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What it takes to build successful products — in an interview with Valentin Filip

Reaching your business goals requires a strategic approach and an open mind. Besides innovative ideas, entrepreneurs, and especially founders, need to make the best out of all the resources they can find. They can even become SMART founders when seizing all the opportunities. Find out more in a dedicated interview with Valentin Filip, Managing Partners at Fortech Investments:

Let’s dive right in — what do you think is the #1 skill to build successful products nowadays?

I consider empathy to be a critical skill to build successful startups. It may not be as glamorous as leadership, sales, etc., but I believe it’s the base of all the rest. Deploying empathy to understand the client’s perspective, to understand what motivates every team member individually is, at the end of the day, the #1 skill required. With empathy, a startup owner will understand what and how to propose to the future client such that they will see it as valuable. Even a startup member will be able to understand the perspective of the CEO and help make his/her efforts that bit more effective. 

Fortech Investments is with an eye on the next breakthrough. What do you think will be the next emerging market and how are you preparing for it?

We are seeing a multitude of domains with potential, fueled either by their time to digitalize or by external factors and context. Although we have a broader interest, we focus on manufacturing and healthcare as the main domains to invest in and explore for product development. Considering the lack of workforce, increase in materials cost, increased demand, and challenging supply, we see manufacturing as one of the most poised domains to require and generate a technological breakthrough.

As a VP of Product, how do you tackle building solutions within the company, and what are your biggest challenges?

We’ve created specialized teams to identify market needs, validate them and build initial MVPs. With this process and team architecture in place, we aim to increase the chances of success for the products we decide to bring to the market. Also, it gives us the possibility to gather more data before starting to build the product, making sure we have the right direction in mind. 

While our big team and software development experience in the manufacturing and healthcare domains are an advantage, they don’t replace actual domain expertise and network. Therefore, we aim to partner with domain experts and innovators. In doing so, we address the challenge of understanding the ramifications and context of the identified need and also create a bridge to future product customers and users.

Growth has no shortcuts, but it has a few best practices. What would be the go-to’s for founders when striving to build sustainable businesses?

Well, related to the first answer, I think that the best practice that I’ve seen most successful founders adhere to is “getting out of their heads” and not letting their biases keep them in place. What this means is that they are aware that they don’t know much so they treat everything as hypotheses that need to be tested. They run tests, analyze, understand the people they create for, and improve. And again. And again.

It also means that they take their products or prototypes in front of customers as early as possible. They are proactive and they don’t waste time on things they can’t control. 

We’ve noticed a popular term at Fortech Investments — SMART founders. Can you tell us more about what this stands for?

Sure. The term SMART Founders builds on the more popular expression SMART Money – the resources that founders can get from strategic investors, outside of capital – support, expertise, and, in our case, software development and access to our client network. 

When choosing smart money, founders must really understand and prioritize their long-term and short-term business goals and needs. Sometimes capital can be enough but sometimes they need more than that. The smart founder is the founder that understands where his business is at, where it needs to be, and how he can get there as fast and efficiently as possible (in a sustainable way too). 

An example from our portfolio is a start-up with a product that needed to get to market as soon as possible because the timing was perfect. Their product was needed, and it was needed right there and then. They chose us as investors, and they opted for our tech-for-equity option which allowed them to go to market 6-9 months faster than they would’ve if they built the team and developed the product by themselves. 

 

Meet Valentin Filip at How to Web Conference 2022! He will be present at Spotlight, giving quality pieces of advice to founders and their innovation purposes.

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