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Earlier this year I was invited to talk about Storytelling, Inbound Marketing and Growth Hacking to budding entrepreneurs at Marketing & Metrics Day organized by StartSmart in Tallinn, Estonia. In my talk I walk you through:

  • The ever challenging and growing marketing landscape
  • Why storytelling is crucial to startups including Startup Storytelling ABC
  • Why inbound marketing is startups’ best friend, including Inbound Marketing Essentials and examples, and last but not least,
  • #WTF is growth hacking along with best advice available from the very people responsible for Facebook hitting 1B users 🙂

6 Advice To (Estonian) Startups On How To Get Noticed Early On

While in town, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Äripäev, leading Estonian financial newspaper, about Internet startups and women in tech. I was also asked to share advice for startups on how to get noticed early on,  and thought I’d share them here, too:

1. Think Big

Coming from a small country you’re by default being overlooked by the rest of the world, while as your domestic market isn’t big enough. You need to think big and globally from day one, and speak, uhmm, at least English well. For example, basic human needs and behaviours are pretty much universal, thus can be addressed regardless where you come from.

2. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

In order to spark your creativity and build up a network, you need to get away from your screen to meetups and events. Co-working places, such as Garage48 are also great way to meet with likeminded people and get valuable input. Remember, when you need your network, it’s too late to build it.

3. Find The Aha Factor

In other words, the sweet spot in your product, that makes people go: “I need that! Can I have it now?’.

4. Be Different

You need to figure out the thing that makes your product rise above the noise and stand out in the competition. However, it doesn’t mean you should make a clown of yourself. (Note: E.g., don’t confuse Dave McClure wearing bunny ears with making clown of oneself. He’s paid his dues and gets to wear bunny ears.)

5. Tell Your Own Story

Companies are often created to solve a personal pain. By giving a product a human face and voice is an authentic way to tell its story. Others with same problem can then easily relate to it: “Ah, I have that problem, too.”

6. If You Don’t Have a Story, Create One!

So your product wasn’t born out of personal pain, or someone close to you? Talk to a lot of people! Your customers will tell you the most wonderful stories. What better way to find out what people think about your product, and to test which stories resonate with what audience.

Copyright: Andras Kralla, Äripäev

Below  you’ll find the full interview including startups hipsters, European startup hubs, women in tech and “Sit at the table”. Originally published at Äripäev, 13th of March 2013. PDF version. Cover Photo: Copyright by Andras Kralla. Thank you Marta Jaakson for the interview!

(I took the liberty to translate it loosely with help of Google Translate, along with few additions and corrections*. Tip: Even with recorded, in person interviews, facts still get easily mixed up. Try get preview/translation whenever possible.)

Startup Mentor: Entrepreneurship has become hipster

Paula Marttila, involved in advising startups, believes people today are becoming less afraid to start their own businesses. Entrepreneurship is boldly entering the age of hipster – the generation of now 20 to 30 year olds with creative mindsets. These young people are being encouraged to become entrepreneurs with knowledge, that they’re not pursuing their entrepreneurial paths alone.

Girls in Tech* chose Paula Marttila from Finland among the hundred best women in tech in Europe based on great leadership qualities and innovative thinking. Marttila said that women simply need to work hard amongst their male peers, focus on ones own strengths, and keep “sitting at the table” until it becomes self-evident.

How come women in tech as a group has reached such a good position in a very male dominated industry?

I think you need to focus on what value you can provide, rather than the fact that you’re a woman. Be yourself and see how you can help others and create value. One of my favorite quote is by Sheryl Sandberg: “Sit at the table!” You continue to sit at the table, and in the end, it becomes self-evident and people will also listen to you.

There are few female startup founders. How’s that moving forward?

Last year saw a big positive change in supporting and highlighting women in tech. When co-organizing the very first Geek Girl Meetup* in Stockholm back in 2009, we hoped that maybe 50 women would join us. We received 100 sign-ups in no time. Berlin Geekettes* were found in Berlin a year ago and last week they held its first women only hackathon with about 80 women attending. The goal was to introduce and get more women to join events like hackathons, where usually nearly 90 percent of the participants are men (how Geek Girl Meetup got started). This will hopefully inspire more women to found their own startup, join one, or at least feel comfortable enough to participate in more hackathons. Statistics also show that female founders are much more efficient with the venture capital raised than their male counterparts.

How long does it take to find out whether a startup will survive and become successful, or fail?

There are many internal and external factors that play in whether a company eventually will become successful or fail, e.g. changes in team dynamics and commitment. When making an investment decision, investors take into account how passionately a team feels about its idea. Generally, in venture capital one out of ten investments is calculated to hit a home run. Not every company can be successful, and not every company wants to go big, either.

What are the major startup hubs in Europe?

Lot has been written the past year about which European city will become the next Silicon Valley: London, Berlin, Helsinki or Stockholm. (So have I: My Qualcomm Spark piece on Stockholm.) Berlin and London are definitely attractive: London because it’s close to universities, technology, capital, and it has good connections. Berlin on the other hand is very affordable. (Recent pitch for Berlin by Ciarán O’Leary). During the past four years, I’ve seen both Helsinki and Stockholm starting to flourish and build up a great momentum. While there are many benefits of being located in, or close to, a startup hub, nowadays even venture capital flies around.

Entrepreneurship has become a hipster thing. It’s no longer that expensive to get started, and people aren’t afraid to talk about starting a company. Quite the contrary, they are being encouraged with knowledge, that they won’t be pursuing their entrepreneurial paths alone.

Last year also saw a boom in accelerators. Beginning of the year I was basically contacted by a new one on weekly basis. More co-working places and accelerators attract new talent, which all in all is a great thing. While neither all accelerators nor startups will survive, there will be plenty of others in the community to share learnings with, as how to avoid future mistakes.

What should Estonia do in order to become an important hub for startups?

(Apart from direct flights to other European startup hubs, such as London and Berlin!)

Greetings from Dave McClure to #Estonianmafia found at Garage48 Hub!

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I talked with Garage48 Hub co-founder Jüri Kaljundi (Check out his new venture Weekdone), and we agreed on the need to have more events in Estonia that would attract both international talent and audience. It’s also important that local events are organized on regular basis, and are inclusive for everyone who wants to help out (see Startup Communities by Brad Feld). Co-working places like Garage48 HUB, where talent comes together, are essential. I got the impression that there already are a lot of great events happening, such as Startup Weekends and Garage48 Hackathons. (In addition to StartSmart, Mini Seedcamp TallinnLatitude59)

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Startup Wise Guys Team with Jüri Kaljundi

Lastly, but not least, I got to meet with and mentor the latest batch at Startup Wise Guys startup accelerator. Applications for Autumn -13 program, starting in September with these happy and colourful peeps, are open!

I’m always happy to visit Tallinn and Estonia, not only because of the buzzing and talented tech scene, but as the only country, besides Finland, where I can speak Finnish, and be understood, as soon as I get off the plane. They also serve my favorite Karelian pies with egg butter 😀

Thank you all for having me!

Paula is Digital Product Advisor and Top 100 Women in Tech in Europe, focusing on Product, Go-to-market, and Internationalization strategies. She has to date mentored over 150 digital technology companies, and rated as one of the best startup mentors in Europe. Read more about her work and personal guidelines. Contact Paula to help you build better products and drive growth. “You never learn anything when you speak, only when you listen” – Roelof Botha / Douglas Leone, Sequoia Capital. Connect on Twitter, LinkedIn.

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