Reflections of a TINC'er

By Ulf Änggård, CEO Itclarifies

"Pay it forward" were the first words of Anne. Here is a small contribution from myself. It is Sunday and the first week of the TINC program has past and a new is dawning. I want to pay it forward with a few personal reflections. I must first thank you Åse, Gro and Anne and all the others at Nordic Innovation House (NIH) for taking so well care of us, making us feel right at home here in Palo Alto.

“Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a location” according to Reid Hoffman, CEO LinkedIn, written on the wall at NIH. I decided to live by it. I had to get out of the location and get into the mindset, whatever it was.  What can be a better way than getting on a bike.  I bought a simple bike at the friendly Palo Alto Bicycle Store on University Avenue. The most fancy part was the color. It is bright red. This way I could get out, see more and get into the nature to reflect on the impressions of the days.  A piece of advice this week caught my attention:  “Reach out and talk to new people. Don’t stay in the office,” Martin Hauge.

I tried to go out alone to connect with people outside our group. Amazingly easy. From Alfredo at Amazon, who kindly offered me to join in with his friends during Halloween, to a super excited VC-focused entrepreneur who showed his autonomous food delivery robot, that had a R2D2 feeling to it. He mistook me for an investor. Asking if I had money? I replied “ It happens!”.“Validate hypotheses in weekly experiments.” Tristan at TriKro.  “Reach out to the top people directly in companies you want to meet. And do it in a humble, polite, but confident manner,” Nathan Gold. “Try out different channels to reach out and see which works out the best,” Sean Percival of 500Startups.  I needed to get out of my comfort zone and remove myself from the equation, meaning that anyone should be able to repeat what I do.  My experiment for the week was to set up a number of customer meetings. In our case it is meeting with sourcing and legal departments in large technology enterprises.

Our company Itclarifies helps companies clarify contract risk and compliance, which today is a tedious manual error prone work. We help out with our Artificial Intelligent text analysis platform.  I have, in two days, succeeded to reach out to 11 Fortune 500 companies at VP level.  I admit I have had a slow start, which I blame the comfort zone devil for.

Back to my red bike and our first ride together on Saturday, which struck me as an analogy to how starting up a new business can be.  I went up the Old La Honda Road, which is a 6 km steep narrow uphill serpentine road on the way to the coast. Beautiful big redwood trees in a jungle-like feeling. Off I went with good spirit and sufficient water supplies, I thought (read money in a startup). The ride was tougher than I had planned. I saw the ridge getting closer after what felt like an eternity in hell. Water supplies were dwindling fast. Suddenly, I was overtaken by two annoyingly happy bikers.  “Hi, are you OK?” “Keep it up. You just got HALFWAY left! ”  THAT was not in my plan. My confidence was as short as my supplies.  But there was no turning back. Well actually there was. I could just roll down the hill where I came from. But in a mental way there was no turning back. I had to reach the top even without water and energy.  I eventually did reach the top to Skyline Boulevard after seriously considering how mature my decision had been to start the journey at all. Was I too old for this adventure?

Skyline Boulevard was beautiful. I choose to go right along the ridge and follow the road in hope to find a place to fill up energy and supplies. I reached Alice Restaurant. Really worth a visit even if you are not about to die.  After drinking a large jar of milk, in front of an astonished but friendly audience, life was slowly coming back to me.  Disaster turned into success when one of them saw my bike and said “Did you really come on THAT bike? That is a feat!” I thought to myself “I don’t need a good bike to succeed”. Attitude and mindset took me to the top that day.  It is Sunday evening and I am about to prepare for a new hectic week with a great TINC team.  Looking forward to it.