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The Future Of Work

Our CEO, Chris Locke, shares his vision for the future of work and why organisations need to think across the employee relationship and build in the opportunity for reskilling, upskilling and purposeful outskilling to enable organisations to become more flexible and agile to manage disruptions while accelerating growth and helping everyone secure jobs for the future.

As reported by the World Economic Forum: “The double disruption caused by automation and the pandemic is likely to displace 85 million jobs by 2025. Among those set to remain in their roles, 50% will need reskilling by 2025.” The impact of the pandemic and increased automation is going to continue to rumble through organisations and industries.

To adjust to the new norm of disruption and automation, organisations must adopt an approach or core strategy of flexibility and agility to be able to pivot, maximise opportunity and address the speed of change. How companies encourage the adoption of this across their business and within the DNA of their talent will be the difference between those that survive and those who face being left behind.

New skill sets and new types of employee structures will need to be instilled across your business. Organisations will also need to think big. You can’t limit agility approaches or test-and-learn cultures to just small parts of the company. When strategic plans can be impacted daily, complex problem solving, and creativity need space across the business to counter the disruption. 

What skills become important

Complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity became the top three skills required for survival in the 2020 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum. The challenge for all organisations will be around instilling these core competencies at scale to drive speed for resilience and adopt startup creative thinking as a ‘business-as-usual’ approach. These skill sets are integral to startup creative approaches deployed by most if not all, successful startups. Upskilling and reskilling your teams with these fundamental skills along with startup methodologies and approaches will enable businesses to start gaining the benefit immediately. This enables businesses to gain the flexibility and agility to operate at the pace of a startup with the skills to navigate the current climate of disruption. A culture shift for many organisations but one that will separate the companies that survive from those that won’t be able to weather the disruption.

Upskilling and reskilling for strategic innovation and opportunity growth

Industry insight and company knowledge do not need to be, nor should be lost during the transition caused by digital transformations and the speed of technology adoption. By strategically deploying and instilling startup creative skills across the business, you start to open up the opportunity for game-changing innovation opportunities to occur. When incorporating this with more practical upskilling initiatives to move from labour roles into more tech-heavy future-proof positions, you can start to create a powerhouse of change lead by those who truly understand and have a passion for your business. Plus, from a purely business perspective, it can often be more straightforward and cheaper to develop in-demand skills in-house rather than looking to hire them in. Businesses that recognise that their existing talent already possesses much of what is needed can actually find additional urgency to tap into as with new talent you can wait a year or more for them to get up to speed with the inner workings of how a company operates.

Allowing innovation to come from those closest to the inner workings and most likely problems or the customers’ pains will enable you to find unexpected gems of insight. By making startup creative thinking a core competency within your organisation, you start to build in innovation at the velocity of a startup; naturally being able to pivot fast and be much more agile with those opportunities. Being built for speed of innovation opens the door for powerful outcomes from improving the lifecycle and value of your existing products and services lines by allowing you to find new ways to create value to more successful new services or solutions at pace, successfully meeting the evolving needs of your customers or even addressing internal issues that have slowed the pace of opportunity.

Bridging the skills gap with more than just technical skills

As quoted by the corporate philosopher, Chairman of Expothon Worldwide; a ThinkTank on Image Supremacy of Innovative Excellence & Entrepreneurial Leadership, Naseem Javed: “Unlimited, well-designed innovative ideas and global age skills can quadruple enterprise performance.” This combination of skills provides organisations with the core competencies needed to manage through this time of disruption and can turn it into a time of great opportunity.

For large companies, where the sums invested in new product development are in the tens of millions, this means only a fraction of the potential return on investment undertaken is delivered back to shareholders. And for existing successful product lines, value can still be unlocked with the right innovation approaches. Did you know that according to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, each year more than 30,000 new consumer products are launched and 95% of them fail? (Harvard Business School)

The key is in combining skills with ideas. Just capturing innovation ideas without the ability to quickly implement on the insight leaves you still stuck.

Organisations that are looking to rapidly empower their teams internally with a combination of startup and technical skills are seeing an immediate impact turning ideas into action and ultimately revenue or competitive advantage. For example, Rambol adopted an internal innovation startup training programme which has resulted in 7 new spin-out ventures from idea to launch in 20 weeks which are now on track to deliver a 29% net new revenue by 2023. By creating new tech-enabled business models, they can serve existing clients needs better and identify new customer segments.

According to a survey done by McKinsey, nearly seven in ten respondents reporting reskilling say the business impact from the programs has been greater than or equal to the investment in them. What’s more, 48% say the programmes are already enhancing bottom-line growth.

Amazon logo

Amazon has invested considerable amounts of money into their outskilling programmes and in return has gained a competitive advantage.

