Europe Union
Published: 05/03/2024

How to Align Your Business Strategy and Tech Vision: Tech Excellence Podcast with Elina Åkerlind and Krzysztof Radecki

Tech Excellence podcast with Elina Åkerlind and Krzysztof Radecki 

In this episode of the Tech Excellence podcast, our communications manager and host, Monika Dawidowicz, had the pleasure of interviewing two guests:


  • Elina Åkerlind: CEO and co-founder at Nordic Node, capital and business strategist who speaks of innovation, funding, venture capital and scaling strategies.
  • Krzysztof Radecki: CTO at, a passionate tech enthusiast with a background in business and economics.


They put their heads together to discuss the challenges and best practices for aligning the technology vision and business strategy to ensure the company can thrive from the earliest stage to scaling.

Watch and listen

Key takeaways

Build a Solid Business Strategy

  • Understanding how your technology can address the customers’ needs and generate revenue is essential.
  • Technological innovation won’t drive a company forward without a sound business strategy.

Technology as a Business Enabler

  • Technology should meet technical specifications and support the business strategy and growth, acting as a service to business needs and customer demands.

Be Agile and Adaptable

  • In most cases, the road to success isn’t straight. Don’t be afraid to pivot from your original idea when the technological shifts or received feedback require it.
  • To be successful, companies must remain agile in business models and strategies.

Plan for Scaling

  • As a startup owner, you must prepare for scaling both technologically and financially, ensuring that your architecture and capital strategies support growth without compromising the business’s core vision or operational efficiency.

Fundraising and Maintaining Investor Relations

  • Communicating a clear vision, demonstrating a viable product or service, and aligning with investors who share your company’s goals are critical for securing funding and support.

Build and Leverage Partnerships

  • Gain support, knowledge and resources by engaging with ecosystems and partnerships.
  • Building partnerships and networking is invaluable in a startup journey.


Monika Dawidowicz: Okay. Hello, everyone, and welcome to Tech Excellence podcast. Today, I am joined by two guests, not one. And it’s Elina Åkerlind from Nordic Node and Chris Radecki from DAC Digital. Hello, it’s great to have you here. 

Chris Radecki: Hi, guys. 

Elina Åkerlind: Great to be here. 

Monika: Today, we are going to try to find the answer to the question on how to align the tech vision with the business strategy when you are an early-stage startup or even later-stage startup. And the reason why I think this topic is relevant is that I’ve seen, I don’t want to exaggerate, but I guess, hundreds of startups pitching to the investors and talking about their great ideas, their technology that could change the world. But a lot of them lacked that business aspect, the business vision. And the reason I invited both of you to this conversation is that you have great experience working with tech companies and helping them to align those two elements in order to succeed in the tech space. So maybe let’s start with Elina. Could you tell our audience more about how do you work with companies, with tech companies, and what do you do at Nordic Node? 


Elina: Yeah, so we are a capital strategy agency. So we work mainly with capital strategies and funding strategies for startups and scale-ups, which means that we’re doing just that: understanding what is the long-term business plan, connecting that to the building product, building organization, and then how that will be funded. So we are trying to see, you know, help startups that’s kind of, you know, as a founder, you’re into the daily, all of the daily stuff, and we’re trying to see, okay, well, how are you going to do that long term and what will be the plan and then ensuring that you have the right investors on board to, to be able to execute on that mission. 

Monika: And Chris, what about you and your superpowers you’re using at DAC? 

Chris: A funny question and a good one, actually. I’m a business major graduate, but I work as CTO at DAC, which means I have those two interesting vantage points on our business. One is to make sure that the tech strategy of DAC is aligned with what the market needs, what our customers require. But it’s also in line with our business perception, how do we make sure that the technology we’re using is supplementing our business strategy and our business growth. So it’s basically looking from both angles at our future. 


Monika: Okay, and I’m Monika and I like talking about business and technology and everything in between. And this is what we’re going to do today about… to talk about all those in-betweens and all those areas that are intertwined here. However, before we jump straight into the topic, I would like to ask you about some interesting news you’ve heard from the business space recently, tech slash business space, because I know both of you are up to date with the most exciting advancements. So, is there anything you would like to share that is worth noticing? And maybe, you know, our audience should take a closer look at that? 


Chris: Well, if I think about recent days, you can’t go unnoticed when thinking about OpenAI and Sora. What they’ve done with this AI-generated 60-minute video is astonishing. And if you look back a year ago, we’ve had this Will Smith-eating spaghetti meme created using stable diffusion. How far we’ve gone from… from that video to those astonishing images showcased this… last week by some. That’s amazing. And that’s a game-changer for a number of industries and businesses. That’s my take. 

