Digitalk is among the most forward-looking and ambitious events in the field of digital technologies, business and marketing in Bulgaria and the SEE region. While last year the conference focused primarily on Digital marketing, Digitalk 2013 was dedicated to the three-step process of creating a Global company/brand. The first panel centered on ideas and innovations, the second one- on taking the necessary steps to turn your local business into a global brand. The third closed the deal by focusing on the practical and financial steps that need to be taken in case your company needs strategic investment, a little venture capital push or considers selling its business to a bigger corporation.
The opening speech of the British entrepreneur and adventurer David de Rotschild was received by polar reactions. It introduced the audience to the Plastiki: a boat built by recycled plastic material and constructed by de Rotschild for a raising-awareness journey across the Pacific: from San Francisco, USA to Sydney, Australia. The folly of this adventure drew a fault line in the audience, dividing it into 1. Adventurers/Dreamers like myself who were completely inspired by this story on how hard work and determination can turn a completely impossible dream into reality; and 2. Goal-oriented pragmatists who considered Rotschild’s adventure as nothing more than a useless whim. While it is true that a person with less financial back-up would not be able to dedicate time and money to such adventures, I still can argue that the moral of the whole story wasn’t about doing something crazy with a lot of money, but rather: there is nothing impossible, if you put the necessary amount of thought, teamwork and determination in it. A good business lesson, regardless of whether you are building just a boat, or a huge global corporation.
Come to think of it, the unifying message of all panels was simply: Do not be afraid to fail. Failure can be a brilliant teacher if you know how to use what you have learned from it: this was the mantra repeated by almost all speakers from Inbal Arieli (Founder & Head, 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program, Israel), through Matthew Prince (Co-founder and CEO, CloudFlare) and Pavel Ezekiev, Partner (the NEVEQ fund). “The problem, said Matthew Prince from CloudFlare, is that Bulgaria still doesn’t have success stories”. We still cannot make examples of people whose name is known by everybody and whose business story is a recognized trademark of success. According to Prince it is exactly knowing about these kind of people that inspires young entrepreneurs to follow their own dreams and remain certain that somebody before them has already achieved something big and others can also follow.
Some other important lessons ready for take-away were:
1. Forget about the cliche about always thinking big. Think small first and then switch your perspective to the big picture. Constantly switching between these two perspectives will help you stay grounded and have a realistic view of your business.
2. Never forget about you customer. Create a quality product and deliver even more quality customer service that wins people’s trust, when for some reason product quality fails.
3. Do what you are best at. And choose people who are good at the things you are not. Team work is crucial!
4. Marketing is easy to improve if you have a great product. But if your product is not worth it, no marketing could ever help it. Therefore, as Steffen Krause (Amazon Web services) said: in time great engineering always wins. So think about what kind of problem you would like to solve and engineer a clever and efficient solution for it.
5. Think about the Magic of Forwarding. Do you create and exciting story around your brand? Is it something people would want to forward when they see it? Chris Lindland told the audience how Betabrand turns its customers into its primary marketing team. By inspiring people to take photos and videos, the company has gathered tons of visual material, including videos of people base-jumping in Betabrand clothes which serve as a free of charge advertising for their products, created entirely by fans.
In a nutshell: Think small. Do not be afraid to fail. Dare to be naive and don’t get discouraged when people tell you “It won’t work”. Just keep walking and keep the right people along with you.