Adding strategic outskilling to the mix

Unfortunately, as we see now, businesses can’t always afford to keep all their employees, or there is a natural progression of departure within the organisation that has a short employee lifecycle. In either case, there is a substantial opportunity to be made to extend startup creative training at all stages of the employee lifecycle. And even more critically, provide an opportunity to those who have been, by no fault of their own, made redundant. In the UK alone according to the ONS redundancies hit a record 370,000. If the study from Direct Line is correct, then over one-third of those 370,000 people will be considering starting a business. There is a moral argument to be made that we must do our best by departing talent to help them make this transition as successfully as possible. But it isn’t just about doing the right thing for your company; there is a broader picture that benefits all. Startups and new business in the wake of large redundancies may be our economy’s way out of the recession. You don’t just help an employee; it helps build local economies and in return, future customers. Additionally, within our connected universe of feedback and reviews, creating a powerhouse of people who are your active ambassadors can also be a game-changer.

Providing startup training, as part of traditional outplacement, can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction and even external consumer brand recognition. The Nokia Bridge programme discovered that they could reduce or counter the traditional 20%+ drop in productivity that surrounds layoff and redundancies. All in all, done right, you can expect a 15% ROI into improving outplacement processes.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For organisations that look to incorporate the full suite of reskilling, upskilling and strategic outskilling, there are substantial potential benefits.

MacDonalds

McDonald’s and Uber have both extended the outskilling practices to become part of the employee cycle even without any redundancy or layoff programmes. McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity programme knows that employees will ultimately leave McDonald’s, but this programme typically increases employees’ tenure at the firm, reducing turnover and hiring costs. Uber’s programme has had mixed reviews, but at its heart, the idea is to enable departing drivers who might in the future be displaced anyway to leave into positive positions to continue as riders and ambassadors. As Uber states: “We want to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business, and backing business owners, creators and doers regardless of their background is essential to that goal.”

Amazon has invested considerable amounts of money into their outskilling programmes and in return has gained a competitive advantage. By empowering drivers, who they know will depart as there is a well-documented cycle of employment, to start their delivery firms, they have naturally extended their reach as well as ensuring that the external firms they are hiring can meet the expectations of the Amazon brand as they’ve been upskilling in the Amazon work ethics.

Many companies globally have been hit by the pandemic and forced to make unexpected changes. Their outplacement programmes could still become much more strategic through the use of startup outskilling. The mantra being “don’t let staff go, let them grow.” Departure driven by employee desire or a business requirement for redundancy can see organisations losing a tremendous amount of brain trust and insight. We also have seen a considerable reduction in innovation that can be the difference between success and failure for many organisations. By creating startup innovation programmes, you can divert talent from your organisation into startups but keep the opportunity within your sphere of influence.

We know that innovation from within, especially around industry problems can be incredibly difficult or confining to solve from within but by giving departing talent innovation pathways through startup creation, you can see a significant return for a relatively low investment. Nokia ended up investing in 20% of the startups generated during their Bridge redundancy programme enabling new business opportunities.

(Discover more about Nokia Bridge here by watching our recorded webinar with one of the team who lead the programme)

Looking ahead

COVID-19 has increased our speed of change and added to a challenging future for many workforces as more elements become automated, and companies need to re-allocate employees to new business opportunities. What will separate the long-term winners from those that might fall behind? Organisations of all sizes need to:

  • Rapidly instil startup creative training across your business to drive competitive advantage.

By building in the powerhouse of three skills: complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, with the tools and mindset to operate at speed along with the focus of a startup creates a powerful engine. It enables your talent to drive value out of your existing products and services as well as start the focused space for innovation to develop new and exciting value for your business.

  • Deploying strategic upskilling, reskilling and purposeful outskilling as the tools by which to empower your workforce with startup creative skills at the right stage of their employee lifecycle.

Upskilling and reskilling existing teams can be a much more successful and supportive approach than looking to bring skills in-house which requires a significant time and energy investment in onboarding them into your process and methods. Allowing innovation and agile thinking to come from all areas of the business enables those closest to the problems and opportunities a voice that turns your whole company into an innovative machine for value creation. Purposeful outskilling is an underutilised strategic operation that can lead to huge gains when linking your talent’s lifecycle to opportunity building where both sides can benefit. Again, the mantra of “don’t let your talent go, let them grow” enables you to think differently about how you empower life-long learning with natural evolutions as well as continuing a positive connection that allows strategic growth for everyone.

  • Maximise your current assets and build for the future.

Using startup thinking to sweat your current assets for maximum value while building new products, solutions and services to meet future requirements. Did you know that 9 out of 10 product launches fail? But changing that success rate by 1 by empowering your talent with new skills and new ways of working will significantly impact your bottom line.

This article originally was available in the CEO Today Magazine March 2021 Edition

Discover our reskilling and upskilling programmes: ASPIRE Foundry

Discover our outskilling programme: ASPIRE LaunchPad

Business Chief logo - reskill for growth

Opinion: Reskill your workforce to navigate the new normal

The following article on reskilling, upskilling and purposeful outskilling for growth was written by our CEO, Chris Locke and was originally published in Business Chief.