Elina: Yeah, I can just follow up on that. I really think it’s interesting to see the fast development in the AI space and how you’re using… how we’re also progressing from just being a new cool technology and seeing how both the advancement of using the technology as a service itself, but also how it can create new business opportunities. And I am- you can really see a plethora of really cool companies coming and developing from the space. So it’s something to really look into. 

Monika: And anything else that grabbed your attention recently? 

Elina: I think we’re seeing a lot of… actually coming from a funding perspective. It’s been an interesting couple of years since the last two years have been, you know, from the pandemic, we had a lot of investments coming into this into startups and into tech innovations, where the past years has been a bit harder to fundraise. And we’re seeing now that a lot of these companies are able to fundraise in both early-stage, but also take 11 laps, for example, that’s raising quite a bit of money to expand in this in this area. So I really think that we’re seeing more investors are really looking into this space as well to see how… great business opportunities. 


Monika: Yeah. And speaking of ElevenLabs and more on the audio side, I have some interesting startup that I would like to invite you to take a look at. They operate in the space of GSR, which is generative sound restoration. And it’s basically using AI engine to clear the audio recordings from the noise from the different sounds. And for example, today, I’m sitting here, and it’s raining, and probably I will have some trouble clearing it from the recording. What they offer is a web app that allows you to upload any audio file, and they will clear it from all the noise. However, they will leave the original creator’s voice unchanged. And the issue that I have faced producing different audio content is that sometimes it changes the voice, and it doesn’t sound like me or my guests. So they’re called Revoice. It’s, and they’re fundraising right now. So something definitely worth watching. 

And maybe let’s get to the topic of our today’s conversation, the original one,  so it’s aligning the tech vision with the business strategy. So, maybe let’s start with a very general question. How to even approach it? How do you ensure that the tech vision, the idea, the great big idea aligns with overall business strategy? 


Chris: Alina, you want to take it first? 

Elina: Yeah, well, one of the most crucial parts here is being… coming from the business strategy because technology and tech, I mean, we see a lot of technical innovation. You can develop anything, but understanding that, how will this solve a customer need and how will the customer be willing to pay for it and hence create a business out of it? I think that is to come from that perspective. I think it’s crucial and having that, if you yourself maybe come from the developing side or from the tech side product, then getting someone on board that has that business vision, that is going to be crucial to be able to build an actual company from it. 

Chris: I see technology as the great enabler for business. Technologists and tech people like myself often tend to focus on the tech stack. They see it as something attractive, something compelling, something that’s an easy sell to the tech audience. But in the long run, you need users, and you need buy-in from the users. You need to have a product that has active users, and technology should be the tool that is enabling that user to really enjoy the product you’re building. So don’t think about technology as a partner for business. Think of it as a service for business. Build something that the users will use, and choose the right weapons from your tool stack to do it. 


Monika: And maybe if I can add something from the communication part. Also, in most cases, it’s worth making sure that you communicate your tech product in a way that the end user understands very well. Because sometimes, it’s not the technology that makes the job for them. It’s actually the job that is done. So, from communication perspective, I think it’s crucial to also name it in a way that will be understood, even if you have the best technology. In most cases, the end user doesn’t really care. They want the job done. So this is what I will add from it. 


Elina: Yeah, I completely agree with you, Monika. And also adding into that, seeing, I mean, working with startups and innovations for the past 15 years and what the only thing I can say is that any successful company does not have the product they started with as they’re growing because technological shifts and they’re developing new things. So just having the customer need in front of you and then develop from that need, because then you could also pick what technology will be best suited for that. I remember I had my own startup. We had to put it down after a couple of years because there were this huge technological shift that we weren’t prepared for. So, really experience that firsthand when you have the technology, but you don’t have that customer need in first line of sight. 

Monika: Yeah, that’s actually an interesting case. And I think a lot of companies actually started with a completely different idea, and then turned it into something else based on both the customer’s needs and also the feedback from the market. I remember when I’ve read the story, for example, of Slack, that they actually created the communicator for some internal project. It was a gaming company, and the game was a failure. But instead of giving up and shutting down, they decided, okay, so let’s try to actually make it our core product, the communication tool. So sometimes it’s, I think it’s, in this case, they actually took the technology that they already had, they already developed and decided, okay, let’s pivot and use what we have, and see if the market actually resonates with that. 

Chris: You need to brace for this because we see that trends and what is attractive today, the longevity of this has decreased immensely over the past years. So you don’t need to build something that’s going to be fashionable today, you need to expect that something might be a trend tomorrow, in a few days, or in a few weeks, and then try and aim for that. 

Monika: And I was supposed to ask you about the… the main challenges, and I think this is one of them, yeah, that the market is changing so rapidly that you need to be agile here and able to, first and foremost, predict what’s going to be in demand, but also to be able to change the direction if needed because the shifts are so instant, that sometimes overnight, your solution is no longer relevant. 

