A lot of entrepreneurs feel that if you want to reach an investment, you have to be where the investors are, making it harder to succeed in places like Oslo, Malmö and Gothenburg. How important is proximity to the investment scene for entrepreneurs in your experience?
As an angel investor I hear colleagues and people around me saying time and again that if the idea is good enough you won’t have any trouble getting an investment, regardless of your location. But to be honest it’s not always that easy. To me, investing is about relationships as much as great ideas; and proximity makes relationships easier to maintain. But digitalization has changed the outlook of investing in foreign or distant companies. Keeping in touch isn’t necessarily hard just because you’re in another part of the country, or the world.
But getting in touch is another matter.
And that’s why networking is key. Both to us angel investors as well as the entrepreneurs. What it all boils down to, really, is finding new input outside of your own backyard. Get out there, initiate contact and discuss ideas. Creating great things is a lot harder if you try to do it in a vacuum.
Some might find it hard to take the first step in getting out there and establishing new contacts, especially if they’re brand new to entrepreneurship. Others might be afraid that if they’ve been working for years on a prototype – and it’s any good – talking to the big companies and investors might get their idea stolen or copied.
Yes. In my experience Swedes in particular are notoriously scared of having their ideas stolen. But they shouldn’t be. To make it big you have to consider what the real perceived customer problem is. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you, or those around you have that problem. That’s part of the reason why you have to get out there and start talking to others about your idea.
When I hear entrepreneurs approaching me saying they’ve been pondering and tweaking a concept since 2006 I tell them they’re ten years late approaching me. You’ve got to get out there and interact with others, test your idea, early on. Don’t be afraid to put your idea out there. Look for brainstorming partners. Even if you’re well established in your field, picking the brains of someone who has another expertise can make the whole greater than the parts. A lot of prospective entrepreneurs simply stay at home, or in their cubicles for too long.
A lot of focus is directed to entrepreneurs meeting and talking to investors. But you recommend that entrepreneurs also start talking more to other entrepreneurs. Why is that?
It’s easy to forget, but the entrepreneur is very seldom by her or himself. And you can’t expect to be covering all the bases by yourself. It doesn’t really matter if you’re one of the brightest people around. The entrepreneur isn’t necessarily always the inventor. Being an entrepreneur is about getting things done, and seldom about inventing, designing and coding everything from the bottom up. Most successful ventures are created by a group of around four individuals. And even though you or your team might already have all the know-how needed, getting others to ponder your idea can only make it better.