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Radu Georgescu: How to discover and develop your digital product

21 minutes reading time

Radu Georgescu is a serial entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist with over 30 years of experience founding and developing software, Internet, and eCommerce companies.

He managed successful exits including the acquisition of RAV antivirus technology by Microsoft, ePayment business by Naspers, Avangate by Francisco Partners and Vectorwatch technology by Fitbit.

He’s a big believer in trying things out, experimenting and never being afraid to fail. 

He’s a Board Director and Adviser to several start-ups and mature technology companies, including the TechEquity Crowdfunding Seedblink.

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Today we are talking with Radu Georgescu, a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist. So get ready to take some notes from the master himself. And he is a master. His companies have been acquired by the likes of Microsoft and Fitbit.

He serves on the board of several companies. He's even the chairman of a brand new company. It's a hot tech equity company. He's gonna tell us more about it. It's called SeedBlink guys, girls get ready. This is the time to get ready and dig into the growth equation. 

Radu. Welcome to the show. 

Hey Mike, thank you for having me. It's great to start the morning with you. 

It's a real pleasure to have you on the show. And, I was looking at this inventory of the companies that you have been involved with, and I wonder, are you the busiest man in Silicon valley? And do you sleep? This is perhaps the biggest and most important question I can ask you.

Radu, tell me how you got to this point where you have participated in so many companies you've done. What for many others is five lifetimes. Tell us a little bit about that and give us a sense of how you have managed to do so many different ventures. 

Look, Mike. I know I'm just a baby compared to others that have done so much more and at this age. I'm still really looking forward to the best that's next to come.

I'm always excited to do something new and to figure out new things. And this continuous search is what wakes me up in the morning. I've been lucky to be a part of companies that were actually the start of successful businesses.

For example, Rav Antivirus was started back in 92 when there are literally four antiviruses in the world and, and a security conference was 20 people in a hotel conference room.

In a small hotel conference room and online payments were starting in Europe. And the coin zone was into blockchain transactions, not Bitcoin, but blockchain document transactions about 10 years ago. So starting an industry, being part of the first companies to start an industry, being part of that energy that actually builds things from ground zero, thinking out of the box, trying to convince people that, there can be something there and some things can actually be false or not work.

And so on all in all, I've started as a founder or co-founder of basically 37 companies and six of them were hugely successful, acquired by the likes of Microsoft & Francisco Partners. 10 of them didn't really lose all their money and all the rest were amazing training and learning experiences.

Wow. Now I could really sense the magic of those moments when you are creating something from scratch, being brave and audacious and going out in the world to solve a problem. And being at that ground zero, is that for you personally the most exciting moment where there's a blank canvas and then you create something. It's that first zero to a hundred.

Yes absolutely. That's it. And that's part of the answer to your original question. How can I do so much? The thing is that I've never gotten with a company all the way to, the unicorn,  and so on, because the most exciting part is the beginning, Figuring out the way to solve the problem and having 10 people in a room where everybody's doing everything.

And it's super exciting because everybody ends up being a product guy, a product manager, in order to figure out what the customer wants and what people inside the company want.

 I Need to be able to solve the problem. What the actual problem is, not the declared problem, but what the actual problem is and how to solve it. It's so exciting. So exciting.

So many decades later. Now, if you were to be so lucky as to give your 18 year old self some entrepreneurial advice and you can only give one. What, one piece of advice would you give to yourself if you're 18 and it's entrepreneurial advice, what would you give yourself. 

That's an unfair question. Knowing that, that it can never happen. So look. For myself, I've been lucky enough to be able to tell myself, 18 years old, do whatever you are doing. You're gonna do fine. So I'm so happy with my life.

And I've been so lucky to be able to figure things out and make the right mistakes. Very biased. Very personally, very to myself, I would say, keep up the good work, man. You're gonna end up fine.

Whenever I'm speaking to kids in high schools and colleges and so on, they're asking me, oh what should you do? What I actually do and tell them is - make mistakes. Do things, do different things, try things out, try as many things out on the business level on a personal level, figure out who you are, figure what people need around you. Try things. Think out of the box, make as many as possible. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every mistake brings you a step closer to success.