Elina: But I think that there is where startups can run so fast. They have an advantage compared to these huge tech companies that might have, I mean, they have all the resources, but they also are kind of stuck in rigid, big organizations where you’re supposed to work like that. So for startups and for new innovation, it comes organically from the ground, and they can run super fast, because they don’t have that backlog of routines. And this is how we’ve done it before. And a lot of companies, I mean, spent millions and trillions of dollars just to come to where they are. And then there’s like a sunk cost fallacy thing where you don’t really want, you don’t want to scrap that, and you don’t want to start over. So also, there is a huge opportunity for these early-stage companies to, you know, go in and lead the way and take that action and see when they see business opportunities, they can just go for it instead of having to deal with an old backlog of something. 

Chris: I completely agree. But there’s another aspect of tech challenges that we are facing in our day and age. It’s the younger generation of developers. They also follow trends. So if you, as a business-focused founder, have something to build that you want to build, you also need to convince the developers that the tech stack and the tool stack you’re going to require while building this is attractive from their perspective. I’ve heard that number of times in our business that, “Oh, I don’t want to touch it because this tech is old. I don’t want to do it because it’s legacy stuff. It’s no longer attractive. I want to, let’s say, use Rust instead of building something with C.” And these are the things we need to also tackle. They do touch the tech aspect of a startup, but they also touch the social aspect of startup. How do you create and foster environment where people can also, well, embrace the old, which sometimes is required? 


Elina: You know… I think business as usual is also important. I just want to say that business as usual. It’s also that is where when you find that, that is when you’re going to be able to scale because then that you can build from there and build routines and build, you know, and that will involve boring tech as well that you need to build from. 

Monika: And we’re smoothly getting to the topic of scaling, and actually, you know how to prepare your technology and team for scaling, especially when you’re in the early stage. Probably, I think it’s a, it’s quite a common thing that companies, although usually the founders… they have big dreams, they still don’t expect that the solution will be, let’s say, a global success. And I think we’ve met such situations with our clients at DAC that they came to us because they underestimated the scaling. They never knew that they would want to develop their app further or their solution, then expand their solution. And now they’re stuck because they have, let’s say, too many users, too many functions, but, you know, not sufficient infrastructure. So, how to make sure that you’re prepared for scaling? 


Chris: Well, a good point is always to start with the mature and the right architecture, something that will be built with the mindset of scaling that to a greater number of users. Design something that is going to work and be cost-effective for 10 users and equally effective for 10 million users, something that will auto-scale and auto-downscale in the backend. And also, do not underestimate things like, well, it’s just a small radio button I need to add here; probably doesn’t cost much. Things like that typically have some consequences in the entire stack from the front end or mobile application through the backend and anything that has to do with persistence of data. So build architecture, have the right CTO, have the right solution architect that has that mindset of not building to tear down and rebuild again, but to build on top of something that is robust from day one. 

Monika: And Elina, how about the perspective of funding and capital? How to prepare for scaling in this area? 

Elina: I would say that, I mean, that applies not only for tech, but for the whole company, that scaling and be able to scale is where you go from this generalist idea where, you know, everyone needs to get their hands dirty, and everyone is sort of everywhere in the company because you’re a small team and, you know, sit together and you do all of these things together with like tape and glue and, you know, try to fix stuff that arrives. And then you, when you scale, you need to build specialist structures, and you need to spend money on understanding how you really can, you know, you start to find these specialists, and you need to find managers that understand that. And that is what you’re going to need your investment for. And adjust for that and not just trying to be like super frugal and really getting the numbers down and try to not spend money on that because that is what’s going to be important moving on. 

And then from, you know, pure funding perspective, one of the things that I see a lot of companies struggling with in scaling is that scale and growth is kind of defined by how many mid-level managers you’re going to be able to have, like, because you’re going to need to build teams and you’re going to need to build, and that applies for, that applies for sales, that applies for tech. It applies for in every part of the company that you need to start building, like, management levels and talking about tech trends in general and startups. It’s been a lot of trends to have these, like, really flat organizations, but that makes it kind of hard to scale if you don’t have a decision path moving in within the different sectors of the company. And you need to start building different departments in order to build the ability to scale and grow and become, you know, go from a startup to a real company. It’s like, that is the transition that you need to make. And like, yeah, it’s boring, but mid-level managers, it’s a thing. 

Monika: But still, when, you know, the structure slowly comes to fruition, and it actually starts resembling, like, let’s say the real company, like a traditional company, traditional company, conventional company, how to still foster that culture of innovation and continuous learning within the teams, because, you know, in the startup environments, let’s say, it’s natural. Everyone is trying to innovate, collaborate, learn new things, and even use the tape and glue. And how to keep that spirit once the company is scaling because, you know, there’s still division yet to change the world with your technology. So, can you maybe both share some thoughts and observations on how to keep that kind of scale? Kind of spirits within the company, even if it grows and scales? 

