Thank you

This is just a quick note to say ‘thank you’. The response to the launch of Techstars Berlin was both humbling and overwhelming. I have received:

  • Over 100 applications to Techstars Berlin in less than a week! Wow. That made me very happy. 🙂
  • 100s of emails from people wishing me well and asking how they can help or be involved. Still smile at this one: “I would love to get involved in any way I can. Just tell me what you need. -g”
  • Over a dozen applications for the Program Manager position within the last three days alone. Loved this endorsement: “Throw the kitchen sink at her, and she’ll build you a kitchen.”

I am still trying to properly reply  to all the emails, but it will take a while.

So meanwhile here is a quick. Thank. You.

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Announcing Techstars Berlin

Today Techstars is announcing a new program in Berlin that will kick off in Summer 2015 and I’m excited to officially come on board as the Managing Director.

Applications open today, with a program start date in June and Demo Day in September. The program will run like other Techstars city programs in Austin, Boston, Boulder, Chicago, Cloud (San Antonio), London, New York City, and Seattle.

My full profile can be found here but I have been mentoring at Techstars (and its London precursor program Springboard) for many years. When I told Techstars I wouldn’t be able to mentor going forward as I was moving to Germany, I was asked whether I would be interested in opening up a Berlin program. I then spent the next six months working with Techstars in London and at the same time met 50-100 Berlin based entrepreneurs and investors. What I found really excited me:

  • Over the last ten years or so, many new tech startups have sprung up in Berlin. Rocket Internet, Zalando, and Delivery Hero, each valued at $1BN+ are headquartered in Berlin. According to an analysis by Ciaran O’Leary of Earlybird, there are now a similar number of $10m+ financing rounds of top VCs in Berlin as there are in London. And the year-on-year growth rate of such financings is higher in Berlin than London. There is a lot of activity here and I expect much more in the future.
  • Berlin is a city with almost no ‘old’ money. Almost all of the angel investors that are actively investing in Berlin are former Internet entrepreneurs. They have been there and done it. It makes a huge difference when compared to investors in other (German) cities. And there are a lot of them. I think there is more high quality seed capital in Berlin than there are investment opportunities of the same quality. Perfect for entrepreneurs.
  • Berlin is a fantastic place to live and work. The cost of living here is a fraction of what it is in London or New York. The quality of all public services is high. Crime is low. Berlin is a global city with an overwhelming offering of cultural activities. And best of all, everybody speaks English. You can easily live here without ever having to use a word of German.

All of the above makes it easy to attract high quality talent into Berlin and keep it here. All of this at a fraction of the cost of US/UK startup centres. And as Matt Cohler of Benchmark rightly pointed out, startups take centre stage in Berlin.

When I asked the local entrepreneurs and investors whether running a Techstars program in Berlin made sense, two things were pointed out over and over again. First, Techstars has a very strong reputation so we should be able to attract highly quality mentors and companies that will make for a successful program. Second, Techstars has a very strong network of over 3000 people in the US and UK. This is a unique asset that could add significant value to the startups going through the program.

We’ve already built a community of investors and mentors to support the Berlin program and we’re growing the network every day. Here are some sample investor mentors, with many more to be announced in the coming weeks (VC and angel investors, local entrepreneurs, and other key players in the Berlin tech community):

Brad Feld – Managing Director, Foundry Group
Pawel Chudzinski – Managing Partner, Point Nine Capital
Christian Buchenau, Partner, Paua Ventures
Suranga Chandratillake & Rob Moffat – Balderton Capital
Jason Whitmire & Simon Schminke – Earlybird Ventures
David Cohen – Founder & Managing Partner, Techstars
Fabian Heilemann & Lydia Benkö – Partners, Heilemann Ventures
Philipp Hartmann & Tobias Johann – Managing Partners, Rheingau Founders
Benjamin Rohe & Ludwig Preller – Partners, MAS Angel Fund
Christoph Gerlinger – Founder & CEO, German Startups Group

If you are a startup founder and want to apply for the program, please fill in the application form here.

If you want to reach out to me to discuss Techstars Berlin, please email me at jens.lapinski@techstars.com.

PS: We are looking for a Program Manager to help me run Techstars Berlin. Details of the job can be found here.

 

Startup Pitches

I have lost count of how many startup pitches I have seen in my life. It is definitively several thousand.

You have probably heard from dozens of VCs what they want to see in a pitch. You know what, they tell you what they are shown every day. But that is not what I want to see.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s suppose that of all the slides in your slide deck, you were only allowed to show one slide to potential investors. One. Single. Slide. Which one would that be?

What you do? Team? Product? Market? Projections?

No.

The number one slide you would show is the ‘wow’ slide. The slide that shows how much traction you have. How high your conversion-rate it. How high your viral co-efficient. How much revenue you have. How fast you are growing. How sticky your product is, how low the churn rate is.

In essence, what you have achieved.

Here is what happens instead. I was at a pitch event last Friday. Not a single founder pitched me on their traction. I had to pull it out of them in Q&A. One founder said he had an idea and now he wanted me to invest. He had achieved nothing. Then there was another founder who had $10ks of revenue per month. Again, she didn’t tell me that. I had to pull it out of her.

The problem is that I can’t tell the difference, unless you tell me.

Here are two example pitches of the same company.

1) Typical pitch I hear:
We are an e-commerce company. The key thing about us is blab la bla and this is useful for our customers blab la bla and what we are currently working on is blab la bla. We are looking for money, do you want to invest?

2) Focussed on achievement :
We are an e-commerce company. We sell x to y and our special sauce is z. Last month we did $25k in turnover, our product margin is about 60%, so we made about $15k in revenue. Returns are low, so this is a net figure. We are currently growing at around 25% month on month. What I am trying to achieve right now is to improve our x and what I think I need to do is y. Do you think this is the right focus for us right now?

I would be super happy to talk to any entrepreneur who talks about their business in the second way. At length. Any time that works for you. Happy to help.