You feel like a rock star when creating a start-up? You should remember the following next time you code while listening to music

A very good friend of my wrote on herFacebook wall recently

When I was young,  Guys who wanted to impress me told me they are playing in a rock group…..   Today they tell me they created a startup…


Rockstar - Startup

And it is true, I even see every day more and more connections between the music industry and the start-up world.

  • Every can launch a rock group as well every one can start a startup.
  • Only a few groups became very successfully, as well as startups
  • Only the groups that worked hard and played a lot had a change,as well as start-ups
  • Rock groups have to handle record labels who decide and guide their selected groups, with startups we have Angel Investors, Equity funds,….   The same complex hierarchy.

The good news is that we can learn as a startup from  the music world, we are having a perfect example of what can go wrong and what can go well.    As startup people may see us as Rockstars, but as real rockstars you need torun  your business if you want to stay a Rockstar.

Many rock groups went down to drugs and other non related site activities, also record labels with there complex structure of copyrights, ownerships etc.  controls the music group.   Do you really think Justin Bieber or Myley Cyrus really can make the music they want or they can really say no to a show?  Do you believe that a group like One Direction made it without a whole team behind them, and hard work?  Of course not. And this is the same for startups.  Startups with investors (angels or others) or in the same position.

I met in my life many startups, dreaming and wasting too much time on the side activities, like presenting on stage when the software/app is not online yet, talking about big numbers but didn’t had done any market research, and after 1 year and when I asked there business plan, no answer.

As like every small rock group, they started in a garage and grown by playing more , promote and play and promote.  Startups often starts in the kitchen or bedroom and they work hard,try, grown, test, try, grown, test…..

Next time you listen to music when working on your start-up, remember the following:

  1. Creating Software / Product / Service = Writing songs
  2. Going Live = Selling your Songs via iTunes or Play Store, or having Paid Clients
  3. Marketing and Communication andpromotion = Concerts
  4. Your Team = Booking Managers, Tour Manager,..
  5. Success = When you are on stage and people are shouting your name

While launching my startup, Gift Voucher Kiosk (, I kept this in mind and I had fun, but I concentrated on the service like a rock star concentrate on his music.

Let me know how your start-up fits the rock star world.

Author: Frederik Van Lierde – Google+

Restaurants and Gift Vouchers – an interesting way to promote your business

Restaurants and Gift Vouchers, a strange combination? Did you already offer a gift voucher for a birthday to a friend?. What did you offer, a meal, but how do you know how much they will drink :) Will they take coffee and the end of there delicious dinner or not…

The main difference between offering Gift Vouchers for shops or spa and restaurants is you have no idea how much your friend will spent….

Café Des Sources Offering Gift Vouchers in there restaurants as a new innovative way to get more clients

As Restaurant owner, this is a great opportunity.
As a restaurant owner you can use traditional publicity channels like magazines, local newspapers, or you can be visible in restaurant guides etc.
On the other hand you can work with Groupon (or other local groupon clones) and give serious reductions to generate more clients….

We know that when people love your restaurant, they will talk about it and this is the best way to get promotion. This is where Facebook and Foursquare etc. plays a role …. but talking is 1 thing, action is more difficult.

Let’s say I love your restaurant, so I sent USD 40 to my best friends to try out your restaurant. My friend will visit, enjoy (as he believes me) and he spends as much or less he wants, he just got a credit of CHF 40.

Does this system exist? Of course it does, have a look:

  • Free Subscription
  • Small transaction fee, only when a voucher is sold
  • Real time follow up (So you can offer a free drink or just say thank youto your guest)
  • Do you own a restaurant and want to find our mor information, just contact us

Blog Statistics if a post goes viral (Image)

The last 3 days, I was lucky that one of the posts on our Travel Blog went viral.

The post that went viral was the following: A colourful place to visit: Bucharest, the Capital of Romania

Written by Ana Tepsanu and Iulia in 2012
I can only state that I am proud I work with them :)

Why, after 1 year this article went viral, we have no clue, and trying to figure it out. Something happened on Facebook, as we had more then 10.000 visitors coming from Facebook.

