On Friday, we welcomed some talented visitors to our Berlin headquarters. Graduate students from one of Europe’s top business schools, the HHL – Leipzig Graduate School of Management, met with our co-founder Janis Zech for a discussion about entrepreneurship, enjoyed a tour of our office and met the SponsorPay team. The trip was part of student initiative called [email protected] that gives future entrepreneurs the opportunity to experience companies in Berlin’s thriving scene for startups and learn from their founders.
“It’s really great to get first-hand advice from someone like Janis who is in the middle of running a successful startup and speaks openly about his experiences as well as learnings from past mistakes”, said HHL student Marco Ziemski. His colleague Benjamin Hammer agreed, “no matter how many things you learn in lectures, the real world experience is what counts.”
Here are Janis’ top 5 ingredients to found a successful start-up:
#1: Choose the right model
Picking the right model is most important. Even the best teams would fail to grow a company whose services have no demand in the market. Great teams might be able to adapt the model to achieve some success, but even they can’t change markets. Therefore, it’s crucial to find an idea that solves a customer’s problem or satisfies a need in better or more innovative ways than is presently available. Not only that, the model needs to have a strong and scalable business model to make it a sustainable proposition.
#2: Build company infrastructure
This includes the founding team and strategic resources for successful market entry such as distribution deals, technology setup, client contracts, key hires, business angels/advisors, funding options etc. There is no ‘best size’ for a founding team since this depends entirely on the model as well as skills and resources needed to make the project a success. Ideally, the skill-sets of each founder should be heterogenous to deliver maximum value for the company.
#3: From executing to quality
As web startups are almost always in a competitive environment and constantly need to balance operating costs with raised funding, it’s important to execute fast. As is the nature of the beast, execution and quality are often conflicting objectives. In the beginning, it is most important to prioritize projects on timely deliverables and accept less than optimal quality to ensure the rapid growth of key performance indicators such as users, revenues, clients etc. However, in the long run, the company must steadily work towards improving the quality of its service. This can cause friction in the organization – since not everyone can deliver the necessary quality – but is the only way to achieve sustainable success.
#4: Don’t underestimate growth
Plan your growth early and make sure your technical infrastructure as well as company organization is aimed at growth. Basic questions like who’s doing what, who reports to who, how knowledge is archived and made accessible etc. are constantly changing in a growing organization. Identifying, implementing and adapting key processes and repetitive tasks help to keep structure in a growing social environment.
#5: Hire the best and create a culture to make it happen
First, get the most talented and skilled people on board. Then, combine these people with shared values and a realistic but ambitious vision to create culture for success. This is something no book can teach – it’s a challenging and never-ending story for a startup.
Please feel free to contact us at [email protected] to schedule interviews with our co-founder Janis.