Written by Mari-Anne
At Rainmaking, we get a lot of questions about what we do and what it means to be a ‘start-up factory.’ Well, for us the answer is simple, but we thought it would be a lot more fun to hear it straight from our amazing Rainmakers.
If you are into gaming and football, then Ultimate Manager is definitely one of the coolest companies in the Rainmaking portfolio. Founded in 2012, Ultimate Manager is setting out to revolutionize the world of fantasy football, creating the most engaging and realistic online fantasy manager game out there.
So what’s it like to create the world’s best fantasy football game? This week, we meet Jarl Rosenlykke, CEO & Co-Founder of Ultimate Manager to find out.
How did you come up with the idea?
Jarl: I was playing fantasy football games already, and I had been a semi-professional football player myself. I thought that there was something lacking with the current fantasy games especially when compared to other games that I was playing like FIFA.
It was like the fantasy football games were stuck in a time capsule from 10 years ago. The gaming and user experience was really poor. You still had to refresh your browser to update your points! Nothing was live calculated, and there was no social interaction. I just thought it was weird that all that was lacking because you can see all that influence on other games and platforms, but for some reason, it was just not there.
Another thing was that the current games only base performance on a few aspects, like assists and yellow cards. I was just getting angry that the guy who would come in for five minutes and score a goal would become the hero, but the guy who had been doing all the work would get nothing!
At the same time, I could see the numbers; 32 million users for the US and 19 million users in Europe. So I thought – “Oh, well here we have a Class-A market with a Class- C product.” Plus, loving football myself, I thought maybe I should do something about this. I kept a quote on my desktop saying “if not you then who, if not now then when”. I guess I applied it this time.
So my vision was to map out all the aspects that would make it possible to rate a good player performance and show all that to the uses in real-time. Now we measure about 35 different aspects and visualize all of those in a live-screen broadcast.
What was the most difficult thing about starting out?
Jarl: That is the age-old paradox of having to found a team with no money and having to raise money without a team. I think that is where most entrepreneurs ‘make it or break it’ coz if you can’t solve that one, you never get started, and it’s a tough one!
What I ended up doing was making a deal with Rainmaking that they would give me seed capital if I could gather the right team. But, that was enough for me to go out and say to my potential team members – “If you join me, we will have this much capital to start up, and we will have a great office and good facilities to start with.” So it was something tangible to start with. I think that was very important.
Now, you’ve got a shit-ton of money. How did that happen?
Jarl: Haha, well the idea was to get some seed capital with Rainmaking. Found the team, and then get an A-round of capital. We were looking in the range of a million Euro or so.
I knew a guy, who’s a famous writer and also a businessman. I had talked briefly with him about this idea. Then some time passed and we started setting up these meetings with venture capitalists and business angels, but I really wanted to respect that he had wanted in earlier on. So I called him up and said – “well, I’ve actually already set up all these meetings, so if you want in before, then you have to come now!”
Then he just stormed into the office! It was the most brilliant business strategy I have ever done, unintentionally. But I would do it again!
How did you go about finding the right team?
Jarl: Well, first thing was to define the requirements of what is the ‘right team.’ I didn’t know shit about backend IT, so I needed a guy, and I needed someone who could tell me what exactly I needed.
So I went to the French guy that I met at a Startup weekend event. I asked him if he could write a job description of the person I needed so that I could actually find the guy.
He ended up writing that he would have to this skill and that skill, and that he would have to be French and like blue cheese and red wine, – so basically, he wrote a description of himself!
Another brilliant unintentional strategy that I would use again if I could!
What’s the best part of your job?
Jarl: Probably, that it revolves around something I care deeply about. To be able to work with football is amazing, but working with great colleagues is probably more important.
You have to be around each other everyday, so having fun with my great colleagues is probably the best part of my job. After that, it’s probably doing something that my friends can relate to.
What’s one thing that keeps you up at night?
Jarl: What did keep me up at night, was definitely feeling that the team was not in-sync. We were suffering because I think our visions were not aligned, which brought the energy level down. We’ve solved it now, but it was about being young and inexperienced on top of trying to build a world class product. When doing something in a team that none of you have ever done before, alignment is key.
That kept me up at night. – But things are much better now, so today nothing keeps me up.
What’s the next step from here?
Jarl: Right now, we are working with finalizing the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that we set out to reach - the first 1.0 version of the game that we are wrapping up here in February.
So, yeah. Launching the game, finalizing media partnerships in different countries around Europe, and at the same time, creating the next version of what our game is going to be beyond version 1.0
So…a lot of things going on.
What’s one piece of advice would you give someone looking to turn their passion into a business?
Jarl: Think carefully. Is this really what you want to do? –Sometimes your passion is better kept as a hobby, because you can get too much of a good thing. For me it worked out, but I can easily see scenarios where it wouldn’t work out.
If you are convinced that it is the right thing to do, then do it full on. – I mean Full On! If it’s really your passion, and you want to work with it, then it deserves all of your attention.
The difference between most people and a ‘real entrepreneur’ whatever that means, is that: They Do. They simply do.
So, my advice: drop everything and do the stuff that gets you closer to realizing your goal.
We are very excited to be able to say that one of Rainmaking’s projects has now become a best seller in Russia.
Rainmaking served heavily as inspiration for Winning Without Losing, so it’s great to see how well our concept is being received internationally.
So a new year has started. A great opportunity to think about what you wish for, what you want to achieve, or what you long to change. Here are some personal thoughts from some of us here at Rainmaking.
- (Copied directly from our Yammer conversation)
Martin: in 2013 I want to start a business that is better than anything I have done so far
Mads: me too
Morten K: In 2013 I want to sleep more and spend more time with my friends
Carsten: Mine is more a wish: I wish Helene will finally recover. The day after I announced she was recovering she got ill again and since then she has had another urine infection, new fluid in the stomach and pain, an eye infection, a throat infection and a flu. She is currently in bed with 40C fever and is on the 3rd consecutive anti-biotics over the last 3 weeks. We should have flown back to DK today to celebrate Christmas but that will be postponed. Illness really puts things in perspective
Kamran: I’d like Marketling Lion to receive its first Gazelle status and to sleep more
Alex: I’d like to see my family happy in Berlin though right now that is a 50-50 proposition. As for work I want to see SBC Haifa, SBC HealthXL and SBC CPH Mobility all nail their first programs and I’d like to see at least one of our portfolio startup get headlines for amazing growth.
Kenneth: For my family I wish just continued good health. For LIB I would be happy if we can get some early angel funding and continue to grow organically by a factor of 4x this year. That would make it a £3m company. A real breakthrough wish would be if we were able to land a TV media deal to complement our YOU and Glamour magazine deals.
What are some of your goals and personal wishes for 2013?
My co-founder, Carsten Kølbek, recently did a series of 12 tweets summing up the most notable results we have achieved at Rainmaking during the awesome year of 2012. I thought it might be worth sharing them here:
No.1: Our e-commerce company Latestinbeauty.com grew no less than 400%
No. 2: We did an exit of one of our companies to an industry leader
No. 3: Our company TrueSkin tripled the number of clinics from 3 to 9
No. 4: We got publishing deals for our book, Winning Without Losing, for 30+ countries and 8 languages
No. 5: Our company BetterNow.org surpassed 5m DKK in raised donations for charities
No. 6: We launched an ambitious fantasy football gaming company, Ultimatemanager.com
No. 7: Even with a quite big portfolio of start ups, it has now been 22 months since we had to close one down
No. 8: During 2012 we invested in 30 start ups via our accelerator program, Startupbootcamp.org
No. 9: With revenues in excess of 13m EUR our company Frokost.dk made a new sales record (and a profit record too)
No. 10: We launched two new initiatives to keep in touch with friends: our quarterly Friday bar, Rainy Fridays – and our quarterly newsletter, Rainy News
No. 11: We opened up an office in Berlin, together with Startupbootcamp
No. 12: We welcomed Kenneth, Alex, Mats and Kasper as partners
Follow Carsten on Twitter: @carstenkolbek
Since college, I have been involved with Humanity in Action – a training program for students and young professionals on issues related to human and minority rights. The mission is to prevent atrocities and violations of human and minority rights by raising awareness and educating the leaders of today and tomorrow about past and present issues.
As one of the few business leaders among our senior fellows, I was recently asked by the executive management of HIA to join a Strategic Planning Group with the purpose of laying out how we will develop the organization over the coming years. I was thrilled by the opportunity to contribute to this important work, and to spend a bit of time with a non-profit I’m so passionate about.
This weekend, we had our first two-day session in New York City with an extraordinary group of people including national program directors and senior fellows from around Europe and the US.
The organization is has more than 1200 senior fellows from US and Europe, who have been educated in our core programs in Poland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, and France over the past decade. We have 3 well-developed professional opportunities in institutions such as the European Parliament, the US Congress, and the International Criminal Court. Recently, we have also partnered up with the New School in New York as well as become the first NGO to partner with and receive funding from the US Council on Foreign Relations.
How can entrepreneurship help an NGO?
In creating startups, we always try to be bold and ambitious; to think “big”. In business, this often centers around how much profit a business can bring to the owners. In non-profits, this translates to impact on people around the world. In the most interesting businesses, profit and good impact come hand-in-hand.
As the only entrepreneur on the planning board, my role became clear during our first planning meeting. I put on the agenda questions such as: Where will we be with this organization in ten years? How can we quantify our goals to set up milestones and targets for the future? How many Senior Fellows will we have? How many countries are we covering and how many action projects can we expect to have carried out?
In my experience, entrepreneurs are generally good at aspiring to change the world in a big way, even if they are operating under hard financial constraints. This is something we can bring to NGOs who might be thinking about funding for the next year of operations, or to those who are so very passionate about the issues that the bigger picture is less in focus.
I’ve never fundraised for a charity before, but I do have experience with fundraising for start-ups. However, this weekend taught me that those two can be very different. As of today, Humanity In Action has been funded primarily through in-kind donations from foundations, government/EU institutions, and private fundraisers. When attracting funding from foundations, and especially from government institutions, you mostly have to adhere to their reason d’être and fulfill a long list of requirements. Usually, you also have to be doing something new – so you cannot fundraise for operations.
Now, I may be proven wrong, but I think if we can apply the same way of thinking as we do in startups, we can reach very far with HIA. If we put together an ambitious plan for how we would like to see the organization develop and expand over the next 10 years, and detail how we will become financially sustainable, I think it will be possible to find private donors who will help us in getting there. What do you think?
/ Mads Aarøe Mathiesen
We are thrilled to announced that Startupbootcamp Berlin Team Capsule.fm picked up the 3rd prize against some very professional and polished competition at the NOAH Conference in London. Thanks to Seven Ventures, they will return back to Berlin with €1Million worth in TV media.
Capsule.fm was one of 7 internationally selected high profile start-ups to pitch at the Conference on the 7th of November 2012. Each team had 5 min on stage followed by intense Question and Answers.
Capsule.fm is one of the 10 Startups currently working towards Demo Day at Startupbootcamp Berlin. Their product is simple and innovative. It plays your favorite online content as a live, interactive and highly personalized audio experience. It’s like Flipboard with audio.
Does their product sound interesting to you? Capsule.FM is looking for beta testers. Sign up by visiting theirWebsite.
After Steve Jobs’ death there has been a myriad of articles and blog posts discussing his leadership style and what to learn from it. That is in my view only a healthy and natural reaction when such an accomplished leader passes away. Nonetheless, I believe that in important ways we are overdoing it.
Do you remember when you as a child had “heroes”, and wanted to be exactly like them? Then as you grew up, if you are like most people, you started to realize that no one is perfect, everyone has in additional to wonderful traits also some degree of flaws. For me personally this realization first felt as a disappointment – but later on as a relief. Because I cannot be perfect either, so as it seems we are all in these shades of grey together (yes, I know).
