Impact Talks is a podcast with influential speakers from all over the world. We are dedicated to encouraging growth and innovation within startups and scale-ups. 

For episode 2, we had the pleasure of having Emilio Risques as our guest. As the Innovation Vice President for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at Asics, he gave us a lot of new insights about how you can turn your idea into a profitable business. We also spoke about how Asics helps startups with their accelerator program. 


Who is the man behind ASICS’ Innovation?


During our talk, Emilio shared some of his experiences while working at a family business, Life Fitness and Asics.

After finishing school and working for a corporation Emilio joined the family business. This was all well before the term “startup” was even a thing. His father started the business in recycling plastic bottles. They started selling flooring made from recycled plastic as well. After working at the family business for some years it was time for a new challenge.

Accepting his new role with Life Fitness inn Spain, Emilio and his team grew from 0 to 20 people in 3 years. After 4 exciting years at Life Fitness, Asics approached Emilio to take charge of brand expansion in Spain. Later on, Emilio also started managing brand expansion in Portugal and France. After several years, Emilio became the Innovation Vice President for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. In this post, we want to share some of the tips and insights Emilio gave us on startups and scale-ups. 

Bringing your startup to life

From the struggles of running a family business to creating a team of 20 people at Life Fitness, Emilio shared the things he learned from working at and with startups during his career. Here are some of the tips from Emilio on how to turn your idea into a startup. 

  1.     Don’t assume

This might seem like a no brainer, but this tip goes a long way. When you start working on your idea you should make sure that you validate every decision you make. If you don’t do this, you are at risk of investing time and effort into something that customers might not want. A great book to read about validating business ideas is:  The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. This book will help you to understand what your customers really want!

  1.     Lots of ideas are invented well before they ever become big

In our fast-changing world with technological advancements, there are more opportunities than ever. Look at how many businesses started with the rise of the internet. Those business ideas might have been around for a long time but were made possible by the rise of the internet.

Today we face the coronavirus. This global pandemic has us all working from home. As a result, digital communication businesses have skyrocketed (look at Zoom).
Changes in time mean changes in opportunity! A great example is that of Tesla. In 1832 Robert Anderson developed the first electric car. It took another 180 years before Tesla released the first game-changing electric vehicle. 

When you’re brainstorming your idea, ask yourself these two questions;

Do consumers want this product?    

Is the technology ready for it?


  1.     Your strategy should match the size of your business

Every business needs a strategy, that includes your startup. When you design your strategy, you can look at other successful businesses. Try to learn from their strategy and implement their best practices into your own. When doing this you have to consider how the strategy will affect your startup. As your startup grows, you can experiment with and implement new strategies. 

  1.     Cleary allocate roles 

Once your startup is ready for growth, you are going to need help. You might need someone to help you with sales or finance. Since the startup is still small, you might all end up wearing many hats within the company. This is likely to result in conflict and can slow down decision making as well. To avoid conflict Emilio suggests that you clearly allocate roles. This is not to say that your CFO can only think about the financial aspect. Your CFO can give input, challenge product development whilst making team decisions. However, once you agree on something, that decision should not be challenged afterward. 

“There is a time to challenge, a time to agree and a time to execute”


Growing your startup

After working on your startup for some time, it has grown bigger. The time has come for your startup to transition to the next phase. In this scale-up phase, you will face many new challenges. Here are Emilio’s tips to go through this transition with success. 

  1.     Hiring

At some point you will have to start hiring new people. Never underestimate the importance of selecting the right people during this phase. Many startups fail because they grow very fast and don’t hire the right people. You have to keep in mind that every person you hire will have an effect on the culture of your startup. When you grow fast and hire people that don’t match with your culture it can have a negative effect on your business. When hiring new people you should be matching applicants with:

  • Culture fit between the applicant and company
  • Skills
  • Personality 

To know if a person is a match with the culture of your startup you will need to have a clear picture of your culture. You can use a test like Companyculturetest to analyze your company culture. 

  1.     Creating teams


Once your startup grows you will have to start creating teams. This goes back to the tip of role allocation. It is important that everybody knows what their role is to avoid conflicts. You should try putting different types of people together in one team. This way you can create diversity within the team. By doing that you will create a team where people will challenge each other (in a good way). You can use the True Colors test by Don Lowry to help put together a team of different personalities. 

