How three weeks in Sweden changed me
By: Luciana Oliveira – SE Entrepreneur, SE Outreach Accelerator 2016
“In Stockholm, you can cycle everywhere carelessly because people drive so slow and are so attentive to bikers”. “In Sweden, they offer a free light beer with low alcohol concentration for lunch”. “In Sweden it snows in late April!”
Yes, I guess my friends and colleagues in São Paulo have a point when they tell me they’ve heard enough about Stockholm and Sweden already. It’s not that I have not traveled or lived abroad. But I guess spending day in and day out with only unfamiliar faces plus having debates that influence your entire thinking process is indeed a too intense combination for such a short period of time (three weeks). It’s been two weeks since the first part of the Outreach Acceleration Program finished and I am still processing all the information and changes that happened within myself and that need to happen at New Hope Ecotech, the social enterprise I co-founded and run as a CEO. Our CTO, Anauê Costa, had only one sentence to express his understanding of what happened in these three weeks that I spent Skyping from somewhere in the far north: “You changed!”
I spent two years of my life studying in one of the most prestige business schools in the world, the Kellogg School of Management, but it was only in Stockholm that it became so clear to me: you only have a business opportunity if you have a customer ready to pay for the solution you have to offer! Yes, I guess I knew about it. But I was never such an obvious priority as it became after the acceleration program. How could I have forgotten about customers? I had not. But it was not until learning from Lena Ramfelt and the Gear Up methodology that I really understood: customers are so damn important that everything else in the business can come after or during the customer acquisition process. But I guess I should not push myself so hard. Of course I needed to have a basic understanding of the pain and the painkiller we can offer before going after customers. So it is not that I am late to the party. But being reminded of the importance of finding the right customers – innovative consumer packaged goods companies who will be excited to help with the initial phase of the new service we offer – is the light I needed to see the path ahead of me clearer. And in this path, I see four big goals which I have to reach not at the end of the path, but in the next four months:
- For the short term: I need to find strategic partners (specially branding and advertising agencies) who can help me create and communicate a label which certifies that companies are investing in recycling in Brazil.
- For the short term: I need to find small and mid-sized brands who I can see as innovators and who will be excited to help with the initial phase of the new service we offer.
- For the short to long term: I need to structure the methodology for companies to pay for the certificates of recycling and I need to finalize the initial pricing for the service.
- For the long term: I need to reach out to decision makers at 10 big companies to let them know about our solution to certify investment in recycling as a way to be in compliance with the law.
I know the goals I have to reach in the next four months are hard. But I cannot wait for the four months to be over and to arrive back in Stockholm again. I will not only have (hopefully) answered so many of my hypotheses, but my seven colleagues in the accelerator will (again, hopefully) have answered their hypothesis as well. Take donating blood in Nigeria, for example. My colleague Francis has to learn if small blood banks are willing to pay to have access to a platform which will help to increase blood transfusion to patients in need. I am rooting so much for his hypothesis to be right – after all, this solution is so dear to my heart. I am the daughter of a surgeon who worked for the public health system in Brazil for his entire life and I watched families struggle with the challenges offered by the health system of a developing country. Finding blood should not be one of them. What about a bike sharing system in Johannesburg? I first used one of those when living in Europe 10 years ago. And I watched São Paulo implement its own a couple of years ago. Will people in Johannesburg be as excited about it as people in France were? Will there be arguments in the streets between bikers and people who do not give up on their huge traffic-causing cars just as it happens in São Paulo right now? I cannot wait to hear the learnings about that either!
So I guess another amazing thing I got from spending these three weeks in Stockholm is to know that there are more people out there trying to solve big challenges and, even if they are living in so different countries and come from so different backgrounds, we certainly do have one thing in common: we know that growing and scaling our business can improve the lives of some many people around us and I guess that is what makes us want to go through our bold and complex to-do lists as fast a possible! Even before September is here!