Omar Mohout, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Antwerp Management School, in Belgium visited Lithuania last week to launch his most recent book, 'From Idea to Product/Market Fit'. Professor Mohout's new book, although geared to the IT world, is an outstanding inspirational tool as well as a checklist that belongs on the desk of every entrepreneur.
Monika Poškutė of InfoBalt and Professor Mohout Photo © Ludo Segers @ The Lithuania Tribune

From idea to marketing the product or solution and scaling up to a larger customer base, as well as financing the venture, are addressed in this lean looking book. The delightfully designed book, it is a pleasure to read and look at. 'The 'light touch' of the book was designed to provide an entrepreneur with plenty of space to develop ideas whilst reading', says Professor Mohout.

From idea to marketing the product or solution and scaling up to a larger customer base, as well as financing the venture, are addressed in this lean looking book. The delightfully designed book is a pleasure to read and look at. 'The 'light touch' of the book was designed to provide an entrepreneur with plenty of space to develop ideas whilst reading', says Professor Mohout.

Monika Poškutė, export coordinator at InfoBalt the Vilnius based IT promotion organisation praised the book, ''Omar Mohout's book is highly beneficial for Lithuania's young talents aiming to be entrepreneurs. It is a very sleek and perfectly structured start-up and business guidebook every aspiring young businessman or businesswoman should read and implement."

This was Professor Mohout second visit this year to Lithuania's capital. He has an extensive insight in the IT world and in May of this year, he was a guest lecturer at the Login Startup Fair in Vilnius Tech Park, where he presented a well-attended master class about pricing strategies for start-ups to an appreciative audience. We spoke with Professor Mohout during the book launch in VAGA bookstore in the Ozo Shopping Centre.

Professor Mohout praised the Lithuanian ecosystem for IT companies. He observed that Lithuania has plenty of good talent, excellent ideas, a good educational system, and good engineers. However, a good ecosystem also requires access to finance and marketing experts, particularly those that can scale-up a company and the infrastructure that is needed. These elements are less developed than in other more mature markets, particularly compared to Silicon Valley and other locations in North America, even London.

IT companies in most West-European countries often lament about access to venture capital. ''However, these countries are much further ahead in that field compared to accessing financing in the Baltic States'', according to Professor Mohout. In addition, companies operating in Lithuania, and indeed most other European countries, require looking rapidly across their national borders in their quest to expand. That requires marketing talent, a vision, and particularly solid financial backing.

Scaling-up of activities represents often a pitfall. Although it is easy to spot talent in Lithuania and the Baltics, few companies manage the next step afield successfully. Professor Mohout points out that the vision should include plans to a much larger market, right from the start. That requires a broad mindset from the outset, as the entrepreneur needs to identify talent and financing required to achieve success in larger markets, usually beyond a home country's borders.

Professor Mohout says, ''This applies not just to Lithuania, but also to Belgium, in many respects several times the Lithuanian market in size.'' Often the money to finance growth and expand are also usually found in foreign markets. That requires being active in markets outside your home turf. He cites the example of a Belgian company wanting to access the US market and requiring financing. That firm should be active in that large market, as it demonstrates the seriousness of intent and expertise.

As we discuss the scaling up and internationalisation of Lithuanian companies, Professor Mohout mentions Brolis Semiconductors, one of Lithuania's high-tech companies operating in the field of photonics. Just in the previous week, they announced setting up an R&D facility near the University of Ghent in Belgium to tap into the Flemish region of Belgium's knowledge-based eco-system. He sees this move by a Lithuanian company as a milestone, facilitated by the Flanders Invest and Trade office in Vilnius.

Brolis Semiconductors is accessing knowledge and technical expertise, it is also plugging into an ecosystem of market and finance expertise in the area of semiconductors that can be found in Flanders DSP Valley. It is an outstanding example of how a Lithuanian idea expands using a unique pool of expertise abroad, as demonstrates this case in Flanders.

Scaling-up, diversification, and expanding a range of applications are part of any company's long-term survival. Professor Mohout mentions ''GE, going back all the way to Thomas Edison as a bit of an exception in longevity.'' He adds, nevertheless, companies that operate with high digital content, such as Google, also earn very high-profit margins.'' He continues, ''Google (Alphabet), with a turnover of 100 Billion, take as much out of the market than the GDP of most individual EU countries, including Belgium, whilst earning close to 20% of that in profit!''

Quizzing Professor Mohout on the future, he sees companies with high degrees of digitisation, E.g. FaceBook, Uber, and even Google - particularly those operating in the B2C environment - as carrying higher risks for potential substitution in the long-run. ''A new firm with a more powerful solution in the B2C world faces very low or requires no switching costs, whilst easily finding customers.'' He adds, ''Companies like Apple and Amazon with large hardware component (or logistics infrastructure) are more sustainable, whilst still require on-going innovation.''

Professor Mohout smiles and adds quickly, ''Just a disclaimer, this is just my view, not advice on placing money in the market.''

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