working on our lean experiments and validating our business model canvas.
Obviously, I must support the team financially because participants in my new Shiftup workshops will be using the Mind Settlers app this year. And my new book, which comes out in April, will also be heavily supporting the Mind Settlers platform. Oh, and the book promotes the workshops, and the workshops sell the books, and so on. Everything is cross-promoting everything! But it’s nice not to be the only one funding the platform. I am continuing my conversations and negotiations with several large investors. These things take time. Meanwhile, on top of our continuous crowdfunding, I keep feeding the bank account of Agility Scales in a lean manner: just-in-time! And the business is set up in a very agile way, with few dependencies and no hard commitments.
I keep feeding the bank account of Agility Scales in a lean manner: just-in-time!
Our team needs time to get to product/market fit. It is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. But we are all learning a ton and we’re making decent progress. Success could be just around the corner! But it can also keep us searching for another year or two. Now is your chance to join me as a co-investor. We still have a (steadily dwindling) pool of unsold certificates that we sell at last year’s valuation. We will increase the valuation of the company as soon as we feel we deserved it. Investing in startups is not safe. Like running in the snow in your shorts, at -2 degrees Celcius. But it’s exciting! JOIN ME NOW (in the startup, not in the snow) And stay warm this winter.

Why Shiftup?

I started a new series of workshops called Shiftup. Why?
  • Because being Agile is not a goal in itself. A more sensible goal is for organizations to survive and thrive through continuous innovation. That’s where the learning should start for people: how to be an innovation leader. Business agility is just an essential part of getting there.
  • Because a workshop is just a stepping stone on people’s learning paths. The total picture includes self-paced learning, deliberate practice, coaching, assessments, and the peer-to-peer exchange of experiences. I want my Shiftup program to cover the complete learning path.
  • Because there is a need to make learning and behavioral change more fun and engaging. Most change programs are quite dull and demotivating. They don’t invite people to change and improve by tapping into their intrinsic motivation. I believe we can do much better.
  • Because most certification, accreditation, and licensing programs suck. I have never heard anyone say, “Wow, this certification program is amazing. I want more of this.” People want certificates. It is time that we figured out how to do this well.
  • Because I want to figure out how to design workshops that are supported by technology. We improve learning through multi-sensory input, with text, video, sound, and a good mix of physical and digital materials. So why not bring some tablets into the room and let people play with them?
  • Because my Agility Scales team is building a platform that will (hopefully) help people drive organizational change after workshops. It’s useful to have one brand under our own control that paves the way for everyone and shows how to do this.
  • Because Management 3.0 is doing well and is still growing worldwide. In the new Shiftup workshops, I teach people that a growing business is in a perfect position to start generating newer products and services. The best way not to be disrupted is to proactively disrupt yourself.
That’s why. Do you want to attend my new workshop? Do you want to be co-owner of the platform?

“You Have Gold in Your Hands”

Positive feedback is great. Especially, after running a brand new two-day workshop that I’ve never given before. At the end of my new Shiftup class in Ghent, Belgium, one of the participants came up to me and said:

“You have gold in your hands.”

The workshop was the very first in a sequence of trials that I run all over Europe: Gothenburg, Vienna, Munich, Berlin and many more. The goals of the Shiftup workshop are as follows:

  • Give people an understanding of what it takes for an organization to survive and thrive in the 21st century through innovation and business agility.
  • Learn what it takes to set up an innovation funnel that drives new product ideas through a business lifecycle, propelled forward with an innovation vortex.
  • Get familiar with Lean-Agile thinking, the business quilt, and the many ways in which good practices depend on business lifecycle stages.

According to the evaluations, the participants greatly appreciated the new perspectives on innovation and agility that I introduced in my class. Of course, they also had a significant number of improvement suggestions for me. This was only the first iteration, after all. They gave me enough rework to keep me busy for days!

Most importantly, I got positive test results for several of my hypotheses:

  • There is a need for foundational workshops that merge Lean-Agile thinking with innovation practices.
  • Participants have no problems using the Mind Settlers app on their phones and tablets for games and exercises.
  • There is enough interest in licensing and certification around this new, younger sister of Management 3.0.

