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Tips for Startups

Startup competitions and funding opportunities

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startup competitions

Along with the rise of a startup culture, a question has emerged, which is also relevant for all other areas of human activities: where to get money from? This question is almost as monumental as the search for the meaning of life, and therefore it always remain on the top of the agenda. Unlike the latter one thought the answer to the former question is still possible to find.

All startups should have already learnt by heart a classic formula of three F’s (family-friends-fools), but the next stage of finding sources is much more difficult. There are already tones of articles and books written on the ways to attract investments. A short list includes the following items: grants, business angels, business incubators (or business accelerators), venture capital funds, strategic investors and crowdfunding.

One of the most effective mechanisms for attracting the attention of several investors at one time is to participate in start-up projects competitions. Held in different formats and under the auspices of various organizations such competitions serve as platforms that brings together startups, investors and experts.

The ones who most actively seek and encourage the start-up projects in various spheres are innovation centers. In the United States the most prominent innovation center is MIT, in Finland it’s SLUSH, Russia it’s Skolkovo Foundation.

There are also “specialized” platforms for startups. The most widely represented competitions for new innovative companies are in the digital area. Tech Crunch Disrupt competition annually attract digital startups from around the world. Another large competition in the field of Internet technologies LeWeb Conference, an annual gathering of about 4,000 entrepreneurs, investors, bloggers and journalists.

However other science-based startups have much less options. The petrochemicals startups for the first got an opportunity to present their projects to investors and industry leaders in November 2016. In order to support the most promising projects in the field of petrochemicals and gas processing the world leading companies in that field created a platform for startups on the basis of IQ-CHem contest. A main distinctive feature of the competition is that participants have a unique opportunity to present their projects not only to one but to several companies, which greatly improves the chances of finding support for their ideas. In turn, companies, including SIBUR, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Solvay, 3M, AkzoNobel, BASF, LG Chem, Henkel, Linde, Skolkovo, Technip and Honeywell UOP, get an opportunity to strengthen their innovative capacity through open innovations.

A competition organized by large businesses are more profitable than the other formats as apart from finding a funding source for their project participants can also find a partner for cooperation. This aspect is particularly important for science-based start-ups for whom it’s extremely difficult to independently enter the market and, therefore, to convince investors in the financial prospects of their ideas. Participants to IQ-CHem contest will have the opportunity to present their projects to 10 companies developing their businesses worldwide at one time.

It should be noted that participation in startups competitions has other benefits, in addition to finding an investor and a business-partner:

Self Evaluation opportunities:

First of all, participation in a competition is an additional incentive for startups to structure their work at the stage of submission of application. The need to comply with strict rules and deadlines allows to analyze the work already done and to reveal strong and weak points of the project. Furthermore, most competitions involve mentoring sessions, meetings with experts and experienced entrepreneurs, during which the startups can be advised on how to improve their business models. In the course of a competition startup teams also meet and share experiences with colleagues working in the same field.

Public Relations:

Another important point is the PR-component of the contest. It makes possible to forget for some time about the painful hours before the monitor waiting for the feedback from Mike Butcher on your press-release. If you manage to win the competition Mike Butcher himself will plead you to give him an interview (well… may be). At least, media partners and the organizers of the contest themselves will write about your project. And what is the most important you’ll bring yourselves to the investors’ sight who make up the jury of any competition.

Team-Building opportunities:

Participation in the competition will be an additional incentive for team-building, while the victory will strengthen your self-confidence, which is important in the early stages of the project, when the prospects are still vague and the risks great.

Pinterest, one of largest social networks, whose market value is estimated at more than 11 billion US dollars, began its route to success at the NYU business projects’ contest.

Akamai Technologies, provider of services for the acceleration of Web sites with a market value of 11.46 billion US dollars, found its investors through MIT competition. Other alumni of this competition include such successful companies as Harmonix, Silicon Spice, and others.

In August 2016 the winner of startups TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2016, Beam Company which provides support for video games broadcast was acquired by Microsoft and is continuing its activities in the part of the corporation.

