“In 2015, the start-up scene in Germany has reached a new level of development.”

– Ernst & Young: Liquidity meets perspective. Venture Capital and Start-ups in Germany 2015.

Germany’s startup scene has increasingly gained momentum over the course of the last decade. Concentrated in local clusters like Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Karlsruhe more and more startups are being founded and funded. Especially adtech, fintech and food startups are popular, with different regional hot spots. Famous startups are for example Zalando, Delivery Hero, SoundCloud, Number26, and Freeletics.

Slowly but steadily governmental programs, big VC money and public awareness are arriving and promoting entrepreneurship. Universities increasingly offer courses on the topic and student initiatives are growing and supporting the movement “from the bottom”.

 

“[In 2015] We have seen a great number of funding rounds of EUR 10m and above with a lot of deals even exceeding EUR 50m and a considerable number of three digit EUR amounts at the upper end.”

– Ernst & Young: Liquidity meets perspective. Venture Capital and Start-ups in Germany 2015.

 

The appearance of crowdfunding platforms like StartNext  and countless startup competitions add to the growing momentum and provide platforms for young companies to get public attention and support. When it comes to student activity Germany’s biggest student entrepreneurship club, PionierGarage from Karlsruhe, just set another milestone by opening their own coworking space named Launchpad.

Together, all these initiatives achieved that entrepreneurship is a career choice that young people are aware of. The traditional German stigma towards failing is still present, but slowly eroding. And with its world class research and industry there undoubtedly exist excellent preconditions for innovation.

Within the country the capital Berlin certainly takes the most prominent role. I will not write anything about Berlin here, everybody should rather go and watch this incredibly hilarious pitch of the city:

To sum up, Germany’s startup scene might not yet be as impressive as the Silicon Valley or Israel, for example. However they are picking up the pace quickly, so there are exciting times ahead!

 

On Thursday, Wesley and I went to a meetup at the “Innovator’s Book Club”. The club meets once a month to discuss a book about any topic remotely connected to innovation and entrepreneurship. This meeting took place in the marvelous old rooms of one of the most famous co-working spaces of Stockholm, namely Knackeriet. It won a price as the best co-working space in Stockholm a couple of years back and has a really unique atmosphere.

grafik-1

The chosen book for this month was: ”Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel. Peter Thiel is famous for being one of the co-founders of PayPal and the first outside investor at Facebook. Today he is one of the most renowned Venture Capitalists in the Silicon Valley.

“This book is about the questions you must ask and answer to succeed in the business of doing new things: what follows is not a manual or a record of knowledge but an exercise in thinking. Because that is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch.”

– Peter Thiel in “Zero to One”

While the book itself was a quite interesting read we especially enjoyed the discussion and reflection about it in the group. It was great to hear different opinions about the topics at hand, like monopoly vs. perfect competition and the future development of artificial intelligence.

Next months book will be Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. It promises to be another eyeopening read! If interested, feel free to check out the upcoming events here.

 

I’m sure that many of you have your websites which you usually browse around on to waste time waiting for a class to start, the train come or just for the day to end. One website that I myself visit rather often because of boredom is based on an idea that other people have ideas, but a lack of financial support. I’m sure that many of you have stumbled upon this before but for you who have not, -The idea is called crowdfunding and the website in particular is www.kickstarter.com

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-13-29-23

A newly created idea which has not yet reached the market and has not been presented to investors can be a delicate resource of the innovator, and makes him/her in a position to decide how the next steps for this business possibility will act out. Will the idea need financial support and do you need strategic help to get started? If the innovator has a smaller idea which most likely is too small to attract investors or if one just do not want any engagement from large companies, banks or powerful people there is a different way to raise money to your idea, – crowdfunding. The number of successfully funded projects, only through Kickstarter has now reached over 100 000 and the total amount of money funded to all these projects is today 2.27 BILLION dollars (https://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats). The numbers are impressive, but if you had a really great idea, would you share it with others and use Kickstarter for financial support?

Lets say that you have invented something that you really believe in and that hopefully will revolutionize a whole market. –Would you use Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding community? Probably not, because an idea good enough will most likely attract venture capitalist firms or business angels, that hopefully will serve you with great advice and a lot of money. One problem here is that the entrepreneur need to know how to contact and approach these investors to inquire about financial support and help. If one completely lack information or ambitions to reach out to investors, then crowdfunding probably can appear as a good idea.