Chris: I like to think that true leadership comes from empowering people to fail and fail again because you learn the most from your failures in the tech stack in the direction you’ve chosen. If anything that you have done so far was just pure success, you don’t have this vantage point where “What if something goes wrong?” And in our teams, we like to empower people to, say, deploy coach production in the first week of their presence within our team because this will teach them the entire process. They will see that they are not just a small cog in the machine but they are part of an organism that relies on them heavily. 

Netflix has this interesting philosophy of making sure that any person within the team can be exchanged by another member if they have to go on vacation or are on sick leave. We like to do the same with our teams. People within our organization are empowered to fail are empowered to make mistakes. And then seniors and architects and tech leads are there to pick them up and help them, not by dissing and saying, well, you’ve done this wrong, but by explaining what’s the right way to do it. And this learning experience stays with them forever. And we see how they really mature within a few weeks’ time, few months’ time to a person in the next seniority level in their technology stack. And it’s actually rewarding for a manager to see that this path of growth, of nurturing innovation by empowerment to make mistakes, is really the right way to go. 

Elina: Yeah, but I think that, I mean, you’re going to, in general, we work like that. We’re going to do things that we get measured on or that we get recognition for. So it could be a lot of, especially when you scale, you need to find your KPIs and you need to understand, okay, what is important in this company? So that is one way of steering the organization, is that we measure development or not results, and also results, because you’re still going to need that. But it’s a balance between the two because if you’re always going to be failing or try to develop new things, then you’re still going to need a clear path to those milestones that you’re going to be setting up. 

So I usually say, with a lot of our clients that we’re working with, we kind of scope, especially when you’re going to take in an investor is going to invest money, and they want to see, you know, they want to see exponential returns. They’re not going to say, hey, try it out. But we’ve been doing that, like we’re scoping things. So this is our trial and error budget. And this is our like operation budget. Take marketing for an example. That’s a great example of, “Okay, we can, we have consumers as our target group, are we going to go for Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook or Google Ads, and then you set aside, we don’t really know, but we know we need to get this money, users or viewers or, like, interactions.” 


So then we set aside, okay, we have 10,000 euros here, we have 10,000 euros here, we have five here and 10 here. And then after a month or after, you know, you can do it sequentially, or you can do it parallel. But to know scope it so that you don’t keep on just, you know, pouring money down on something that obviously didn’t work because you’re deciding that you’re over nearly there. So that is one of the main issues, I think, like, when you’re going to be working with development, or this like trial, that you’re going to try new things is that you don’t scope it enough. 

So you keep on kind of steering away from that because it’s a new thing. And you know, it’s always going to come, as we started with, it’s always going to come, the flavor of the month and new technologies or how the market is moving. So kind of, you know, find a scope where you have this wiggle room, but still sort of a path forward. Investors tend to like that as well, when you kind of, you know, have a budget, so they can help you with stuff. 


Chris: I think we’re pretty much aligned in our perception here. My vantage point is the one of a tech leader who needs to have people who are maturing within the team. If you have the sense as an employee or as a developer that you’re no longer increasing your capacity or your technology stack, your knowledge, then you might get fed up with that organization. And we see that younger people tend to jump between teams or companies quite frequently. Recently, we want to have this attachment and the attachment comes from helping them to become better. Obviously, there’s always an architect or tech leads who make sure that we are within the budget, we are within the lines that you have defined from investors’ perspective, and we’ve been doing this successfully. But not anything ends up in a happy path, and we know that in development. 

Elina: I think it’s a lot about understanding how we’re going to build a learning organization so that we’re not trying to invent the wheel every time. So every learning gets, you know, trickled down in the organization. And then if you want to try the same thing again that didn’t work, then you have to understand, “Okay, this is the new addition to it. And that’s how we’re going to foster innovation, continuous innovation organization.” Correct. 

Monika: Okay, so since we’ve tapped on the investors, I would like to ask you, like from both technical standpoint and, let’s say business strategy standpoint, what do investors look for in startups during the fundraising process? And let’s focus on the earlier stage. 

Elina: It depends a bit on how early are you? Do you have like, do you have a working product or not? If it’s that you only have an idea of a product, then that’s going to be okay. How can you execute on that? How can you build that? And then, if you have an early product, it’s going to be more about how do you find the customers. We have, like, a 17-step ladder of exactly how you’re going to be measuring, like tech development, and also what investors are. They are kind of narrow, usually in their investment mandates. So it’s also about finding investors that are in your mandate and within those brackets where you’re looking for. And it’s also part of funding, like how much money do you think you’re going to need? Because that would also apply into like, what can we do with those money and valuation wise? 

