ESCP Europe Business School

CMC Blog

Posted by Aris Theophilakis at 4:29 - 0 Comments

When I finally had the chance I joined my ESCP Europe peer and friend Oz to see whether I could contribute in any form or shape to his health tech idea in Silicon Valley. It took me to many inspiring and impressive people, to Stanford lectures (deja vu) and to many long winded discussions around health, innovations, VC vs angel funding, the world, the election, the chance of doing good, Steve Jobs favourite restaurant and what makes for a great business model.


What do entrepreneurs need for businesses success worldwide?

Here are some observations:

1. A great idea is only as great as the business it creates

Having an idea is easy. Actually there are tons of great ideas around. But there is a shortage of great businesses. If what you have is an idea, get back in line. If you have a real business there's plenty of help to be found. Next aim at milestones, not world domination. Having a vision is a prerequisite, but building a business requires well, business skills and shows whether you can manage Product, People and Market brilliantly or not. Can you spell "paperwork"?

2. It's not about your idea. It's about you

An idea is never better than the people that ride it on the rollercoaster they call the market. What the product is made of is very interesting, what you are made of is very crucial. There will be ups but surely downs. How well you can handle those are key. So prove your character, experience and resilience. Oh and yes, the idea still has to be great.

3. Listen to the dumb market - not the genius in the mirror

All great military strategies change when engaging the enemy, and all great products change when meeting its first customers. The market might not know what it wants, but chances are it will know once you engage with it. And more often than not the answer is a big NO. So iterate and ask until you get a big YES.

4. You don't have to be first. But be better

In many newly established categories there's only room for a couple of contenders and usually one will quickly be the "winner takes all". So if you're not first, be a Fast Follower that takes the category to the next level by leveraging the innovator's market acceptance to reach bigger audiences faster by better defining the success factors. A right out differentiation however is only relevant if a big portion of the market quickly understands that your product somehow adds more value than existing offerings. Many people are in the entrepreneurial space because they want to be appreciated as smart and successful, but the successful ones are smart because they appreciate what other people want. And often that is something simpler. But sometimes it is something disruptive.

5. Do or don't your interests align with the VC's?

Venture Capitalists, angels or not, might seem wonderfully helpful and they have to be, in case YOU are the golden nugget. They really fear losing money. But they fear missing the next Facebook so much more. However your interests do not always align. They use (mostly intuitive) pattern recognition to zero in on their favourites. Learn these patterns because if you somehow don't fit you're out. But several investors turned down Zuckerberg and pads were a failed innovation for twenty years (Newton) until Apple succeeded with the iPad. So a pattern is the right answer until it suddenly becomes the very wrong one. 

6. Know the value of smart money

The professional VC's call their money "smart", because it usually comes with hard earned experience and useful connections. But it also comes at a price, so check out the dumb options as well. There are thousands of rich private individuals with funds to spare who would love the purpose and thrill of investing in you. And they are unlikely to have the same rigid ratios and rules as the VC's (less predictable?). Most owners change (their attitude, motivation, risk profile etc) over the course of an ownership, so make sure the change is somehow predictable and always to the best interest of the company. 

7. And lastly don't use the U-word

The "Uber of…" list of failures is excruciatingly long and the surest way to be laughed out of a room. You might be brilliant, but make sure also to be original when pitching. Just a friendly warning (and yes, this was just before Uber's founder went over a cliff).


Entrepreneurs & ESCP Europe Alums Aris Theophilakis and Ozcan Cilkmaz in Silicon Valley

*Thanks to Carol Sands of Angels' Forum, Ron Weissman of Band of Angels, James Terranova of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & RosatiRemzi Celebi of Stanford Medicine GSV Lab, Utkan Demirci of Stanford Medicine Canary Lab, Farzan Azimpour, of IDEO, Sumit Shah of Stanford MedicineStephen McCurry of Carbon HealthEnis Gayretli and Ilker Koksal of BotanalyticsIan Börk and Matt Hassel of Fusion Tech and of course to one of the most passionate, generous and interesting men in the world, Ozcan "Oz" Cilkmaz.

FutatsuAris Theophilakis is the founder and CEO of Futatsu Industries, a hybrid marketing agency based in Oslo Norway. Aris still pretends to be part of the digital health startup Hospital On Mobile. Actually he is, as the company is up and running.

Aris is also an Alumnus of the Executive MBA (Class of 2016) and current participant of the innovative Executive Master in Marketing and Creativity.

Impressed by Aris' story and how he tackles the challenges that most entrepreneurs have to overcome to be successful? Check out how ESCP Europe and its Marketing and Creativity programmes can equip you with the tools you need in any challenge!.

Useful links:

ESCP Europe
MSc in Marketing & Creativity

Executive Master in Marketing & Creativity

Aris' second blog will be published soon. Stay tuned!

Latest comments

There are no comments yet. Be the first to comment this post!


Get Social & Share


Latest from CMC Blog
Most active posts
How to Build a Billion Dollar App - 7 Comments
Posted by Creativity Marketing Centre @Creativitymktg
at 24/06/2015 7:49
Who's creative, who's not? - 3 Comments
Posted by Benjamin Voyer
at 09/11/2012 10:00
‘Growth hacking’, the new marketing trend in startups - 3 Comments
Posted by Vishal Kapadia - @vishkap
at 05/11/2012 15:10
The Vicious Spiral of Consumer Expectations of Creative Brands - 2 Comments
Posted by Benjamin Voyer
at 07/01/2013 12:45
Are retail stores dinosaurs? - 1 Comments
Posted by Minas Kastanakis
at 15/03/2013 10:37
Kristine de Valck, dry chicken, and paintball - 1 Comments
Posted by Tom van Laer - @tvanlaer
at 05/03/2013 16:18
Shakespeare was wrong - 1 Comments
Posted by Peter Stephenson-Wright
at 12/02/2013 13:50
How should companies respond to stories in social media? - 1 Comments
Posted by Tom van Laer - @tvanlaer
at 19/11/2012 11:50
Value as process - 1 Comments
Posted by Vlad Glaveanu
at 16/11/2012 11:31
Latest posts
What is the Secret of Building a Disruptive App? Here’s What You Need to Know
Posted by Creativity Marketing Centre @Creativitymktg
at 08/07/2019 10:24
Everything You Know About AI Is Wrong
Posted by Dr Terence Tse
at 04/07/2019 10:23
The Power of a Strong Concept in Marketing #BIGPICTURE2019
Posted by Laurent François
at 23/05/2019 7:43
Latest comments
On How to Build a Billion Dollar App by Free FIle Hosting

Anything in here will be replaced on browsers that support the canvas element