Image : © Raimond Spekking

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Cyber Security

Top 6 Cybersecurity Lessons Startups Can Learn From Healthcare Organizations

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cyber security lessons startups can l;erarn from health care companies

COVID-19 won’t be here forever, but cybercriminals will!

Leveraging the COVID-19 situation, cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and even large enterprises to steal valuable information. Many reports claim that cybercrimes have doubled in the last couple of months.

The healthcare industry is one of the latest victims of cybercriminals. According to Accenture, the healthcare industry has witnessed around 41% increase in cyberattacks. The report also says that the healthcare industry on average experiences 130 data breaches in a year.

However, as a healthcare IT consultant, I have recently noticed that healthcare organizations are ramping up their efforts to safeguard patient data. And for that, they are deploying many technologies, solutions and unique cost-effective ideas.

The technologies, solutions and ideas healthcare startups are deploying are so effective that other startups can learn cybersecurity lessons from healthcare startups. Today, in this blog, I will share the same. I will list down 6 cybersecurity lessons learned from healthcare organizations in 2020 during COVID-19.

How are healthcare startups avoiding cybercriminals? (Learning from other startups!)  

Avoiding cybercriminals or ensuring data security is not a task, it is the process. And a process is always more complicated than a task. But here is how healthcare organizations are streamlining the process, the cybersecurity process.

  1. Determine the cybersecurity risks level 

Not all healthcare startups are on the radar of cybercriminals. Thus, it is a rational idea to determine the possibility of a cyberattack or to determine the cybersecurity risks level. This process enables organizations to know the threat level – whether they are on the radar of cybercriminals or not. 

To find the cybersecurity risks level, healthcare organizations simply link the type of data they store to the motive of cybercriminals. For instance, if a healthcare organization stores medical images of patients and not the patient’s personal and financial data, they should not invest more in cybersecurity.

But if a healthcare organization stores many valuable data of the patients, accommodates less-trained staff and works with legacy networks, they should worry about cybersecurity as their cybersecurity risk is high.

Learning for other startups: You should invest only after confirming that you are the potential target! If you do not store any crucial data, you don’t have to allocate your resources to cybersecurity.

  • Find the loopholes through technical assessment

A network has many open doors or errors which work as the opportunities for hackers to get access to databases. They usually scan the network and attack the ‘fragile part’. Thus, it is important to find the loopholes in the network and fix it to close the entry doors for the cybercriminals.

Carrying out the technical assessment is the best way to find loopholes in the network. It is designed to yield the vulnerability in the network. A technical assessment does not only aim to find the vulnerabilities, but it also aims to quantify and prioritize the vulnerabilities.

So, now when cybersecurity experts know the loopholes which cybercriminals can leverage to attack, the cybersecurity experts can easily avoid the attack by fixing the loopholes.

Learning for other startups:

This is the best method to avoid cyber attacks. You should find the open doors in your network and close it to prevent the undetected entry of hackers into your network.

  • Software configuration assessment

A healthcare organization uses a number of software to streamline operations. They also use a lot of complex software. Sometimes, the poor configuration of these complex software creates easy paths for cybercriminals to attack the enterprise network as cybercriminals are many times using software to get access to the network or a server.

Learning for other startups:

While installing software on a computer device connected in the enterprise network, make sure the authenticity of the software and do not change the installation setting or software setting without the proper knowledge.

  • Quick incident response

Regardless of the efforts healthcare organizations put to safeguard the network, cybercriminals many times find ways to penetrate the security measures. In such a scenario, only a quick incident response is hope.

Healthcare organizations always pay extra heed to incident response. They form a team which quickly takes control over the network and close the paths for attackers before they cause havoc.

The incident response team utilizes many security tools to monitor the network in real-time. If they identify any unusual activity or the system alerts them, they quickly put best practices to work to prevent cybercriminals from getting system access.

Learning for other startups:

Always work best but prepare for the worst. Cybercriminals can anytime, anyhow bypass the security of your system. So, be proactive and prepared.