Three years ago, no one really cared about valuation. Right now, people really care about valuation. So that is an important thing to be, okay, if we’re going to need a lot of money because I mean, we do have a big tech stack moving in, usually, that is what’s going to be cost a lot of money. Then how do we scope it or scale it down? Like, how do we build milestones from there, where we can get investors to tag along? And also to ensure that how if I get a venture capital on board in my company, they want to get, like, a 10x return or something in a short period of time. So it’s also part of explaining or storytelling and saying that this is how our company is going to go from here to here in a short period of time. So it’s a lot about communication and communicating your vision, but also understand like, where are we right now? Customer-wise, product-wise, organization-wise, and money-wise. So these are the four, and you can’t only have product, you can’t only have business. So you have to like balance, it’s a balance between all of these different areas that you have to consider. Chris: From my perspective, it feels like one crucial component is the team, the team that is able to communicate what they want to achieve. If you have the greatest ideas but you cannot sell them to an investor, you will have a tough time to sell them to the users as well. So the team needs to be able to execute, they have to work together with each other smoothly, it has to be the right dynamics within the small organization. Obviously, it has to be an idea or a product that’s very difficult to replicate, even if you throw a lot of money at a company. So imagine you build something that state-of-the-art uses AI or new AI trends. 

The first question that I would ask, probably from investor standpoint, is, “What if Google throws in $100 million at a team and says, do the same, will they achieve it?” And if the answer is yes, then it’s a risk investment because those trends tend to be picked up by bigger players very early on, replicated and then sold to the existing user base, and your startup ends in a very dark place. So brilliant minds combined together with a tech that’s difficult to replicate without those minds is something that seems to be one aspect. 

Obviously, further down the road, user base. If you are in a pre-seed stage, you have an idea. You want to build it, it’s fine not to have users. But if you’re raising, let’s say, a seed or a series A, there should be some traction there on the market, right? You’re not building for yourself. You’re building for others. And if there’s no user base, maybe there’s no product. 

Elina: And especially, I try to refrain from calling it users because I think the users are kind of useless if there’s not a business model attached to it. So especially from an investor point of view, it’s like, how do you get revenue from it? So, how early can you try it out? So, if everyone really likes the product and uses it, but no one wants to pay for it, then it’s still not going to be a viable business. So it’s also understanding like, okay, maybe right now, we have to do like a trial period to get recognition for the product, still have that revenue or business model in mind. I think it’s going to be crucial in order to be able to build from there. But just to tie in the team, it’s understanding that you will need a variety of competencies. 


If you’re three developers, you need to have someone that understands how to build an organization, how to find customers and develop that. So you’re going to need… that is why investors all early-stage investors always like “a team is the most important part.” But it is the ability to build a business or a company that is what they’re looking for. And again, you’re going to need a variety of competencies in order to be able to build that. 


Chris: Yes, 


Monika: You’re nodding. You’re nodding your head. I believe we can get to the… we can get further. And the interesting thing that you’ve mentioned about those useless users. Actually, the previous episodes of the podcast, my guest, Maja Voje, shared some insights on pricing. And she also pointed out that sometimes the users say, “Yeah, it’s a great product. We would love to use it.” But then when you ask them, “okay, but how much are you going to pay for it? Are you willing to pay?” And they’re like, “Oh, no, actually…” Yeah. So I think also, like, having that pricing in mind, from the very early stage and getting back to the pricing strategy makes sense. Because probably at the beginning, maybe you would like to have a slightly lower price to attract the early users, but then you also need to be profitable. And… so definitely, if anybody is interested in the topic of pricing and methods for checking the willingness to pay, you can watch the previous episode with Maja. 


Elina: I’m going to do that. But it’s also understanding a part of that pricing model and pricing strategy. It’s also understanding who is the customer. And then there could be a user attached to that. Like, it may be if you want to target, like, developers, the user going to be employed at a company, maybe it’s going to be a business-to-business revenue model that can be based on having users in the system, or where you can find a fee somehow. Or it could also vary over time. Maybe it’s like we need to prove our product. So we’re starting with targeting private consumers at the beginning or users that can work it, and then we can build on to finding partnerships with larger corporations or with other companies and sell to companies instead. 


So I’ve been where… I’m working mainly with deep tech and hardware companies and so, like, research-based innovations, which is that their tech stack is a whole other thing. But it’s most of them have companies as their customers. And that requires a completely different pricing strategy and also how you’re going to be validating with beta customers and beta tests, and so on. Because a large corporation won’t just build… try out your product because they have a whole, they have a huge department just working with purchasing. So you’re not just going to get in there. You have to find collaborations and partnerships in another way. So a pricing could… it will vary over time. And they also understand, like, where are with what can we charge now? And what can we charge in the future? It’s very different. 

And for a consumer product, it’s… or a user product, even more understanding how… how sticky can we get the product so that they will continue to pay. And when we add more features, then we will be able to charge more, but they again must be balanced or aligned. 