Back to Steve Jobs. Yes, he was brilliant and immensely successful but do we really need to carefully study and consider all of his behavior? Or put in another way; when we with excitement read about how Jobs was cruel and insensitive towards his co-workers, let us be aware that we are now just entertaining ourselves, feeding our lust for sensation, rather than getting valuable input for fine tuning our own leadership style. And that’s completely ok, as long as we are conscious about the difference.
To the best of my knowledge Steve Jobs never claimed to be a perfect version of the human being. His vision, creativity, focus and clear sight inspire me deeply. At the same time I would never look his way for role modelling of personal happiness, great parenting or how to be loved by people around me. I strive for all those things in my life, so I look to multiple sources for different inspiration.
There is really no case for “jerk management”. Yes, you can absolutely be successful as a jerk – but it’s not like your changes increase by each added insult or humiliation. I think this makes intuitively sense to most of us. But as we can overcome other handicaps through clever application of our strengths, so can we be so exceptional creative, visionary and determined that people around us decide to take part, despite of the less impressive elements of our personality.
Maybe more importantly; be authentic. Very few people are jerks at their core (yes, they do exist but they are few), what is most often at play when someone acts as a jerk is some mix of insecurity, unbound ambition, unhealthy role models or the like. Going back to their core beliefs and inner voice, most people are actually quite nice – at least in my experience.
Be inspired by Steve Jobs – but don’t think you need to learn more than what feels right to you. No one can ever become truly successful as someone else, jerk or not.
We had a brief talk to Bent Haugland about his time so far in Rainmaking, how he became part of the team, and what he gets out of being part of the Rainmaking team.
How did you end up in Rainmaking?
It is a great story! I met Martin Bjergegaard around two years ago. I had just moved back from England at that time. I started to work on a consultant basis in the beginning on another project than BetterNow. And this way I got to know Martin really well. We both shared the same visions and ideas about how to create an impact on the world. BetterNow was an idea Martin had been grooming for some time, and we then teamed up to really make it happen.
How is it like – working for Rainmaking?
It is a fantastic hybrid. Rainmaking is both a seed investor on the one hand and on the other hand, we ourselves work every day as entrepreneurs in the companies that we create or form with other entrepreneurs.
Also Rainmaking has tons of synergies, since we have several companies under the same roof, literally. We all pretty much experience the same challenges as startups. And in this respect, being part of the Rainamking family, really makes a difference in being able to drawn on other peoples experiences that easily.
When you are not working as entrepreneur, what do you do then?
I must admit, that these last weeks, I am working pretty much non-stop on BetterNow. But I have for some time been part of a team that hosts a party every half year, called Copenhagen Burlesque. It is a party with up to 700 people joining. All guests come to the parties dressed up and during the evening provide entertainmant for the participants. Could be juggling, singing, dancing, wizardry. Whatever you are good at and like to entertain people with.
Finally, what would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Go for what you feel is the right thing. Gut feeling about the ideas potential and ”love” for it, is essential. At least for me, this is what drives me in my work with BetterNow. I really believe in it and love the fact that it makes a difference to the less fortunate people in the world.
Written by Martin Bjergegaard
For reasons not fully transparent to me the Serbian publisher PortaLibris today was the first to release Winning Without Losing in print edition. It happened at the annual Belgrade Book Fair, and meant that today I held the first physical book in my hands – almost 3 years after the project started. It felt good.
The team at PortaLibris are extremely nice. They are so enthusiastic about the book that it almost makes me blush. They placed our book next to Malcolm Gladwell’s – and thought it should be just a bit more expensive. The PortaLibris team have worked fast, and thus the beautiful capital of Serbia became the first city for me to visit as an author.
So far, I have never looked at my self as an author. Authors are clever people, sitting in a cottage, thinking, writing and smoking a pipe while their beard grows. I am a doer, a practical guy dealing with dozens of small tasks every day. I am an entrepreneur. But after doing 2 television interviews, 2 radio interviews, a speech at the book fair, and some book signings, I actually started feeling like an author too. Today my auto-signature says “Entrepreneur & Author” and I don’t even feel awkward about it (ok, maybe just a little bit
It is long way from Canada to Serbia so unfortunately I had to make do without my always happy, funny and inspiring co-author Jordan Milne. But luckily my wife could come with me and we enjoyed a sunny Sunday in Belgrade before an intense and exciting Monday.
What thrills me the most is how curious everyone I met is about Rainmaking, and how eager they are to understand how we ourselves are living the principles in Winning Without Losing on a day-to-day basis. To me this is not some grand theory. It is the reality around me and very few things are more important to me than how we can all end the compromises in our lives. Someone recently reminded me that limitations exist mainly in our own heads. Today that insight felt very true.
Anyone reading TechCrunch or other start-up focused information sources cannot have failed to notice the frequency with which new businesses that combine the Internet and some form of subscription business model have been featuring. ‘Subscription commerce’ is becoming a term in its own right.
Most of these businesses are centered around providing consumers a curated ‘box of goods’ for a monthly subscription fee. At Rainmaking we have also been active in this field, though our company breaks the general subscription mould…but more about that later.
Getting people to subscribe to products or services is obviously not a new business model. From fitness centres to mobile phones, broadband and newspapers, subscription is a classic way of doing business. So what’s new here? The two main things are the goods being offered for subscription and the delivery method. Beauty products, toys, organic food and nuts are not conventionally products that consumers would have subscribed to. They have typically been purchased on an as-needed basis from either physical or online stores. The second change is that most of the new subscription services are ordered online and delivered in a box to your home.
One recently launched start-up offers a platform for individual consumers and small traders to build and run their own subscription commerce service. If there ever was a sign of a ‘hot’ market it’s the emergence of ‘platform providers’.
Here are a few examples of companies in the space:
- Birchbox: Provides a new box of beauty samples to your door every month.
- Graze: A selection of nuts delivered in a box to your homeor office. You build your selection online.
- Dollarshaveclub.com: Receive fresh shaving blades each month for a dollar.
- Shoedazzle: Receive a new pair of shoes every month.
- Barkbox: Receive a box of selected products for your dog every month.
- Wummelkiste: A box of arts and crafts products for your children that give them a new project to do every month.
But how many of these new ideas are viable and great businesses in the longer term? We don’t have the answer; however, running LatestinBeauty.com for about 18 months now has given us some ideas and insights. First, a bit of background to the company.
Latestinbeauty.com offers curated boxes of beauty samples and travel-size products online. It is not principally a subscription service (more about why later), though we are often bundled together with other beauty box companies such as Birchbox and Glossybox.
The company was launched to address the huge white space in the e-commerce beauty market. Today less than 2% of consumers shop for their beauty products online. Compare that to fashion at above 10% and it’s evident that this is a market ripe for growth. The reasons for people not buying cosmetics online are many so we won’t cover them all here. One major factor is the ability to try before you buy. Putting something on your skin or in your hair is a highly emotional activity and few women (as they are the main purchasers of beauty products) feel comfortable buying before having tried. Traditionally this would take place in a department store with the ‘friendly’ sales lady helping you out. Brands are happy with that as they can make a face-to-face sales pitch, which is often effective. But many consumers don’t particularly appreciate it as they feel ‘hassled’. Think only of trying to navigate your average department store beauty floor without having an overly eager sales person spray you with the latest perfume on offer.
LatestinBeauty.com (LIB) offers members the ability to select the products they want to try and also have the convenience of online ordering, delivery and the comfort and peace of trying the products out in their own home. For brands it is a unique opportunity to address consumer acquisition and online switching. Some brands are worried about the nature of the ‘beauty box’ consumer. They rightly feel that some of them are either ‘deal chasers’ who only care about the free sample and will never be a customer for the full size, or ‘beauty junkies’ who are constantly on the lookout for the next new thing and therefore constantly switching brands. Latestinbeauty.com addresses this by the way members sign up. A hugely detailed questionnaire is our ‘gateway’. Thereafter, and in combination with the purchase behaviour of our members and their other feedback (such as reviews), we can offer brands the opportunity to aim their trials at the consumer groups they feel are most likely to turn into long-term customers. Our conversion rates and growth are currently showing that this is working.
Now we can turn back to subscription commerce in general. With all those members and such high growth, wouldn’t the natural thing be to launch subscriptions, many have asked us. Possibly, but we are not so sure and here is why: we have observed a few key considerations that influence how successful a subscription offering is likely to be. Those main factors are (the list is not necessarily exhaustive):
- Are you able to control your supply chain?
- Are the bulk of consumers in your market looking for ’discovery’ or ’utility’?
- Can a higher average basket size be achieved by NOT limiting the monthly spend figure?
Let’s look first at the consumer angle.
If you are ‘in it’ for discovery then your main motivation is to try out something new. The Internet is a great delivery and discovery platform and there are so many categories where discovery is an essential part of the journey (think wine, gadgets, apps, fashion, etc.).
On the other hand someone focused on utility is subscribing due to factors related to convenience, cost and other quite purposeful behaviours. A prime example here is what P&G have achieved with diapers.com for years. Diapers are bulky and cumbersome to lug back from the store. Their consumption is also relatively easy to predict. A perfect candidate for online subscription and home delivery. Another recent example is the much-hyped dollarshaveclub.com. Again, shaving is in many ways a commodity and the need for new blades and foam follows a fairly predictable pattern. If you find something that works for you it’s unlikely that you would be interested in much experimentation. Subscription should be ideal for the utility-focused consumer.
The sweet spot, in our view, for long-term provision of ‘voluntary’ subs services (so not the involuntary ones you have to engage in to be allowed to make a phone call, watch cable tv etc.) is around utility/purposeful consumption as the main driver. ’Discovery’-focused consumers are by their very nature always on the lookout for something new and the ’latest thing’; this is hard to satisfy in the long run and is why most of the businesses that we have encountered in this space have quite high churn rates. People are initially excited about their subs boxes but, as quality invariably fluctuates, they get ‘turned off’ and unsubscribe. Utility-focused consumers on the other hand are easier to satisfy. Once the account is set up and the delivery amounts and schedules are fixed then the only task really is to deliver consistently and reliably every month (or week or whatever).
When we look at the supply side we find this to be equally, if not even more critical. The supply side of the equation is in many ways the main reason for LIB not being a subscription service. As mentioned the control of the supply side is in our view critical for subscription commerce success. Why? Well, if you take people’s money on a regular basis they will expect a certain level of consistency of quality. If you don’t control supply this becomes difficult. Taking an example from our own backyard, we can compare Glossybox and LIB. You need only take a glance at the Facebook pages of the two companies to see the difference. In the beauty biz the ‘name of the game’ is getting great samples/travel sizes on a consistent basis. People want the brands they know and recognise. Regrettably for us these brands are large and there is a big gap between their usefulness to us and vice versa (at least for now!). Glossybox has a ‘discovery’ offering. You pay. You wait. You see. Their big problem is that, as they don’t control or definitely know which brands they will be able to get from month to month, consumers are often underwhelmed and disappointed, and then sometimes happy. The game here is about ‘surprise’. However, when you cannot control supply, the surprise element can be either positive or negative from box to box. This leads to huge churning. At LIB we tell people what they will get. Exactly. Every month. They are then free to buy or not. No surprise. No disappointment. The issue is not that the consumer is looking for different things from LIB or Glossybox. They are after great boxes of curated beauty samples. The main difference is that we have decided that, with so little control over the supply side, it’s a better approach to sell the boxes under ‘full disclosure’, foregoing the benefits of cash flow from subscriptions but hopefully building long-term customer loyalty and brand affinity.
Below we’ve tried to map the current players (that we could find), organized along the parameters of size (our best estimate) and their relative control over their supply.
As is evident it is a crowded field and getting busier all the time. In looking for the ‘ideal’ subscription commerce we therefore think one should look for products that are not branded at the source (or at least where brands are not that dominant) and where securing supply is not an issue and is entirely predictable. No surprise therefore that some of the larger players in the chart fit that description.