By exploring startup thinking and embracing entrepreneurial programmes, businesses can ride the next wave of growth, argues Chris Locke, CEO, ASPIRE.

Business leaders have found staying positive an increasingly challenging exercise whilst COVID-19 rips through our communities and economy fuelling a huge rise in unemployment and redundancy. 

According to the Office of National Statistics, in the UK, more people were made redundant between July and September 2020 than at any point on record as the pandemic laid waste to large parts of the economy. In January, UK unemployment rose to 5%, the highest level in five years. 

The good news is that, recently, there have been signs that the economy will rebound strongly, especially with the vaccine’s continuing rollout. However, even with recovery looking better than expected, we have to acknowledge the hard facts around some of the roles caught up in the redundancy programmes. Many won’t come back. 

The amount of disruption combined with automation, digital transformations, and even changing customer expectations, will be sending some roles to the out-of-date pile. 

So, what can business leaders do to mitigate the impact?

The easy answer is that business leaders need to not just think short term but start reskilling or upskilling their talent with a skill set that is going to be essential. But what exactly does that mean?

Right now, everyone is talking about reskilling or upskilling, but it can be increasingly complicated to understand what this means in practice and where to focus limited resources. Making sure the right choices are taken in this process will make a difference. It can be easy to focus on technical skills but in reality, as automation and the speed of digitalisation continues, other skills are actually becoming much more important. 

The World Economic Forum has highlighted the critical skills for 2025 and beyond. The top five are as follows:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Complex problem-solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity, originality and initiative

Internal entrepreneurship as a pathway for success

The fastest way to evolve a corporate to be ready for the future and build in the agility and speed that will help navigate the disruption is to empower teams in all areas of the business with these identified critical skills and the freedom to implement them. The challenge of reskilling and upskilling becomes how to instil these skills into an organisation at scale. 

The answer for many is internal entrepreneurship as a pathway for success. Entrepreneurism has often been considered a bit of a dangerous tool at many businesses. With the standard approach of control, point and direct, this craft’s unexpected nature can often seem at odds with the corporate way of life. 

But what most organisations have learned or are learning the hard way is that today, due to the speed and impact of the disruption and change, it isn’t just about acting like a startup, it’s about operating like a startup. It’s the only way to gain the flexibility and pace needed to succeed in today’s world. And that means embracing entrepreneurship internally and the critical skill set that it builds. 

When looking at how to implement this strategic imperative across your business fast, the most effective way is to tie it back into real life, learn-by-doing opportunity building moments that don’t just share a concept but instil the mindset of startup thinking. Theory is not enough to embed the skills into your organisation. Attaching entrepreneurial startup thinking upskilling and reskilling programmes with your innovation programmes or new initiatives or product lines to build while you learn will give it the buy-in to take hold. 

Product line or solution owners should be jumping at this approach. When 9 out of 10 products fail, internal entrepreneurial programmes are a unique approach that could reduce failure rates. They create space for these new skills to drive creativity and innovation to change the game. The impact can be limitless.

But it’s not just about upskilling or reskilling. We know it’s often cheaper to use upskilling and reskilling rather than release and employing new staff. However, sometimes, as COVID-19 has shown, it becomes inevitable with our current business structures as they are. But what if you could extend how you manage your talent requirements with a startup outskilling programme to build in more flexibility and reduce the risk of forced redundancies? 

Create a startup outskilling programme

Businesses could circumvent redundancies on mass and help their talent manage their careers by strategically moving people who choose into startup outskilling programmes. This approach quite possibly could make an impact on the unemployment figure and on those hardest hit. 

Living your corporate values and acting responsibly, this approach increases the opportunity for success for everyone involved, from a buoyant economy rebound through programmes focused on solving industry issues, you will benefit from or even world problems. Organisations who approach talent management and skilling across the entire lifecycle with entrepreneurship opportunities would become the future beacons for rock start talents to join. Helping you hire not fire the best.

By exploring startup thinking and entrepreneurial programmes internally, organisations as a critical element of your reskilling, upskilling and even outskilling strategies can redefine the relationship between the business and their teams and improve chances for everyone to create value. 

Finding and launching that next wave of profitable growth at pace while managing talent across their lifecycle will be the difference between those that take this time of disruption head-on and survive and those who are taken down by it.

Discover more about ASPIRE LaunchPad our outskilling solution here

The original article can be found here in Business Chief posted on Feb 20th 2021

Our CPD accreditation in process!

We are thrilled to announce that we are in the process of getting the CPD accreditation for the ASPIRE programme with the CPD Standards Office, which is part of the Professional Development Consortium.

We know that it’s important to keep updated with your skills and that some organisations give extra attention to the numbers of hours people spend on training, on building their skills and that the training meets quality standards. This is where CPD accreditation comes into action.

At ASPIRE we have decided to go through the rigorous accreditation process to obtain CPD accreditation status to show we are totally committed to providing the best online learn-by-doing entrepreneurial training programme to help people, teams and organisations develop the mindsets and skills to deliver innovation, opportunity and growth.