Anyway, we host our blog on WordPress and we had a rather stable number of visitors, but this is how it looks like when the article went viral.

Travel Blog Goes Viral Statistics

The Difference between Horizontal & Vertical Networking

A small post about networking and the difference between horizontal and vertical networking, after a lovely discussion I had during a business lunch organised by the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Geneva.

Networking  - Marketing

Everywhere we read that networking is the way to go to make new contacts, to do business. But in most cases people network horizontally, meaning they go to network events with the same level of people, and those people go also to the same networking events for the same reason as you. They want to find new customers. So most of them are not really listening.
On horizontal networking, you talk like chickens, you tell your (sales) story, they do the same and leave wothout nothing.

Try vertical networking, first you choose different networking events. Ask who is coming, ask the titles etc. Then you go and listen. Follow the stream of information and meet people. And make sure you connect with decision makers who are interested in information.

Do you see the difference, in vertical networking you talk to people who are interested, who wants to capture information, knowledge. In horizontal networking you talk to people who want to sell to you.

Like today, the President of the Chamber of Commerce told me, “call me and met up afterwards, as I got to much information”. I just made sure I had 1-2 lines he remembered what I am doing and now I have time to talk privately in a quite environment.

A Reason why e-Commerce isn’t where we want it to be

E-Comerce - Issue - Credit Card Payments
I am working on a new service online, and next week we should go life with the first group of partners.
If everything goes well. yes, we are blocked, blocked by credit card companies.

We are creating a platform, that facilitates the sales of Gift Vouchers Online for Smaller Businesses.
The reason why we created this platform is simple. Small business often don’t have the technical knowledge to offer this. And they shouldn’t have it, they should take care of their clients.

Ofcoure they can ask an IT company to setup the online form, the payments, and then a system to follow-up. All this comes at a price, meaning an investment.

Paypal has a solution for Gift Vouchers, but it takes some knowledge to create the link and afterwards to transfer to you account. It is all do-able but Small Businesses wants something easy and clear and understandable.

The issue with our platform:
We need to accept Credit Card payments for others and now Visa and MasterCard on0t like this, they don’t want to work like this. The risk is to high for charge backs.

Charge back can be issued up to 1 year after buying online. (even most off our partner have a max. validity of 6 months). So the risk is high?
Also I could sell the vouchers and then run away with the money they told me, this is the base of criminal activity and I would end up in a prison instead of growing the business worldwide and end up at a white beach.

This bocks a lot off e-commerce platforms where the turn-over for 1 partner is low (spa or restaurants don’t sell 1 voucher a day). But with the platform, we sell several vouchers a day (from different partners).

The small business can sell vouchers as well and then stop the business after taking all the money
I have a small business and we sold for > 20.000 CHF / year on Gift Vouchers, never we had 1 Charge back.

Our solution is simple, we will use the good old PayPal, yes, they allow it.
Meanwhile we will look for a good direct partner met Visa and MasterCard and if needed we will move the company out off Switzerland to a country that is e-commerce friendly. But first the launch

PS I asked them how BuyClub or Groupon or Hotel Booking Websites could be accepted, as they also sell air, sell vouchers, sell things not belonging to them.

Did you have any issues in your country to accept Credit Cards Payments for third parties or do you use PayPal as well?

Your IT Director should be an Entrepreneur … and Screw Business as Usual

I always loved Richards Branson phrase “Screw business a usual” and me as IT person this is what we do no “Screwing the business” at least that is what the business thinks ;)

IT Should be the Most Creative Department

Now serious: IT should Screw the business as usual, this is part of the existence of the IT Department. We need to find new ways to create a solution, we need to be creative in a way that support the business to reach the goal of the company. Being Success full

That is why I see the IT Director as an Entrepreneur. Not someone who sits behind his desk, in his Ivory Tower…… But someone who can sit next to a developer, or analyst, the business. Someone who can guide, can support his department.

An entrepreneur often has to switch between different roles, one moment he has to be a visionary, the other moment an accountant the other moment a sales person etc.

