Keep on going: in our hashtag interview, Dr. Bernd Storm van’s Gravesande, co-founder of Bits & Pretzels and aboalarm, shares tips he wished he had been told before starting his first company.
So you have an idea that you think might be the next big thing? Then get started! Do not wait for the perfect time to start, because it usually does not exist. It is good to plan ahead, but at some point, you have to be brave enough to act on your idea and make it public. It can be helpful to start with a smaller version of your idea at first and then progressively add new features and products.
Not every idea is destined to become a superstar, and that is okay. Even if your first attempt does not work out, you still will have learned a lot of important things along the way.
In Germany, failure is still often seen as a reason to give up and go back to working a “secure” job. But just because an idea did not work out does not mean that you do not have what it takes to start a company.
Before aboalarm, I was unsuccessful with other ideas – but that was not a reason for me to give up. I learned from the experience and kept on going. Being brave and bit stubborn can often pay off.
Unfortunately, that is true. Just dreaming is not enough: at the end of the day, the goal of a startup is usually to earn money.
So think long and hard about how your business model looks and how you want to generate income. After all, even the best idea will eventually lose momentum if it does not make a profit.
When I founded aboalarm with Stefan, that was one of our most important focal points. We had financed the company completely on our own and could simply not afford to not earn money. That might be tough, but it helps keep you realistic.
What an awful thing to say! What I am referring to is not favoritism, meaning that even the least-talented individual gets an awesome job. What I am talking about here are good contacts. Let’s be honest: you need to have a network to make progress. You need input, and discussion allows you to focus and refine your concept. Most of all, you will need help implementing your idea.
Founders festivals like Bits & Pretzels are perfect for getting others excited about your ideas. It is an event full of founders and potential founders who are just as excited about the startup scene as you are, and you might ideally meet an investor or two – that is a great opportunity! Network as much as you can, talk about your startup and get everyone on board with your idea.
People always say how important it is to know your strengths. And that is of course important! But it is just as important to know what you cannot do.
That is because you will need highly-skilled individuals to help you with everything you cannot do yourself.
When we founded aboalarm, I knew I could take care of business administration and marketing. But when it came to programming and design, I had a vague concept of the two at best, and would never have been able to handle them. That being said, I had Stefan by my side as a co-founder who was able to cover exactly these fields. We complemented each other perfectly and knew we could always rely on one another.
As soon as you have gotten your idea out there and launched, that is when the real work begins. You should never stop fine-tuning your startup by developing and improving your products and services. Always think one to five steps ahead and don’t be afraid to think in broad terms. After all: if you don’t believe in becoming the next big thing, then who will?
About the author
Dr. Bernd Storm van’s Gravesande is the co-founder and co-host of the startup event Bits & Pretzels and also the co-founder and CEO of Aboalarm GmbH. It was under its roof that the consumer platform aboalarm was founded in 2008. With aboalarm, users are able to cancel, revoke and manage their subscriptions in a way that is fast, easy and legally secure. In his interview with Munich Startup, he shares tips he wished he had been told before starting his first company.
More topics that startup founders definitely need to know about will be shared this year again at Bits & Pretzels, for example at the Academy.