  1.     Evolving into a leader

In the beginning, you will likely be involved in all aspects of your startup. From sales and marketing to product development. As your startup grows you should grow as well. Your focus has to shift from small details to the bigger picture. You have to become a leader! This transition to becoming a leader can be difficult. With some startups, you see that the founder will take a step back and an experienced CEO will take over. 

A closer look into Asics’ collaboration with startups

Emilio also shared with us how Asics is working together with startups in a unique way. Asics is not just investing money into startups that they find promising. Asics is truly working together with the startups in their program. This means that startups that are in the program have access to many of the resources that Asics have. To successfully work together with startups Asics has to make 2 things happen: 

  1.     The startup has to slow down
  2.     The corporation has to speed up

By meeting in the middle Asics can successfully work together and ensure the best result for both parties. 

The program also allows Asics to see if divisions from the corporation can function as startups. By putting their own teams through the program they can test new business models and products. 


Let’s grow!

Hopefully, the tips and insights that Emilio has shared with us will help you in your startup journey! For more tips and tricks about starting your own business you can read our other blogs on this topic:


A Guide for Starting an Impact Business: Your Startup, Your Baby

Life as an Entrepreneur: 10 things to avoid

Startup Roles




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An essential part of your journey will also be deciding on your brand name. One of the most common challenges many startups face in the beginning is how to create a BRAND NAME that stands out.

We live in such a competitive world. So you might think that all the good names have been taken. But don’t worry. If you’re still trying to figure the name out, let’s think of some ways we can come up with one!

Here are some ideas you can use to brainstorm:

Use Your Own Name

Customers like to know that there is a real person behind a business. It immediately offers personal credibility. 

It’s a common practice among businesses in the fashion industry. I’ve also noticed that many firms use their own names as well.

Here are some reasons why it’s a good idea to use your own name:

  • Leverages on your reputation
  • Establishes trust and credibility
  • Your own name is unique and different from others
  • Demonstrates passion and commitment

If you think your name sounds nice, go ahead and try it. You could use your family name on its own, your full name, or even a nickname. 

And if you have partners in the business, you can combine the names of the owners. Just make sure that the name isn’t too long. Keep it simple at 1 or 2 words. 

Some notable examples: Versace (fashion), Kate Spade (fashion), Deloitte (accounting firm). 

Form Acronyms

Short, simple, and easy to remember. But the question is should you abbreviate your brand name or not. 

There are so many famous brands around us that have taken this path. It’s easy to pronounce and it’s usually only 2-3 letters. You form the acronym by taking the first letter of each word.   

Some notable examples: H&M (Hennes & Mauritz), IBM (International Business Machines), CNN (Cable News Network)

Although it sounds like an uncomplicated way to come up with a name, you should stay away from forming a long abbreviation. For example, TIAA-CREF (stands for Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund). 

It is way too long. Try to say it out loud. Does it sound nice? It honestly doesn’t even sound like you’re speaking English. 

Other things to note are some pitfalls of using an acronym as your brand name:

  • Not unique
  • SEO challenges
  • Doesn’t explain what you do


Self-explanatory Names

The best thing about this type of name is that once someone reads it, they instantly know what the business is about. 

These names have been around for ages. They are effective in terms of brand positioning. Customers don’t have to think twice to identify the products and/or services. 

To form this type of name for your brand, think about the main products and/or services of the company. What are the interesting highlights?

And don’t forget the rule of thumb is to always avoid long names. 

Self-explanatory names are great because of what is being communicated. However, there are also some disadvantages to take note of:

  • Lacks creativity
  • Poses limitations

Depending on the industry you’re in, such a name could sound quite boring and generic. Besides, there may be limitations on what your company is all about. 

For example, let’s take a look at Burger King. It has the word burger in its name so anyone who reads it knows what it serves. The focus is on burgers and therefore, their brand identity and product offerings might only be limited to this item. 

Whenever someone says Burger King, burgers automatically pop up in one’s head. In the future, if they would like to branch out to other areas, they may face challenges and difficulties. It won’t be easy to change the perception that has been strongly tied to their name.  

  Some notable self-explanatory names:, Paypal, General Motors. 

Take a Word from the Dictionary

Browse through the dictionary and choose a word that is relevant to your business. It is quite similar to self-explanatory names, but it comes with a twist. 