Finally, in making a decision on whether subscription is the right business model we think one should look at basket size. Looking again at LIB we see that our average basket size is quite significantly larger than the £10 you would spend per month with services such as Glossybox. We have many different boxes people can buy. We even have a ‘Build Your Own’ box service. We find that the average customer/member typically buys more than one item and that our average basket size therefore increases. We are giving up the predictability and front-loaded nature of cash from a subscriber base for admittedly larger volatility but eventually higher revenue per customer (and hopefully in total!).
There is then clearly a distinction between providing boxes of tailored and curated products and solutions via the Internet and providing those same boxes on a subscription basis. We are very much ’long’ on the market for boxed/curated kits sold on the Internet and delivered to people’s homes but ’short’ on the many businesses trying to do this mainly via subscription. We see the attractiveness of the upfront cash of the latter but believe that you can build a longer lasting, more profitable and more innovative company by not necessarily jumping in here straight away. We prefer creating the boxes/solutions and selling them like any other e-commerce offering initially. Then later on, certain offerings and consumers groups might lend themselves to subscription, at which point it’s quite easy to ‘turn on’ that option.
This was my third time at Founders Forum.
It’s amazing how it has grown. What was once almost a private ‘get together’ for the friends of Jonny (Goodwin) and Brent (Hoberman) has become arguably THE tech/investor event in Europe. And with Founders Forum (FF) now also in India, the U.S and Brazil it is quite a remarkable network of entrepreneurs and investors. LeWeb is obviously also amazing but as it is a paid for conference where ‘anyone’ can participate it does not quite have the same ‘cachet’ as the FF.
This year was special for me as we had quite a heavy Rainmaking presence. We have been running the TechAllStars with the EU Commission. The aim being to find the best company from across all the EU based accelerators. Brent kindly agreed some time back that provided the companies were ‘cool enough’ we could have the session aimed at finding the winner at the FF. The teams were whittled down from 12 to 3 on the previous day during a workshop at LeWeb and were then taken straight to the Founders Forum where they would pitch and eventually a winner would be announced.
Another Rainmaking company was also being featured. LatestinBeauty.com (LIB) had created a special FF beauty box, which was given to all the founders. That meant that people such as Chad Hurley (YouTube Founder), Niclas Zennstroem (Skype Founder), Martha Lane Fox (lastminute.com), Nathalie Massenet (net a porter), Charles Dunstone (carphone warehouse) and many others would become the proud owners of a LIB box.
Apart from that there were as usual many interesting sessions and people to speak to. In one of the sessions the aim was to create ‘the company of the future’ With a theoretical limitless supply of cash and other resources the task was to create something amazing. Not quite sure anyone cracked it. Our team lead expertly by Fred Destin (atlas ventures) came up with a digital talent platform for the aging professional population based on an insight from Mark Suster around the exponential growth of this demographic who would have a lot to contribute and who would also most likely not be able to afford to retire completely.
Many other ideas were created. Three teams looked at the similar intersection between Mobile+Social+Health (there MUST be something there). Another team created Reset.Me a tool to surgically and selectively reset your social digital profiles across the net. Finally the winner found in Sten from Skype’s team who created a cloud sharing company. The twist being that this was NOT the digital cloud but a technology for ACTUAL cloud sharing between nations in mainly Africa for the purpose of directing rain to where it was most needed and making this economically beneficial. Apparently the technology was “there” in it’s infancy to do this…..let’s see
Another session focused on ‘the main traits of an entrepreneur’. This was led by Luke Johnson (Pizza hut founder) and one topic was ‘how do you deal with setbacks and failure’. It was really interesting to hear so many successful entrepreneurs discuss business and personal failures so openly. A lot of learning to be done.
As usual a few selected external organisations were invited. This year codeclub was there. An initiative to teach younger children to learn code. The participants at the FF were tasked with creating the concept for a viral video that would be made on the day and would then be used to promote the organization. Our team won (who ever doubted it!) and the video came out super funny and cool already gone viral with more than 500,000 views on YouTube (guess it helps when the guy who created it uploads it;)
Finally of course there was the pitch session with the three selected teams from Tech All Stars. There was a lot of engagement and a proper ‘VC suggestion’ from Fred Destin (Atlas ventures) for one of the founders presenting to put an ‘extra zero’ on the revenue projection of the business. “Make us dream” he said! To be honest the €2.3m 2014 revenue was rather conservative. That business however was the eventual winner. Sundhi from Cognicor won with her business focused around AI (artificial intelligence) based online complaint resolution. The software was based on her PhD in the topic of AI and the business already had some impressive early customers such as Telefonica. If she does not get funded after attending this event she never will!
Another highlight was Alex Farcet (the Rainmaking partner who runs Startupbootcamp) on stage at the FF introducing the EU commissioner for Digital Neelie Kroes who then eventually presented Sundhi as the winner.
During lunch I had a chat with the founder of Mindcandy (Moshi monsters) Michael Acton Smith which ended with me getting a semi permanent tattoo of Poppet (a moshi monsters character) on my arm. This gave me massive street cred at home. My daughter could care less that I met Tim Berners Lee (Creator of the WWW protocol) or The Duke of York … but Moshi…now that is a different question!
The rest was pretty much ‘networking as usual’. Highlight was the party in the evening where I had the pleasure of speaking to an actual genius. None other than Stephen Wolfram the creator of WolframAlpha (www.wolframalpha.com) and general ‘enfant terrible’ of the mathematics science world. He tried to explain to me the mathematical reasoning behind the symbol on his business card. No reason to even to pretend to understand. This conversation took place to the backdrop of Herman Hauser (founder of Acorn, chairman of ARM and general ‘grand daddy ‘ of UK VC’s) getting funky on the dance floor.
July 6th Startupbootcamp Amsterdam Investor Demo Day
ABN AMRO to host keynote speakers including Steve Blank and the Mayor of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, May 24th 2012 –July 6 will see the Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan,
kick off the Startupbootcamp ‘Investor Demo Day’ at the ABN AMRO headquarters. Each of the ten
start-ups will present themselves in a 6 to 8 minute pitch to local and international informal seed and
Big names from the commercial and public sector will be present at this exclusive event. Steve
Blank, one of the most successful start-up gurus an author of several startup books from the US will
be providing a keynote speech. Steve, founder of E.piphany, will give a speech about starting up a
business and provide inspirational tips and tricks to achieving success in a crowded market place.
During the three month accelerator programme, the start-ups have developed and refined their product
and business plans to prepare themselves for the Investor Demo Day. With they guidance of over 150
local and international mentors they went from first class to world class startups in just 13 weeks. The
objective at Demo Day is to get in touch with investors and obtain capital for further expansion of
Patrick de Zeeuw and Ruud Hendriks, founders of Startupbootcamp Amsterdam, are looking forward
to Investor Demo Day. “This is the moment for our 10 start-ups to demonstrate that they have
developed into world class start-ups. We are very grateful to ABN AMRO for hosting the event. It is
a wonderful, inspiring location in the heart of the Amsterdam Business Centre and firmly showcases
their commitment to the programme.”
Hans Hanegraaf, Managing Director Commercial Banking at ABN AMRO, is also excited that the
Investor Demo Day will take place at ABN AMRO’s headquarters. “It is an honour to welcome not
only the Mayor of Amsterdam but also local and international investors. We are pleased to offer a
stage for start-ups and investors to connect and invest in each other. We endorse the ambition and
focus of the start-ups in their innovative ideas. We want to support them with our financial expertise to
realize their plans.”
Are you an informal or seed strategic investor and would you like to visit the Investor Demo Day,
please go to http://www.startupbootcamp.org/europeans-cities/amsterdam/investor-demo-day/ for
Startupbootcamp is a pan-European accelerator. Currently there are accelerator programs running in
Copenhagen, Dublin (from February till May ’12), Amsterdam (from April till June ’12) and Berlin
(from September till November ’12). At this moment applications for the Berlin program are open.
Registration closes on June 17th, 2012.
Patrick de Zeeuw – Co-Founder and CEO Startupbootcamp Amsterdam
+31 (0)6 8142 9654
Emile Idzenga – Axicom
+31 (0)6 2042 9460
Thank You Mentors!
24 Days until Applications Close
Yesterday, Startupbootcamp Berlin hosted its official Mentor Pow Wow, at their new offices in Berlin (WebWorker Berlin) to kick off the countdown to applications close on June 17th and rally the mentors for the upcoming program. The event welcomed many notable startup figures from the scene, with a “Mentor Board” (see picture on right) featuring each mentor exclusively. BMW and Sixt’s Drive Now team was also on site as well as other sponsors and partners including Venista Ventures and lindenpartners to support the event. The mentor board will remain at the office for the startup teams of Berlin to refer to and it’s sure to grow some more over the coming months.
Hosted by Managing Director of Startupbootcamp Berlin, Alex Farcet, the event had one key message: Startupbootcamp Berlin, with the help of the stellar mentor crew, is to become the best accelerator in Europe. In the room alone, the mentor network “could reach anyone in the world” and was enough to give a startup one year’s worth of progress in just three months.
The Mentor Network
As each mentor came in, they signed their twitter handle, grabbed a “Startupbootcamp Mentor” badge and proceeded to the event where Alex handed each one a scarf from Africa as a way to “initiate” them into the family of mentors.
To Mentors & Startup Community: We’ve created a twitter list of Startupbootcamp Berlin mentors. This includes all the twitter handles that were signed on the board yesterday. If you know anyone not on this list who is a mentor, please feel free to add them! List: SBCBERLIN_MENTORS.
LAUNCH: Wildcard Competition
The event yesterday also saw the launch of the Wildcard Competition for startups. Sponsored by TalentsMedia and Amazon Web Services, the contest allows startups to guarantee a spot into the selection day finals in July by gathering social votes! Steven Kraal from TalentsMedia joined us last night for a brief overview of the contest and to get mentors on board as jury members to vote for the best startup! For more details on the competition, click here.
Tweets from the Event, #SBCBerlin
@SiliconAllee, tweets of the gift, “Pink scarves as secret handshakes at #SBCBerlin“.
At our recent Mentor Event at Startupbootcamp Berlin a fellow participant asked me: “what do you think is the next industry to be disrupted?” I must admit my answer was vague at best. I think I mumbled something about charity donations – but that’s a bit cheap, me being the point man on www.betternow.org - and while donations is a good candidate for disruption, I don’t think it is the one area I would mention if in a quiz with a million dollar price to sharpen my senses. So in my bed a couple of hours later I pondered on the issue; what industry should really be disrupted sooner than later?
Education. I can’t count how many times I have “complained” to anyone who want to listen about how much time I and my fellow students wasted while taking our business degrees about a decade ago. Half bored to death we sat there and listened to dry and distant teachers going on and on about to us irrelevant meta-thoughts and macro-theories. Schumpeter said something about innovation, and someone else disagreed. Whatever.
It was during the first dotcom boom, so our “desperation” was two-fold: while we were having a hard time staying awake on the school benches some even younger kids were seeing all the real action in Silicon Valley, London and New York – building concepts and creating innovation that it would take academia years to notice, let alone understand.
Ok, we know the story: the bubble burst and the universities and big companies could for a while reclaim their monopoly on knowledge, success and prosperity. But not for long – and today the whole world seems to have accepted that entrepreneurship and start ups are an extremely important part of our human future. So you would think the way they educate entrepreneurs-to-be is very different today than what I experienced 10 years ago. Not so!
One of my colleagues at Startupbootcamp just finished his Master of Entrepreneurship at Copenhagen Business School. And what did he learn? Basically the same theories I learned a decade ago. And more or less in the same way; dry and distant teachers, long and boring text books, meta and macro thoughts preferred over concrete and specific knowledge, exams where you show that you have read and understood the books, not that you are creative, risk taking and can make things happen.
