Talk to people during the development process

Meet Marius Aabel at the Waterkant #startupSH Fetival in Kiel

Please introduce yourself to our readers!
Marius Aabel: My name is Marius. I am a serial entrepreneur and maker. I started programming when I was 10 (on paper; I had to argue with my parents a long year to get a computer) and soon started programming assembly language. I also loved playing with lego and model trains and connected them to the computer. My big passion is to make products that people actually use. I have been making and selling software and hardware most of my life. When I started my first company, I suddenly had to learn business as well as all the technical stuff and soon found out that business is just as fun as building physical things and software.

Please tell us about No Isolation?
Marius Aabel: No Isolation was started because we learned that children with long term illness are socially isolated at the hospital. The loneliness is often worse than the illness and it is dangerous for the mental and physical health. We tested several ideas on how to help eliminate the social isolation. Our third concept was to place a robot in the classroom. The child would control the robot from the hospital and live streaming would make it possible to participate almost as good as being there.The feedback we got from parents and children in the situation was very good and we felt certain that this was the product we wanted to make. Now we have sold hundreds of robots and are expanding to Europe. Furthermore, we are in the process of developing a product to help socially isolated senior citizens.

Who is your target audience?
Marius Aabel: The target audience for our first product, AV1, are children that have to be away from school for an extended period of time. Our next product will target senior citizens that for different reasons can’t use existing solutions to keep in touch with their family and friends.

What is the USP of your startup?
Marius Aabel: We have chosen one problem, social isolation, and are learning all there is to know about the problem, and making specific products for different niches. By making products that solve one problem and does it very well, it is easier to reach the target marked and easier to sell the product, even if we are a young company.

Can you describe a typical workday of you?
Marius Aabel: My typical workday can be quite chaotic. We have expanded from 3 to 40 people the last 13 months, and there are a lot of issues to tackle. In the morning I try to get up to speed on mail and other correspondence. Then I check in on the different groups to see that things are progressing as planned. After that I have to spend some hours doing «actual work» (I still contribute in the development of our products). In between everything, there are a lot of meetings within the company and with customers and partners.

I also spend quite a lot of time outside the office, talking about our company and products and meeting potential partners. We are in an extremely interesting period where we transition from three founders making all decisions, to having an organization able to make a lot of those decisions and helping us grow in the direction we want the company to go.

You are a speaker of the Startup Festival waterkant. What do you talk about of the event?
Marius Aabel: My talk will explain our journey from sketch on a pad, to a 3D-printed prototype containing a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino, to a product in production, and how we did that in 10 months. I hope our story can inspire at least one in the audience to take his or her idea into a real product that can help people in their daily life. I’m also hosting a workshop where we will go more specific into the process of taking the prototype into a production version that is possible to make in large quantities.

What do you mean: How changed the startup scene in the last yearsThe most mistakes of startup founders?
Marius Aabel: The largest change in the startup scene is that there is an actual startup scene. I have started several companies between 1994 and now, and it used to be a lonely process where it was hard to get help and meet others in the same situation. Now we have hubs and spaces all over the world, and starting a company is a social process where everybody helps each other. I think a common mistake founders do, is to be to protective about their idea and not to speak to people about it.

The feedback you get from talking to people, and the demand you make for your product is invaluable. The valley of death is easy to hit if you take all the expenses for production and the demand takes long time to build.

Which book did you read?
Marius Aabel: I love the «New York Times Best seller» business book genre, (Creativity Inc, Smarter Faster Better, Zero to One, Outliers). I also read science fiction. To be correct: I usually listen to audio books. I don’t have much time to sit down and read. I listen to audiobooks while running and driving.

Where do you see yourself and No Isolation in five years?
Marius Aabel: Five years is a long time. I could never have dreamed of where we are today five years ago. I think the company has grown quite large and that we are helping thousands of people out of loneliness every year. Hopefully our products are available worldwide. I think my job will be the same: try to find ways to eliminate social isolation for new groups of people.

What 3 tips would you give to startup founders?
1: Test your idea on real people. A short description of the solution and a questionnaire is quick to make and can prevent you from making something nobody wants.
2: Talk to people during the development process. You can get support you never dreamed about. A good idea is to have a marketing, sales, and fundraiser person on the team from the start.
3: Run a multi iteration pilot test with prototypes among real users. The users will give you different feedback than everybody else — and that is the most important feedback when making something people will actually use.

More information you will find here

Thank you Marius Aabel for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

Sabine Elsässer

Sabine Elsässer is founder and chief editor of the StartupValleyNews Magazine. She started her career at several international direct sale companys. Since 2007 she works main time as a journalist. While that time she learned more about the Startup Scene, what made her start her own Startup Magazine the StartupValleyNews.

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