 

That's like a big invitation to experiment and through those experiments you can learn. 

Absolutely. Absolutely. 

And it's funny, isn't it like learning really is one of the key ingredients in those early days. It's all about having the right mindset. Isn't it? 

Yes, the exploratory mindset and the courage to be wrong. I've met so many people that don't open their mouths because they're afraid to be embarrassed of being wrong.

They're afraid of losing the faith of others, respect of others, losing assets, whatever by being wrong in a decision or in a sentence or whatever.

Let's make all the mistakes. Let's speak our minds and experiment. I think it's an experiment. I think it's one of the most important things for a person to grow.

I believe you are not only absolutely correct with entrepreneurialism, I would say overcoming self doubt and having some courage may be in fact, one of the most important things to do in life overall.

But while we talk about mindset, I'd love to get your sense. Having looked at so many companies, being part of so many companies invested and so forth, I'd love to get your take. On this idea of something that we hear a lot in the product world and the FinTech world, which is this agile mindset. And, if any good product owner is going to be chasing, keeping up with the customer needs and the market dynamics.

So your customers need different features and functionality, but also. The market is continuously moving. There's so little boundary to innovation. When we talk about technology, we can deploy new features, in a click these days. So a question that I have is I want you to describe a product owner.

That has an agile mindset. We just talked about the learning and the experimentation, which I'm sure is part of it, but I wanna focus a bit on the capacity to be agile, to change and to be adaptive in the world in which we live. Describe to me the strong characteristics that you think a product owner really needs.

I have really encountered product managers who have worn all the hats. And these are as rare as they are powerful. Good product managers are amazing people. And this question that you asked is a bit unfair and I'm going to have a very biased answer because deep in my heart, I'm a product guy.

So I love product people more than, and not disrespect to all the rest of the people in the company. But I think product people are very strategically important. So now coming back to this, normally what I'm seeing is a team of two working in perfect tandem, one looking outside, to the customers and trying to figure out what discovery work to focus on and pay attention to for overall strategy, markets, customers, monetization, business value.

All those things. The other hat is the delivery detailing requirements, work with engineers support them focus in the organization. And if you can get one person to do both that's absolutely amazing. And that is when you know, the poetry is being written. 

A really good team is really amazing.  At the end of the day, to reconcile the two hats, the mindset is mostly curiosity. To deal with ambiguity and test assumptions, right? For fast learning, fail, then iterate a mix of technology designed marketing skills. It has so many things; product excellence which basically requires a deep understanding of user needs, company objectives, intuitive user experience, quality, and a high velocity engineering team.

There are so many things, a lot of negotiation between teams. 

So let me see, this is quite a powerful view on mindset. Let me see if I can deconstruct it. So I understand it correctly. Assuming there's these two modalities, the discovery and then the delivery of what customers need.

And you have to do that in the midst of ambiguity and uncertainty.

Absolutely. In the entrepreneurial world. And I think that's basically the huge difference between a corporate Microsoft, Apple and the works. 

And in a startup, ambiguity is our life. That's what we're living every morning. Whereas, the big corporations cannot necessarily afford to be in an ambiguous life. 

Exactly. Because you know why they're all about mitigating against risk. They're trying to make the trains run on time. De-risk everything consistently and repeatedly because when you achieve scale, the unfortunate thing is one slight variation can cause quite a mess.

However, when you go back to the startup world, because you don't have that scale, you can be flexible and go left and right. And you can change a lot. But what is, the capacity to be robust amongst pivot number 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40 for a lot of people that's exhausting, but actually you have to pivot your way to success.

What do you think?

Absolutely. And look it's a fair thing because next to the risks are the rewards. So basically you are a startup, you take all the risks, but the rewards are, multiplying your company value a hundred times, a thousand times, 10,000 times, right?

You cannot multiply Microsoft's value a thousand times. Whatever you are doing, it's basically marginal. So for a marginal increase, you don't really take that much of a risk. So for marginal increase, you take marginal risk and marginal risk is no super crazy thing, you just need to do and take small steps.

So basically for a big corporation, the big jumps and increases are mainly through acquisitions of correct companies that have already taken risks. And that's where my life is, basically creating and taking all these risks to create.