We want to help you have an impact on your work, project and also on your personal development journey. When taking the ASPIRE programme, we aim to give you the skills, tools and mindset to launch and to grow a business, be able to quickly assess its feasibility, desirability and commerciality…and while you are learning soon you will also earn CPD credits! So watch this space.

Ramboll

CASE STUDY: Ramboll

Ramboll is a leading engineering, design and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945 employing more than 15,000 experts worldwide throughout 300 offices in 35 countries.

Despite significant growth since 2001, margins were being squeezed and Ramboll acknowledged the impact of competitors and startups on the value chain of their industry. The sheer speed of change led Ramboll to recognize the need to leverage and systematize their ability to innovate and future-proof their organisation.

To leverage Ramboll’s enormous reserve of expertise, Rainmaking designed the inaugural ‘Ramboll Innovation Accelerator’. Ramboll was able to increase speed to market for commercially viable ideas while eliminating non-viable ideas based on data, much faster and more consistently than had previously been possible.

270+

Applications from across all business units

7

Growth ventures launched in 2018 and 2019

Embedding an innovation framework to test ideas quickly and develop a portfolio of solutions

Recognising the risks of stagnation within their organisation, Ramboll made the brave choice to focus on rapidly improving their innovation capabilities from the inside out.

By combining robust methodologies, including design thinking and lean startup, the Ramboll Internal Accelerator provides a governance, training and communications framework for developing new ideas, rapidly assessing their commercial potential and growing them to innovative businesses that unlock new revenue streams.

It also functioned as a vehicle for cultural change towards stronger client-centric based business development.

Drive an internal culture of innovation

The programme helped Ramboll €1.34m in new revenue in Year 1

Open to all teams globally, the 2018 program attracted 270 applications from across all business units. 95% of ideas were rejected within the first ten weeks. This ultimately left three final teams pitching for follow on investment at demo day.

During the program, the 3 final ideas were able to generate over £300k in revenue and secured partnerships with companies such as Google. By end of the program, the 3 teams all received investment and are forecast to generate over £1.5m in new revenue in 2019.

Discover more from the Galago team who are part of #YouMeEntrepreneur

#YouMeEntrepreneur meet Richard Sams and Ben Blomerley

Richard Sams and Ben Blomerley are founders of MOHARA who help new startups create their technical businesses. They are also an amazing content parter for ASPIRE.

Meet Richard Sams

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Rich

Why did you decide to start your business? What was the motivating factor(s) that pushed you into this pathway?

I have always been entrepreneurial, from selling my grandparents summer house contents back to them when I was six to writing a property portfolio business plan in my last year at 6th form college. I entered a career as a teacher aged 22 and loved the people and the profession. Teaching allowed me to teach in New Zealand and Thailand (where MOHARA was born as a concept) for which I am so thankful for. After 8 years in education I just began to feel a little restless, I felt the career I had in front of me was a little too prescribed and I knew it had a ceiling. I wanted to build a legacy, I wanted to build something from the ground up and say “we did that”. I knew I wanted to continue in technology, my degree was in Computing and Education, I knew I wanted to continue working with people, so I thought building technology products would be worth a shot. I guess the overarching motivating factor was ambition, ambition to create, build, collaborate and create a legacy.

Emotionally what sort of process did you go through or did you not think much about it and just jumped? Was it important to get buy-in from anyone?

I absolutely got buy-in from my Mum and Dad, we discussed it at length and Dad, in particular, had a strong influence on the type of business we founded. Emotionally it was a real rollercoaster, I recall many a long email or video call with friends about the idea, hearing all of their thoughts. I am not risk-averse in any way really, I love a challenge and definitely favour optimism as a default. However, the concept of giving up a steady paycheck and moving to a world where you only get paid if you can find the work, you have employees straight out of the box, a limited financial runway and it will only work if you are good enough, took some adjusting to.

Did you try to de-risk the process?

Absolutely… well kind of! Before starting in August 2011, I signed up with a few supply teaching companies haha. Confidence in my own abilities right there! We had enough money to operate for 3 months thanks to the money I had saved teaching abroad and I knew that Patty and the guys in Bangkok would be in high demand if it didn’t work out. Also, I knew I could re-enter teaching should things not work out, so I thought there was little downside to just going for it.

Looking back is there anything that has taken you by surprise in the process of building something from scratch?

I think the number of hats you have to wear at the beginning and the huge gaps I had in my knowledge. I had to learn and I had to learn at a frightening pace. Coming from a teaching career, I had never hired, I had never written a contract, I had never produced cash flow forecasts, I had never set up a business development pipeline, I had never priced work or had to write a brand and marketing plan. I knew tech and people. I had to learn the rest.

What is the best thing about becoming an Entrepreneur? Why would you recommend it? Why would you not recommend it?