No wonder young entrepreneurs flock to programs such as Startupbootcamp, TechStars and Y-Combinator. They long for a true learning environment. And no wonder start ups and even big companies don’t want to hire students fresh out of school, unless they have accumulated a couple of years of “real experience” through relevant student jobs and internships.
Today I cannot remember much of anything I learned back in school. During the last 10 years I have been tremendously busy trying to learn a ton of skills needed to be successful in a modern business context. This leaves me with an obvious question: wouldn’t it have been great if during my 5 years at business school, I had learned just some of the skills that are vital to prosper as an entrepreneur? Like doing online marketing, raising investment, managing a team, conducting “cold calling”, making wireframes?
I know professors would find it almost humiliating to teach such “low level”, tangible skills – but shall we really let their academic ambitions determine how we, the executors of this world, spend 5 of the most important years of our lives and learning curves?
I was a good student and it landed me a job at McKinsey. But it surely didn’t make me a good entrepreneur, or even a good innovator or leader. All the skills that really mattered I had to learn myself after leaving the safe business school environment.
My first hand experience is limited to how we as a society educate and prepare our future entrepreneurs. But I am sure the same inefficiencies and frustrations hold true for many other occupations as well. So why don’t we disrupt Education altogether? When something is clearly nonsense, history has shown us that it will sooner or later be flushed out and replaced with a whole new paradigm that before seemed unthinkable.
Why doesn’t a future Master of Entrepreneurship involve experiences like:
- Setting up your own company for real, making or losing money on it
- Getting real customers, servicing them, dealing with their complaints and needs
- Managing team members who can actually quit if you don’t do it well
- Building a real product
- Getting investors on board
- Doing marketing, testing out what works in real life
And why is the format not a lot more like at Startupbootcamp where you:
- Have a clearly defined time frame to make something big happen (try comparing the
intensity at Startupbootcamp with that in a business school…)
- Get exposed to loads of true mentors and serial entrepreneurs to learn from
- Are fully focused on doing innovation, not just reading and talking about it
We all learn ten times as efficiently when we are truly motivated to learn. The fear of an upcoming exam can make us remember stuff for a few days, but never for life. We need a positive motivation (like building a great product and a profitable company) instead of negative motivation, such as fear of not getting the right credential on our resume.
Already in 1997 Peter Drucker claimed: “Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won’t survive”. Since then change has happened, mainly in the way teaching has started to move online, most notably:
Western Governors University
You can now learn much cheaply, and much more flexibly and efficiently than ever before. But I believe a true disruption consists of much more than “just” doing the same teachings online that used to be offline. Yes, it is a necessary development, and an obvious improvement – one we have only seen the first wave of, but surely there must be more. It was boring to watch my business school professor talk about Schumpeter back in the class room, and I am sure it will be almost as boring to watch the same teachings online. So who can come up with something more radical? And how do we solve the issue with credentials that after all is half the reason we take an education anyway?
Friday the 25th of May – Carsten Kolbek:
06.07: woke up
06.35: bus and train to Waterloo station, London. Cleared inbox on the way
07.25: meeting with Esther Dyson. Fascinating discussion about how big corporates can help startups scaling. Esther also agreed to become member of advisory board in startupbootcamp. Yeah!
08.05: Linda Hickman joined the meeting – thanks to Linda for making the connection to Esther!
09.01: walked to Rainmaking office in Mayfair and enjoying the splendid weather – trying not to think about work while just being in the moment
09.30: connected with Ken Chang in Shanghai about to discuss an event we help Castrol BP with in July
09.45: talked to Kasper about some problems we face in Greenwire and some hard decisions that needs to be taken
10.00: conference call with LaunchGroup about PR for an event we lead in London on Monday with 5 teams from US, UK, Ireland, Finland and Sweden and a bunch of investors
10.30: discussed a huge quote we are putting in for used mobile phones in Italy with Anca from Greenwire
10.40: provided feedback to Zara from NEF about 4 interviews I had the day before with 4 entrepreneur wannabees – two invited for next round
10.50: agreed investment deal with Fivevc to provide more capital to Greenwire (hopefully last capital needed before breakeven)
11.00: shared news on the Rainmaking yammer about a terrible investor meeting I had the day before and a new subpage we have launched about value for startups joing startupbootcamphttp://www.startupbootcamp.
org/details/startupdeals11.10: talked to our processing centre in Wales (Greenwire) about some logistic issues in Holland
11.15: various emails and scanned borsen.dk
11.25: moaned with Mats about a supplier to TrueSkin who was acting in a bad way
11.55: Marco arrived from Munich to discuss strategy for Greenwire
12.05: lunch with Marco and discussions about how to boost volume in Greenwire through enhanced sales force in Italy and Spain
13.00: moved indoor at Apostrophe and had fresh orange juice and a brownie (in warm weather!!). Now Marco and I talked about how to make Greenwire more lean and efficient
14.10: back in office and working on ROY forecast for Greenwire – loads of number crunching
15.20: helped Jakob and Marie with guest lists, name tags etc for the London event next week
16.00: skype call with Pegasor from Finland to help them optimise their pitch for next week
16.25: connected with martin Kelly from IBM to arrange a meeting about a Health Accelerator
16.35: met with Sandy and Mike from Pilot Lite Ventures to discuss an investment in Startupbootcamp Berlin and an exciting preventive health startup they are engaged with
16.55: signed new rental agreement for our office in London
16.56: more input to the ROY forecast for Greenwire
17.43: finally heading home (too late for my taste since I missed dinner with the family – very unusual)
18.35: family time (laughing, hugging and talking)
20.15: family asleep
20.16: agreed skype call next week with Christian from etventures
20.20: last mails of the day
20.30: reading a book on the kindle
23.30: sleeping time
Rainmaking and the London School of Economics (LSE) have worked closely together since 2010 and each year Rainmaking partners mentor teams from the entrepreneurial class. The first batch of teams had a very academic approach to entrepreneurship but in the last two years we have witnessed an increasingly practical approach with much more focus on taking concrete actions and establishment of real companies with websites and revenues before the end of the program.
This year was no exception. We mentored 13 teams and all had put tons of hours into designing and validating their concepts. Several teams had achieved revenues. Others had letters of intents from potential customers or vital partners. Teams had produced real physical products. And several teams had reached into other disciplines to design products, websites or physical stores/shops.
The intellectual quality is always top notch at LSE, but it is also encouraging to see how several teams proved real entrepreneurial talent.
In the end we decided to award the Annual Rainmaking Award to StellArtist, which is an online platform for top quality artist to sell art editions. The team had already established relationships with Guggenheim and leading galleries and artist. And they had developed a beta website plus secured the first orders and produced special editions in cooperation between artist and galleries. Altogether a very impressive team, traction and idea, which we hope we can continue to support going forward.
Friday we kicked off the quarterly Rainmaking event Rainy Friday – a quarterly social event where we bring together the most talented, bright and interesting people that we know in the startup scene – for drinks, jazzy tunes, and informal networking.
It was a great crowd coming – in total more than 75 people came by for an unforgettable evening, CEOs and founders from 35 of the hottest Copenhagen startups, 20 top notch techies, and a hand-full of early investors.
Will we do it again? Yes we will!
Stay tuned for more info about the next Rainy Friday.
In 2010 Rainmaking decided to open an office in London. The purpose was to get better access to funding, talent and ideas. 26 months later it is time to compare the Danish and UK market for angel investments, which is how we fund most of our startups at the seed stage.
The overriding conclusion is that UK by far outperform Denmark (and most of Europe) when it comes to access to early stage funding. There seems to be a number of reasons for that:
- There are more rich people in UK. So simple. Bigger population and more cash rich people. Both old money and high paid bankers (who said their high compensation is only bad)
- Mentality is different. There is a larger willingness to take risk and look at getting the big upside compared to minimizing risk and only invest once things are validated. It is still not US, but it is the nearest we get in Europe to having risk willing early stage investors
- The most important is, however, probably the very attractive investment schemes the UK government has put in place under which angel investors can get between 30-50% of their investment straight back from the government. AND there is no tax on capital gains from such investments (the so called SEIS and EIS schemes). This massively incentives angels to make risky investments and still leaves the investment decisions to the market. In comparison a Danish angel investing in a startup will not get any tax credit and will instead pay 67% on all capital gains if the investor upon the exit time owns less than 10% of the shares, which most angel investors will do at that point of time due to dilution throughout successive funding rounds.
Startup raises € 100K from an angel in return for 10%. Later the startup raises another 500K and all shareholders are diluted with 50%, so the investor now holds 5% of the equity. Finally the company gets sold for € 10m.
If the investor is a Danish angel then the profit looks like this: 5% of € 10m = € 500 in exit proceeds less 100K invested and less € 268K (= 67% tax on capital gains of 400K) = € 132K in net profit on the cash investment of € 100K
If the investor is an UK angel then the profit looks like this: 5% of € 10m = € 500 in exit proceeds less 50K invested (because 50% of the investment is paid back by the government under the SEIS scheme) and less € 0 in capital gains = € 450K in net profit on the cash investment of € 50K
So on a comparable basis then the UK investor would get 9 times his investment back, whereas the Danish investor would get the investment back 1.3 times.
It is no big surprise that we are happy we made the move to London and started getting our startups funded there.
And the above is also the reason we encourage most teams in Startupbootcamp to get their companies registered in UK and apply for EIS or SEIS to be able to attract UK angel investors.
p.s. the Danes agree with us, at least the entrepreneurs who are campaigning against the so called “entrepreneur’s tax”.
- Carsten Kølbek
Since we launched Startupbootcamp in Copenhagen in 2010 we’ve been on a romp and have had our fair share of attention in Europe and the rest of the world. In fact, we have a list of over 60 cities who have contacted us to either offer to run Startupbootcamp locally or simply to ask questions.
When I first contacted David Cohen (founder of TechStars) he said something really cool which I’ve tried to stick to as well: “ask me anything, I’m open source.” I’ve found that being completely transparent has more than paid off. What could we possibly lose by being open about how we do things? David was super open with me when I needed it and I’ve since tried to pay it forward.
I can safely say that it is this openness which was appealing to our superstar partners in Dublin (Eoghan Jennings) and Amsterdam (Patrick de Zeeuw and Ruud Hendricks). They were well on their way to running their own accelerators but they found that our willingness to share was a great indication of what we’d be like as partners. This fits exactly in the Rainmaking spirit and time and time again we’ve found we get back more than we put in.
So here’s a quick FAQ regarding Startupbootcamp. I’ve probably answered these questions 50 times and I might as well share the answers. That way, when the next city calls I can point them to this post (and add to it as new questions come in):
- What would it take for us to partner with Startupbootcamp?
The standard answer I give is this: “Come back when you’ve got your first 20 super cool mentors and when you’ve signed up investors for 25% of your budget.” In general this has proven to be a good filter to sort between people who are dreaming of running an accelerator and those who are truly determined. And you better be super motivated: fund raising, recruiting 100 mentors, finding a location, attracting hundreds of applicants and selecting them down to ten… all that can be a little overwhelming. Personally, I’m living the dream: I love running Startupbootcamp programs and if I was a millionaire I would pay to do it!
- What’s your budget?
We’re talking about the cost of doing one SBC cycle (typically one per year per city). The per-batch cost would obviously go down if we did two per year. But in general it has varied over time from €350k to €600k depending on:
-how much cash we give teams
-the size of the SBC team itself and salary levels
-operational costs such as rent (as our brand has grown we’ve been able to get sponsored spaces; namely from Nokia in Copenhagen and from Vodafone in Amsterdam)
-taking teams to additional Investor Demo Days in London and Silicon Valley
-and of course how much funds and sponsorships we raise
-a very rough rule of thumb I’ve observed is that you can take the total cash you give to teams and double it to get to your total budget; somehow that accounts for local cost base and ambition of the program)
- What’s the deal with teams?
