Estonian startup MyGames raises €100K for its ‘self-service’ courts and booking platform for racket sports

Estonia-based sportstech startup MyGames has announced raising around €100K pre-seed funding, which it will use to build up its solutions for tennis and padel sports players. Founded in 2019, MyGames is a relatively young but fast-growing startup building booking and automation solutions for tennis and padel courts. In late 2019, the startup launched their first application…

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Branding Yourself: A Guide for Extraordinary Entrepreneurship

The following is excerpted from “From Suck to Success: A Guide for Extraordinary Entrepreneurship” (Tulip Media, February 26, 2021).


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Branding yourself

When I work with entrepreneurs about building stronger, more successful businesses, one of the first concepts we work to improve is their branding. It might sound counterintuitive, but it’s true. You and everyone around you needs to know who you are as an entrepreneur. That helps everyone make better decisions about you. The same is true for your business. When you, your team, and your customers know who you are as a business—and who you are not—it helps everyone make better decisions in your business. That’s why it’s so important to be intentional about branding yourself and your business.

So, if you want to get and stay on the right trajectory toward success for your business, don’t do anything else until you have your business brand established. Your brand is your business’s reputation. It calls attention to your business—the right attention, if you do it well. Similar to your “why” or ikigai, you may try several different “brands” for your business before you figure out who you are and who you aren’t.

Importantly, clear branding helps avoid one of the biggest problems many entrepreneurs face: trying to be all things to all people. It’s the solution to the problem because it lets everyone know who you are and who you aren’t.

“A lot of entrepreneurs are not intentional about the brand, or very rarely think about the brand, when they create a business,” says brand expert Deb Gabor, author of “Brand Is Sex” and “Irrational Loyalty.” “And so many brands go to market being a great solution to a problem and having some kind of unique bell or whistle. But when you don’t pay attention to creating a brand that creates an emotional bond with your customer, you’re opening yourself up for competition.”

As Deb explains, your brand:

  • Protects you from competitive threats,
  • increases the financial viability and value of your business,
  • allows you to scale more rapidly and more profitably, and
  • provides a tangible financial benefit to the organization.

“People’s brains love and need stories,” Deb says. “Your brand is a shortcut for the story of how you elevate your customers’ self-concept. If ice cream brands marketed themselves on the basis of ‘It’s cold, and it’s sweet, and it comes in three different sizes,’ there wouldn’t be Ben & Jerry’s. There wouldn’t be Häägen-Dazs. There wouldn’t be as many people who buy ice cream. But when you have a very strong brand that creates a condition of irrational loyalty, it increases sustainability and profitability and contributes a tangible financial value to the overall valuation of the company.”

When I first started my business, I had built Diversified Industrial Staffing to be a generalized staffing agency. That meant I was being evaluated against real generalized staffing agencies. Unfortunately, generalized staffing agencies had razor-thin margins and, often, long payment cycles. While that worked for companies large enough to have deep pockets to take on loss-leader-type volume business, it nearly made me bankrupt. When I decided to rebrand my business to be a more niched staffing agency, I was able to break free from what my clients expected of a bigger agency and shift their expectations to those of a niched agency. I was able to do this because we focused on serving the candidate—not the client—first. The job candidate was the center of the increased demand/diminished supply equation. By focusing on the candidate piece of the employer/employee relationship dynamic, we were no longer a commodity staffing provider.

We had the candidate who was in demand. This allowed me to quickly raise my margins and shorten my receivable timelines.

This can be a big struggle for entrepreneurs who are so used to running around putting out fires all day—especially the ones who are also the chief arsonist in their business. Pausing to take a bigger-picture look at their business landscape and look at where they can own a market can feel like something they don’t have time to do. And they’re so stressed out that it’s hard to even know what they want to do.

A perfect example of starting as generalists and becoming more specific upon learning the market (a focusing exercise most entrepreneurs call niching) would be my nieces Sara and Lindsay. Like most entrepreneurs, they became more successful as they got more niched. They started out as a healthcare staffing company focused on providing physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists for hospitals and rehab facilities. Sara and Lindsay soon pivoted into public school settings— providing services to kids with autism—once they discovered the demand was high and that great behavioral healthcare providers were in short supply. Then they got extremely specific and further discovered a subcategory of registered behavioral technician (RBT) and board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) healthcare providers who were difficult to find with a strong growing demand.

Next, they decided to take a geographically targeted approach and went from serving 12 states in the western United States to just one: California. Sound counterintuitive? Sure, but it works. There is a saying that you can either go a mile wide and an inch deep or a mile deep and an inch wide. By narrowing their focus, Sara and Lindsay were able to scale almost immediately. They went a mile deep, and it paid off.