Another reason that I see the crowdfunding solution as suitable could be if it is used as a marketing trick, so one idea can gain attention from the existing web traffic on the website itself (in this case www.kickstarter.com) without the need of creating a popular website or social media account of its own. But this could also be an issue as I feel that many inventions asking for funding could benefit from a more serious approach. Appearing on kickstarter, just a click away from the opportunity to fund “naptuckets: the world first pants designed for napping”or “Erotic colouring books for adults” could exclude more traditional and serious investors

My impression is that crowdfunding is not for everyone, but could be an easy way to gain financial support for a fun or interesting idea at start and there is always an opportunity to move on to more serious discussions with possible investors when you already know that there is a market for your idea. The idea in itself is very interesting and it has really gotten my attention since I visit the website every once in while to look for exciting ideas or outrageous inventions. So if you are a disbeliever of the crowdfunding phenomenon, just give it a chance and at least visit www.kickstarter.com and help an entrepreneur with funding or just get some inspiration from other ambitious persons!

 

Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with kickstarter or the naptuckets…

I attended Nordic JS, an event for the JavaScript community, where new and different inputs are shown and spoken about. The goal is to inspire and get inspired by others, but also with the simple goal to bring the community together, a chance not often given to nisch-communities. It was a two-day event, 8-9 September in Münchenbryggeriet in Stockholm. I attended it on the second day for a while, and many speakers where on the schedule.

Except being a conference-like event with speakers, Nordic JS focus a lot on activities. Even though I did not participate in any of them, I think they are worth mentioning, as I like the concept:

  • Techno Ping Pong – they describe it as a night with smoke machines, lasers UV and ping pong.
  • Dinner with strangers – they will pair you up with five other people that you don’t know at a restaurant of their choice.
  • Festen – the after party for the event, and also a celebration of the capital of Sweden with its wonderful techs and startups.
  • Mini Sumo Robo Clash – the name says it all, a sumo robot workshop.

The topics that the speakers brought up were different. Even though I barely know anything about programming and JavaScript it was quite interesting. Here are a few words that could be said about them:

Vitality Friedman spoke about cutting-edge responsive web design. One of the important things he mentioned was the navigation on a page. It all starts with the navigations, and therefore it should be very clear, and also not in any way disturb the scrolling. Of course he talked about phones too, and added an interesting point; most users only use their thumbs, which all developers should have in mind. The scale of logos and slogans was also something he talked about.

Lin Clark talked about”Performance in React”, React being a form of library in JavaScript. Here, the level was a little bit too high for me to get a good grip of it. But on her summarizing slide, there were four thing: (1) keys, (2) shouldComponentUpdate, (3) immutability and (4) using setState() or connect() at lower levels. Maybe some of you JS-people understand these things better!

Per Stenström was a bonus speaker. Just before lunch he had a couple of minutes, where he criticized an article by Tantek Celik which stated that curlable Java content (had to look it up: Content where you can use the cURL command tool to request the URL) can’t be found on the web with search engines. What he did was actually setting up a website himself and at the speech testing the thesis in the article and tried to find it in different search engines. He didn’’t seem too used to speaking in front a large crowd, but it was something different.

pstenstrm
Per Stenström walking off the stage.

Even though JavaScript is not my biggest interest it was nice to see that there were plenty of others who actually were very passionate about it and enjoyed the event a lot. I think it is a great opportunity for like-minded people to get together. We don’t hear a lot about these nisch events, which was one of the reasons I chose this one – to enlighten you all about them, because they deserve it. These people are creating the things we search through all day.

 

Possibly the greatest JavaScript conference. The speakers, city, party and all the small details in between. [1]

– Jakob Öhman — Attendee 2015

The day after my class (Technology Innovation Entrepreneurship at KTH) visited the Epicenter, I and other two classmates went to the event “Bootstrapping your Startup” hosted there. So, in this post, I am going to tell you about this experience.

bootstrapping your startup (2)

The aim of the event was to provide the audience with experiences and advices of three startuppers who decided to bootstrap their startups rather than ask for financing from VCs or other institutions. We can define the bootstrapping technique with the following sentences: “an individual is said to be boot strapping when he or she attempts to found and build a company from personal finances or from the operating revenues of the new company”. Thus, when speaking about this kind of startups we do not refer to future unicorns, but companies that has to monetize earlier in order to grow.

