A few weeks back, we held an event that is part of our partnership program with Google for Startups, the Wellstreet Launchpad. This time, we delivered a Founders’ Lab, focused on Leadership & Team Building, with several online sessions over two days. It was run by Google-trained facilitators and mentors worldwide, together with Wellstreet’s network of serial entrepreneurs and seasoned CEOs. Wellstreet-backed startups were joined by five external guest companies to be trained in Google’s best practices on effective leadership, from both Google’s own organisation and 1000s of founding teams around the world, as well as Wellstreet’s network and insights into team building.
The Founders’ Lab is a program to enable founders to become inspiring leaders and effective team builders. Based on thorough research conducted with hundreds of startup founders in over 30 countries, this program uses the findings to guide founders to experiment and test new ways of leading their startups through workshops (the “mini-labs”). Each workshop addresses a specific topic of what makes an effective founder, sharing insights and tools, and at the same time allowing founders to learn from each other’s experience. Thanks to our great facilitator Kate Gray, we had a fantastic response and exciting conversations.
We also offered opportunities for the founders to listen to four entrepreneurs in Wellstreet’s network, big names in their industries, who shared the learnings of building several companies from scratch.
On the panel “What makes a great leader? The trial and error of serial entrepreneurs & CEOs”, we had the honour of talking to Alexander Hars (CEO of Alva, Chairman of the board at Desenio), Jarno Vanhatapio (Founder & CEO NA-KD.com, Founder of Nelly.com) and Hellen Lidgard (Partner at Ceres Advisors, CEO and Chairwoman of Ping Pong). Not only are they well versed in leading several companies from the start and scaling them, but they are also investors and members of multiple boards, which gives them many angles from which to look at the role of leadership.
The panellists shared some of the lessons learnt in their first, second and third (plus) journeys as company builders and current policies in their companies today. Hellen, Jarno and Alexander discussed topics such as:
- Active versus passive leadership and how that needs to be adjusted according to the leaders’ personalities;
- The importance of creating space to develop company culture as soon as possible; creating a safe space for different personal cultures to be understood, keeping in mind that a culture misfit doesn’t mean professional incompetence, but it will impact performance.
- How they approached the hiring process in past experiences and now; establishing guidelines when forming teams (using personality tests, for example); offboarding the wrong hires as soon as possible;
- Co-leadership as means to achieve scalability. The ability to have people you trust leading the teams as a right-hand or in management positions – you need trust in order to delegate big responsibilities with appropriate accountability; make sure that those leaders are the most empathetic, rather than the most analytical, who should keep their focus on the business.
We expect to save the attendees time and energy from dealing with those errors or mistakes that the panellists made in their earlier journeys, pushing our founders to get some of those things right the first time around. The panellists’ final remarks were:
The attendees also had the opportunity to take part in the highly insightful fireside chat between Wellstreet’s founder and CEO Mikael Wintzell and his long time friend Konrad Bergström, the brilliant mind behind many ventures such as Zound Industries and X Shore. Both are serial entrepreneurs with experience in different leadership roles and contributed their thoughts about building a narrative, a company and a team that everyone wants to be a part of. These are the learnings they shared:
- Customer experience is the constant focus they maintained through all ventures;
- Adapt your branding and marketing strategies to the surroundings and your circumstances;
- Start with a brand personality and find your core audience. Become relevant to them, own that and then overflow to the mass market;
- Looks matter. If the brand looks like a million-dollar company, people will think of it as such;
- Nowadays, trends are more personalised. You can quickly communicate with the subcultures and gain their market share, but it’s hard to cross between subcultures. For a 100% of market share, you need to tend to different groups;
- Communication is the essence of the brand, so it needs to be aligned internally. Make your own team have the same vision by educating them. You’ll make fewer mistakes, and taking decisions will become easier;
- If your brand is not anchored in your core values, you won’t be able to get the ripple effect;
- The only no-go zone of a marketing campaign is something that would interfere with the long-lasting concept of the brand, brand values or the customer promise of the brand;
- About sustainability: like any core value, the company will only succeed in transmitting authentic beliefs if those beliefs are incorporated into the company’s DNA, that is, ingrained in the brand.
The Wellstreet portfolio companies also had one more privilege during the event. They had the opportunity to get up to two private mentoring sessions with top Google for Startups and Wellstreet mentors. They were matched with mentors who could be concrete about specific pain points. The mentors revolved around the workshops’ topics, focusing on their storyline, core values, team building and scaling, recruitment, roadmap, founder expectations and accountability. Thank you once more to the mentors:
See you at the next Wellstreet Launchpad with Google for Startups. 👋