We give €15k in micro-investment (also known as “pizza money”), 3 months of free co-working space + another 3 months for teams who wish to stay on; access to 80-100 mentors and exposure to 200+ business angels and VCs at Investor Demo Day. In return we ask for 8% of equity in the form of common shares (i.e with the same rights as the co-founders). We want to be seen as friendly co-founders; we don’t take board seats and we don’t have many special clauses. We have an anti-dilution clause to avoid founders giving away under valued shares but otherwise we have a very standard deal.
- Who are the mentors and how do you incentivise them?
-99% of our mentors are serial entrepreneurs. We want people who can talk credibly about being in the startup trenches. We have a few cool consultants, lawyers, professors and investors but the vast majority are entrepreneurs.
-All our mentors volunteer their time. They do it because they
1) think it’s fun and energising to work with smart and highly motivated entrepreneurs
2) they want to give back
3) in some cases they are investors and this is the world’s best due dilligence process
4) they see opportunities for board or full time positions with high potential startups
5) they want to network with the other super cool and highly selected mentors
- How is big is the Startupbootcamp team? How is it organised?
I ran the first two Copenhagen SBCs with a couple of interns. Ideally you have a right hand COO-type who takes care of all the logistics around mentor scheduling, events, Investor Demo Day and so on. One of the first lessons learned for most of us has been that running an accelerator to the level of ambition we have is more than a year-round, full-time job. Now that we’ve grown our network with programs in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Dublin and Berlin we’ve started sharing resources with a small central team which coordinates for ex. our website and external communications.
- What does the program look like?
Startupbootcamp is a 3 month acceleration program. We select ten teams from hundreds of global applicants and they relocate to the city for the duration of the program. They share an co-working space (and benefit a lot from each other’s presence) and work intensively until Investor Demo Day.
The word program can be misleading. Of course there is structure and we do a lot of scheduling in advance (managing and engaging 80 to 100 mentors is a huge task) but this is not school with a set program of content delivery. It’s an adaptive mentorship program meant to maximise startup exposure to super competent serial entrepreneurs. Some of our teams come in to the program literally with an idea, others have running prototypes and even early revenue and they don’t necessarily have the same needs. We have many common sessions on certain topics (for example online marketing & SEO, fund raising & investor material) but in general we adapt to the needs of the startups. We do work very hard toward the end of the program in getting ready for Investor Demo Day and to prepare investor material.
- How do you select teams?
There are three steps:
1) selection from say 400+ applicants down to the top 50 or so based on their online application (approx. 20 questions) and videos
2) selection from top 50 to top 20 via a bunch of Skype or face-to-face interviews. In some cases we’ll involve mentors to get expert opinions (on a tech aspect for example)
3) finally the top 20 teams are invited to the program city for 2 days of intense selection and mentorship. We then select the 10 teams on the spot.
In terms of criteria we don’t care about age, work experience, gender, diplomas and we don’t read business plans. We’ll of course look at the idea / product and market potential but the focus is on the team. Ideas have often changed during the program but the best teams are persistent, coachable, driven and have track records of achievement.
- What does a typical Startupbootcamp team look like?
Teams so far have been between 2 and 4 people. Typically we like to see a combination of a super strong techie / product person and a sales / hustler. We have about 10% women co-founders and the average age is probably 28 and has ranged from 20 to 44 years old. We like people who are not straight out of school and have some real world experience as they tend to better know what they want. We look for people who think and act outside of the box. We really like teams who have done things together before as they are more likely to withstand the pressure cooker of Startupbootcamp.
- What would it take for us to partner with Startupbootcamp?
There are probably quite a few divergent opinions on the value of advisory boards for start up companies. Some might feel that finding and ‘managing’ such people take away from the focus of just building a cool product and ‘getting it out there’. For others the value that experienced people with relevant networks in your industry can bring easily trumps the time that has to be invested.
The key thing is that if you do decide to go for it then it must be taken seriously.
To get a bit clearer let’s look at the two most likely reasons you would put someone on your advisory board (one or both of the following apply):
- They can provide great advice and have great network: This category of people you would add because you feel that they genuinely have insights and experiences that if they were willing to share with you on a regular basis would be helpful. They will typically also have a great network of relevant contacts in your chosen industry and can help open doors.
- They have a ‘high profile’ and will add to your brand: This person has a great “personal brand” and a lot of credibility. They might be perceived as the “rock stars” of your industry. They might not have a lot of time for real advisory assistance but you don’t care as just adding them to your board is an indirect endorsement that you feel will be helpful.
It’s obviously possible to find people who are both - however realistically if you were to add Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page to your board I think you would find that their real involvement would be quite limited.
If at all possible I would advice going for no. 1. As an entrepreneur we are all pretty confident and sometimes have a hard time asking for advice. In my own first company we never got around to adding an advisory board. I think that was a real mistake. We were in a rather stable and ‘boring’ industry and were seen as cool, young and innovative. I think most of the people we could have (and should have) asked would have gladly helped out. Thinking back on it I can think of many situations where a capable board would have accelerated business deals and helped avoid costly mistakes.
Quite in contrast to this in one of our current Rainmaking companies called Latest in Beauty we have added a great board. The company is a new take on trying cosmetics products online and is growing rapidly. On our board we have for instance Jo Fairley. She sold her previous company (Green and Black’s) to Kraft. Jo built her company entirely on sampling so she is the best advocate of our approach. She is also the beauty editor of YOU magazine which is Britains most powerful beauty monthly. Not a week goes by where Jo does not open a door to a brand we could have otherwise not got into. We also added Nancy Cruickshank. Nancy built and sold Handbag.com a major website dedicated to fashion and beauty. Nancy has the most amazing intuitive sense of what works online and is probably one of the most creative people I ever met. In our most recent board meeting we presented an idea that would change our delivery mechanism (can’t tell you what is it’s still being implemented). It was a pretty major thing so we presented to the board.
The feedback that we got to improve the idea made it instantly 100 times better. It was amazing and without their help I think we would have been heading down the wrong road. So that’s a great example of when an advisory board adds true value.
Having said that, here are some thoughts about the ‘mechanics’ of advisory boards and some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts.
Don’t think it’s about the money: You would usually offer some equity to advisory board members. Paying cash is completely out of the question at the start up level (if someone ever asks then run away from them as fast as you can!) But, the level of equity given is usually so low that it is unlikely that advisory board members will agree to join your board simply for this.
A typical range of equity participation would be from 0.5-1.5% of the company vesting over a period of 1-3 years. If you consider the fact that you are likely to take in investment (perhaps several times) then the board members ownership share is likely to be quite diluted. Perhaps they will end up with 0.2% of the company at the end. Let’s imagine you actually create a billion pound company (and be honest - what’s the chances of that really??) In that case the board member would get £2M. A significant sum but not necessarily earth shattering for the type of people we are talking about. In a more realistic scenario where you might create a £50M company (and even then you have done well!) then the board member would get £200K. That’s after possibly years of advice and opening their network. So it’s not about the money.
Respect!: As you can see from above most board members will join because they find your project interesting, because they feel it would add to their own ‘brand’ to be associated with your company and because they genuinely want to help new start ups be successful. Unless you are going to be the next Facebook or Google then the ‘brand value’ they get from sitting on one more advisory board is much less than the value you get from having them on.
It is important to recognize this and be respectful of their time and situation. What that means is investing the time in proper pre-board business summaries. They are busy people and won’t have time for long meetings. If you spend the first hour updating on what happened since last then how will you get the time to get their advice and creative ideas. Send out full and complete business summaries at least 4 days in advance of the meeting. Also make sure that the board meetings are pencilled in for at least 6 months going forward. These are busy people and you will not get the meetings to happen if you schedule them from time to time. Work with their PA’s if they have them to get the time booked in firmly. Finally send out meeting summaries with clear action points no later than a day after the meeting and FOLLOW UP!
Don’t abuse: Strongly related to the above point is to make sure that you don’t try to abuse the privilege of your board members time. There can be a temptation to run to them every week, as they will have such strong connections in your industry. Again remember that they are busy and that they probably joined because they saw you as a “can do” type of person. If you come running with every small request for help that attitude could quickly change and they will soon tire of you. Save your requests for the really major things where their involvement can make a big difference.
Don’t expect the world: As we have mentioned they are busy, probably sit on many boards and you haven’t given them a lot of equity plus no money. Now you expect what? Even though they have joined the board you should not expect them to open up their ‘little black book’ all at once. They will likely wish to spend a few meetings to get comfortable with you and the company and to make sure it really is a cool as you said it was when you talked them into joining the board. Of course, they may open up and be change your world immediately with great introductions and high activity levels just don’t count on it. Better to be positively surprised!
Thank you: A small word. Often forgotten. If you are lucky enough to get board members that help out and add value then don’t forget to thank them along the way. You can do that in whatever way you feel is appropriate but they are also only human and we all appreciate when someone recognises and thanks us for our effort. If you win a start up award for instance or do a press interview then don’t take all the credit. Remember to thank them as well. They will be appreciate it. They will help you even more and you will have an even easier task recruiting board members for your next start up.
As mentioned there is no firm rule to say that you must go ahead and create an advisory board for your start-up. Many people don’t. I am however a complete convert to making such boards a key part of any start up that I am involved with and have truly seen the benefits of doing so.
”Why does a young company like Rainmaking spend time and money on charity dinners?” ”A school in India?? Why the heck have you prioritized that when some of your start up arenot even profitable yet?”
We’ve heard such questions a lot since we ran our first charity initiative 3 years ago, and this blog post is an attempt at an answer.
In short, we do these things because it a) makes us happy and b) is good for business. What could be more fun, rewarding and meaningful than pull all your friends and contacts togetherfor a blast of a party centred around improving the lives of people less fortunate than us? After having experienced your fair share of vibrant cities and beautiful beaches, what can be more exciting than to drive around in rural Honduras on a charity mission together with a handful of your amazing colleagues?
“Yeah, I see it can be fun, but what do your investors say?” is sometimes the next question. Actually, they love it! Of course they have been part of all our charity dinners, and no one has contributed more than them, both in terms of support and donations. Investors are just like the rest of us; they want to contribute to a better world, and be happy in the process, too.
And charity is good for business – I am not kidding. We have found many of our investors and business partners during our charity activities. For instance, two of our investors in my current start up, BetterNow.org, can be directly credited to a group trip (we called it a SocialAdventure) to India to visit the school we established there. We met our investor at TrueSkin, Lars Thuesen, for the first time at one of our charity dinners because one of our existing investors, Frederik Heegaard, put him on the guest list.
Maybe more importantly doing charity builds trust. At Rainmaking we save tons of time because people trust us – we don’t need long contracts that take all risks into consideration.
And most important of all; we have evolved into a talent magnet in a way none of us had ever dared hope for. We started out 4 guys a little over 5 years ago, and today we are 90 talented, warm hearted and dedicated colleagues – all with second to none capabilities, and tons of alternatives as to where to pursue their passions. All these amazing people have chosen to join our visionary journey because of many things – one of them definitely being that we care for the big picture, and put actions behind our good intentions.
A recent survey showed that 77% of all people think “a company’s commitment to social issues is important when I decide where to work”. Check the Harvard Business blog post.
So that’s why.
Who are the real experts and how do you use them?
For most entrepreneurs the word “expert” doesn’t have a positive connotation. For a startup this could be someone who can tell you all about building a successful, game-changing business, but for some reason has chosen not to do it him- or herself. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” – is an often-heard proverb.
On the other hand, wouldn’t it be strange if you were the only one in the world with valuable insights for how to make your start up succeed? I mean, there is some pretty cool folks out there – and chances are that some of them have tried to tackle the exact same challenges as you are dealing with right now. Yes, your start up is unique, but still the problems you encounter have surely been encountered by lots of other entrepreneurs in similar situations. So what to do?
