Gonzalo Sanchez, creator Seedtable, Swisspreneur Podcast
Timestamps:

1:25 – Dropping out of university
12:29 – The early days of Seedtable
19:38 – Adding a pay wall
26:25 – The future of the European ecosystem
36:37 – An outsider’s perspective on the Swiss ecosystem

About Gonzalo Sanchez

Gonzalo Sanchez is currently Head of Growth for On Deck, an educational community for those willing to learn about technology and innovation through creativity and self-improvement. Gonzalo is a natural learner: his writing skills and curiosity for new ideas led him to found Seedtable, a weekly newsletter on European tech reaching more than 60,000 monthly visitors.

Resources:

Learning growth without a degree    

“If you want to become a doctor or a lawyer, then absolutely, go to college. But if you want to start a company, then you can probably do a lot more with four years and all that money if you just go and start a company. I’d say you definitely don’t need to go to college to start a company.”

Swiss readers will be familiar with the traditional approach to success: a college degree is seen as a foolproof path to become a thriving business founder. But are we really dependent on formal education? After dropping off in his second year of Architecture, Gonzalo understood digital marketing and company growth were his future commitments. The young founder has never looked back, and he has some insight to share for those rethinking their degrees:

  • General frameworks and strategies being taught still work pretty well. However, the university curricula can’t really keep up with the fast pace of market demands and target audiences.
  • Read, read, and read some more. Follow experienced leaders and feed that insatiable curiosity with articles, blogs, seminars, courses… The Web is yours to conquer!
  • Learning by doing is the best way to learn. In growth, trying out all your options is key, so facing that steep learning curve is a guaranteed way to build resilience!

What makes Seedtable an excellent resource

In its early days, Seedtable numbered a couple dozen readers from Gonzalo’s close connections. However, a commentary on Spotify’s acquisition of Gimlet published in early 2019 went viral on Twitter: as the subscription number skyrocketed, Gonzalo realised he had created something truly appealing and beneficial to others:

  • Seedtable came to fill an existing gap, since there weren’t many tech newsletters with a focus on European growth.
  • Gonzalo sees himself as an outsider to European technology solutions, since he is no CEO nor VC. What keeps his content relevant is what his readers find useful: as he says, “it’s the market that decides if it cares about what I write or not.”
  • Having no one to answer to brings spontaneity. He can write about whatever he finds important with no institutional filters. For the same reason, he is highly selective with his team and sponsors.
  • Seedtable writes strategically on company case-studies like Klarna and Gymshark by analysing their market choices through the lenses of growth expertise.

How paywalls can benefit your content delivery

Choosing to go the paywall route is often a risky move from which some creators backtrack. Being afraid of hindering your sharing statistics is totally valid, so Gonzalo mentions some important things to keep in mind with paid content:

  • Content is expensive to create. Paid content helps you manage fund loss in maintaining software and paying collaborators fairly. You also have that extra safety net and independence in case any big sponsor walks away.
  • Paywalls are an incentive for creators to stay in their best possible shape and deliver the most thought-provoking content they can, since that income can directly improve research possibilities.
  • Hiding your most popular content behind the paywall is a total shot in the foot. Keep it balanced!
  • Make sure you are creating good conditions for multi-platform sharing: your subscribers should still be able to share stuff with their friends!
  • Don’t ignore the power of social media presence.

Europe: the next big player

The COVID-19 outbreak brought unprecedented change: there is no global event with the power to transform international market dynamics like a pandemic. In these winds of change, what’s exactly Europe’s position in company growth next to powerful players like the US?

  • Despite the toll the pandemic has taken on the economy, Europe has been fighting bravely and handling conflict well. The numbers in capital and fund raising remain high, and some of the fastest-growing businesses with the best solutions are European!
  • 40 years ago, Silicon Valley was a no-brainer destination for company founding. However, Europe is now closing the gap and becoming a new default place for ambitious folks as the US shifts towards a more inward approach.

However, according to Gonzalo, some European methods could use some revising. Here are some key-changes to consider:

  • Allow IPO capital to benefit talent directly, instead of spending it all on debt relief and executive bonus.
  • Eurowide stock option schemes are hard to implement due to the European cultural and legal fragmentation, but a unified solution would encourage community efforts and conscious cultural approaches. Thankfully, the European Commission is already working on it!
  • Reassessing the role of private equity as a parallel option for liquidity.
  • Giving founders incentives to grow global, while supporting big companies’ investments in international IPOs.
  • Keeping a mindful attitude: a global market should always respect and value that diversity that makes European companies so enriching!

Views on the Swiss startup ecosystem

“It’s a sort of underdog story.”

For Gonzalo, Switzerland is a great representation of that forward-thinking European spirit that should not be overlooked. Its unique blend of young companies with established industries allows quick access to capital and cultivates company culture where founders are not afraid of taking lessons from different industries. However, Switzerland as a founding hub still has some place for growth, and Gonzalo shares some unexpected focus points for the future:

  • Zurich’s cost of living is not exactly the most affordable, but this doesn’t hinder its success as a growing environment — this shows we shouldn’t evaluate the fit of a place by its living costs. It’s expected of Paris and London to be expensive: then, why should global companies dismiss costly regions as unsuitable for company growth?
  • Investing in more effective PR policies is a valuable lesson Swiss companies can get from hyped players like Estonia.
  • Creating a government-supported institution dedicated exclusively to company assistance in the early stages could really shift the priorities from mere survival to sustainable growth.
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