 

 

 

 

Companies and products and ideas and whatever, the big guys need to make their value better. And then I jump onto taking a new risk for creating value for my shareholders and therefore helping big corporations to make their steps.

Perfect. We're going talk about your latest venture later in the show, but I just want to remind all our listeners, if they're interested and want a follow up on all the different insights that Radu is sharing with us, head to Unbounded Talks at FlowX.ai, and you'll be able to get the show notes and the links to everything.

That we're talking about now, Radu, we described very much the founder's dilemma, which is to discover and deliver in the midst of ambiguity. And we talked a lot about what the customer needs, but there's another critical aspect that happens pretty quickly in an early stage company and in enterprises too.

And that is actually building workflows on the backend for the employees, because invariably. We attempted to make the mistake of, oh, we have a great UX for our customers, but it's a nightmare for the back end for the users and the employees too. What would you say if you've got a great product on the front end?

How do you think about creating the admin, the resources, the employee tools on the backend? Tell us a little bit about those tools and those flows. 

That's a question with a very obvious answer. You need to have them or else, the internal tools. Now there is the obvious question in the founders or CEO’s minds of a young company.

Let me step back a little bit. There are two basic extreme ways to create products and startups. There's the American way and the German way I call them. So the American way is you create a PowerPoint and you go to a customer and say, Hey, Mr. Customer, I already have this thing. Are you gonna buy it? The customer says, now I need it. '' I don't need it yellow. I need it red. So you go, you change the PowerPoint and you go to the next customer, are you gonna buy it?

And so on. And when one customer says, I want to buy it, then you go back and say, oh man, I need to deliver this. Then the other way is the German way. You think you are by yourself in a room and say, oh, the customers are gonna need a car with this and this. You spend two years and 20 million, you create the car, you take it to the market.

And the customer says, I don't need it yellow. I need it red. You say, okay, you'll go spend another 20 million or another two years building the red car. And so on, you see where I'm going with this? 

I do. Yes. 

Basically it’s the same with the internal tools, basically creating the internal tools before having a product that actually sells and gives you critical mass.

Internal tools are basically not required, right? So you are doing what you have to, your first two customers, you have 10 customers, you're doing everything by hand. You don't even know what your product is. Is it yellow or red? And you do everything without any automation, because it's pointless to create automation on ambiguities.

And here is the moment where automated tools and, no code,and these kinds of quick ways to do things really help a lot. Testing to try to see what's happening and focus on the user experience on the outside looking product is the real focus of the company.

Now, once you have a product and in a perfect world, millions of customers are coming, on the first night of launch. Then you have a problem and you need to really focus on the internal tools. So I think it's a cycle, basically you focus on customers first, basically to figure out what the product is.

And then the very moment when you figure that out, you need to take a deep breath and deconstruct the product and the back office procedures and make sure that you have an A team of back office engineers to create all the tools so that everything can be automated.

And that's where the power of a good company eventually is. 

What do you think the risk and damage is when companies don't build the employee view when they don't include employees in their stakeholder, in their definition of a user. I think it's really important to remind our listeners it can get really rough.

Tell me what have you seen happen when startups have forgotten about the backend of the employee user? What actually is the cost that they pay?

So I'll give you an example without naming names. A huge company that I was close to had very important employees. Technical employees unhappy with the results. And saying, look I really want to go because, we are not the best company in this field. 

People are not working well and we don't have procedures and everything. Please help me. So I went to the Corp VP, who was the most senior person. I told him what the problem is with my own opinion and everything the guy said, okay, Radu, give me a couple of days, I'm gonna find the solution.

Two days later he was very happy, he found a solution and the solution was the row in the P&L, where we can hire an extra 50 people, five, zero extra 50 people. So the solution to the problem was a row in a P&L in the budget where he can throw in 50 extra people to make the company better. Now, come on!

That's not going to cut it. And it took us six months to convince the corporation that there are other things that can be done. And the other things are exactly what you were saying. Make sure that the internal teams have all the tools, software procedures, automation, the proper tools to be efficient, not to be secretaries trying to figure out everything and working  manually.

 

It's so much more than a row in a spreadsheet, isn't it? And there are so many advantages you get when you have an elegant user experience on the inside and outside. It's almost, if you put them together, it's like one plus one equals three, isn't it? 