Sometimes we think more is better. Most times, “more” simply dilutes the effort, and you miss the magic of leveraging once you decide on your path.

Once they became known as the go-to company in California, Sara and Lindsay had suitors lined up to buy their quickly growing healthcare business. After 10 years of growth, Sara (37) and Lindsay (32) decided to sell their company in 2019 to a larger strategic competitor, the Stepping Stone Group. The combined company now stands as the single largest company of its type in the United States, with revenues approaching nearly a half a billion dollars.

My experience with branding myself continued long after I turned around Diversified Industrial Staffing. In fact, I might have had an even harder time branding my coaching business before I figured out who I was and who I wasn’t. It took me two to three years to determine that my sweet spot was helping entrepreneurs and CEOs make the necessary (and frequently uncomfortable) changes to achieve their full business and personal potential. I made progress during those two to three years, but once I really branded myself, everything took off.



How your brand protects you during turbulent times

Your brand doesn’t just help you get noticed in good times. In fact, it’s probably more important for you during turbulent times, like the COVID-19 pandemic or the Great Recession of the late 2000s. As Deb Gabor and many other brand experts will tell you, how your brand shows up and acts when times are tough says more about you than what it does when times are good.

That applies on a macro- and micro-scale, too. On a micro-scale, if you have a company you’re restarting, reigniting, and bringing back to market, start with your brand.

“It’s a demographic psychographic imperative today that you have a brand, because that is how people make decisions—95 percent of buying decisions happen outside of what’s rational,” says Gabor. “They happen in the heart. I sometimes talk to people who have great ideas. They’re selling better mousetraps. And you can’t sell mousetraps to people who don’t have mice. You can’t sell mousetraps to those who don’t believe that mice are a problem. It’s really hard to sell a better mousetrap if people don’t have the why behind things. And your brand is the why.”

Here are Gabor’s tips on better branding:

  • Aim your brand at a singular, ideal, archetypal customer. This is not a demographic profile. It’s not like, “We’re for busy moms.” I could sit in a room of 100 people who were all busy moms, and they would all differ based on the ages of their kids, what they do inside and outside the home, where they live, who they’re married to. Are they married or not married? You can find an “avatar” by asking current customers or clients what they value about your business. Asking questions create patterns to help reveal the ideal client.
  • Elevate your customers’ self-concept through the use of their brand. Everybody lives their lives in accordance with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the most basic level, they need to take care of their physiological needs. At the highest level, they want to achieve self-actualization. Your brand is all about helping people navigate that hierarchy. If people associate getting closer to self-actualization by doing business with you, the stronger their bonds with you will become.
  • Be singular. Figure out the one thing you offer that no one else can. The best brains in the world are not the ones that are simply “different.” It’s not enough to just be somewhat different than others. You have to be unique to truly stand out. Carve out your uniqueness. What is unique to you that no competitors can provide? By doing this, we draw in our ideal client. At the same time, we weed out clients who may not work so well with us. This can make entrepreneurs uncomfortable since they can’t be all things to all people.
  • Make your customer the hero in your world. In other words, your brand is about your customer, not you. If you go to your company’s website and the first word is about you (such as highlighting your company name or the word “we”), you’re doing it wrong. Talk directly to your ideal customer on your website.

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While branding yourself won’t completely smooth out the loops on the looping line of success, it will make them smaller and provide forward momentum for your business. And without a specific brand, nobody will know who you are, what you can do for them, or how you’ll help them rise up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

“From Suck to Success: A Guide for Extraordinary Entrepreneurship” is available now and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.

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StartupNation

It’s my 1st birthday on Reddit. Love to be part of this community.

1 year ago i decided to join subreddits to talk about my experience in the business world. It really brought me so much value.

So let me know down in the comments, What's the biggest value or something that your learned and really stuck with you from a reddit post/article?

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Is there ever a right time to launch your startup idea?

Multiple factors can contribute to the successful launch of a startup. Whether it’s the product, market, team, funding, or business model, founders want to ensure that they maximise their opportunity for success. One key variable that is typically addressed less, but founders ponder the most over, is timing. When devising a go-to-market strategy, the topic…

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EU-Startups

[Varo Money in Cheddar News] NBA Star Russell Westbrook Hopes to Empower Underserved Communities With Varo Bank

While NBA superstar Russell Westbrook is known for stacking up triple doubles on the court, one of his business ventures outside of the arena aims to help communities stack up their bank accounts. The Washington Wizards superstar’s latest venture, a partnership with Varo Bank which he led on a $ 63 million fundraising round, is set to help members of underserved communities get the tools needed to become financially literate.

