Martin Klčo talks about his mentoring experience at UP21

For many years Martin Klčo worked as a director of Leo Burnett communications agency. He meticulously gathered work experience and know-how in marketing and brand building to later use this knowledge as a consultant and mentor. In February 2017, he joined the UP21 Idea Board and since January 2019, he has been mentoring NutritionPro startup. We asked him about his mentoring experience.

In January 2019, you became a copilot at NutritionPro. Why did you choose this newly incubated startup?

Since 2017 I have seen several hundred startups pitch their idea and I have rarely seen a project where I would like everything about it. When I saw NutritionPro for the first time, I thought that it was too good to be true. This startup has a great vision and a business model that brings value to the company, business partners and customers and it can also have a big impact on people’s lives.

On top of that the co-founders are very skilled and enthusiastic. Nurlan Abdrassilov is great in technology and project management, whereas Elisey Sviridov is well-versed in operations and has a practical experience in gastronomy.

Martin Klčo, UP21 kopilot and Marketing communications expert

How do your mentoring sessions look like?

In the beginning, we used to meet once a week because I wanted to be close to the co-founders in the most fragile phase of the project. These days we meet every two weeks for one hour. Even though my main specialization is marketing communication, one of the first things we did was figuring out the target groups.

We discussed whether the company should focus on one small group of customers with a high potential or on more groups and test it. I recommended them the second option. We also talked about whether it is good to go to market with a well-developed product or with a bit clumsy MVP (we explained what MVP is in the interview with Petr Šídlo). Eventually, we came to the conclusion that they will go to market as soon as possible to test the product and do iterations.

UP21 kopilot  Martin Klčo & Co-founders of NutritionPro Nurlan Abdrassilov and Elisey Sviridov

How much time do you invest in mentoring?

When I tested the product, gave feedback, did research about other similar projects and helped with networking, I spent considerable amount of time with the guys. Nowadays one to two hours per week are sufficient. The co-founders know a lot about business in general and can identify various problems by themselves. Together we usually talk about different ways how to tackle them. But when we will get to the phase of intense communication and brand building, I think I will dedicate more time to mentoring again.

Whereas most professionals specialize in one area, startups need advice in many fields. Do you think it is good that startups only have one mentor?

In the very beginning, it is good for every startup to have someone experienced in business to help founders with all kinds of troubles and to save them time and energy. However, when the startup grows it is good to have an advisory board with more mentors. There is also the possibility for each co-founder to have their own mentor.

“We’ve created a more universal product that is aimed at many target groups, and thanks to our mentor Martin Klčo, we have already started doing sales. At present, we have first satisfied customers from whom we collect feedback and based on it we improve our product.”

Nurlan Abdrassilov and Elisey Sviridov, co-founders of Nutrition Pro

Do you have any business experience yourself?

Yes, I do. When I studied at the University of Economics, Prague, I used to do business in real estate. When I see how the market has evolved over years, I sometimes ask myself if I did not make a mistake by quitting (laughing). The truth is that I did not like it because real estate projects are all very similar, at least for me. During my career I was a co-founder of two projects through which I learned a lot. One of the projects was successful for 1,5 years until we found out that the Czech market is too small for it and the other co-founder moved to Russia where he continued the business.

The second project ran for 2,5 years, it earned good money but it eventually failed because we invested too much money into building a product that customers were not that thrilled about. When we finally found what the product should be, it was already too late and and we ran out of money. That is why I always tell people to test their product fast on potential customers and not on their friends.

Martin Klčo, UP21 kopilot and Marketing communications expert

Did you try to mentor other projects besides UP21?

Yes, at Leo Burnett I managed several marketing projects which I tried to push in the business aspect as well. We also created an innovation lab that helped several startups, which focused on as different areas as augmented reality in marketing and developing a luxury product. I was mentoring the founders in these projects.

How do you measure your impact?

I measure it by the amount of positive feedback and of people who come back to me for help.

Why did you become a mentor?

What I like about working at the UP21 Idea Board where startups come to pitch their ideas is that you see new trends. Nevertheless, it is fast work and you cannot go deep into all the areas of the business - that is what the UP21 Main Board does. Being a co-pilot is different because you can dive into detailed business areas like finance, cashflow, team, product development and so on. It is more practical and gives me valuable know-how.

Do you have any mentor?

Currently I do not. In the beginning of my career I had a mentor who did not even know about it. It was my boss, Josef Havelka, who founded Leo Burnett in the Czech Republic. I was interested to know what he speaks about, what he writes about, what he comments on and how he deals with clients. I still follow him. He has great charisma, but was also very demanding.

Martin Klčo is a marketing expert with a specialization in marketing communications and brand building. For many years he managed Leo Burnett communications agency in Prague. Now he works as an internal business consultant, marketing effectiveness specialist and mentor in several startups.

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