Peter Russo led the event and acted as a sort of interviewer and presenter; he founded several Startups and now he is involved in the no-profit business, thus he talked also about his own experience sometimes. The interviewed startuppers were three young guys:

  • Fritjof Andersson (Founder and CEO, RelationDesk.com),
  • Therése Gedda (Founder and CEO at 30minMBA)
  • Andreas Andersson (Founder and CEO of DMG Education).

The discussion started with Fritjof, Therése and Andreas talking about their businesses, the first two RelationDesk.com and 30minMBA operate in the B2B business while DMG Education is in the B2C business. Here a brief description of what they do:

  • RelationDesk.com is an online platform to manage customer relationships through the different social media.
  • 30minMBA supports people in developing their business skills when it fits them with leading business concepts based on great books in audio and text on your mobile.
  • DMG Education is an online music school.

In speaking about their first steps they gave some interesting information such as the no salary time, DMG Education was the one with the longest period with no salary that last for one and a half year. When you decide to bootstrap your company, you need to be profitable in a rather short time and thus saving on your salary is quite “mandatory”.

Each of the startuppers focused on something different and repeated it many times during the event. I think it is what they retained their success factor. Fritjof spoke about the importance of finding people, as both resources and customers, to build and develop a network. In particular he spoke about the method used by him of speaking directly with them. Thus, he exhorted the audience to participate more to startup events where it is easier to find the right resources interested in what are you doing. While Andreas continually repeated the importance for its company of Facebook ADS in bringing people to the platform. He did not know anything about it, thus it had to learn. This to say that when you decide to bootstrap it is more needed an enlarged knowledge rather than a specific knowledge of a selected discipline, and to highlight the importance of learning to use new and different tools by yourself. Instead, Therése focused on the role of a common culture in the company and talked about her case to show us an example of how to create it. In particular, she told us that when you cannot reward people through high salaries the climate on the job could fill the gap.

bootstrapping your startup (2)

Later Peter Russo asked about the main tools used by them and if they have any suggestions. Therése replied and cited Dropbox, Buffer, Wilu, and when asked by the audience about cheap accounting tools she suggested Fortknox and Bilogram. Since the audience asked about free tools Therése said that sometimes it could be better to pay some services, because it is fundamental to choose what to outsource and what to do by yourself, even if you are bootstrapping. In particular, it is important to focus on the startup’s core business.

Then they spoke about the choice of having or not an office. While in Fritjof opinion, it is needed to separate personal life and work, Therése simply said that in her point of view the important thing is that the resources can work where they are more productive, also at home if it is the case.

Andreas touched the argument of prioritizing the resources to success and being efficient. Thus, Peter asked them about which is the most crucial resource in their opinion. Fritjof did not need time to think about it and promptly replied the “time”, how to spend your own time without wasting it in doing activities that do not add value or that it is better someone else does. While, again, Therése talked about company’s culture, she also mentioned that a common well defined culture has to be taken into account overall in the recruiting process.

Later Peter Russo moved the discussion to the lean argument: how to be lean, and what they mean with the word lean. Therése cited side thinking and talked about developing together with the clients. Fritjofsaid the same thing enhancing the importance of speaking with the customers before and during product development to better understand how to meet their needs. Thus, he suggested again to use private meetings and, as he said before, to set these meetings during events.

A guy from the audience asked about marketing tools. Andreas said their first growth was mainly coming from Facebook ADS, but that now their best advertising is to add value and use the students as promoter of their services. While Therése used a cheaper way, like simple stickers at events in which their potential customers could be interested about.

Peter Russo later touched the argument about how to convince people to work for you and from the audience someone asked about payment with shares. Fritjof said that the main problem about this way of paying resources are the taxes. Indeed they are not the same in every country, and in Sweden they are too high (70% confronted to 15% in the USA). Secondly, he said you should consider that it will be a long marriage, thus it is important you are sure they are the right people. Then, to reply to Peter question, they all mentioned paying people with “freedom”, “having fun” and other small things that create a nice job climate.

The climate at the event was really informal and relaxed, it was like meeting together speaking and sharing our expertise. I appreciated the fact that the audience was quite active and diversified: there were people of each age, who already started their business and who was interested in doing it with completely different backgrounds. The audience really guided the discussion together with Peter Russo, and this was the aspect that more I enjoyed there.

