I used to work for a small IT support business and produced their marketing documents and took care of their internal and external communications, one of the most time-consuming aspects of that job was making sure that I had the right template for whatever I was producing. Although it sounds simple whenever anything changed in the company or I needed to produce something with a format I hadn't used before, it felt like I had to set-up my own detective agency just to track the thing down. I'd trawl through company servers, back-up servers, speak to someone who'd give me a lead and follow-up that lead with a line of questioning, so when I was offered an interview with Christian Lund, CEO of Templafy (whose template management service meant I had to shut down my agency and become a writer), I jumped at the chance.
Your company was won both the Traction Showcase and the “Western European Get in the Ring” awards due to how “disruptive” your startup is. Do you think the word disruptive is over-used and is there a more accurate of the various startups that are labelled “disruptive”?
At Demo, Templafy got selected by votes across a board of 30 Fortune 500 CIOs. What both awards rewarded were how a innovative solution could resolve a current problem observed within the enterprise space.
The word “disruptive” is now a T-shirt tag, that’s for sure and has been around the startup scene for a while now. Still, there are amazing companies being built right now, with the potential to significantly change people’s lives and the way organisations work.
That is what the word "disruptive" coins: an innovative and groundbreaking solution that is coming at the right time. What we are observing at the moment at Templafy is that few businesses are prepared for the revolution that the rise of cloud-based collaboration is bringing to businesses. We aim at accompanying business towards cloud migration.
In Scandinavia it’s great to see how startups are able to attract some of the top talent that would have chosen different career paths just a few years ago. This trend has a tremendous impact on whether a great idea becomes a great business, and leads to products that flip the world on its head.
Following on from that you were quoted as saying that “the new big thing is compliance” what do you mean by this and what technologies that facilitate compliance do you predict will come out next year?
For quite some time “collaboration” has been the big thing around business documents. Google excelled in this discipline at an early stage and Microsoft had to play catch-up for a few years before finally leveling up recently. But for enterprises and large organizations, collaboration alone is not enough to move thousands of users to the cloud. Enterprises need the collaborative features to go hand-in-hand with compliance so they have a chance to ensure organization-wide visual consistency and legal compliance. The price and risk for not being on-brand compliant is simply too high.
By 2022 Gartner believes that 60 per cent of all business users of office systems will by doing their documents, presentations and spreadsheets in the cloud. But right now the process stalls because companies cannot migrate without losing too much of what they used to have in their on-premises desktop world. We’re [Templafy] an “enabler” that helps companies move to the cloud without these losses and I think we will be seeing a lot of these enabling technologies that help make this whole cloud migration possible for larger companies.
What advice do you have for Entrepreneurs who want to start a business but don't yet know what kind of product they'd like to create?
Start by mapping out your core competencies and unique knowledge areas. Domain knowledge is key to understanding a problem well enough to think up a solution that will fully solve it. It is also a huge plus if you’re planning on on-boarding venture capital somewhere down the road.
Then look for prolific generic problems in your domain knowledge areas and think hard about where the biggest impact can be made for the most people or companies with the right solution. After that, search the market to find competitors and benchmarks; be prepared to kill your darling if you can't offer anything unique or more useful. If there is still room for you, or you believe you can do better, then it’s time to iterate the idea and test if your target audience would be likely to buy the final product.
It’s not easy to come up with a brilliant idea and it’s even harder to build a company around it, so my final advice would be to pick the brains of people you know that have been there before. Be true and fair to yourself about your own skills team-up with (very) good people that shine where you don’t.
Similarly how should businesses and startups go about developing their product or service to make it most effective?
You need to product-market fit in the shortest possible time. Essentially that’s how to create a product that sells and, while that does not necessarily mean that it also scales, it’s a pretty good start. From my experience this is best achieved by using a well communicated and iterative strategy. It’s important that everyone on the team knows in which direction to run at all times, but it’s also important to ask the market as early as possible in the process if what you’re developing is actually what is needed.
Be prepared to adjust or even pivot as soon as the data is sufficient. This obviously requires a very agile development team and a lot of management which is I think is much easier done when the team is nearby or there is an extremely reliable remote connection.
Jon Bradford, managing director of the startup accelerator TechStars said “one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs is knowing when to give up,” what's your opinion on that statement? When is the right time to move on to another project?
I agree, but this dilemma is both good and bad. Entrepreneurs often put a lot of heart and soul into their products and projects. Sometimes way too much. This is definitely one of the reasons that projects that should have stopped long ago are kept alive for too long, but it’s that perseverance is also what gets businesses off the ground in the first place.
We’ve all heard the stories of companies nobody believed in that end up IPO’ing. I actually think most entrepreneurs need to dive in headfirst to even have a chance but they also need to continue to be agile and take home data on their business to have facts that help them change direction or stop. Surely one right time to stop is when continuing would significantly jeopardize your next venture.
Lastly can you tell us a piece of advice that changed how you think and give an example of how you implemented it into your life?
A few years back one of my very good friends came up with a simple rule: “best practice is worst case”. It essentially means that if there is a best practice in some field or discipline and you need to do something similar, then you need to be at least as good as them. I really like that rule and I've implemented it both in my business life and and personal life.
When we build a customer support program at Templafy, for example, it makes a lot of sense for me to spend a bit of time researching who does a fantastic job of customer service, how they do it, and then make sure that we’re at least as good. I treat all tasks like that - I think the same way when I’m flipping burgers on the grill at home.
Do you know any startups that you'd like us to interview? Or know any startups that you're fascinated by? Let us know in the comments below.