First of all, be selective. Identify the few who you really would like to talk to – and then spend your time engaging with them. The fact that “someone” out there is worth listening to, doesn’t mean that “everyone” can help you with valuable insights and advice.
In my experience the real “experts” are the active entrepreneurs who have within the last 1-3 years successfully dealt with the exact same problems that you are dealing with now. It can be inspiring to listen to stories about how your uncle or investor “conquered the world” back in the 80’s, but their advice is seldom very specific and spot on for your current situation and particular industry. General guidance like “always listen to your customers”, “have a strong vision” and “make sure to collect your invoices” is timeless and definitely good to be reminded of now and then. But specific insights that go beyond common sense are harder to come by – and way more valuable, given that you have already your fundamentals right.
Let me offer you an example.
In my current start up, BetterNow.org, we have been busy at work all of 2011. We managed to convince the first 25 customers, to get some early traction with 10,000 people using our product, and to raise an angel round. Then in January 2012 we felt it was time to stick up our heads and think anew about what we were doing. As part of that process we decided to get input from external “experts”.
First we identified the seven people we felt were best equipped to give us what we were looking for: specific insightful advice on how to get our business to the next level. These seven were all successful entrepreneurs themselves, one of them recently turned VC recently. We wrote them an email and politely asked for an hour of their time. Five of them gladly accepted.
We then wrote a brief and distributed it to them in advance of the meeting. The brief was 3 pages long and outlined the situation; what had we achieved in 2011, what our vision was, what we planned to do next, and which challenges we currently faced. A quick and efficient way of getting them up to speed, and making it possible for them to provide insightful advice, not just the common wisdom.
We then held meetings one-on-one with our five experts, and had extremely energizing and fruitful discussions with them. We listened to their advice, asked them to be brutally honest, pushed back when it made sense, and asked them questions like:
- “what would you do if you were the founder of this business?”
- “which one thing do you think would make our traction go 5x?”
- “what are we currently doing that you believe is not good use of our time and money?”
- “what do you see as our 3 wildly important goals for the next 6 months?”
- “what opportunities are we not seeing here?”
I took notes during the meetings and afterwards summed all the advice we had been giving up in one document. My co-founder Bent Haugland and I read through all these inputs on a Friday, and then digested it over the weekend. Then we sat down on Monday, talked it all through and finalized our plan of attack, incorporating what we had just learned the week before. I would say that our plan got adjusted 15-20%. Not radically changed, actually we felt reassured that our overall thinking had been right. But on a couple of significant points we were definitely influenced, and were now able to make some good adjustments. Maybe most important we felt again ready to dig in, re-energized and more certain than ever before that we were onto something big.
As entrepreneurs we often feel that we should know all the answers ourselves. But more often than not we can really benefit from identified some real experts and getting ourselves into an informed dialogue with them. No matter what problem you are trying to tackle right now, chances are that dozens of other entrepreneurs have recently faced an almost identical challenge, and found a way to overcome it. Go out there and learn from them.
Our start-up BetterNow.org is turning 1 year old, and now might be a good time to sum up what we have learned and achieved during this first period – and share what our goals are for 2012.
It’s actually has been two years since we first got the idea. I was in Miami with my wife, and as I was swimming in the 30 degrees warm water. I felt so privileged and grateful that a “strange” feeling came up in me: why does there have to be poverty in the world? In mean, there is so much wealth (I was surrounded by it there at Ocean Drive, just look at the average no. of plastic surgeries per person in that area…) that no one really needs to starve, die of curable diseases, live in fear every day. I wanted to do something about it, so I started looking for a business idea to target one specific problem: how do we make the world more generous?
It had to be scalable, so we wanted it to be an online concept. We started looking at all the existing platforms and forums out there working on the topic of helping charities collect more money: Facebook Causes, JustGiving in the UK, GlobalGiving, Razoo, Crowdrise in the USA, EveryDayHero in Australia. They were successful, and are all having a very important social impact – but we envisioned a bigger game: we wanted to radically change the whole process and experience around donating to charity, and our aim would be to create a truly global next level donation platform. A big ambition, but a worthwhile mission we felt.
So a year ago we kicked it off for real. The founding team became myself (on behalf of Rainmaking), Bent Haugland and Søren Houen. Bent is an extremely talented entrepreneur, and Søren a kick ass developer. The three of us started the work. We got a handful of passionate and skilled freelancers and part timers to help us. And these are our six most important achievements during the first 12 months:
- We got the first 20 charities to commit to a partnership with us, among others Amnesty, Save The Children, UNICEF, Cancer Research and WWF.
- We got the first 700 people to set up online fundraising campaigns at our site, they asked their network to donate which 8,000 of them did, resulting in 200,000 GBP (1,7M DKK) for our charities.
- Launched first a beta site, and then a more proper version 1 site.
- BetterNow mentioned in more than 100 (that’s right!) articles in Danish magazines and newspapers.
- Got chosen by national Danish television (DR) as partner for their big annual fundraising show (Danmarks Indsamlingen).
- We just closed an investment round of 350,000 GBP (3M DKK) from a group of first tier business angels.
Going forward, the most important 3 goals for 2012 are:
- Go viral. So far we have done a hundred small things to attract our traffic. We have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and now it is time to put that knowledge together and figure out a way to grow fast, fast, fast
- Get a good foothold in Sweden and Germany, we need to think and be international early on
- Raise minimum 1 million GBP (8.5M DKK) for charity during 2012. That would be a 5x growth compared to 2011, and would put us on the path of exponential growth that we are aiming for
We will soon hire a rock star programmer, and an excellent country manager for Sweden (Swedish, living in Stockholm, sales profile) – watch this space for more info.
So all in all a good start – but lot’s more to be done. Luckily it’s all good stuff and extremely fun and rewarding work. Thanks for taking the time to get yourself familiar with the progress in BetterNow
See from the inside how Rainmaking thinks about values. A non-edited copy of an email used in connection with our recent Energy Day in Berlin for the entire Rainmaking team.
Over the last couple of years we have had many discussions about Rainmaking’s culture and values, about what we shall focus on, and whether we have the right model, or whether there are other models out there, which would make us more successful. All these discussions have been fruitful; and it is now time to summarize the purpose, culture and values of Rainmaking.
The purpose of Rainmaking
When we founded Rainmaking the main purpose was to create a vehicle that could help us optimize our happiness.
We spent countless hours together to define what happiness means to each of us. We found out that we did not have one uniform view on that, but the common themes included having a good health, deep relationships with family and friends, time for sport and fun, sex, enough money to be financially independent, freedom, being part of creating something big and innovative, only working with people we genuinely like, being our own boss, having success, doing something good in the world, being acknowledged and many other things. The balance between the themes is not the same for all of us, however, all of us want a pool of things – not only one thing. And it is also clear that even though becoming rich is important to all of us, then it is not the number one objective for any of us, and there is a clear limit to how much we will compromise on our other priorities to get rich.
Some of us have been very focused on getting rich earlier in our lives, however, as we have grown older and learned what really matters for us, then we have realized that things like good health, being able to pursue our passion, and being with people (privately and in business life) we genuinely like is what really makes us happy on a day to day basis.
We are not judging others who for example want a more narrow focus on getting rich. And we are not saying our way is right for everyone. However, we have decided that this is what we want and how we want to balance things. And we do not want to compromise that.
It does not mean that all of us need to have exactly the same balance between different things in life, however, it does mean that we respect each other and we respect that each of us will have different preferences, which will make that person happy. There is of course a limit to what can be accepted. We cannot have partners who are not passionate about what we do or partners who do not contribute with a dedicated and high quality performance in Rainmaking. It just means that as long as everyone is really contributing to Rainmaking and our startups then we also allow for individual preferences and ways of balancing life.
If the purpose of Rainmaking solely was to create maximum profit, then we should maybe (and maybe not) do certain things differently. It is therefore important to remember that Rainmaking was founded with a bigger purpose. To be a vehicle which could help the partners optimize their personal overall happiness. Creating wealth is an important part of our happiness. But only one part.
We are ambitious and create huge value
When some people hear about the Rainmaking Way, then they could misunderstand it as if we are not ambitious and don’t care about creating value and generating profit. That is far from the truth.
We are very ambitious people and have set a goal to see if we can be even more successful than the “traditional” entrepreneurs who do not have a balanced life and who make all the sacrifices. We want to prove that we can create more successful startups and earn more money AND at the same time have a balanced life where we prioritize the other parameters that are important to each of us. Whether we succeed or not is difficult to know. But this is an exciting adventure. And a very ambitious one.
Our actions and results also show that we are serious and ambitious. And that we create value. At the same time as we are prioritizing other things.
If we look at what we have created so far then there is a good argument to say that it is a bit coincidental that we have not had the big exit yet. CityLasik could have been a EUR 10m exit if the German market had not collapsed in connection with the financial crisis. Gruppekøb could have been huge if we had stayed in and pivoted even more to services and introduced coupons. We would have seen that early and could easily have been the Scandinavian leader of the “Groupon model” with an exit opportunity above EUR 50m. And today Greenwire and more of our start ups have the potential to become such an exit.
We are doing really cool stuff and there is little doubt that we one day will make the big exit, and then everyone (including ourselves) will have proved that we can do both. We can earn shit loads of money. And live the Rainmaking Way.
One may ask if we can be as rich as other’ who focus 100% on creating wealth only and who are willing to sacrifice a lot of other things in their life to get there. The answer is that we do not know. And honestly, we do not really care. We believe that we can be extremely successful with our model. And earn more money than we can ever spend in a lifetime. And that is good enough for us.
The Rainmaking Way
On some occasions we have had internal conversations where the Rainmaking culture or values have been more or less simplified being about doing charity and not working long hours. But that is way too simple. The best way to explain our culture and what Rainmaking is about is to ask what external people experience when they meet us.
The fact is there are tons of cool, intelligent and successful people out there, but we are often told that Rainmaking is something unique and special. People are genuinely intrigued by our thinking, our model, our behavior and our results. These are some of the things people often tell they associate and appreciate about Rainmaking:
- We are genuinely nice people who are humble and approachable
- We have a positive attitude towards life and entrepreneurship (we tell a bright story, whereas most tell a dark story)
- We have big ambitions and create a lot of things
- We are working in a very professional way and deliver high quality
- We are doing sympathetic things, e.g. startupbootcamp for entrepreneurs and charity via Periamma
- We offer a unique working environment with focus on happiness, freedom and respect
- We stay friends and care for each other
- We do not have any politics
- We can take a nap during a day or working home or go and play golf in the middle of the day. And tell about it. And feel good about it
- We are different and not like the others
Maximum 10 partners in foreseeable future
We have an ambition to create Rainmaking as an immense success creating some of the coolest startups in the world. We want to be present in Copenhagen, London and Berlin. And over time in maybe more cities. For several years we have thought that we wanted to be 30 partners or so over time, but we have taken a decision to not be more than 10 partners in the foreseeable future. The reason is that we first and foremost want to sustain and nurture the very special Rainmaking culture and continue to be able to be true friends with all partners. We have realized that this will be close to impossible with 30 partners and the entire dynamic of the company will change if we became 30 partners. We would probably need a managing partner, maybe even tiered partnership and rigid decision processes.
And we cannot imagine that the Energy Days for example would be as fun and as constructive as today. Already now it can be difficult to have the same deep conversation as one can on a walk or in small group. We therefore want to limit the partnership to 10 people.
And that has consequences.
First of all, it sets even higher demands to whom we accept as partners. And alignment about purpose, values and culture become even more important. If we were growing a big partner group it did not matter as much whether some partners had somewhat different views of certain things. However, when we are a small group of ten people we need to be pretty aligned. There shall be room for individual preferences. Room for discussions. And room for disagreements. But we need to fundamentally share the same vision. Work towards the same purpose and have the same core values. That is crucial and compromises will not be accepted on that.