Absolutely. It's economical.

It makes sense from the CEO's perspective, it just makes sense. In six months you will see the dollar benefit of it. But the problem is that you don't see it now. You see it in six months. And CEOs, especially in startups are very focused, I would say because of the VC money that they have.

I'm myself am VC money. So I know what I’m saying , they're pushed for quick revenue, quick growth, hip growth, and all these nice words. They're pushing for results and quick results are not coming from a perfect back office. Perfect back office. And we're going back to the idea of the discussion about American and German companies building a perfect back office.

It’s planning for the future. You need to be sure that you have a future and you know what your future is. 

It's almost the same. Rado I would, I want to jump and say, it's almost the same as getting politicians to think about policy for after their term of office. And they're like maybe it's.

Exactly. Politicians are gonna come and say, ‘Hey can you promise me I'm gonna be elected if I don't deliver this before elections’. And the same with the CEO's saying, I'm gonna do this, but I'm not going to give you revenues for the next one, one year.

Are you okay with that? And you go back and say, I need both revenues and too make sure that we're preparing for the long run. And that's an interesting fight. 

I totally hear you. So let's turn our minds towards another critical topic. Perhaps it's really at the intersection of business and technology.

And this is the idea of, almost two opposing forces, which is this idea of no code solutions. Versus custom code. And at the heart of those two vectors is this idea of control. I would love to know Radu. What are your thoughts on these two areas? 

They're very dear to our hearts because of course, FlowX.ai has this unique capacity to integrate both of them, but let's drill down on what it means, pros and cons wise on no code solutions.

And then let's cast our eyes towards custom code because there's some very strong pluses and minuses on both sides. Isn't there. What are your thoughts?

Absolutely and I think, and again, we may be very biased here. But I do think, honestly, that FlowX took the right approach in between or with both kinds of sides, because you cannot have one or the other.

 

 

It's a matter of having both. If I'm looking at this, I think any commercial or enterprise application is highly suitable for custom code development. 

And for regulated industries, we need to ensure robot security compliance. This is paramount.

The no code solution frees up to move towards faster value, time to faster validate assumptions to solve issues that would not be on the backlog of priorities.

If you look, from the top down for development resources. And these are either you chose quick and dirty or you chose very slow, very solid and very hard to modify custom code. As long as the security compliance and privacy data management of these platforms are vetted by the engineering teams.

It's so easy to start with the non-core business capabilities with no code. But I think that no code cannot get you further than one point. I think that using both of them you need to use custom code for your deep security. Core very well established requirements and you can use no code for quick tests, features that you need to implement but they don't really go into the core of requirements and a combination of them. It's a dream world. 

Yeah the interesting thing, it's that there's a lot of universal, standardized features. You can imagine any product around account management, onboarding, reporting, et cetera.

And those are essential and they occupy a big part of the user experience. They're essential and no code is well suited to that. But as you were saying, it's really interesting, like custom code is where you can create a level of specificity and customization around high value features that work in concert with some of those standardized features.

Now here's the interesting thing. If we are making the argument that you need. You can use no code for some of those standard features custom for the sort of the really customized, powerful proprietary advantage that you might have in your service. Then we have to deal with the control between the two of them.

So let's build this argument a little bit. So we've made the case for no code and custom code, but let's now talk about the central idea that would govern them both. And my thoughts here that I want to get your feedback on is I really think that it comes down to workflows. Being at the heart of control.

It's not only what the workflow is. It's for whom, for when, what are the constraints of that workflow? What different states that workflow enters. So Radu, what I'd love you to do is tell me what's at the heart of creating the balance of when you've got no code and custom code working together. 

So I think that too, to start with acknowledging the two worlds. I think that being able and we're coming back to the product guy. The product guy's really understanding what the requirements are from the outside and from the outside requirements coming from customers.

Requirements coming from regulators, requirements coming from partners and from the inside, technology and operations and so on. A this is and this is a huge map that shows the product guy exactly. It's not a whiteboard. It's huge.

