Despite all of its challenges, 2020 was a year of rapid development and expansion for the inaugural class of the Google for Startups Accelerator: Europe, an intensive three-month program designed to help growth-stage companies build their businesses. Dialing in from six countries across Europe and Israel, the nine participating startups each spent over 150 hours working with 75 industry mentors and Google experts, sharpening their skills in technology, product design, customer acquisition and leadership.
While much of the support from the Accelerator catered to their specific business and technology needs, the startups received training and mentorship to develop their leadership and organizational management skills. Read on to see what they learned about themselves along their startup journeys, and their advice for those just starting out.
1. Listen to people who’ve walked your road before.
This tip comes from Tomasz Domino, the COO of Infermedica, a health tech company whose diagnostic engine collects data, checks symptoms and guides patients to the right care. “Do not reinvent the wheel!” he says. “Make use of someone else’s experience and, if possible, learn from their mistakes! It will help you not only save precious time, but also allocate your resources in a more effective way.”
2. Seek more data.
“Build your business on data, not on intuition,” advises Attila AlGharawi, the cofounder and CEO of Xeropan, which motivates language learners through an intuitive AI-powered game. “Bring on Google Analytics, A/B testing and surveys, anything that will help you validate the effectiveness of your product. But remember to allocate time to understand these measurements. It’s the only way to make sure your startup responds to the right needs of the right customers.”
3. Your customers can tell you more about your business than a trends analysis.
“Feedback is a blessing,” declares Marta Czarnecka, the VP Marketing of Sundose, which manufactures data-driven diet supplements tailored to each customer's unique needs. “Customers are the best source of information on how to improve your products, what next steps to take as a company, and ultimately how to grow! The only thing you need to do is listen carefully and observe their reaction.”
4. Build the right team.
Cristian Mezei, the cofounder of Deepstash — an educational platform that aims to change how we consume and work with information — has learned the value of a smart hiring plan. “The most valuable resource of any business isn’t a great strategy, or a big round of financing, or even a top-notch technology; it’s the people you hire who share key concepts and values of the company,” Cristian says. “A good working team is much greater than the sum of its parts. After all, it's an investment that can pay off for years.”
5. Accept the unknown.
“Startups navigate uncharted territory,” notes Katarzyna Dorsey, founder & CEO of Yosh.AI, which uses AI to automate the communication between companies and their users. “The sooner you accept the unknown, the better. Sometimes, relentlessness and a bit of luck are the best allies of those who don’t stop starting, so believe in your ideas and just...try!”
6. Stay curious.
“Remember the old saying ‘learning never ends?’ Well, the adage holds up, especially when it comes to startups,” says Avital Beck, the CEO and cofounder of Diagnose Stick, which offers a test strip to check the ingredients and quality of breast milk. “Yes, you can find everything on Google, but don’t be afraid to ask people for help or a word of explanation when in need. Stay curious about the world, and it will pay off.”
7. “Personalization” isn't jargon; it means getting to know your users.
Martin Pentenrieder, the cofounder of SQIN, is aiming to change the world of beauty retail by creating the world’s number-one beauty community app. “While ‘segmentation,’ ‘personalization’ or ‘user personas’ may sound a bit jargony at first, they are super important in the later stage of your business,” he says. “Offering each visitor a unique experience tailored to what’s important to them is the only way to make sure they will come back for more!”
8. Great tech is not enough — you also need a clear message for your target audience.
“Most founders are very focused on their product and tech when first starting out. That’s obviously important, but great tech won’t make your business successful alone,” says Marius Tuft Mathisen, CEO of Appfarm, a no-code development platform that helps users quickly create business apps. “If you don’t have a credible and inspiring story behind your product to a well defined target audience, you can easily lose your growth momentum. Define the two in the first place before you invest months of work in sophisticated tech solutions.”
9. “Listen to Your Heart” isn’t just a ‘90s hit by Roxette.
Last but not least comes a tip from László Békéssy, the cofounder and CEO of Codeberry, a fully localized and gamified coding school for non-English speakers. “Building a business is hard work that requires dedication, time and energy,” László says. “So when thinking about starting something of your own, make sure that you are truly passionate about the idea. Listen to yourself — if your heart isn’t in it, then it’s not the right time.“
Curious how Google can help take your idea or new business to the next level? Learn more about Accelerator and other Google for Startups programs on startup.google.com.