Secondly, we need to start developing a different way to create leverage. Until now we have mainly been able to grow through more partners, however, we now need to create leverage through a layer below us who can help each partner create more value faster and maybe across several startups at the same time – or get each start up to grow bigger and faster. This is one area we need to develop over the coming years.
Richard Branson is just one guy. The Samwers brothers are 3 guys. We can definitely still make a huge global start up factory with 10 partners. We “just” need to be much better at engaging co-founders in each start up, getting top talent to work for us, etc.
Rainmaking can perform 10 times better
While we don’t want to change purpose, value and culture, then we are more than happy to change anything else, which can help Rainmaking perform better. We have learned a lot over the first 5 years, however, we have only scratched the surface when it comes to optimizing performance. We are not yet anything like a smooth startup factory. There is so much we can do to bring superstars within specific areas into our businesses, to pick better projects, to leverage technology, to share best practice, to move faster, to ….. The list is endless. And that is great. It shows the potential.
We are excited to continue on this journey. The next 5 years will be at least as fun as the last 5 years have been. And no doubt the next 5 years will bring us to new levels of success. Thanks for taking part on this journey. We truly appreciate that, and it is a daily joy to be co-creating with such great persons and colleagues.
Greenwire acquires the worldwide activities of Zonzoo and becomes the leading mobile recycler in Europe.
UK-based electronic recycler Greenwire Worldwide Ltd. has announced that is has acquired the activities of Zonzoo Group plc., one of Europe’s largest specialists in the recovery, recycling and reuse of electronic consumer goods.
Greenwire launched its first brand, Simply Drop, in 2009 as a JV with Royal Mail. Greenwire has since then developed into a leading international used electronics recycling player focusing on building white label partnerships with Postal Services and selected other Bluechip brands across Northern Europe.
Founded in 2001, Zonzoo Group plc. is a true innovator in the field of mobile recycling. Zonzoo operates in 7 European countries and in the UAE and millions of registered customers. International partners include Vodafone, Tesco, Telecor, HMV and MediaMakt.
This acquisition means that Greenwire/Zonzoo is now one of the largest electronic recyclers in Europe with operations and partners in 11 countries.
Carsten Kølbek, CEO of Greenwire Worldwide Ltd, says:
“We’re very excited about the innovation and expertise that Zonzoo will bring to the table. Greenwire is a leading player in the UK and Scandinavian market and this acquisition can only enhance the service we deliver to our customers. We are confident that our acquisition of Zonzoo will place us in prime position to become the number one European mobile phone recycler.”
Kasper Vardrup, Director of International Business development at Greenwire, adds:
“We’ve set out an ambitious expansion strategy for 20011/12 that will enable us to significantly grow our position as the leading recycling brand for consumers and business partners in the mobile devices sector. We’re committed to setting new standards in operational and system efficiencies across the company.”
Greenwire will continue to use the Zonzoo brand name in Germany, Holland, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Belgium and UAE.
Notes to editors:
- Greenwire provides mobile phone operators, retailers, manufacturers, businesses and charities across Europe with innovative solutions to collect, refurbish and either remarket or recycle the millions of handsets replaced each year.
- Greenwire ensures that used phones are either stripped of harmful components, or used again in developing world.
- Mobile phones that are re-used in the developing world provide an affordable first-time communication device for families and individuals, improving local economies, quality of life and personal safety.
- For more information see www.greenwire.co.uk or www.zonzoo.com
Comments Off Published in Uncategorized on 23 June 2011 by Kasper Vardrup
They are both on www.betternow.org – the online fundraising portal launched by Rainmaking earlier this year. Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is encouraging our audience to “exercise their credit cards” by donating to a cancer research project. The panda – alias Jonas Juhler Hansen – has been running Copenhagen Marathon in a full body Panda costume, barely making it across the finish line before collapsing due to severe dehydration.
There two examples doesn’t stand alone. Since our launch more than 200 people have set up fundraising campaigns and raised a total of so far 30,000 GBP. This success has unsurprisingly made BetterNow quite popular among the charities, and now such powerful brands and organizations as Unicef, Save the Children, Cancer Research, WWF and many more have signed up to use BetterNow as their online fundraising portal.
The panda’s reaction to all the buzz has been calm and cheerful; “as long as I am warm and fluffy I don’t really care” it is reported to have said between two naps.
I have to admit that I am not sure I can predict the winners.
When I look at some of the most hyped ventures out there like AirBnB and Twitter then I am not convinced I could have predicted that exactly those companies would go on and have billion dollar potential.
Even Paul Graham from Y-combinator admitted that he first thought that the idea behind AirBnB was really bad, but he decided to accept the team anyway, because he saw potential in the idea. But honestly, how many people could have predicted how fast that company would rise? Some of my question marks would have been:
- do people really want to rent out their apartments/houses on a daily/weekly basis – what about the risk of theft?
- do people really want to stay in other people’s homes – seems to intimate to me
- how do you solve the ghost city syndrom – you really need a lot of “suppliers” before this service becomes interesting for the users
But hey, they did it. Amazing!
Facebook was of course a good predictor that there would be more services within the space of sharing information about “what I am doing”, however, when I first signed up for the service I honestly felt it was a poor man’s version of facebook. Terrible look & feel and nothing really exciting. And no very obvious business model for the first many years – though here I must admit that the American’s are better in seeing the potential of growth companies and not worrying about revenues until several years down the line. Something I (and some other Europeans) could learn from.
The above examples illustrate to me how difficult it can be to predict the winners, and that is why I mainly focus on the team behind a startup and only secondarily look at the idea. And that is also why I love being involved with startupbootcamp where we have the chance to work with and nurture tens of startups (out of hundreds of applicants) each year in the surge for creating the next billion dollar company.
ARTICLE FROM TECHCRUNCH.COM
Seedcamp, the London-based startup accelerator program which has been operating in Europe for the past four years, has been named the top European startup accelerator by a year-long independent study. However programmes run byStartupbootcamp in Europe took three of the remaining positions in the top eight named in the study. And three of the eight singled out are based in Ireland. The study was commissioned by the Kauffman Fellows Program in the US. I don’t know about you but I find these results fascinating, and they reveal quite a bit about the European startup scene as it stands today.
Seedcamp was singled out for its “Seedcamp Week” jumpstart where A-List mentors swarm over startups in London and described as the European “gold standard” of accelerator programs, with the biggest number of Alumni and three exits to date.
But Startupbootcamp (also an affiliate of TechStars Network), which has only got going in the last couple of years, appears to be in Seedcamp’s rear-view mirror with its programmes in Spain, Denmark and Ireland. Additional programs will be run in London and Berlin for 2012. They’ve even hired former TechCrunch France editor Roxanne Varza.
The study also found as many as 40 startup incubators in Europe, with 50% of them starting in 2010.
Here are the top eight identified by the study:
1. Seedcamp (pan-European)
3. Startupbootcamp Denmark
4. Springboard (UK /Pan European)
5. Openfund (Greece / South Eastern Europe)
6. NDCR Launchpad (Ireland)
7. Propeller Venture Accelerator Fund (Ireland)
8. Startupbootcamp Ireland
Springboard, a Cambridge-based accelerator, took fourth place for providing seed capital, office space and a network of mentors and other entrepreneurs.
Interestingly the Openfund, based out of Greece but focusing on Southern Europe, has significant investment from the Piraeus Bank.
NDCR Launchpad is Ireland’s first accelerator program, is based at The Digital Hub in Dublin, runs a three month program and provides up to €20,000 in seed funding.
Propeller Venture Accelerator Fund took seventh and is run by Dublin City University’s Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship. And Startupbootcamp Ireland took home eighth place.
The study was put together Italy based venture capitalist Gianluca Dettori and Marco Ciccolini in conjunction with Aziz Gilani from DFJ Mercury. It was commissioned by the Kauffman Fellows Program, working in partnership with Tech Cocktail (blog post here) and the Kellogg School of Management.
Dettori reveals more details of his findings at the NESTA: Startup Factories event in London tomorrow.
The report was based on a set of scores, such that incubators scored 25 percentage points if they had had qualified financing events (companies that got funded after completing the program), 50 points for for successful companies coming out of an accelerator and 25 points on program characteristics (seed money levels, equity stake for the accelerator, and the size of the alumni base). The rankings were supplemented by interviews with VC’s, investors and past accelerator participants.
But according to TechCocktail: “Europe’s accelerator systems are just a few years behind those in the U.S. and while the U.S. is one single market, European innovation ecosystems are like islands, loosely connected.” Also, European incubators and accelerators often operate with different variations of the model due to the different environments. That’s fair comment in my opinion.
The reports authors say that only a handful of accelerator programs in Europe ended up qualifying. And I must admit I was surprised not to see HackFWD in this list – which provides a year-long programme – alongside The Difference Engine in the UK. The latter has processed 19 teams, with seven funded and £1.2m+ raised by startups, post-programme.
In addition Microsoft’s BizSpark (admittedly more of a marketing programme for startups based on MS technologies), Garage48 (Estonia) and The Founder Institute’s European events were not named, presumbly because they didn’t fit the criteria of ‘for profit, closed terms of less than a year and paid in equity’. Also LeCamping in France, a non-profit model, alongside AAlto in Finland and TechGarage in Italy did not meet the standard, as did others which charge startups for their services.
Thus this also this excluded Plug&Play in Silicon Valley and Pier38 in San Francisco.
The study also found that Accelerator programs are valued by VCs more for the connection to the venture community and educational value to entrepreneurs than for deal flow.
Dettori says that after a year of research they found 200 entities between the US and Europe “that were somehow active”. He says they found 40 incubators in Europe and many of them launched in the past twelve months.
If you want to know the top US incubators singled out by the study, here they are:
1. Y Combinator
2. TechStars Boulder
3. TechStars Boston
4. TechStars NYC
5. TechStars Seattle
6. Excelerate Labs
7. LaunchBox Digital
8. DreamIt Ventures
9. Capital Factory
10. fbFund REV* / 500 Startups
In Rainmaking we are always looking for awesome teams and ideas to work with. We constantly receive unaided approaches and warm leads from our network. In addition we spend time building our network across Europe and participate in various events to spot talent where they are.
Out of about 100 contacts 25 can be dismissed immediately after a few minutes reading/talking. Mostly these are so crappy stuff that we do not even have to think about whether it is worth spending time on it. We do, however, try to give an honest reply often advising the people not to pursue the startup, since we think it will be waste of their time and money. Fortunately, most of these people actually appreciate this feedback.
For the 75 remaining we do not spend time reading business plans or doing our own research at this stage. We simply engage with the teams to get to know the people behind and see if they can make any progress over a period of time. This might be a simple exchange of emails or a short personal meeting followed up by a small task we ask the team to perform. This could be things like: “please go and ask 5 potential customers about their opinion about your product”. Or “could you run a small Adwords test to gauge the search volume and CPC for these 5 relevant search words”.
Interestingly, then maybe another 50% of the teams simply never come back with anything. Quite astonishing – but that is the fact. Another evidence that it is not about the idea – but about the team and execution. And very few can deliver on that.
For the teams coming back it often becomes very obvious after one or two engagements that many teams are not great. They simply do not impress with their progress, attitude or personality.
Around 10 out of 100 teams are really good and make significant progress. They keep us engaged. Act professionally and committed. They have really pleasant personalities – are people we really enjoy engaging with. And they demonstrate traction week after week. They obviously run into all kind of problems in the early stages, however, we can clearly see they handle those situations as real entrepreneurs would do. And they move on.
Only at this stage are we starting to really looking at the idea and the market. And whether we can add significant value or not.
At the end of the day, we end up working with 1-2 of 100 teams and without doubt the key selection criteria throughout the process is the team. We have been involved in too many startups to really care about detailed business plans and long term financial forecasts. But we do of course consider whether we believe a startup can make it big and we also care a lot about the action plan for the first 6 months, but the rest is anyway guesswork and will change along the way.