Chris: From my perspective, it feels like this first step is always the most difficult one: how to convert a non-paying user of the freemium plan to a paid plan user. Once you do that, the upselling of new features seems to be an easy part. The card is already attached to your profile. You just check new boxes and agree to a new subscription price paid towards the end of the month. But this free paid, this first free user who has to pay initial fee, do this magic move of connecting your card or attaching your PayPal account to this product, that’s a challenge. 

And I say this as a user myself: when I say I need to edit a PDF document, I typically write “a free PDF online editor.” And the one that charges me, I basically skip first, right? So it’s a double-edged sword. 

Elina: But I would say if you look into a timeline over the past, I don’t know, 10 years, we really see a big change in this, like a user or behavior, how we went from everything we’re supposed to be free and open source and share and no one really, like, until most people understand that we’re willing to pay, subscription economy is a thing, like, it’s a baseline for how we get charged and pay for stuff. So we don’t, there’s a ton of these examples. And there’s also, like, an understand… we understand we’ve been maturing as customers, that we understand we need to pay for quality. So the, when you have found the stickiness or the user needs and really like getting a match for the user need, then it’s easier to get paid for it. 

But you have to get over that hurdle because we all know that there’s a lot of really crappy or shady free solutions out there as well. So you’re, but when you find the programs that you like, you kind of tend to stick with them. 

Monika: I think it also comes down to companies communicating the value that you get for the price. If I understand clearly, why is it better to use the paid PDF converter than the free one, for example, because there’s some data security, etc. I don’t know any other things that might be relevant, then I’m willing to pay. And also with other products, for example, I can actually give a real life example of Calendly versus a paid system. And Calendly is great, but it’s lacking some functions. And also, everyone knows it’s free, at least to some degree, because obviously, they also have the enterprise plan. 


But at some point, it shows some limitations. And also, it might be deemed as less professional compared to, let’s say, some customized system, that gives you more features. And as a person who has a lot of meetings, a lot of bookings, etc. I understand the value in having the better-paid option here. So it’s also when users mature enough, they use enough free tools, and they see what was wrong with them, they understand the value of the paid ones. I think that’s the value. 

Elina: It’s a part of the customer journey maturity, like, they mature more. I do pay for my PDF converter services. So in order that I see I need it, because I need to have that full operational freedom. And I want to know where my data gets stored. Because it’s, like, if it’s agreements, that’s kind of sensitive. And then I also want to have them in the same place. And, you know, I want to know, I want to have a relation with my provider, to have that feel, that sense of, you know, safety, it’s a safe place where I can share, like, probably… probably document sensitive data that I know. So I do feel a relationship with Adobe is a bit like, it’s a bit too much. But I feel that… that I will have a big problem with changing that because now everything is stored there. I have all my presets done. I can get in and work with exactly what I want. And that’s fine. 

Chris: But I think we are in a minority, you and me. We are, but look, look at my kids, look at current teenagers. They share privacy, private data online all the time. And I don’t think they really embrace that the online privacy and understand the consequences of losing it. So there’s a, the right product fit here is how do you convince people to really pay for something and do this on a broader audience. Monika has used Calendly as a, as an example. I think that that’s a great company with some really cool features attached to the planning feature, like payment for, for a meeting. For example, you can attach… connect it to Stripe and require your participant to pay for the services. But recently, Google, for those who are using Google Workspace, has released similar feature for planning. It’s called, I think, Scheduler. And I see a great risk for Calendly’s model if most of the startups, most of the people utilizing those services will switch to a built-in solution. Their model is going to lose some traction, probably. 

Elina: I just did that. I switched from Calendly to Google, actually. And that was, I think, and that’s another trend in the market that from, you know, having all of a thousand different subscriptions and everyone was at different places to get that. I just want one point of entry. So I use my Google calendar, and I have a lot of different emails because I… I do some like interim, I have an interim assignment. I have Nordic, my company, and I also have a private calendar. I just want to collect it at one place. And then I want to be able to invite that takes all of that into account. So we’re seeing, when we’re seeing that, so it’s usually like that with technological shifts coming back to the AI that we started talking about. 

And right now we’re in this explosion of different AI IDs that you can utilize. And then I really think we’re going to see a merge again coming in because that’s usually how technology, how technology go… development is going from a business perspective, how we’re seeing that companies get acquired by larger corporations or that smaller companies merge because you want from the customer perspective, what are you willing to pay for? I want more features. And maybe then you, instead of having, like, all of these different apps and stuff, I just want one. Cause there’s a kind of app fatigue in that one. I don’t want to download another app. 


Like, take parking. I live in Sweden. I have, I don’t know. I have seven different parking apps. So depending on which city I am, I am in, I’m going to need to, you know, download some new things and understand where, how it’s going to work and, you know, get my card in there. So it takes me like 10 minutes to park. And so that is one example of like, this would be really nice to put in one… under one umbrella. And there’s a lot of these. Yeah. That’s just one example. And I think we’re seeing that a lot, especially in the business workspace where we have all of these different subscriptions. And then, you know, how we just want one point of entry to become more efficient and in order to be actually utilizing all of these amazing features that have been developed that can really help us moving forward. But we just need to, you know, have the energy to understand, okay, where am I supposed to log in now? I just want one. 