How to Hack your Weekend

 

You never expect when it is time for you to start hacking. No matter whether you are interested in it or not, or you are a born-to-hack maniac or have zero experience, I am telling you, there is a time where you will see yourself… a Hacker! In this blog, I will share my surprising experience in two events, primarily about innovation, that I have attended in less than a week. The second event, which was a competition (a hackathon), will be the main focus.

Startup Pub – Pre-hackathon event:

Last weekend, my plan was almost like the regular “party, play, then catch up on studies and prepare for the next week”, until I attended the Startup Pub event, which was held up in conjunction with TEDx KTH in KTH’s Open Lab on Thursday. In that event, students and entrepreneurs owning startups get the chance to mingle, share their thoughts, and encourage each other to come up with brilliant ideas, as well as different ways to support innovation. Determined to take an active role in this event, I set-up my goals for the night: getting at least two important connections, and a free cider.

Startup Pub Event Banner by Excitera. Source: Startup Pub Facebook event page

Startup Pub Event Banner by Excitera. Source: Startup Pub Facebook event page

I arrive at the event, fairly on time, so despite the long queue, I got the ticket for the free drink, which means one goal was achieved. Now the bigger part was left, the real goal. The night went more interesting than expected; I was not planning to attend it fully mainly because I wanted to get on my daily swimming dose. However, two factors held me from leaving in the middle of the event:  the proper organization and interestingness, and my active participation. Both made me miss my daily swimming dose, but brought to me something more precious, and there are two reasons for that.

First, in the startup pub I met students, alumni, and professionals, all there for a common cause: innovation. Whether they were professionals with their idea rolling, students still in their journey, or graduates trying to shape their roads, it is always good to learn from and share insights with these brains. A major part of the event was the presentations of startups pitching their ideas and encouraging people to join their teams to make their ideas grow. One startup in particular caught
my attention, and was the second reason why I felt staying at the event was worth it.

The logo of Time Village, one of the presenting startups in Startup Pub. Source: Time Village Facebook page

The logo of Time Village, one of the presenting startups in Startup Pub. Source: Time Village Facebook page

 

The second reason why I was lucky to stay till the end is that I learned of a hackathon from one of the startups that were presenting. The startup, Time Village, has a service through which people share their time to practice something which they enjoy and which others are in need of. By providing a platform to find people offering services, such as cooking tasty Indian food or Italian tiramisu, and others requesting services, Time Village aims to connect these people who help each other and get the chance to socialize. The service was still in early release stages, and they wanted to improve it by creating a mobile application as well as growing the service’s user base. This is why Time Village organized a hackathon and named it Time Hack.

What Time Hacking?


Time Hack aimed to allow us as users to create the mobile app for Time Village, since the belief was that we know what’s best should it be like to appear to other users. This is related to user innovation in the sense that the product is shaped by the users, yet, only the best one becomes the official Time Village app. Through crowdsourcing, Time Village combine a great chance for them to get fresh ideas on how their service should be with the chance for the app creators to eventually intern with them and implement the finished app. However, that was not the only result we get from the hackathon.

 

Time Hack Event Banner. Source: Time Hack Facebook page

Time Hack Event Banner. Source: Time Hack Facebook page

Three days of networking, hacking, and networking

Not only did Time hack provide materialistic incentives, but also more valuable emotional ones. The main goal is to improve our experience as innovators, grow our network of both friends and professionals, and have good food, and all of this starts from the first moments of Day 1.

Day 1

The first day of Time Hack was mainly about forming teams and getting assigned the competition details. Teams were formed, and the goal of the competition that we need to build a mobile app for the Time Village service that is currently a web application. Also, there was a Growth Hacker track in which participants find ideas to make the service reach more people. A lot of breaks and mingling sessions made getting our networks stretched from the first day possible. Nonetheless, our team still managed to find time to brainstorm and plan the work for the upcoming day.

Our competing team during the event.

Our competing team during the event.

 

 

Day 2

Most of the work was done in the second day. With the plans and the ideas almost ready, we were ready to begin implementation. Throughout the day, a lot of mentors were roaming around the teams to guide them and share their experiences. The mentors came from different backgrounds: some were technology professionals that provide guidance for the tech side, while others were business professionals who helped better shape the ideas targeting the growth of the service. Also, some mentors provided feedback and tips on our presentations. Furthermore, the team of Time Village was also available to listen to our ideas, give feedback, and direct us through the thought process. And Guess what? All of these were great connections to have!