Read more here.

The post [Varo Money in Cheddar News] NBA Star Russell Westbrook Hopes to Empower Underserved Communities With Varo Bank appeared first on OurCrowd Blog.

OurCrowd Blog

Amsterdam-based fast-charging startup Fastned charges itself with €150M through accelerated bookbuild offering

Fastned

Amsterdam-based fast-charging network for electric vehicles company, Fastned, has raised €150M through an accelerated bookbuild offering of 1,875,000 New Securities, which was announced on 25 February 2021. 

A depositary receipt (DR) is a negotiable certificate issued by a bank representing shares in a foreign company traded on a local stock exchange. The depositary receipt gives investors the opportunity to hold shares in the equity of foreign countries and gives them an alternative to trading on an international market.

Use of capital 

The development follows after Fastned raised €17M in November 2020 and announced that it is further looking to expand its network capacity by adding more stations, as well as more chargers at its existing stations.

The company intends to use the proceeds of the offering to fund part of its CapEx plan that consists of expanding the capacity of its existing stations, building its committed pipeline of 164 charging stations, accelerating the development of its potential pipeline, and fund CapEx for significant upcoming government-related tenders, including in France and Germany, as well as for general corporate purposes.

A CapEx or Capital expenditures are funds used by a company to acquire, upgrade, and maintain physical assets such as property, plants, buildings, technology, or equipment. CapEx is often used to undertake new projects or investments by a company.

The company looks to expand and enhance its network and secure key locations in its existing geographic footprint and beyond, in the coming 18-24 months.

“We are very happy with this successful capital raise which allows Fastned to significantly accelerate its expansion plans. It enables us to build more and bigger fast-charging stations across multiple countries, living up to our mission of accelerating the transition towards sustainable mobility by giving freedom to electric drivers,” says Michiel Langezaal, CEO of Fastned. 

“Moreover, this transaction has attracted solid institutional investors to Fastned’s shareholder base and provides a substantial increase of the free float of the depositary receipts traded on Euronext Amsterdam. Both are supportive to our continued growth, and in line with our ambition to become the leading fast-charging network in Europe,” he further adds. 

The Offering

According to the company, “The placing of the New Securities raised gross proceeds of approximately €150M. The New Securities being issued represent approximately 12.5 per cent of the existing issued share capital of Fastned.”

Settlement of the transaction and admission to listing and trading of the New Securities on Euronext Amsterdam is expected to take place on 2 March 2021.  After settlement, the total number of outstanding depositary receipts of ordinary shares of Fastned will amount to 16,909,339 depositary receipts of ordinary shares.

A depositary receipt (DR) is a negotiable certificate issued by a bank representing shares in a foreign company traded on a local stock exchange. The depositary receipt gives investors the opportunity to hold shares in the equity of foreign countries and gives them an alternative to trading on an international market.

About Fastned

Founded in 2012 by Michiel Langezaal and Bart Lubbers, Fastned aims to accelerate the transition to electric mobility by giving freedom to electric drivers.

The company owns and operates a network of electric vehicle charging stations in the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK – the majority of its stations are located at Dutch highway rest areas. So far, it has built 129 fast-charging stations in the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, and Belgium.

The company specialises in developing and operating a fast-charging infrastructure where drivers can charge their electric vehicle with up to 300 km of range in 15 minutes before continuing their journey.

In December 2020, the company expanded its service in Switzerland close to Zurich, along the A1 motorway. The station is the first of 20 locations along key routes that Fastned won in a tender organised by the Swiss Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) in 2019.

Fastned has over 70 employees, of which about 40 are in Amsterdam. The company is also listed on Euronext Amsterdam (Euronest is the largest stock exchange in Europe).

Startups – Silicon Canals

European gaming studios Happy Volcano and Snowprint nab millions of investment from Hiro Capital

Today Hiro Capital, a VC focused on backing innovators in video games, the metaverse, e-sports and digital fitness, has announced investing around €12.3 million into two European-based, and one US-based, game studios. On the European side, the two startups are Stockholm/Berlin-based Snowprint and Belgian startup Happy Volcano, with the US-based startup being Double Loop Games in San Francisco….

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What do I do next?

I’ve spent my the past year hashing out every little detail of a my startup. I’ve built the website, perfected the branding and have outlined in detail how the platform functions… the website looks so good now, people I show get frustrated when they realize it doesn’t work (yet).

I think I’m at the point where I just need to hire a developer or team to make it work. The problem Is I don’t have money to hire a full time team. Is this the point where I look for outside funding? Do I take out a huge loan (I believe in it this much to do this)? Crowdsource a GoFundMe or just start cold calling investors?