But APIs are doing a great job with that as well. Like, you can have Slack integrated with your Google workspace and things you can be smooth. So APIs solve a lot of that as well. 


Chris: And actually, as a user, I’m willing sometimes to pay slightly more just to have this one convenient point of entry, like, different train providers and local carriers here in Poland. I will choose one application that allows me to book travel with all of them from a single point, rather than having five or six different apps for each provider and then go through them. So this one, a euro more paid for the service seems like a, well, convenience that was worth the money. 


Elina: And that’s also an innovation. 


Chris: It is. And also, I see that some of the startups even… to move from this API discussion to a business case. Some startups actually expect to be bought probably further down the road because it’s very difficult to find the user base that will keep you fed if you grow and you want to scale your business. So it seems like a model I can recognize globally to build a startup designed to be hired. There is a grand plan, obviously, to go to a billion users five years from now that you sell in the pitch deck. But deep inside, you expect to be bought. Babbel apps. 


Elina: Oh, yeah. 


Chris: As an as an example, and interesting, right? 


Monika: Corporate venture capital, a lot of big corporations, they have their funds with the intention to actually, you know, later on, acquire the company. So it’s, I think it’s, like, the another route for the founders to capitalize on their idea, not necessarily running the business forever, but exiting via just selling the solution to a bigger player, and making sure even more people take advantage of the great technology that they designed. 


Chris: But I don’t like it. Is it the case? I mean, if you tell the truth I… I’m building something because I expect to be bought, it doesn’t seem to be something that VCs really appreciate. They want to have the big vision, right, Elina? 


Elina: Um, yes, and no. I mean, venture capital VC funds, they have, you know, their idea of how it’s supposed to look. If you’re seeing a CVC, like a corporate venture capital, they have a completely different route. So it’s kind, it’s usually kind of hard to get them and say investing in the same sort of companies. And then you need to tell slightly different stories. But I mean, again, coming from, you know, this, like a lot of different paths going into the merger ID, I also see a lot of especially really tech-heavy, super tech-heavy startups, they also need… otherwise, they’re going to need to raise so much money, it’s hard to find that base. But within a big corporation, you could both elevate the internal R&D and, you know, buy things and then merge in order to get that technology out there. But I’m not going to say that I mean VC, as per se, their business model is to make exponential revenue or exponential returns from their investments. That is their whole case. So if they see that, okay, if we get on now, and then we see a clear path to exit, then that not necessarily is not a wrong thing to do. 


And I mean, the whole idea is like when you get an investor on board, you need to have an exit plan for them and might… most likely also for you. But on the contrary, we’re also seeing that historically, the idea of an exit for a company has been a full acquisition that someone else will be buying the whole company and everyone will exit at the same time. And especially in these companies, we’re seeing coming now more and more advanced technologies that’s going to take a longer time to develop. We also that is something that we work a lot with right now at Nordic Nodes to see how can you create exit like bus stops. 


How can you create partial exits where early-stage investors can get off and then VCs can get in and out and to… to get that ensuring that you have a cap table that, like, owners in the company that are aligned with the business vision of the company, you know, these different levels, so that you don’t have a dissonance between these intentions with different stakeholders. So I think that it’s not a bad idea to start it. If you see that, okay, in three, we can actually get acquired and make a lot of money. It’s a nice thing because that’s why investors invest. But it needs to be framed in the way that if this doesn’t happen, because that’s a huge risk, just to develop technology and hope that it will be acquired, that is… poses a risk. 


So you’re still going to need to have the plan of we can stand on our own business, we can send our own feed, we do have a solid revenue model, we can survive and thrive, not only surviving but thriving this company on ourselves. But there is an evident possibility that we can get acquired. So you can just if you’re only saying that we’re going to develop huge technology, and then we’re going to get acquired, then you’re not going to be investable. But if you say we have a group, we’re building a great product, we’re going to be able to make a lot of money on that, and grow exponentially. And… but we could also be acquired in a couple of years. So it can be one part of the plan, but it can’t be the plan because that way, then you will fail. 


Monika: Okay, we’re slowly running out of time, and discussion is so vivid. So it’s a shame we don’t have more, I would like to get to the last point today. And it’s sort of resonated throughout the conversation, and especially at the point of talking about investors. But I would like to talk about the importance of partnerships when you’re running a startup and being a part of an ecosystem. Could you share some thoughts on that? 


Chris: I’ll take a step first. 


Elina: Yeah, you go first. 