Creativity. You can go your own way and build whatever you want. I love this. Freedom to create. There is tremendous satisfaction to be had along the way, from your first deal, seeing your ideas become a reality to the people who join the organisation from all walks of life with their own stories. The career is not without its downsides. The stress can be immense, you have to work very hard, you have to have the emotional strength, grit and perseverance. You may have to sacrifice a lot along the way and be willing to do it if needs be.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

Following a particularly tough stretch, both personally and professionally in early 2020, my Dad sat me down recognising my struggles and offered this advice: “It’s not about the goal, it’s about the journey. Love the process and the journey and you’ll get where you are going”. I think it holds true for anyone looking to start a business.

Meet Ben Blomerley

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Ben

Why did you decide to start your business? What was the motivating factor(s) that pushed you into this pathway?

I was at business school and had originally thought to go into banking. But I kept going to interviews and the feedback was like ‘it seems you know how to do the job, but it doesn’t seem you want the job’. And they were right. That led to me starting my marketplace start-up (along with a classmate) back in 2011. I guess the motivation was to be doing something for myself, and not just following a treadmill of something I hated, just for the money.

Emotionally what sort of process did you go through or did you not think much about it and just jumped? Was it important to get buy-in from anyone?

I probably should have got buy-in from the girlfriend I had at the time (we split up fairly soon afterwards). I think it places an enormous emotional toll, because of the volatility. I was in an environment and atmosphere at business school where anything felt possible, and it was only the reality of plugging away at something, and being very lonely whilst doing it that I could have thought about first. When I joined Rich at MOHARA it was a relief because I wouldn’t want to do something on my own.

Did you try to de-risk the process?

I tried to de-risk in some ways, and I think that was actually a mistake. I always had a second job, as the part-time CFO at Quick Release. So I always had a little money coming in. That kept me — and therefore the idea — going for longer. I didn’t de-risk where I should have done — much more validation of the idea, much more challenge on my ability to actually build the business, or bringing in a business partner.

Looking back is there anything that has taken you by surprise in the process of building something from scratch?

Not really taken me by surprise — it’s just hard work!

What is the best thing about becoming an Entrepreneur? Why would you recommend it? Why would you not recommend it?

The best thing is when your team has achieved something special, and they’re all inspired by what you’ve all done together, and you think ‘I brought them here’. That feeling is amazing. That feeling that you’re in some way responsible for creating something that wasn’t there before, and that people value, is really special, and I am not sure you can get that in almost any other way. Why wouldn’t I recommend it? Because you’re never sure how much money you’re going to have, and the spaces between the peaks and the troughs are never very long. It’s a rollercoaster!

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

What I always tell people is to think strongly about the ‘build-sell-finance’. Every business in the world needs to make something that they can sell to customers, and fund it whilst they are getting going or growing. So how are you really going to do that build/sell/finance? Who have you around you who can help do it? And if you don’t know how you’ll do it, be prepared for a long and potentially painful journey…

#YouMeEntrepreneur meet Christopher Bowles and Mike Rawitch

Christopher and Mike work for Ramboll and are currently in the process of starting an internal startup called Galago

Why did you decide to get involved in an intrapreneur programme at your business? What was the motivating factor(s) that pushed you into this pathway?

Chris and I both come from a strong technical background with training and experience as scientists and have always tried to figure out the best way to get work done. At the time Ramboll opened applications for the Innovation Accelerator we were both heavily involved in a digitalization program and we’re growing the adaptation of drone technology within the business. We viewed the accelerator as a way to better understand our technology within a commercial context, find value for our clients, and advance our own careers. How little did we know! The program would completely change our professional careers and interests. It quickly became apparent to both of us that corporate innovation is challenging and fun and we both fell in love with the intrapreneur way of life. Today, more than two years after starting down this path, Chris and I still eat, sleep, and breath innovation at Ramboll.

Emotionally what sort of process did you go through or did you not think much about it and just jumped? Was it important to get buy-in from anyone?

At the time we started our journey, I don’t think either of us realized we were essentially applying for a new job within Ramboll that we were responsible for defining on the fly. We jumped in with both feet somewhat unknowingly! As this realization became apparent it was very emotional to move forward each step of the way and it instilled a sense of pride, ownership, comradery, and competitiveness in the business we were building together. Throughout the process we had to get loads of buy-in from our customers, investors at Ramboll, teammates, and our families supporting at home through a challenging professional and personal journey.

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How has building Galago impacted your lives?

Building Galago has changed our lives in many ways. We’ve made friends all over the world, been connected with some of the most interesting and impactful client projects, and had the chance to completely craft a new career that wasn’t imaginable just a few years ago. There’s plenty of added stress and lots of work, but also the unique opportunity to be a trailblazer of innovation at one of the world’s most impactful companies for society and nature. Our careers have been accelerated by new opportunities and this has turned into a remarkable chance to be the first to innovate in the areas of science and business we’ve been passionate about most of our lives.

