“Success in the twenty-first century depends on street smarts, not book smarts.”

– Dale J. Stephens, founder of Uncollege.org

If I had to name one big take away from this course ME2603 – it would be “Educate yourself!”. Right from the start Serdar told us that instead of asking too many questions via emails and LinkedIn we should rather put our “google skills” to use. The fact that the lecture slides were not available on Bilda, but sometimes could be found on Slideshare is a good example for that. The comprehensive but in some cases contradictory and outdated course overview information added to the need of organizing and managing ourselves instead of simply following instructions given by the teacher.

But there was also way more to it. As a substitute to a standard exam we had to engage in a lot of “outside of class” activity. This included amongst others finding and attending startup events, being active on LinkedIn and writing blog post on this very website. It was this activity which by far has taught me the most in the last two months.

“How do I even write a blog?”

– every classmate after the first lecture

By attending startup events, I became better at the art of small talking and learned how to pitch an idea to a complete stranger, as well as giving qualified feedback to others. One event which I went to was a super interesting book club meeting, a fact which lead to even more self education – before being able to attend I had to read the book “0 to 1” by the famous Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel which contained several valuable learnings for me. Thanks to a friend’s tip I soon picked up another book with the title “The education of millionaires” by Michael Ellsberg. This book stresses the importance of educating yourself outside and beyond university and definitely got me thinking. Thanks to my experience from the Entrepreneurship course I could relate to a lot of claims the author made and in return began to understand better why our teacher kept pushing us out of our comfort zone.

The same holds for the exercise of writing blog post. In order to deliver an appealing text, I first had to teach myself how to write a blog post and upload it on a wordpress page. And you never know – this could very likely be a super useful skill in the future.

As a disclaimer: I personally had profound knowledge in entrepreneurship before I started the course. Otherwise I most probably would have been able to learn even more in class. Nevertheless I am happy with my choice of taking this course and I’m absolutely certain that it will benefit my future life and career.

“Self-education is the key to upgrading your mind and your life.”

– Matt Mullenweg, Creator of WordPress.org


Earlier this week I went to the Stockholm Lounge Hack, an event series which has been going on for years. They are a group of entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs meeting weekly in order to “hack”. According to the oganizers quite some startups have spent their initial time there. In the past years employees and founders from well know (former) startups like Spotify, Google, Facebook and Dropbox have attended the meetings.


“The idea is to spend time every week on your own project or idea to make it real and at the same time meet new friends that either have the connections or the knowledge you need – also to be helpful and share your own knowledge.”

So I went there with the intention to work on our venture idea for the entrepreneurship course. At first I totally got caught up in discussions with other founders though! So many interesting ideas and people!


But then everybody got really productive and also I made quite some good progress with the idea/project. (We will certainly cover that in more detail in another blog post.) What I found really helpful was the feedback from some more experienced people which really pushed me to work on a clear value proposition. Therefore I can now relate to Kevin’s blog post from last week. Just putting yourself in a room with the right people can do so much for you. So I can highly recommend checking out his event series – I will come back myself.


“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.


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.


„If you throw a stone in Tel Aviv, you will very likely hit an entrepreneur.“

Nowhere in the world can you find more tech startups per capita than in Israel. Like in the famous Silicon Valley entrepreneurship is ubiquitous. It is not without reason that some people speak of Israel as the “Silicon Wadi”. Over the last decades, the unique geographical, political and religious conditions have formed a prospering entrepreneurial ecosystem in what used to be a hostile Middle Eastern desert.

The military plays a crucial role. One of the main factors behind this phenomenon is the Israeli military. Going through a compulsory military training after high school young Israelis receive a thorough education in e.g. Engineering or IT and learn valuable skills like working in teams, coming up with improvised solutions in stressful situations and evaluating risks and opportunities appropriately. At the same time they develop a big network within the army and adapt a hands on mentality. The magazine Business Insider named the military’s notorious elite section 8200 “the best high tech school in the world”.

Ironically, many of the young adults graduate from military questioning authority and striving for independence and self-determination. The result is a crowd of young Battlefield Entrepreneurs ready to start their own companies (cf. “Startup Nation” by Dan Senor und Saul Singer).

Support by various institutions helps startups accelerate and succeed. Those companies have the chance of receiving funding from one of the numerous national and international Venture Capital firms. In 2015 over 1 million USD were invested in Israeli startups. This is ten times the amount, per capita, of investments made in European startups. In addition there are financial support programs offered by the government and over 20 incubators pushing the young entrepreneurs, offering advice, workspace and business connections.


