Mark Voermans is passionate about how technology innovation influences the world. He currently works at Microsoft as Strategic & Emerging Business Manager, responsible for helping and supporting startups to grow and succeed.
. With over 16,000 startups part of Microsoft BizSpark in Europe and over 900 in the Netherlands, you’d expect that people like me would think they’ve heard and seen it all. Yet, every day, I discover something new that impresses or inspires me. One of the great things I love about my job is how I am witness to an impressive showcase of innovative technologies developed by European entrepreneurs.
And it is this ‘out of the box’ thinking that is behind a whole new generation of startups who, if we give them a chance, could bring revenue into Europe and create jobs. But there is a huge leap between having a great idea and having a successful business and this is the big challenge faced by most start-ups. When I’m at an industry event, whether taking part in a judging panel or just there to provide advice and mentoring, I often get asked “what is the most important thing that startups should remember?”
The problem is there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer. Every business is different, with its own strengths, weaknesses, products, services and management team and they are all at various stages of their evolution. Sure, they read around the subject (and there is a lot of great content out there, such as authors like Steve Blank and Eric Ries) but that’s often not enough on its own.
That’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of accelerator programs like Microsoft BizSpark Network Partner, Startupbootcamp. They provide a tailored advice and support that can help startups find a fast track to success. From my own experience, I’ve seen many startups being matched with the mentors and coaches that not only provide the best fit in terms of experience, but also are the right match in terms of personality. Feeling like you have the right connection is hugely important because this is very much a ‘people’ based experience, which requires a lot of trust and could be a relationship that lasts for many years.
Startupbootcamp is an organization that appreciates and does this very well. As a central part of the upcoming accelerator program in 2013, mentors can receive training to further improve their own skills, including learning about the technology jargon that startups are using. I already signed up for this first-hand experience because I am a mentor myself, as just one element of how we support startups within the Microsoft BizSpark program.
So, I’m hugely looking forward to the upcoming training session for mentors, taking place in February, ahead of working with the next batch of great entrepreneurs in in 2013. If you’re a startup and you didn’t sign-up yet I have only one advice for you, DO IT NOW!