Berlin boasts some of the most fertile ground for European startups, with top talent, large events and fantastic infrastructure. But rising market saturation means that it’s not easy for a growing business to survive there. We talked to several experts from Berlin’s top accelerators about their recipe for startup success. Here’s the first batch of the know-how we gathered.
1st Expert: Jens Pippig from ProSiebenSat.1 Accelerator
The ProSieben Sat1 Accelerator offers a 3-month programme that launches twice a year. They provide coaching and TV media volume, which they value at 750,000 EUR. You can find out more on their website. Jens Pippig holds a PhD in economics and is the Accelerator’s Founder and Managing Director.
An innovative crowdfunding platform for real estate that creates a new asset class for individuals with a strong focus on quality. They make investing simple by leveraging experts’ knowledge and taking advantage of the crowdfunding model.
Luxury accessories brand for wallets, belts and shoes. Highly automated processes allow the business to be run by a very small team and thus maximise profits. It’s a good example of a startup using technology to its benefit.
The first 3 things you need to do as a startup founder in Berlin
Not a lot can be achieved without a proper network of business contacts. Luckily, building one doesn’t have to be difficult. Attend events, find a mentor, join an accelerator programme - or do all three for best results.
Hustle and grind
Startups take a lot of work and effort. Even if you’ve just created a dream job for yourself and are doing what you’ve always wanted to do, it’s still a job. Hold yourself accountable to your goals and do whatever it takes to succeed.
New projects are exciting, but you’re likely to lose some enthusiasm with time, especially if you don’t see immediate success. Don’t let it discourage you, and don’t get lost in new ideas. Test your first idea properly, give it time and remember that the you from your startup’s early days had good reasons for launching the business.
The 3 key persons to know as a startup founder in Berlin
The Samwer Brothers
Marc, Oliver and Alexander Samwer are the founders of Rocket Internet. As billionaires, they are examples of truly unprecedented success on the European scale.
He’s a partner in Project A, an international venture capital firm with headquarters in Berlin. He used to work with Rocket Internet as its Managing Director. He specialises in Marketing, CRM, PR/Communications and Business Intelligence.
He’s a co-creator and Co-CEO of Zalando, responsible for their Off-Price and Emerging Businesses divisions, among other duties, which makes him quite a valuable contact. And guess what? Rocket Internet was Zalando’s main investor. Looks like we have discovered the secret theme of Jens’ networking advice!
2nd Expert: Jens Lapinski from Techstars
As another PhD holder, Managing Director of the METRO Accelerator in Berlin, creator of Techstars Berlin and co-manager of Techstars London, Jens is a veritable well of knowledge. He even developed and patented new water technology!
Jens’ favorite current startup projects
In Jens’ own words, “his favorite startup projects are those where the founders don’t give up, but continue to work on finding a way forward and pivot and pivot and pivot until they have it right”. Here are three examples from the Techstars Berlin 2015 class:
Their website explains it all: “we make it easy for anyone on your team to access any book, event or course in the world, easily adapting to anyone's learning style, role and interests.” It’s a fantastic solution for companies that want to invest in their employees.
Techstars “accelerate your business and build connections that last a lifetime”, in their own words. If you aren’t sure yet whether they are the accelerator for you, go to one of their events to learn more about them.
They are a large, early-stage venture capital firm. They focus on SaaS and online marketplaces, but don’t be discouraged if your startup isn’t either of those. You can still gain a lot by learning from this team.
According to their website, they “invest in founders with transforming ideas that decentralise markets, empower users and liberate data”. Check out some of the businesses in their portfolio - they do fascinating work.
End of Part 1.
This concludes the first part of a series of articles based on know-how gathered from real startup experts in Berlin. Stay tuned for the next installment, and feel free to let us know in the comments what other questions you’d like to see answered.