Networking in one of the breaks during the second day of Time Hack

Networking in one of the breaks during the second day of Time Hack

Day 3

Finally came the last day where the work was recapped and the presentations were finalized. The pitches were all interesting, without exception. This was fascinating yet not surprising since every participant of the event is a great innovator by heart, or at least has the spirit and mindset of an innovator. Knowing that these are the people I am getting exposed to and be connected with was joyful to me. When the announcement of the winner came and I heard our team was called, I began thankful to the fact that I did not miss this hackathon and made my weekend a regular one. Along with our prizes, Time Village was very happy to work with us, and we were encouraged by other valuable offerings. To name an example, there was a sponsoring startup named LunchBack that offers each of us the chance to connect with a professional over lunch based on our wish, which could be seeds for great opportunities.

Our team given the first prize

Our team given the first prize

Was worth it!

After the weekend, I had to catch up on my studies, but this time without the feel of guilt that I wasted time. This time, I had the feeling of pride and achievement: I have moved a step towards building a well-rounded career, full of connections and great experience. Nevertheless, that is not due to winning the competition, but to the overall experience. The joy of meeting great thinkers, whether participants of the competition or professionals, was the real value. This is because the outcome is always positive: whether it is discovering a great talent to work with on an idea, or learning something new no matter how small it is.

Concluding, I think that there will definitely be more Hackathons and competitions to explore, not to repeat the victory but to have the overall experience of networking and improving connections. I missed my swimming session, and it was worth it! What would you miss if you attend a hackathon?

I would like to hear from you about your experience in a hackathon or any similar competition (what were your expectations, what did you learn, etc.). Also, do you think Time Village is innovative? Will it pick up? I would be happy to hear your thoughts.

 

 

-Sharbel

Today I had my third meeting with one of my feedback start-ups 🙂 I an their first beta tester and help them with feedback on their user interface and design. The idea is to help people save more by accepting challenges in the app and continuous feedback and coaching. So if you want help to save up to your trip around the world, a new bike or maybe to an apartment. This app will definitely help you reach that goal faster!

Screenshot 2015-10-16 at 09.12.52

The finished version is not launched yet but when it is, it is going to be great! So keep an eye on app-store and check out their page!

Dreams

Good luck on the exam today

/Erica

Pushbullet

Pushbullet is a cross-platform application that aims to connect multiple devices to create a shared user experience: with it you can share your phone’s notifications to your computers, share files/links/notes between devices, and answer messages on your phone from your computer.

Developed by a six-person startup, it’s been described as a life-changing application. It recently received $1.5 million in seed funding, and it’s expanding rapidly: at the moment is available both on desktop (as a browser extension or application) and mobile.

I tried using it with an Android smartphone and a Macbook: in this case it’s especially useful, because otherwise the communication between the two devices would be quite limited.

Read More →

Yesterday at SUP46 (Startup People of Sweden) I attended an #ExpertNight focused on funding for startups, a topic closely related to what we did and discussed about in class.

The event tried to answer some of the most common questions startups face: “When should you raise money? How much do you need? Who should you take funding from? Is it better to grow organically?”

Among the guests for the panel discussion were Tim Yi He (Northzone), Joakim Dal (GP Bullhound), Johan Crona (ALMI Invest), Henrik von Stockenstrom (FundedByMe), Anette Nordvall (Stoaf.se).

After a brief introduction, the panelists talked about how they scout for startups to invest in: some go to events and get to know people, some do generic market research to see if there’s anything interested that has been funded recently, others just filter the applications they receive.

The most important question is another, though: what is the selling point that captures the interest of investors when talking with startups?

Read More →

Simplenote_hashslush

Automattic was recently listed by the Wall Street Journals as one of the world’s 73 most-valuable startups. Funded in 2005 by Matt Mullenweg, it is mostly known for being the driving force behind WordPress.

WordPress is not their only product, though. Among them, there is Simplenote, a note taking app that values simplicity. I have been using it for a some time now, and I think it’s worth trying.

The app is free to use and it’s available on multiple platforms: iOS, Android, Mac, Kindle. It’s also possible to use it from the web.

It comes with a lot of good features: instant synchronisation across different devices; tagging; revision history (to go back in time and never loose changes).

Read More →