Looking back is there anything that has taken you by surprise in the process of building something from scratch

It’s a truly amazing experience to see an idea come to life, change so many times, and grow into what it is as a profitable business several years later. Our first draft of the business plan was sticky notes on a printed business model canvas that we sketched out at a client’s former mine site in the mountains of Colorado. We applied to the Accelerator with that business model, modified it countless times based on our experience with customers and Ramboll, and we have now developed several successful services operating under a scaling business model in the Ramboll innovation portfolio. We’ve already gone places we could barely imagine a few years ago, and we think we’ve got plenty of green fields in front of us for years to come.

What is the best thing about becoming an Entrepreneur? Why would you recommend it? Why would you not recommend it?

Being an entrepreneur allows the opportunity to perfectly mold your skills to focus on your client’s needs in a way that is very difficult to accomplish in many positions. Being an entrepreneur within a larger company comes with some great experiences (e.g., participating in an accelerator and being exposed to the inner workings of your parent company), but it also comes with a great deal of stress and challenges that are not typical of traditional work. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I recommend people consider checking out the first section of the Adobe Kickbox program “Motivations” to lay out what you’re hoping to obtain from being an entrepreneur.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

Listen to your clients! During COVID you cannot “get out of the building” as per typical in most parts of the world, but there are still plenty of opportunities to meet clients and learn about them in a remote setting. The more you talk to your clients the better your chances for success as they ultimately hold all of the answers around what value you can provide to them.

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To find out more about how you can evolve your ideas into a business with real startup thinking training both as individuals or as a company wanting to build this critical skill. ASPIRE gives you the tools, mindset and ability to do, create, inspire and amazing things will happen.ASPIRE

ASPIRE is helping create a world full of Entrepreneurs.

Vishal Punamiya, Eduardo Torres and Ian Oestreich

#YouMeEntrepreneur meet Vishal Punamiya, Eduardo Torres and Ian Oestreich

Meet Vishal Punamiya

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I was the CIO of Panalpina and now I am the CEO and Co-founder of SiteMark

Why did you decide to launch SiteMark?

Throughout my professional and personal life, I have always had the drive to build, and if not, improve whatever I was involved in through smart use of technology; whether it was as an analyst 16 years ago to being CIO of the business unit with EUR 3 billion in annual revenue. Entrepreneurship, people, innovation and creativity played a big part throughout and motivated me to go above and beyond the usual call of duty.

What is the best thing about running your own business?

I felt I had reached the peak of my personal development that a corporate career could offer and it no longer motivated me. The only way forward to grow was to start something on my own and that was the beginning of Sitemark.

The journey of entrepreneurship has been incredibly rewarding, the only thing I can compare it to is climbing a massive mountain (incredibly high one :)). It’s about tenacity, adapting and most importantly, being humble to the elements around you. The best part of the journey is being able to surround yourself with people that you enjoy while building something great.

Meet Eduardo Torres

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I was a government officer, in charge of designing housing policies at the federal level. I realized there was a great opportunity in using publicly available data to add value in the home selling process.

Why did you start your own business?

I decided to start my own business, ai360, after being laid off (as it happens in every political position). With over 20 years of experience both at the private and public sector, most of them involved in real estate related activities, I just knew one thing: I loved my job and I wanted to continue doing it for a very long time.

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

The best thing is to unleash your creativity and having the opportunity to set your own goals and work until you reach them. To go for your dreams, matter how crazy or far they seem. Literally, several of the projects we have worked on since we started ai360 come from ideas I had at least a decade before.

Meet Ian Oestreich

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I was a fitness coach before I founded Backyard Bicycles and began setting up bike repair pop-up shops all around town.

Backyard Bicycles was also featured in the Wall Street Journal here.

What motivated you to start your business?

I was the child with a lemonade stand on weekends, the kid posting up lawn mower service flyers, the son helping his dad tune up bikes. Entrepreneurship is part of my identity. The gym I worked at closed due to COVID-19, and rather than sit around on my hands and collect unemployment, I decided I wanted to start a business that could support myself and others during COVID-19. With my mobile bike tune-ups, I’m able to help others get a same-day turnaround bike tune-up while allowing myself to make my own schedule.

What do you love the most about being an entrepreneur?

For me, the best thing about being an entrepreneur is the life flexibility it offers. I can take off a weekend anytime, or make a change to the way I do business without consulting “upper management.” There is such a feeling of satisfaction to seeing a business you create thrive, knowing that it wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t taken the leap.

Your tips for aspiring founders

Be an entrepreneur, not a wantrepreneur. Sitting around and saying how you’d like to start something someday, or meticulously planning out every detail before starting is a great way to shoot yourself in the foot before you even get off the ground. Just start SOMETHING. This relates to the concept of a minimum viable product (MVP). Create a barebones version of your product or service, and find any way you can to just get it out there and test it with real people. That initial feedback and learning from mistakes is so much more valuable than any amount of prior planning could ever be.

Ricky Sutton

#YouMeEntrepreneur meet Ricky Sutton, Founder/CEO at Oovvuu.

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Ricky Sutton

I was a journalist. Now I’m the founder and CEO of the largest news video aggregator in the world, Oovvuu, delivering trusted and reliable news to a billion people in 140 countries.