When customers read the brand name, they will understand the meaning of the word, but it doesn’t give the answer away. Often companies choose this direction to illustrate an interesting connection or to be symbolic. 

According to Wikipedia, Tinder is a geosocial networking and online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other profiles based on their photos, a small bio, and common interests. Once two users have “matched,” they can exchange messages. 

But what does the word
‘Tinder’ actually mean? 

Well the Merriam-Webster dictionary states that ‘Tinder’ can be defined as ‘a very flammable substance adaptable for use as kindling’.

Originally, Tinder was named Matchbox, but the founders decided to go down a different lane. The reason being that this dating app starts the sparks. The app is used to metaphorically start a fire when it comes to romantic relationships. 

Some notable brand names taken from the dictionary: Polo, Slack, Telegram

Combine Words

Spice it up by using more than one word. Create some sort of pun.

The dictionary can come in handy once again. This time you can take 2 words. Join both words together and make sure to remove the space between them. 

There will be a stronger emphasis on the first word. And another thing I often notice is that some brands capitalize the second word as well such as YouTube. But it doesn’t mean that you have to.

Another thing you can also try is to take parts of words and join them together. For example, Microsoft (microcomputer + software). 

Some notable combination names: Facebook, WordPress, Airbnb

Invent Your Own Name

Want to be original and create something unheard of? Just make sure that it’s catchy.

It might prove to be very challenging to find the perfect name so why not just invent one. Perhaps the most unique of all names, these fabrications often sound very distinctive. 

It’s highly advantageous that these names stand out. Trademarking will not be an issue. However, let’s also take note of the downfalls. One of the challenges is that there is no definition assigned to the word. The marketing department might have to spend a lot of bucks and time to develop meaning around the brand name. 

In many cases, the brand becomes a hit and the dictionary inducts the invented word into its vocabulary. For example, you will see that Skype is now a word in the dictionary. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, Skype is a brand name for an application for communicating with other people over the internet using voice or video calls.  

Examples: Skype, Xerox, Kodak

Use an Animal


Don’t want to be so straightforward with the name? Use an animal to symbolize certain qualities of the brand. 

Animal symbolism has long existed. Idioms have often been associated with animals to describe similarities. I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘strong as an ox’, ‘tall as a giraffe’, and ‘quick as a fox’. 

To this day, the Native American people believe that every individual has their very own spirit animal. 

The same can be applied to brand names. Attributing animal-like characteristics to your products is also another way to go. A common practice for car companies is the use of animals such as horses and fast cats. These animals illustrate speed.

It is a very simple approach that can be seen in the world’s top brands. Often accompanying the name would be the animal used in the design of the logo.   

Examples: Jaguar, Dove, Puma

Take a Word from Another Language

Foreign always sounds exotic. It’s not something you typically hear.

The strategy of using a foreign word is to create a foreign perception in the minds of its customers. Just imagine when a person hears the name, there won’t be any meaning attached to it.

Let’s zoom in on Hulu. An American subscription video-on-demand service, the name derives from the Mandarin language. 

According to the Hulu blog: “In Mandarin, Hulu has two interesting meanings, each highly relevant to our mission. The primary meaning interested us because it is used in an ancient Chinese proverb that describes the Hulu as the holder of precious things. It literally translates to “gourd,” and in ancient times, the Hulu was hollowed out and used to hold precious things. The secondary meaning is interactive recording. We saw both definitions as appropriate bookends and highly relevant to the mission of Hulu.”

After going through a long list of names, the team finally settled on Hulu. It was short, fun, easy to pronounce, and didn’t have a meaning in the English language. 

Examples: Häagen-Dazs, Hulu, Alibaba

It’s always a good idea to have a few names to choose from. Here are some key factors that should be taken into consideration before you finally settle on that one name:

  • Easy to say and pronounce
  • Easy to remember
  • Domain availability
  • Trademark availability
  • Stands out from the competition
  • No negative connotations (including when translated into the language of a foreign market) 
  • No limitations (allows you to add new services and/or products in the future)

Once you’ve chosen your name, make sure that it can be trademarked or copyrighted. And always remember to keep it simple!


Congratulations on reaching the end! Did you enjoy reading about the different ways of generating a brand name?

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