I strongly believe that IT Directors should be the same, one moment he/she must be an analyst so he talk with the business and understand the business, then he needs to be a director (Deciding on the road map) and he needs to be coder so he can create a link with the developers.

A practical hint for IT directors: Keep 2 types of clothes in your office, one casual and one suite ;)

What if you are a director of 100+ team? Well you can still screw business as usual.

Guide the people reporting to you directly to become like you. And push them to do the same, …. and it is not forbidden you talk directly to all levels of your department, Don’t be shy ;) Your are in charge and it is your responsibility.

Break the barriers of the hierarchy, your best managers will accept it, your worst will change (or you replace them).

Encourage your team to come up with new ideas to create a better IT department and reward them, not moneywise, but with fame. Coders are maybe quite people but they are very proud when they succeed.

A true life story:

I was hired as an external consultant for a big trading company. One day, I had to write on paper the whole structure of the database for documentation. IT director gave me 3 weeks.
Did that internal boss thinks I will write 3 weeks a paper for documentation no one will read, ? (Yes he did)
This was not me, I was young I was consultant , so writing 3 weeks this paper was not for me. So instead I analysed. and the IT Department had to write those kind of papers all the time. Why no one decided to automate this, to see how other businesses solve this expensiv work etc.

After 3 days I created an automated software and the job was done.

Sadly I had to write the code behind the back of the IT Director as he wasn’t open for innovation. He did it this way (on paper) in his time so that was the way to do it now.

Positive result: when I showed him the 3 days of work, they started to use on on other projects as well.

Why you should offer Gift Vouchers online + Existing Solutions?

Online Gift Vouchers is a great way to increase sales, the main reason is you make the life of your clients simple.

Many of your clients are working people, so they have to run during lunch breaks or after works to your shop/business and hopefully your are not busy or hopefully you are still open. Don’t forget, in many countries in Europe, many shops closes between 18:00 and 19:00. (For American and Moscow friends this looks mad but it is the truth, Even in Switzerland there was a referendum about more flexible hours or not.)

So when you offer Gift Voucher Online, your clients can buy the voucher online during office hours or you afterwork late at night when the kids are in bed. No stress, but you have captured the client, wait 2 clients happy, the person who offers the voucher and the person who receives the voucher ;)

Adding Online Payments can be a Pain the Ass
Yes, it is not just offering a form to fill in, it is about the Privacy, The Terms and Conditions, the Secure Payments, the follow up, sending by email or by post etc.

Several services online offers easier solution, here are a few:

Gift Voucher Kiosk (
In my point of view, the best solution, no setup fees, an interesting % on the sales, including all transaction fees and sending costs of the vouchers. A lot of statistics and a tool to follow up the vouchers.
They also combine the service with a online Kiosk , an App etc.
(Launch Begining of October 2013)

The Gift Card Cave (
Has an initial setup fee + and only in limited countries like US and Canada. (Starting from $23.95 per month)

GiftCertOnline (
Expensive Setup and a minimum monthly fee. With this service you get the money directly to your account but the cost is very high.
Setup-fee is $499. This is because they don’t centraize but really create a version for you. Like the creation of your website.

PayPal (
Everyone knows PayPal, if you are in a Paypal friendly country and your clients are happy to use PayPal, it is a good choice
Setup is free, you need to find your way on the PayPal website which isn’t easy, but it works.

In case you have other ideas, let me know, I check them and add them to the list.

Gift Voucher Kiosk

Today I will write about my latest investment, it will be launched in 10 days. We are waiting for the last signature off the bank.
Not that we need money from them, no we just need to open a new bank account. As we offer credit card transaction, we want to work with serious partners so we have to go throe a lot off paperwork :)

Gift Voucher Preview

This project I will launch differently than what I read on the Internet on how to launch and how to see it big.
This project will be launched only in 1 city, in Geneva, Zwitserland.

The reason: I want to make immediately money and use it to grown naturally.

So what makes it an interesting investment project for me?
We don’t make some kind off cool gadget like Google Glasses, or we don’t solve a world problem. So probably i will not get awards :)
But we do make the life off Clients and Businesses easier and for me this is still a cash cow.