Why did you choose to start your own business?

The media industry was dying because it was being out-innovated by aggressive rivals Facebook and Google. When I looked to my editors and CEOs for a solution, it was clear they were outgunned, and if I did nothing, then my industry faced extinction. I quit my well-paid job as managing editor at what was then the world’s largest media company to take a maternity cover job at a digital news company on a fraction of the salary. I didn’t want the job; I wanted to learn from the inside what they were doing that the media industry was not. I learned a lot and realized that if I didn’t do something even more radical, then the digital companies would fail also, and the world would be left with no news, and that felt like a disaster. I took the insights I had just learned, and the experience I had earned over the years, sold my house and self-funded Oovvuu to try to create the best of both worlds, and build a product where media was the mission and technology was just the tool.

I earned a lot of money and appeared to have a lot of power in my previous executive positions within corporate businesses. Still, the truth was that I was just a seat-filler in a better suit. If it weren’t me, it would be someone just like me, and I wanted to be more than that. I also recognized that I was spending the most productive years of my life, making one company successful while my industry was dying, and I felt compelled to do more. I knew in my heart of hearts that my tiny company stood no chance. Our first HQ was my front room with a hand-drawn logo on the door, and we were going into battle with Google and Facebook, two of the largest companies the world has ever seen. But my dad used to say that in life, you need to p*ss or get off the pot, and the time had come for me to do something meaningful. Now, my work every day helps the entire industry, and every success is a blow landed on my industry’s rivals. I have never felt more energized.

Has it been easier with a co-founder?

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I have two, and both were colleagues and friends for years beforehand, so we had a shared sense of purpose and bore the same scars from the outset. I believe it’s impossible to be a founder unless you have a North Star for your mission and a total desire to be authentic. You can be big and unauthentic, but people eventually see through that, and it will never last. Look at Facebook. We proved our authenticity because we gave up huge salaries to work for nothing at the beginning. That beginning lasted four years, during which time everything we earned we gave to the staff and used what was left to hire more. After four years without a salary cheque, we finally found an investor, during which time we ate through our savings and did board jobs to cover the bills. His first question was: “What’s the biggest problem you have right now as CEO?” I told him it was asking my friends and co-founders to come to work for no salary. The next day he moved $400,000 into our account. I learned authenticity counts.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

I can finally find out if the ideas I have for my industry are a good idea. When I had an idea in my corporate roles, it went one of two ways. If it worked and was a success, it was your boss’ boss’ idea. If it failed, it was yours, even if it was your boss’ boss’ fault. That felt dishonest, especially given my desperate desire to help my industry. I pitched an idea around this time to my then company’s board that had the potential to be transformational for the media industry as a whole. Their response was to say no because it would benefit another media company down the road they viewed as a rival. I pointed out that their companies had thrived alongside each other for decades, and Google and Facebook were the real risks to their survival. Their response was that they would be fine because they were the best company in the world. Google’s offices were right across the road, and I pointed out they weren’t even the best company in the postcode. It was time to go.

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Your tips for aspiring founders

If you are on the fence, don’t do it, you’re not ready. If you think you’re ready and want to ask another entrepreneur’s advice, you’re not ready. When you wake up in the morning feeling physically sick and incapable of lifting your head off the pillow to go do that job you hate because you are wasting your life, then you are probably still a year from being ready. The energy, resilience, and out-and-out fury you need to stand in front of a monolithic competitor and know without a shadow of a doubt you have it in you to beat them, that’s when you know. It’s not a decision. It’s a physical reaction from the core of your DNA. It means that when people doubt you, you don’t hear them. When they laugh at you, you laugh with them. Still, when that rival decides to come after you, that’s something exceptional because you will find an inner strength you never knew existed, and you will know, with huge personal satisfaction, that win or lose, you’re authentic to what you stand for.

Hector Hughes, Bella Arcari-Bowler and Andrea Severino

#YouMeEntrepreneur meet Hector Hughes, Bella Arcari-Bowler and Andrea Severino

Meet Hector Hughes

I was burning out from working for someone else and so I needed to be able to “Unplug” — I’m now the co-founder of Unplugged

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Why did you start your own business?

I quit my job to launch a startup just one week after arriving back from a silent retreat in the Himalayas.

I was burnt out at the end of my third year working for a tech startup; at the recommendation of a friend I attended this silent retreat, which in hindsight was truly life-changing.

Nine months later, mid-pandemic, I launched Unplugged with my now co-founder, Ben.

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

Empowerment.

Prior to launching a business I never quite felt comfortable in myself; always dissatisfied, always concerned with what others would think.

Launching a business unexpectedly helped me find my voice and for the first time in my adult life I feel like I’m living on my own terms.

Any words of wisdom for fellow founders?

In a word? Luck.

