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Entrepreneurship and innovation in the digital age. These were the key concepts behind the inspiring round table held by EU Business School Barcelona in partnership with the Belgian-Luxembourg, Danish and Swedish Chambers of Commerce in Barcelona on October 21, 2019.
Three successful entrepreneurs led by EU lecturer and expert in blockchain, Mr. Carlos B. Steinblock, joined us to share insights and learnings with students, faculty and invited guests. The topic of discussion was how they became successful and how they are leading the way in their respective sectors by using digitalization and technology.
Yuki Software: Flying With Numbers in the Cloud
Marc Coppens, CEO of Yuki Software, S. L. has taken accounting to new heights. While some may consider accounting to be a rather traditional and staid sector, Marc sees opportunity. ‘The accountants of tomorrow require the accounting software of the future’ is the motto which has led him to develop the first ever self-learning, community-driven accounting software based on artificial intelligence and cloud computing technology. By simplifying and automating the process, in addition to making it accessible and more secure, Yuki has gained 1000+ clients with whom it interacts regularly to enhance its software. Product improvement is constant.
“The time has to be right. Be persistent, stay focused and believe in your product,” championed Marc when asked for tips about how to start your own business. In fact, the initial reaction to Yuki’s new and far-reaching accountancy solution was slow. Traditionalists were reluctant to invest in a new computer software which would, a priori, increase productivity. It became clear to Marc that proof of the product’s value would be essential for product acceptance and growth. This led him to make a key business decision: together with his associates, he founded his own accountancy company to become an early adopter of his own product. Within one year, Marc was able to prove the clear advantages of his accounting software, which allowed him to concentrate on product improvement such as invoice recognition via smart phones.
As a tip, and to ensure constant product improvement, Marc shared with us a great human resources initiative, Start-Stop-Continue. Every three months, all new hires are asked to inform top management what they are doing wrong and how they could improve. This transparent, horizontal structure is helping the company move forward and set new standards in the world of accountancy.
AirHelp: Championing the Rights of Air Passengers
Christian Nielsen, CEO of AirHelp South and CLO of the AirHelp Group, gave true business insight and discussed how success can lead to downfall during his eye-opening statement at the round table. Representing AirHelp, the leading air passenger rights advocacy company that has helped over 16 million air passengers in only six years. Christian explained how fast growth needed funding, investment in technology and a clear multicultural strategy in human resources to gain and maintain its leadership position and meet ever growing consumer demand. In six years, the company has grown to employ a global workforce of 700 multilingual professionals and has a network of law firms across 30 countries.
As with any startup, the initial challenge faced by the company was to make the company known with very little capital for advertising. Co-founders, Henrik Zillmer, Nicolas Michaelsen and Greg Roodt used creativity and ‘gorilla tactics’ to get in direct contact with their target. Buying low-cost air tickets, purposely missing their flight and waiting in the airport lobby for a plane to be long delayed, they were soon to find indignant air passengers demanding compensation but reluctant to begin a legal battle with a corporate giant.
AirHelp grew quickly and demand was soon to outweigh supply. The company was forced to hire at a speedy rate, learn the different operations of airlines across countries with differing legal systems and invest in technology to provide an easy-to-use and state-of-the-art website requiring flexibility and quick turnaround. Christian gave advice about funding from investors. He also highlighted the need for a clear business plan and a great pitch.
On being asked about setting up a business, a key tip Christian gave is to make the right HR decisions as you grow. “The personnel who are with you at the beginning of your operations may not be the people you need as you grow. Change the team early and place structure in your organization,” said Christian. The fellow panelists agreed: a person with passion for new adventure may not be the specialist needed as a startup grows into a structured entity.
Tech-Buddy, Opening Up Technology for All
Marc Miralda, Country Manager of TechBuddy in Spain, is passionate about startups and converting a business idea into a true success story. Since 2014, he has been building entrepreneurial ecosystems and supporting Barcelona as a tech startup hub bringing entrepreneurs, investors and main players together. Marc soon realized that the corporate world didn’t give him the push that he needed in his career. After co-founding Zapptales, a startup that creates digital memories and books out of WhatsApp conversations, he took on the exciting challenge of expanding TechBuddy into Spain in 2017.
While many consider technological consumers to be tech-savvy, Swedish startup TechBuddy saw huge market potential elsewhere. With technology growing exponentially, TechBuddy realized that not everyone knows how to use nor keep up with the latest technological developments. Research shows that eight out of ten people suffer from a tech problem every month. Hence, TechBuddy targets those with less technological knowledge such as the baby boomers and consumers with little time to learn all the latest advances. The company provides them with an excellent in-home technological help service.
Creativity and endorsement have been key to the company’s growth and visibility in Spain. With limited advertising budget, TechBuddy directs its marketing actions toward the children of the baby boomers who very often contract the service for their parents—an ingenious way to reach the end-consumer. Nevertheless, the big turning point for the company has come with the company’s partnership with electronics giant, Media Markt. Like Yuki Software, Marc realized he needed endorsement and proof of product value to make TechBuddy a success story. The win-win alliance with Media Markt and the underpinning logo ‘Powered by TechBuddy’ allows the electronics leader to offer great in-home service to its clients while offering endorsement for other clients to TechBuddy.
“Just go out and do it,” stated Marc on being asked for advice on creating a startup. And this action-driven, young and dynamic professional is certainly doing this by being passionate about what he does and moving constantly to build a successful enterprise. At present TechBuddy employs 250 people in Spain and is raising funds to expand across Europe.
With regards to what is coming next and what we should be looking out for in the future, our three guests pointed out that the cloud will become larger, those with skills in data science will take the professional lead and privacy will be a constant issue.
Connected, Innovative and Entrepreneurial! These three successful entrepreneurial leaders inspired the 200-strong audience with their customer-centric ideas, ingenuity, passion and persistence. They have founded and grown companies to become truly successful business leaders in the digital age by fulfilling a clear consumer need with a digital solution. We thank Marc, Christian and Marc for giving a truly insightful session and the Chambers of Commerce for partnering with us.
If you would like to contact the International Chambers of Commerce in Barcelona to ask for support with your business plans within Spain, please visit their websites at:
Belgian-Luxumbourg: Cámara de Comercio Belga-Luxemburguesa en Barcelona