So if we're gonna map requirements and flows for each user, so you've got new users, current users, admins, editors only access only users. Then you've got third party API services, write, read, and write access privileges. You've got security flows, but there's no shortcut here. You've gotta know all of the stakeholders, the flows and requirements for each of them.

And the thing is that on top of everything. We are not 30, 40, 50 years ago. We are today and next year. And we are pushed. We're obligated to build companies that deliver results really quick. We're not allowed to build IBM in 25 years, we have to build the equivalent of but faster.

We have to build a UI path in two years. So basically you need to use shortcuts to deliver all the processes. That is somehow core, but not your business. Like all the login and authentication. It is mandatory. It has to be good, but are you gonna build it from scratch?

No. But as a product guy, understanding all those things and understanding what your business is. And I think coming back to a short answer to your question I think the most important thing is to understand what business you are in and to make sure that the processes that are very specific to the business you are in. Are the processes that you own and you create by yourself. 

How about this? Let me see if I've understood this. I think we're really getting the advantage that both custom code and no code give. I think what you're saying is because of the speed constraint. That we all have been in the enterprise or the startup, no code is essential for giving you those shortcuts and those speed advantages.

And it's like full code is where you get down to the business of creating the highest value for each of your user stakeholders. 

Absolutely. 

Thank you for sharing these insights with our listeners, because these are things that product managers, CEOs, senior executives in large enterprises are all grappling with.

The one thing is to have this beautiful vision. But then the other thing is, how do we do it quickly, but still create a ton of value for the different users? I think our listeners are now ready to hear more about what's next for you. Over two decades of being an entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur, you've been involved with dozens of companies, you have somehow squeezed into the day a new startup that has got your attention and your participation, it's called SeedBlink. Tell us, how are they disrupting the world of FinTech and the world of investment and share with us a little bit about what has got you so excited. 

Thank you for giving me the chance to do this.

Do you have 20 hours? if you get me started, to talk about SeedBlink, it is really exciting. So I'm gonna start by just quickly talking about what it is. It basically focuses on Europe. And on technology companies and provides these European technology companies with access to finance on all levels from startup to growth and maturity. Angel investing and syndication and equity, crowdfunding, growth on VC money.

And maturity on a stock exchange. So basically we are creating this environment where we are creating a new stock exchange. A European you want to call it European NASDAQ, it's modern and from a different perspective, a series A, B, C.

Follow on focused VC and syndication tools for business angels to actually be able to invest in tech startups. That's from the company perspective, from the investor's perspective, we're consolidating on a European level the ability of investors, of different types of investors, to invest in different levels of companies.

And we're training them to get them to invest based on a thesis and to create a portfolio of companies to follow on the VC level and to follow on as an investor onto the stock exchange. So it's a huge endeavor and to consolidate Europe. Europe is a very interesting kind of animal. It's 27 states that are different with different legislations and so on.

So consolidating all these things. It's a very interesting animal. 

Let me now, let me just pause you there to make sure I've understood the scale of seed blink. You're saying that you will participate from seed. Through the IPO effectively creating the NASDAQ of Europe.

When they always say you gotta make sure your business vision is big enough Radu. I think it may be big enough on this one.

I think it is as well, and if you asked me what got me excited and I'm putting 80% of my time into this company daily. So that's a lot. And what gets me excited about these companies are two things. One is that the vision is amazing. I really love this and it gets into EU politics, where's the European position, how Europe creates unicorns. It's so interesting.

It's a long discussion. But secondly is that out of the 37 companies? I was involved in this is the 37th. This company is the highest growing company in the first two years. Now, of course, this is no guarantee for further success, but it's something, in the first two years, this company is the highest growing company I've seen and has a good vision and a great execution team.

We are basically four founders and two ex bank CEOs. One technology CEO and myself. And we are each working about 16 hours a day. And, just imagine how bank CEOs used to assistants, drivers and suits and they're literally programming and working 16 hours a day.

We are all rolling up our sleeves. We're 50 people. We just acquired a company that's consolidating Europe. It’s absolutely amazing. 

Such a huge vision for you personally. You mentioned that it's got unprecedented growth.

What excites you? When you look inside the business that is creating this G growth, let's lift up the hood of the engine. What are you seeing inside of the organization? What is it that they do that creates that sort of growth? Is it people, culture? Is it just crazy good product market fit?

