During the week of October 17, CEED Global hosted 12 startup founders and entrepreneurs from 8 countries on a 4-day journey to Berlin to learn about opportunities to expand their operations in the startup-friendly city. CEED introduced the entrepreneurs to investors, accelerators, startup advisors and mentors as well as local entrepreneurs, and facilitated various meetings to help the entrepreneurs learn about the entrepreneurial ecosystem and to get feedback about their companies.
The program kicked off with a classic CEED roundtable which allowed each entrepreneur to introduce themselves and their businesses and share their key challenge with the group. The session was followed by a rigorous schedule of meetings with the following industry leaders, those who invest in them, and the spaces in which they work:
Daniel Young, Founder and CEO of DXY, https://dxydoes.com/, a US-based digital creative agency DXY
Aleksandar Gvozden, Founder and CPO of LegalTrek, https://legaltrek.com/, an integrated legal practice management solution designed for small-to-medium law firms.
Nawid Ali-Abbassi, Investment manager and Jasper Masemann, Principle at Holtzbrinck Ventures, http://www.holtzbrinck-ventures.com/, one of leading inependent early stage funds
Toured WeWork Sony Center, https://www.wework.com/locations/berlin/sony-center, with Luuk Strijbosch, Community Manager
Toured Rainmaking Loft Berlin, http://www.rainmakingloft.com/berlin/welcome, with Rebecca Anschütz, Head of Special Project
Janko Milunovic, Head Scout and Entrepreneur in Residence at StartupbootCamp Berlin, representing one of the 15 global acceleration programs
Dörte Hirschberg, SVP Venture Development and Organization at Rocket Internet, https://www.rocket-internet.com/, one of the key internet companies building startups in Berlin
Daniel Dierkes, Investment manager at Axel Springer Plug & Play Accelerator, http://www.axelspringerplugandplay.com/, venture between Plug and Play Tech Centre, an international startup accelerator fom Sunnyvale, California and Axel Springer, market leader in the German print business.
Federico Wengi, Venture Capital Associate at Paua Ventures,http://www.pauaventures.com, seed and eary stage investment firm
Ciarán O’Leary, General partner at BlueYard Capital,http://blueyard.com/, a new early stage VC firm with strong ties to US
Jens-Philipp Klein, Partner and Margaret Trainor, Venture Development at Atlantic Labs,, http://www.atlanticlabs.de/, a pre seed and seed investor
Kevin Dykes, Co-Founder and CEO and Sandy Hathaway, Co-founder and CMO/Board Director of Retention Grid, http://retentiongrid.com/, seasoned entrepreneurs and mentors to entrepreneurs
Nenad Severovic, Senior Product Manager for Mobile Apps at Moving https://www.movinga.com/
Tim Kröber, Investment analyst at Hub: raum, https://www.hubraum.com/category-news/berlin the accelerator of Deutsche Telekom that operates in Berlin, Krakow and Tel Aviv
Christian Rebernik, CTO of Number26 bank, https://n26.com/, one of the hottest fintech startups in Europe
Christian Thaler-Wolski, a B2B Saas Startup and Fund Advisor, who has previously a Principal and Venture Partner at Wellington Partners in London and Munich, as well as Paua Ventures in Berlin.
Some high level lessons from the week included:
- Now is the time to come to Berlin as the costs are still acceptable for startups and there is a great community of designers, programmers, investors
- If you can’t say what you do in one sentence, ether you are doing too much or you do not know what you are doing
- You cannot call yourself a startup if you do not have customers and revenue
- A lot of great companies can grow their business without VCs, and choosing the wrong VC could also be bad for one’s business. Three key questions one should ask oneself before deciding to fundraise from VCs are:
- Are you ready? With money comes a lot of responsibilities and expectations. Are you ready to have 1 million in your bank account, are you ready to have someone expect monthly results from you?
- Is your case big enough? Can you make 100milllion in 5 years if all goes as planned? What is your exit, IPO or M&A?
- Do you have traction? Do you have customers who are not in your network – friends or family?
In addition to meeting with various investors and entrepreneurs those on the trip had the opportunity to participate at Plug and Play’s “pitch training” which was a great opportunity to benchmark against startups who were selected by the accelerator.
When asked what they gained/learned from the study tour the participants answered:
- Valuable network, new contacts and sales leads
- How to raise money in Germany, what investors value and importance of picking the right investor
- Learned that Berlin rocks! And how to make it here
- Result based management, team structures, options and advisors
- Accelerators programs path
- Group’s experience and connection – we are not alone
- Overview of ecosystem and different perspectives of the market
- Found information about competitors I did not know I had
- Learned I am doing a lot of things wrong
- Need to work more on business development
When polling the group a month after the tour five participants have been in touch with an accelerator in Berlin and are waiting to hear if they have been accepted, two participants are exploring cooperation with companies/speakers they met during the program (testing their products), and two participants are considering cooperating among each other as they have complementary platforms, a company is in discussions with an investor, and one of the companies is considering moving to Berlin in 2017. All in all, CEED Global has grown its network of early stage companies while continuing to support growth-oriented companies in emerging and frontier markets. This study tour was a part of the REG project funded by USAID.