  • Train the staff

Generally, staff working in the healthcare organization lacks the knowledge of the cybersecurity which leads them to click on any malicious links or commit any costly mistake. Thus, healthcare organizations are putting emphasis on staff training. They give basic knowledge about cybersecurity and their deployed network to the staff and keep testing the staff’s cybersecurity knowledge after a fixed interval.

Learning for other startups:

If your staff does not follow cyber hygiene, things can easily go messy as staff members have network access and they spend the majority of their time around it.

  • Always deploy feature-packed security solution including firewall

To ensure cybersecurity, deploying software security solutions as well as hardware security solutions is the basic requirement. But a premium security solution works more precisely and efficiently than an affordable security solution. Thus, healthcare organizations generally deploy premium feature-packed security solutions, especially a firewall.

A feature-packed firewall costs a bit more than the basic firewall. But a feature-packed firewall is worth the money. It does not only safeguard the enterprise network but offers many flexibilities and real-time network data to the admin.

For instance,

  • Admin can know the connected network and find the data usage of each network.
Silhouette of a radar station on the Polish coast at sunset.
  • Admin can know the top sources of threats to a network.
Silhouette of a radar station on the Polish coast at sunset.
  • Admin can know the most affected network.
  • Admin can impose content filtering to prevent users from opening irrelevant sites.
Silhouette of a radar station on the Polish coast at sunset.
  • Admin can know every single activity of the users on that network.

Learning for other startups:

An ‘affordable security solution’ is the myth, actually!

In a nutshell: 

Cybersecurity is the challenge for any startup serving in any industry. An ever-increasing number of cybersecurity attacks clearly depicts that it is a much bigger problem for startups than COVID-19.

However, there is one industry that is pulling out all dots to curb the coronavirus as well as cyberattacks. In this blog, we have discussed 6 ways of how healthcare organizations are safeguarding crucial patient data.

These ways are,

  • Confirm the level of cyberattack risk
  • Find the loopholes in the network and fix it
  • Do  not configure the software without proper knowledge
  • Form an incident response team
  • Train the staff
  • Opt for feature-packed security solutions 
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Tips for Startups

CoronaVirus Changes Everything; Your Startup’s Survival Guide During The Pandemic

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Startups Survival Guide
Startups Survival Guide

Nothing will ever remain the same, not even your weight after this pandemic. Maybe your name will, but that’s beside the point. Everything will change; the entire world will change. The market won’t be the same, but change can be a good thing, right? If you’re a startup, then this can be a very challenging moment for your business.

Many industries took a great hit as a result of the outbreak, and a lot of businesses were affected, some of them took a huge loss while others profited a lot from it, companies like Zoom watched their profit skyrocket in such a short period of time. Managing your business is very crucial during these times, and there are a few steps you can take for your startup to survive in this pandemic.

1) Calculate your risk

First of all, you have to evaluate all the risks the pandemic poses to your business and the losses you’ve already incurred. Calculating and controlling your burn rate at this stage is essential for your business to survive.

You do not want to incur losses at this point because the future of your startup after the pandemic is not very certain, and you have to do everything in your power to keep the business going.

2) Efficient Team Management

Your team is very important to your business. You should encourage team spirit in a time like this, reach out to your team members, make sure they’re doing okay, let them know how important they are to the company and to you.

Most people tend to suffer emotionally during a pandemic, which could be a result of the fear of losing a loved one during this period, at this point, you don’t know what the future holds for you. This makes it important you let them connect with one another even on a personal level, encourage them to check up one another, treat them like your one big family, and build a support system. This helps build their focus and creativity and enables them to work efficiently.

3) Digital Communication

You have to set communication standards and tools in other to be able to communicate ideas with your employees and work efficiently. Despite the pandemic you have to stay productive, not being able to meet in person with your employees shouldn’t limit that.

Companies like Zoom has made communication easy, and you’ll find out that your employees don’t even need to show up at work every day to keep your business running.