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

UK’s VC fund Hiro Capital leads €12.3M investment in three video game studios: Find out here

Hiro Capital

London-based Hiro Capital is an entrepreneur-led Venture Capital fund focused on sectors such as video games, the metaverse, esports, and digital fitness. The fund has, today, announced that it has invested $ 15M (approx €12.34M) into three creative games studios – Snowprint in Stockholm/Berlin, Double Loop Games in San Francisco and Happy Volcano in Belgium

About Hiro Capital

Hiro Capital is a technology venture capital fund that invests in the UK, US, and European innovators in games, metaverse technology, esports, and digital fitness. It usually invests at the post-seed Series A and B stages. 

“We invest both in front-end content creators in games, esports and digital sports, and in deep tech metaverse applications of cloud, mobile, streaming, big data, AI, wearables, AR, and VR technologies. We back experienced entrepreneurial teams, building innovative technologies and content with a strongly differentiated proposition and with the scaling opportunity to become very large,” the company mentions in a statement.

The VC funds believe that games, esports, and digital sports will be a central pillar of entertainment, economic, and social life in the mid 21st century.

“The addition of these three exciting Games studios brings our total investments to 11, with more deals to be announced soon,” says Cherry Freeman, co-founding Partner at Hiro Capital.

The portfolio of Hiro Capital also includes Flavourworks, Polyarc, Lightfox, LIV.tv, Edgegap, Fix XR, and Nurvv.

How will the firms use the funds?

All three video game studios will use Hiro’s investment to expand their development pipelines and accelerate global growth. 

Ian Livingstone, a co-founding partner at Hiro Capital says, “Each studio has demonstrated innovation and expertise in developing fun-to-play games which resonate with today’s audiences. I’m especially pleased that one of the studios came through our first Dark Star™ event for emerging indies looking to scale their businesses. If only venture capital had been interested in the games sector back in the 1970s, I might not have had to sleep in a van during the early days of Games Workshop!”

Snowprint Studios

The Stockholm-based company was founded in 2015 and is led by industry veterans Alexander Ekvall and Patrik Lindegren, each formerly of King; John Hargelid, formerly of Paradox Interactive; and Wilhelm Osterberg, formerly of Wooga.

Snowprint Studios operates their debut mobile title Legend of Solgard and is now also working on three new mobile projects, including Rivengard, a turn-based tactics game that launched globally on 21st January 2021, as well as an undisclosed AAA mobile IP coming soon out of its Berlin studio.

Alexander Ekvall says, “The team has a deep understanding of building successful games companies and this is reflected in the support they provide. The backing from Hiro means we are better equipped than ever to execute on our mission to deliver genre-defining experiences.”

Double Loop Games

San Francisco-based Double Loop Games, founded in 2019, is a social mobile studio dedicated to making delightful, relaxing experiences for the biggest audience in games. The team’s leaders are industry veterans Emily Greer, co-founder of Kongregate; and Shelby Moledina, formerly of Warner Bros., Interactive Entertainment, and DeNA. 

The company is working on its debut game, and will soon launch its social mobile title, made for players who don’t think of themselves as gamers.

Happy Volcano

Belgium-based Happy Volcano was founded in 2015 by David Prinsmel, Jeroen Janssen, and Peter Maasen. The company has released the critically acclaimed narrative exploration game The Almost Gone and is currently working on a new soon-to-launch cross-platform game You Suck at Parking.

Hiro Capital’s future plan

Luke Alvarez, founding partner of Hiro Capital said, “Hiro was founded to invest in the super-sector of games, sports, and metaverse technologies. On every dimension, in every market, 2020/21 has been a story of strong growth – in users, sales, devices, stream views, and innovations. People fell in love, got married and graduated in games, and are coming out of lockdown stronger thanks to gamified wearables and VR fitness tech. As a VC, it is exciting to see our sector focus so emphatically confirmed. Finally, Hiro is a diverse team and so are these new studios, including our first female Games founders, Emily and Shelby (Double Loop Games).”

The venture capital is looking for more ambitious games entrepreneurs and will be launching the next Dark Star event for Games Studios in March 2021. 

Dark Star 2.0 will give game studios looking for investment the chance to hear from Hiro Capital’s partners and portfolio entrepreneurs about how and why to position themselves for venture funding.

Startups – Silicon Canals

[OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved in The Times of Israel] Investing in companies pushing new frontiers in science and technology

Israel is an extraordinary nation with a highly-skilled workforce that offers the world lucrative and safe opportunities for investment. The whole world loves a winner. And the real winners are the ones tested by the flames of adversity.

Read more here.

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