What is it that's creating this like momentum? 

Like in any successful company, it's a lot of a lot of things. It's a combination. It cannot be only one. It's a lot of luck. It's a really amazing team. Good timing for the market. Some luck with just choosing the right features and it's a huge combination of things.

I honestly, I cannot put my finger on one reason why this company is already successful. And I think none of them, Apples and Microsoft and so on could also say, actually, it's a combination, it's always a combination. It’s a good moment in time with the right features and vision and people to be there.

Would I be as daring to say, if we were to look at patents at companies that you and I have both seen that have been successful, that it's like good people who understand the market. Supposed luck is that they've come to market with a product that really fits meaning that when they say, Hey, here's what we do.

People are already like, oh my gosh. They just have to describe it in a few sentences and people are like, yes, I need that. I'm like you. I'm not a hundred percent sure what the formula is, but I believe if I look at some of the components that you've mentioned, I do see it's like founders who really understand  the market and the problem, and then come to that market. And that problem with the solution where everybody feels and sees the need, but they don't know. How to solve it. When companies have a lot of trouble selling, I believe that's a sign that people don't understand the solution.

They're not applying it to the right problem companies that have relative ease in selling. Tends to be a characteristic of the buy side. The customer's yes, I have this problem. Yes. I need this solution. Same thing with consumers. If we go out of B2B and go to BDC, when people just go, yes, that makes sense.

Do you think it could be that this supposed luck and timing comes from really good founders who have actually arranged the right features inside of the product? When customers see it, they go, oh my gosh, that is the solution for my problem. And off we. 

Yes absolutely. And you can feel it, you can feel it.

People get it, like flies coming, they're coming and you can feel it's good. And it's not only customers. The same thing applies to A players. Team members. So A players don't come to losing companies. And they are just completely there as if they feel somehow.

But if the company has issues on bringing on A board players and they're just trying to figure out B players, that's a sign that is not good. But figuring out that, A players are coming on board and customers are coming on board, partners are coming on board, everything aligns.

And then you come into the office and there is this amazing energy and people work and figure out ways to make sure that they deliver the best product to the market. And it actually makes me wake up in the morning and say, look, once again, I'm so lucky to be here. 

Isn't that just the best way to wake up, to know that the work that you are doing brings you some challenges, but a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment along the way.

Is that not what we're all working towards Radu? 

I hope so. I certainly do, and I feel so lucky to be here and so privileged to be in this position, to be able to work my heart off together with a team and together with partners and be here with you and be able to share all these things.

I'm amazingly lucky. And I'm grateful for it. 

Listen, I think we could all do with some of your luck Radu. If we wanna find you out there on the wild wide internet, where is the best place to look up your thoughts? How can people connect with you best? Are you big on Twitter? Are you big on LinkedIn?

What's your platform of choice? 

How about this? We can find you on LinkedIn, correct? Absolutely. Yes. And do you want to just give us the URL for your hot little startup that we were just mentioning - SeedBlink.

Cool name. So SeedBlink.com. If you wanna perhaps see some of the magic from Radu, or maybe you're looking to raise around.

Either way, you're gonna be delighted when you get to SeedBlink. And if you want to get in touch with Radu, you can head to LinkedIn. But most importantly, everything that we have mentioned on this show today will be transcribed. Lots of links, lots of goodies will be found at our wonderful little site, unbounded flow X AI, Radu.

Thank you so much for joining us on the show.

Absolutely, it's a great way to wake up in the morning and to speak to you. And I hope to do this more often. 

Thank you, Radu. We're very grateful for you giving us the time to share all your insights.

It's just been wonderful to hear your perspective as a serial entrepreneur, looking at what it takes. To build these great teams, what it takes to have the courage, to try things out, to experiment, to find the product market fit, to exploit the benefits. No code, custom code and more than anything, creating the momentum with A players to get that lucky break, to have the right product, to solve the right solutions out there in the world.

So Radu, thanks to you and thanks to you, our listeners. We really appreciate your time here on Unbounded talks. And our show is powered by FlowX.ai. If you'd like to get anything more from this show, head to Unbounded.flowx.ai. All right, that's a wrap. 




 

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