4) Manage your Resources

You have to analyze the resources you have and manage them because you don’t know how long the pandemic will persist, so try to curtail your expenses in every possible way and evaluate how to make your current resources last for at least a year.

Make a business continuity plan, and it will enable you to use your resources efficiently. Also, consider cutting down on the number of workers you have so you don’t have to spend a lot on salaries.

Work more with freelancers, that way you don’t have to recruit workers when the outbreak is over. Also, consider some good passive income ideas that can help you make money in these tough times. Starting a website and affiliate marketing for digital products are one of the popular ideas.

5) Promote Innovation

This is a step you have to take seriously. The success of your business lies in innovation, introducing new ideas, and implementing change when necessary, and this helps you stay relevant to society at large.

In order to achieve this, you have to create room for your workers to come up with ideas, hold brainstorming sessions, and support all the ideas they come up with. This makes them feel like they’re active members, which of course, they are. Even when they make mistakes, tolerate them, it creates an enabling environment for their minds to create.

6) Protect your customers

Keeping your customers safe should be your priority. The Corona Virus outbreak has made the demand for Hand Sanitizers high. Even the nose masks people didn’t care about so much in the past.

These are basic things your customers need that you can make available to them. No one can protect your customers for you. They’re the ones that’ll keep your business running. It’s time to give back to them in any way you can. You can make Sanitizers and provide nose masks for them. If they’re safe, then your business is safe.

Summing Up

Just as you’re keeping your customers safe, keep your employees safe too. Cancel all social gathering, let them work remotely, so they don’t have to worry about contracting the virus. Educate them on the essential things they need to know about the virus and how to avoid it.

You can communicate from wherever you are, online schedule meetings, and discussion sessions. Above all, keep yourself safe too. Use hand sanitizer always and your nose mask if there is an urgent need for you to go out. If we can survive this pandemic together, we can survive anything.

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Tips for Startups

4 Strategies That Will Help Grow Your Startup Business

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Strategies That Will Help Grow Your Startup

Around 51.3% of new businesses have managed to stay in their market within a five-year period, according to the US Census Bureau. Approximately 82% of those who were successful in their industry admitted that having the right background and qualifications helped them. For startups, it pays to listen to what your customers are looking to help grow your business. What’s more, you will also need to have the right strategy in place and the tools appropriate for your business to be successful in your chosen market.  

Build Customer Loyalty

Startups or small businesses can become successful by building up their customer base. This can be done by making your clients feel more connected to the products as well as services you are offering. For example, most employees nowadays don’t have time to prepare their own meals at home. If your startup is related to food, one way to build up your customer base is to deliver meals to them. This is a good time to invest in a vehicle that you can use to bring your freshly made meals to your customers. 

Learn To Use Technology 

Using technology in your business is important if you wish to reach your target customers. This is helpful considering that most people rely on the Internet for their needs. You don’t have to start with building an AI-based business, but technology can be used for simplifying basic tasks. This includes monitoring productivity levels, creating an inventory of your products, and even keeping tabs on your finances. With technology, you will be able to maximize your time by focusing more on building your customer base. 

Customer Reviews Boost Sales 

Aside from building your customer loyalty, getting customer reviews can also help make your business known. Most consumers tend to read reviews first before buying products or hiring certain services. After all, they need the assurance that their money will not go to waste. Asking your customers to leave feedback will not only increase your ratings in the market, but they can help you fix any issues that they may have. This way, you will be able to improve the way your startup caters to the needs of your clients. 

Provide Efficient Customer Service

Regardless of the business that you are running, customer service will play a major role in its success. Most startups focus on getting new customers, but this will cost you 5 times more compared to keeping your existing customers. Based on research by Bain & Company, keeping your existing customers satisfied can lead to a 25 percent increase in your company’s profit. By providing your customers with a unique customer service, they will patronize your business more often. 

Starting a business today is both exciting and frightening at the same time. Making sure that it stays a float is the challenging part. Fortunately, there are strategies that you can incorporate into your business plan to ensure that you can build a customer base, and help your startup grow and develop over the years. 

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