Chris: Well, with ecosystems and networks comes, well, networking part. That’s the most important thing for me: you are embedded in a ecosystem where people share your vision, share your passions, can support you, you can think your ideas off of them, you can ask them for introductions to potential investors, you’re not left alone and swimming in this entire sea of money, not with not knowing where to tap, where to who to talk to. So people who have struggled with the same issues you’re struggling they can empower you to stay on course, they can help you stay focused, they can share their failure stories and showcase that through passing through those failures, they have achieved success and they are where they are today. It’s motivating if you are really low as a founder, and that happens a lot more often than not. You need someone who will tell you, hey, it’s okay to be here, I’ve been there, but if you persist in your vision, if you persist with your ambitions, you will eventually find someone who also shares your vision. 


Finding one, two, three investors who do not follow what you want to build and what you want to set up and they decline you is not the end of the world. Finding the one who really shares your passion is the key to success and being embedded in a partnership or ecosystem of people who do the same will help you with that. 


Elina: Definitely, I think that one of the big successes that you have with the past years that we’ve been able to go a lot more digital is that you can think much more global from the beginning with your network as well. So, I would say, I mean, finding expert clusters or like clusters, finding your cluster is a great thing. Take, for example, I’m based in west of Sweden in Gothenburg. We are really good at climate tech and hard or R&D for, like, hardware and stuff like that, but if you’re going to be building a consumer, like, B2C sauce company, this won’t be the right arena for you. It can be, but it’s going to be harder because we don’t have that, you know, infrastructure for that sort of company. 


So, maybe you should find a cluster somewhere else, like go to Stockholm or go to Berlin or whatever, like find your cluster and… take the Baltics, for example, has been great in working with Web3 and crypto and stuff like that. Go there, find people there that can share your vision, and I would say that go earlier than you thought you would because if you’re going to have a global plan, you need to think that in much earlier stages, like, your customers will be over the world. Okay, your investors should be over the world or, like, finding where are the networks or where are the ecosystems that are best fitted for us. You might not need to move there, but you can, you know, find experts in that realm, maybe go to events or listen into digital seminars, search for LinkedIn, you know, just do outreaches because that is really valuable and as Crystal was saying, like, if that one is not right for you, people like to help, they will forward you to someone that will, and so really do that sort of like due diligence on the different ecosystems because they will look different in different countries, in different parts of Europe and in the US, that’s a whole another story we can continue talking about, but and even in different cities will have their different expertise. 


If you’re a life science company, you should have some sort of presence in Denmark because they are really good at it. For example, now I’m doing a lot of northern European examples because I’m based here, but it’s you… find your cluster will help you to find an ecosystem that can support you and elevate you and you’re going to be able to find those experts, you’re going to be able to find investors that understand your vision of what you’re doing and then for partnerships, I would also really, really want to recommend that as an early stage startup, you can’t, you’re a generalist company at that stage, you can’t be specialized in a lot of things, so maybe take help from a tech architect to help you really understand the basis, do that earlier on, so you don’t need to rebuild stuff later on, get a couple of hours from a lawyer to get everything, you know, don’t use, well… You can use start with ChatGPT but you’re going to need someone with real expertise to elevate on that because that, you know, just think ahead slightly in the beginning will ensure that you’re going to be able to run much faster and then finding those partnerships with different sort of expert organizations, then you can get the help that you need in order to, you know, run faster in the end. 


Monika: Yeah, that sounds like a perfect closing thought. 


Elina: Yeah. 


Monika: However, if there are any closing thoughts that you would like to share or some message to our listeners, now is the right time to put that message through. What would you, like, one sentence that you would, say to an early-stage deep tech founder, let’s say? One piece of advice. 


Chris: Stay hungry and stay on course. If you have found something that is really game-changing, that’s really has, that can have impact on our lives in society, modern civilization, be persistent and build it and show it to the world and then let’s see how we can really use it to a greater good, be that for agriculture, be that for speech enhancement, be that for audio enhancement, but just do it. 


Elina: Yeah, I can really add on to that. And also I would say, I say that to every early-stage founder, and it’s like, you’re the expert of your company. So, I mean, people love giving advice. We’re just talking about, like, partnerships and finding that input, but you are the expert of your company. And especially when you’re, I mean, as you grow and take on more stakeholders, you will have employees, you will have investors that will give you advice, but just, you know, as Chris was saying, like, find your path, and then you could take in a lot of input, but still you’re always going to be the expert of your company and have… ensure that you have the final say. So, really think about how all of this input will align with your long-term vision. I think that’s going to help you to make hard decisions. And it’s also going to help you to stay on course and build a company that you want to build. 

Monika: Okay, that’s a powerful closing. Thank you very much for joining me today. It was great having you. And I invite everyone to subscribe to the podcast, because every week we’re interviewing experts about topics in between business and technology. Thank you. 

Elina: Thank you.

Chris: Thanks, Monika, thank you.

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