“Founding companies has become Israel’s national sport”

Professor Uzi DeHaan, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology


Geographical factors bring both benefits and disadvantages. Some Israelis argue that the omnipresent danger of military conflicts in their country leads to young people growing up with a feeling of insecurity about the future and makes them more ready to take risks. Obviously the widespread willingness to take risks can foster the development of an entrepreneurial spirit considerably. On the other side of the coin the mentality of looking for fast, innovative, but also short term solutions leads to a vast majority of early exits of successful startups. This means that a lot of entrepreneurs take the first opportunity they get to sell their company to a larger international firm. Thus, Israel misses out on a lot of potential regarding new jobs and tax payments. The Ministry of Economy acknowledges that this poses a problem for the state: „When it comes to creativity Israeli engineers are leading. But the Americans are better in growing a big company.“ To come full circle, due to the lack of bigger developed companies, there is a notable shortage of jobs, which in return increases the likelihood of budding entrepreneurs to start their own business or join an existing startup.

Another influence is the limited domestic market; while startups in larger countries like the US have direct access to an enormous national market potential, Israeli entrepreneurs are forced to apply an international focus right from the beginning. However, this initial disadvantage can turn into a great asset once it comes to scaling up the business activities.

Culture and attitude make Israeli prototype entrepreneurs. Similar to the US, there is no social fear of failing. Thanks to that founders can pursue their ideas without too many second thoughts about their future career and reputation. Besides, the large Jewish network supports entrepreneurs in Israel and globally in a unique way. Success stories spread quickly and encourage other founders. Last, there is Chutzpah. The Yiddish term which describes an inimitable form of audacity, insolence and courage. This distinctive quality of Israelis can be witnessed in the way students talk to their teachers, employees question their supervisors’ decisions and soldiers criticize their generals. One can easily imagine that an environment in which the status quo is deliberately questioned leads to more innovative thinking.

So, if there are three things you, personally, can take away from this exceptional nation it would be:

‘Dare to question what is.’

‘Never mind the conditions, but rather make the best of your potential.’

‘Don’t be afraid to fail – embrace the freedom entrepreneurship can give you.’

For a deeper insight into historical and governmental aspects of Israeli startup culture the book Startup Nation by Dan Senor und Saul Singer can be highly recommended.

To learn more about successful startup scenes, check out this blog post about the famous Silicon Valley.

All blog posts in this series are based on years of involvement in the German startup scene, work on several startup projects, travels to various startup hot spots around the world and related discussions with founders, mentors, business angels and investors.

Today, entrepreneurship truly is a global phenomenon. In recent decades various hot spots of entrepreneurial activity have emerged all over the globe. While entrepreneurs worldwide certainly share some characteristics, there are also very interesting differences in culture, attitude and motivation for choosing the path of an entrepreneur. In this blog series I want to shed some light on the most innovative and exciting startup ecosystems in the world and identify factors that make them successful and unique.

In this first post the natural choice would be to cover the place which is consistently referred to as the origin and epicenter of startup culture: Silicon Valley, situated on the west coast of the United States and home to former startups like Google, Apple and Facebook. With about 25,000 startups “the Valley” represents the biggest startup ecosystem in the world. [1] Despite its’ size many of its entrepreneurs describe the scene as “one big family”. This already shows the first unique success factor: the founders’ willingness to create one big network and help other startups on the way. This is also known as the “paying forward mentality”.

“My father always told me: Don’t care too much about your grades, just make sure to shake a lot of hands.”

– Don Thorson, Serial Entrepreneur

Another fascinating quality of west coast entrepreneurs is their pragmatism mixed with a willingness to take risks and a fearlessness towards failure. Phrases like “Done is better than perfect.” can be heard everywhere and show a hands-on attitude which is hard to find in other places. Besides, the fact that most startups fail is well known and accepted – failed entrepreneurs are respected for their courage and the experience they have gained along the way. The popular Lean Startup methodology even promotes “failing fast” in order to accelerate the learning process.

Of course factors like having a massive base of Venture Capitalist (well over 10.000 investors), elite education (Stanford University) and an incredible infrastructure of incubators and accelerators certainly cannot be replicated easily. Nevertheless, just adopting the Silicon Valley mentality can probably boost both your personal career as an entrepreneur and the development of your local startup scene at the same time.

“Fear irrelevance more than failure.”

– Pascal Finette, Serial Entrepreneur and Startup Mentor


// All blog posts in this series are based on years of involvement in the German startup scene, work on several startup projects, travels to various startup hot spots around the world and related discussions with founders, mentors, business angels and investors.


[1] https://angel.co/silicon-valley