Apart from continuously improving the new workshop (which will be easy), my teams and I will be working on innovative workshop offerings, powered by the Mind Settlers app:

  • Context-dependent workshops where slides, games, and exercises depend on the backgrounds, experiences, and needs of participants.
  • Post-workshop tracks with practices and exercises that they can do in their own organizations after each workshop.
  • Virtual coaching services where remote experts provide guidance after a workshop and get paid for usage of their content.

My previous brand, Management 3.0, now generates millions in revenue for many consultants and facilitators around the world. With everything I learned in the last eight years, I think I can do even better with Shiftup, its younger sister. But on one condition: technology must be the foundation. Everything will be powered by Mind Settlers.

Do you want to get involved?

Invest in Agility Scales and become a co-owner of the Mind Settlers platform.
Pre-register for a Shiftup workshop and be notified about your favorite cities.
Or send me an email when you want to license and organize 21st-century workshops.

Maybe soon, you will have gold in your hands. ;-)


Your 500 Euro Christmas Gift

What Will You Be Working on This Christmas? For Me, It’s Work, Work, Work.

Less than a week to go and then it’s Christmas time! How are you going to spend the holidays? I know what I will be doing. Work, work, work.

I will be working on the corrected manuscript of Startup, Scaleup, Screwup that I should get back from the publisher any moment now.

I will be working on the preparations for my new Shiftup workshops that will start in January (and for which people are already signing up).

I will be working on funding Agility Scales and a new Mind Settlers Premium service that we plan to launch in February.

I will be working on a new idea for the Happy Melly community and ecosystem, which is still very much under wraps at this moment.

And I will be working on Christmas dinner with my family because my sweet sister kindly volunteered me to prepare the main course.

What about you? What will you be working on?
Will you be needing Christmas gifts for friends?

Here is an idea:

If you know people who are passionate about business agility and organizational transformation, and who are great changemakers themselves, why don’t you offer to make them shareholders of Agility Scales? For only EUR 500, you can register a friend and make him or her a co-owner of the Mind Settlers platform. It means you will connect them to a global group of like-minded people. They will have a stake in the future of coaching and consulting through an evolving platform. And on top of that, your gift is probably tax-deductible! ;-) My team will take care of the rest.

Yes, I am interested! Tell me more about shares-as-gifts.

A big thanks to everyone for their marvelous support of my work this year. I hope you will stick around throughout 2019. There is so much coming up, I feel almost intimidated by my own projects.

But first things first, let’s find a nice recipe for the main course on Chrismas day.

The Value Proposition Wheel

Good ideas are never born just once.

I wish I was the first one who had come up with the concept of a value proposition wheel. But it turns out I wasn’t. In his book Lost and Founder, Rand Fishkin offered the idea of a flywheel of business value:

I like to describe the complexities of the marketing process as a flywheel. […] Like a flywheel, it took an immense amount of energy to get started, and only after it was rotating smoothly, growing its inertia, did it function in this friction-light fashion. — Rand Fishkin, Lost and Founder

I haven’t done the research but I’m sure that others have used the flywheel metaphor before.

In the beginning, starting a new business, offering value, and spinning the wheel takes a tremendous amount of effort. But the more your customers recognize the value you offer them and start pulling on the flywheel, the easier and faster the entire business will start spinning.

This is the value proposition wheel we created for Agility Scales:

My team identified four areas of value that we want to offer to coaches and consultants around the world:

  • Find Ideas: There is value in exploring multiple actionable ideas from many sources and getting inspiration you can apply at work;
  • Take Steps: There is value when you go beyond learning and take action to solve problems and achieve outcomes;
  • Track Value: There is value in measuring/tracking your work in terms of its impact instead of simply time or effort;
  • Share Learnings: There is value in collecting new actionable ideas and/or iterations and making them available to the community.

Maybe you can try and draw a similar picture for the value proposition of the business you are running. What are the areas of value that you aim to offer? Can you draw them as a virtuous circle? Can your clients pull value at different points on the flywheel? Will this make the wheel spin faster and faster?

Do you believe in our value proposition wheel? Do you want to be a co-owner?

The Value Proposition Wheel was originally published in Agility Scales on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.