Since the beginning, we had a business plan that will generate money, since the beginning the project is very simple for Clients and Businesses.

That is the reason why i am interested in this new venture.

What do we offer?
We want to create an service to let buy a gift voucher an any moment. That is easy no?
Many companies do offer Gift Vouchers already
Many clients do buy Gift Vouchers already

But off ten this is offline. Surprised? I wasn’t. The main reason why businesses offer Gift Vouchers offline and not online is because no clue about the technical implementation, and it cost a serious amount off money to make it only for their website by there external IT company.

So we made it easy for them, we offer 1 button so there clients can buy online. No high level technical implementation needed
We made a Kiosk where Clients can find them, at this point we make the life off the Client easy.

Many people don’t know what to buy, even if they do they need to find time to run to the shop to buy the gift or gift voucher, traffic, stress, etc. And then they run to the same places all the time because they know these places-

With our Kiosk, we not only take away the stress off finding tie to buy Gift Vouchers and running to the shop, we also show them new places, new ideas etc.

When I saw this combination that works for both Business and Clients I was sold and we created the service.

A Preview is available on

The App for Android, iPhone and Windows will be launched soon.

I am curious on where this project will bring us, how we will grow step by step and how big we will be able to become.

How to make sure your new customers are coming back…

As some of you who reads my posts of follow me in the social media world knows I am also an owner of a spa in Geneva ( in case you visit this beautiful city)

A spa is a local business, you have to work every day to get clients wantes to relax.

Many ways exists to attract clients like Groupon or Facebook etc…

Curious as I am as entreprener I wondered why we need to give huge reductions to get new clients. It was not right.

It was not right that clients that pay my bills have to pay the full price and clients that only comes to have the % get it cheap.

I wanted to find another way and came to conclusion that for our spa the following is working the best

When new client uses your services
1. Offer service to your clients
2.  ask them if they are happy
3. Give them 10% reduction for the next visit.

I have a success rate of 92%.  So I have 2 changes to keep the customer happy instead of 1 time….

Let me know if you tried this and what is your sucess rate?

An Alternative to Freemium

An Alternative to Freemium Business ModelFreemium is a business model implemented by many online service, some very successfull like LinkedIn and Skype.
Freemium as a business model seems to be the right way, you offer your service for free but money is charged for advanced features.

I want to expose to you a new of Freemium, or better an alternative. I will use an example of my own Business, a travel related platform to promote packages and promotions. We don’t charge a comission, but ask for a membership.

Who is creating money for my platform?
This is clearly hotels, restaurants, etc. Companies that are interested in attracting travellers to there venue.

How would a Freemium business model works for the platform?
In fact I thought about it, offering the service for free, then asking money for advanced features like access to statistics, no limitation of using the platform, no publicity around there data, ……

BUT in our case, I found out the following
- Hotels are creating packages over a longer perdiod of time, ex. low season. So they don’t access our platform every day like they do on Facebook and twitter
- The Travel industry contains millions and more of companies. From small tour operators to huge hotel chains etc. When we started to offer Free access, we atracted several , what I call Cowboys of the Industry’ non profesional companies who just want to make quick money.
These cowboys where very active on the platform :)

What is the alternative?
First we needed to understand, leave the cowboys out, why people wants to have free access. The main reason is Trust. Is my (startup) company serious, do they deliver the goals they promote etc….

Also, many fake companies try the same, sign up a lot of contracts and they don’t care.

This is how we solve this:
1. We charge a small premium, in our case USD 99
2. The Client gets access to 100% of the platform, so have access of all features
3. The Client only pays when we reach a goal, in our case when we send him at least 5 clients, he pays next year only USD 99

The result of our Alternative Freemium is the following
- We made to Start Premium rather small, but high enough to keep almost 100% of the Cowboys out.
- Real Clients are getting 100% access to features to really understand and test our product and service.
- For us, we get money to keep on working, which places us in a better position for negotiation investments, or to be able to grown without Venture Capital.

Do you have implemented the same idea?
Or do you keep using Freemium?
Or any other ideas for online business models?