On leaving university I reached the final interview stage for four very different jobs:

1. A High-Frequency Trading company

2. Teach First

3. An accountancy firm

4. A tech startup

I came close with all four but ultimately the startup (not my first choice!) was the only one which offered me a job. If I’d taken any of the other paths my life would be wildly different and I likely would not be an entrepreneur today.

When I came back from the silent retreat I felt like I could do anything. The question then became: what did I most want to do? I am fascinated by the way tech and the growth of the digital space have changed our lives and so that’s what I chose to focus on.

Unplugged is my effort to contribute to that conversation and help shape where humanity is headed.

Meet Bella Acrari-Bowler

I worked in venture capital and now I’m the founder of Shiftling

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Why did you start your own business?

I wanted to be in control of my destiny. I was in a male-dominated industry and felt frustrated at the lack of opportunities for growth. I decided that if I failed or succeeded, I wanted it to be on my own merit.

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

The best thing about being an entrepreneur is the chance to be multi-dimensional every day. You need to constantly solve problems, challenge yourself and acknowledge your weaknesses. It’s a constant journey of personal development and self-awareness. My other favourite thing is growing a culture that I believe in that fits with my values and finding team members, partners and investors that share in that.

Meet Andrea Severino

I wanted to pursue dreams in my own way and with no compromises. I wanted to make sure I could put all of my efforts without wasting them because of the burocratics and politics that normally blocks companies from their potential of growth. I’m now the founder of Healthy Virtuoso

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Why did you start your own business?

When I was 19 years old, I left home with a one-way ticket to London, at that time I spoke only Italian and had no special skills.

I worked as a barman for a few months, until I got my first internship at Betclic (one of the leading European online gambling start-ups at the time) Six months later I was hired as the Marketing Executive, and the following year I was named Affiliate Manager for the Italian market.

At the age of 23, I wasn’t happy, so I quit my first ever job and I moved back to London where I was hired as the General Manager for Antevenio UK (a digital marketing agency).

Two years later (2015, at the age of 25) despite making double the money, I still was unhappy, so I quit my job again and I moved back to my beloved Italy.

Here I joined Filo Diretto to launch DOC24, a leading and thoroughly innovative telemedicine platform which together with Johnson & Johnson OneTouch 24, launched one of the first tele-monitored assistance services for Diabetic patients. A great step ahead in my life.

Money earned was great, and so were the associated benefits (car, food checks, bonuses), but I was still unhappy about the way I was building my future. For this reason, when I turned 27, I quit my job for the third time, and with no money on the side, wage or benefits, I founded Healthy Virtuoso, a fantastic startup that incentivizes and motivates people to live a healthier lifestyle.

Today Virtuoso collaborates with some of the major firms such as KPMG, Zurich, RGA, Intesa Sanpaolo, Pulsee, and Mediolanum. It has reached more than 130.000 downloads, raised more than €750.000 from various strategic investors, and reached an evaluation of € 3,5Millions.

Even if I haven’t been so lucky to be named in Forbes U30, what makes me really happy today, is the opportunity to do the job I love, with an incredible team and in the way in which I believe it must be done. This is the fuel of my life and the secret to pursuing my dream day after day, with the same passion I had 12 years ago when I had just started working.

What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

The freedoms of learning and growing through your own choices and mistakes

Abdul Aziz Omar and Mauro Moglianetti

#YouMeEntrepreneur meet Abdul Aziz Omar and Mauro Moglianetti

Meet Abdul Aziz Omar

“I was a Head of Strategic Planning at the Unclaimed Assets Authority and now I am the Co-Founder of MPost”

What lead you to start your own business?

After completing my master’s degree, I was waiting to hear back from my dream job after being shortlisted in the top 30 candidates. I was supposed to receive the feedback via postal service in Denyenye, Kwale County. After three months and no feedback, I decided to visit the local post office to check if there was any mail. To my disappointment, I found a mail saying that I had passed the interview, and my appointment letter was in the mailbox. Unfortunately, I lost my dream job since the letter had indicated that if they don’t get word from me in a week, they would assume I am not interested. Since innovation was born out of the professional disappointment, I co-founded MPost, a product that would save people the hustle of walking to the post office to check their mail and the frustration of finding out about important letters too late.

What’s been the best benefit of starting MPost?

It is being able to solve people’s pains and having a positive impact on society. We have already created Pata Ajira an initiative that created almost 3000 jobs in just 6 months. We are helping to change people’s lives.

Meet Mauro Moglianetti

“I am the CEO of HiQ-Nano and inventor of iBlue, the first antioxidant test kit. I am a researcher in chemistry, nanotechnology and materials engineering. I am really passionate about science and his “sister” innovation.”

Why did you think about starting a company?

I always wanted to drive the process of innovation from the lab bench to the market. In particular, I always wanted to see my scientific ideas get translated into disruptive innovation, improve lives, and increase knowledge. Our main product, iBlue, was born with the hope of giving people a key and scientific parameter.

What motivates you?

Being part of a startup is so exciting as you see the idea growing fast. This strongly motivates me to move on and deliver a great product to people looking to a scientific approach to their daily routine.

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