Vær med til at skabe Danmarks førende prissammenligningsportal
Vi iværksætter en ny prissammenligningsportal for serviceydelser i Danmark. Stærkt inspireret af andre sammenligningssites i Europa, vil Rainmaking lancere den første prissammenligningsportal indenfor Telefoni, Forsikring, Penge og Energi.
Du skal i tæt samarbejde med en partner i Rainmaking stå i spidsen for, og lede, virksomhedens udvikling, samarbejde med mediepartnere, identificere, ansætte og motivere et kick-ass team (primært programmører), lave aftaler med et større antal serviceleverandører, overse integrationen med deres respektive IT-systemer, lave markedsføringsplaner, etablere call-center for kundeservice og salg samt ikke mindst tage ansvaret for top- og bundlinje. Målet er på 24 måneder at skabe Danmarks største, mest profitable og mest kundevenlige prissammenligningsportal.
Vi forventer, at du:
- Har et stærkt drive og kan eksekvere med stor præcision i højt tempo
- Får tingene til at ske og er selvmotiveret
- Har erfaring fra et førende konsulenthus eller en førende virksomhed indenfor Forsikring, Energi, Banking eller Telefoni
- Har stiftet bekendtskab med ledelse og entrepreneurship
- Har viden om IT-udvikling og online markedsføring/konvertering
- Er mellem 28 og 40 år
Vi tilbyder dig:
- En mulighed for som co-founder at udfolde dit fulde iværksætterpotentiale
- En lønpakke med mulighed for equity upside
Hvis vi har vagt din interesse, så send din ansøgning og eventuelle spørgsmål til Mads Mathiesen på email@example.com. Alternativt kan du gi’ et kald på mobil 5051 9161.
Ansøgninger bliver behandlet løbende, dog senest 10. maj.
Recycling and reselling of used electronic devices – a bubble bursting
Rainmaking launched a new company, Greenwire, last year, which is specialising in recycling and reselling of used electronic devices (mobile phones, laptops, printers, game consoles etc.). The company is for example trading under the brand www.simplydrop.co.uk, which we purchased from Royal Mail.
In the last 3 months we have seen the reselling prices in Hong Kong (where the most buyers are placed) dropping dramatically. In any commodity trading market you will expect price fluctuations and in this market fluctuations have historically varied by up to 10% in the last 7 years. In the last 6 months prices paid to consumers in UK for smartphones kept going up as more players entered the market. This was further strenghtened by the fact that one player started pricing very aggressively on price comparison sites and all other followed like lemmings to avoid losing market share. In the end the cash paid for mobile phones in UK was out of sync with the demand in Hong Kong and the prices dropped by 60% over 2½ months.
This has caused servere problems for many players, since there typically is a long lead time from pricing a phone on a website and until you collect, process and finally resell the devices. Many have therefore been stuck with huge stocks and have to take the decision to either take a bath on the margin by realising the losses now – or getting funding to keep stock and wait and hope for better prices in the future.
In our case we decided to take the losses now and then adjust prices rapidly to reflect the new market situation. This has caused a loss, but we think it is better to get ahead of the curve and start building sensible pricing – even if this causes loss of market share in the short term.
Accelerating innovative improvements
The interesting learning for us has been to see how the last 3 months of dramatic drops in prices and resulting losses have accelerated the development of new innovative improvements for Greenwire.
When we launched Greenwire we already thought we made dramatic improvements to the business we took over (Simply Drop from Royal Mail). We did for example:
- lower acquisition costs per device by 30%
- lower processing costs by 50%
- reduce overhead by 50%
- introduce new value proposition to customer using vouchers via new platforms (see www.opensesame.co.uk)
We therefore already felt lean and innovative, however, the new situation has accelerated new innovations, which we honestly probably would not have done at least for another 6-12 months. This includes:
- accelerating international expansion
- finding new acquisition channels where we are less dependent on cash payment to customer (i.e. where customers are less price sensitive)
- finding new buyers who have more niche needs, i.e. we break up our batches into smaller batches where each part has a more hungry buyer
- investing into further improvements of our IT platform
All in all we think this will help us having a more solid business going forward, but I would have wished we did not need a bubble to burst before accelerating innovation. It is probably naive to think that we will not fall back into some kind of complacency again, but I will do my best to maintain innovation – and maybe every 6 months create a “constructive crisis”, which can help spark innovation and make us take radical decisions and make radical improvements faster, instead of small incremental improvements.
Rainmaking and portfolio companies have added 12 great people to our team since New Year and we are now looking for 18 more to join us:
@ PR/comms interns for CPH and London to support Rainmaking and portfolio companies (contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
@ Book-keeper/controller for UK office (contact: email@example.com)
@ SEO/SEM expert and students for Marketing Lion (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
@ Sales person for frokost.dk (contact: email@example.com)
@ Sales person who can work across the Rainmaking portfolio, including kick starting new ventures (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
@ Customer service person for Greenwire (contact: email@example.com)
@ Customer service persons for Godt Syn (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
@ Clinic manager and therapists for trueskin (contact: email@example.com)
@ Sales person for LatestinBeauty (firstname.lastname@example.org)
@ Project manager to startupbootcamp (email@example.com)
@ Fundraiser who will work across Rainmaking’s portfolio to apply for grants, public funding, loans etc. – possibly as part of independent venture as well (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
@ Intern for “Winning without losing” book project (contact: email@example.com)
If you want to be part of something special then contact us and join the most amazing team on a great journey.
The traditional wisdom is that lack of sales kills a startup. And it is true that many startups do not focus on selling early enough and with enough effort. Too many entrepreneurs focus mainly on developing a good product and think sales will come as a result of having a great product. How often have I not heard the following in response to what a startup’s sales strategy is: “we will share it via facebook and twitter and then it will go viral because it is so cool”. What can I say? It seldom happens .
I therefore always encourage startups to start talking to potential customers very early in the process. New services and products should not be developed in a vacuum. You need market feedback constantly to make sure you develop what the market want.
Similar, I always encourage people to have a very clear action plan for how they want to attract their first 100 customers. Ideally, you want a list of the names of the first customers – otherwise the plan is too vague.
However, despite the above then startups also need to be very careful about sales departments, since they can kill your startup by constantly feeding back contradicting information from the market and getting the IT department to focus on developing specific functionalities promised by the sales people instead of focusing on the original and long term strategy and focus of the business.
It is therefore a fine balance how to focus on sales and being adaptive to customer needs – and still have the guts to avoid that the sales department end up stealing all IT resources to service a few clients who ask for certain functionalities not in line with the core focus of the company.
The purpose of this blog post is to openly share what Rainmaking learned from Freshinhale, which we have recently closed down.
In 2010 Rainmaking decided to launch a chain of stop smoking clinics inspired by the German concept, Relief. Basically smokers are offered a combination of soft laser treatment and counselling. Our concern was whether the treatment would actually work, whereas we did not expect it would be that hard to get customers. It turned out that 70% of the smokers actually stopped smoking after getting their treatment, which is very impressive. However, unfortunately we had underestimated how difficult it would be to attract enough customers at a reasonable acquisition cost. We just managed to take the business to breakeven but since we were not convinced we could make a real attractive business out of it, we decided to close down the business in February 2011.
All customers have now been treated, all creditors been paid, and we have arranged with a competitor that our existing customers can get further help for free going forward.
The numbers and facts
The project ran for 10 months and we invested a total of £ 80K in cash plus some unpaid management time. We had one project manager full time and 2 free lancing therapists conducting the treatments. In total we treated 130 customers and 70% stopped smoking. We tested different price points and £ 295 seemed like the most optimal price. Customer acquisition costs were way too high – several hundred pounds on avearge.
We tested Adwords, facebook ads, face-to-face, affiliates and newspaper advertorials. None of them showed consistent and convincing results.
What have we learned?
a) Always dedicate sufficient management time
I was partner lead on the project and I don’t think I have spend sufficient management time on coaching the project manager and helping with the project. In the future we need to ensure we do dedicate enough management time to all our projects.
b) Never underestimate sales
We were very inspired by the German concept, Relief, and we knew that they attracted approx 40 customers/clinic per month at low marketing costs. We therefore anticipated that attracting customers would not be that difficult if the treatment worked. I therefore think that we were too complacent and did not put in the effort really needed to generate the sale. Learning: never ever underestimate sales!
c) Stick to your values – even when things get tough
During the critical phase for freshininhale we were offered an investment at attractive terms. This investment could have made us run for another 12 months – at least. However, we decided to advice the investors not to invest, since we were not ready our self to put in more money and we were concerned whether we could turn the business into something successful. We are proud that we managed to stick to our values and maintain integrity despite the temptation to test the concept further for other people’s money.
d) Be ready to kill your darlings
It always hurts to stop a project, which you have put a lot of effort into. And there is always the temptation to see another 1-2 months where things might change. However, I am glad that we (once again) managed to take the difficult decision to stop the project now and then move on. There is a decent chance that the project would eventually become successful – after all it must be possible to copy the German success, however, I think it is right for us to focus our effort on other project with more tail wind and accept that sometimes we just do not get it right.
ARTICLE FROM TECHCRUNCH.ORG
Wow, that was fast. TechStars’ first international affiliate,Startupbootcamp, literally just announced its plans to expand the Copenhagen-based startup mentoring program into Madrid, London and Berlin later this year. And now Dublin has been added to the list! Guess Ireland’s rather grim economic situation didn’t phase anyone.
But unlike the other Startupbootcamp programs to date, the Dublin program is kicking it up a notch and integrating multinationals. With IBM and Citi as partners for the event (along with Enterprise Ireland and Dublin City Council), the Dublin program will be oriented more towards the application and commercialization of specific technologies developed by the teams. For this particular event, it looks like the team will devote particular attention to applicants addressing the problems of capturing, storing, searching, sharing, analyzing and visualizing large sets of unstructured data.
Naturally, Startupbootcamp won’t be the first program of its type in Ireland, which is currently home to the European headquarters of Google, Facebook and Zynga – and maybe Twitter in the upcoming months. Other local startup mentoring programs include Endeavour and NDRC’s Launchpad. Similar programs are now popping up in other European cities but one of the big questions on everyone’s mind is whether or not these programs will thrive given the status of the European exit market.
Regardless, Startupbootcamp’s first program did churn out some rather interesting companies, including Roozz (a startup that converts any software to run in the browser) and Magma (which is more or less a Basecamp-like plateform oriented towards magazines and print publications). The pan-European Startupbootcamp network currently counts some 150 mentors as well, now including some well-known names from Balderton Capital, DFJ, Mangrove Capital Partners amongst others.
The former CFO of Xing, Eoghan Jennings, will be running the Startupbootcamp program out of Dublin. Applications for the Dublin program will officially open during the summer. For entrepreneurs interested in checking out the next available program, applications for the program in Madrid are open now through May 15. And it looks like programs in Berlin and London are now set to launch in 2012.
Startupbootcamp became the first international affiliate of TechStars in 2010, who also recently announced its plans to further develop its international network with the launch ofStartup America. TechStars’ founder, David Cohen, is planning to have roughly 30-35 international affiliates by the end of the year.
ARTICLE FROM TECHCRUNCH.ORG
Is it just me, or is everyone and their mother talking about startup accelerators these days? I seriously feel like we’re in some kind of Paul Graham era. Y Combinator-made startups like Dropbox, Xobni, Loopt, AirBnB, WePay, etc. have gotten all kinds of attention and similar programs seem to be popping up all over the place, even in London.
When I asked Graham, he didn’t seem necessarily sure if the Y Combinator model would workoutside of Silicon Valley, where there is a high density of active business angels and investors. Then again, progams like Seedcamp and TechStars - which behind the likes of Foodzie and Graphic.ly – may’ve proved that the model can work elsewhere; the program now operates in Bouler, New York, Boston and Seattle – and made took its first international step last year with Startupbootcamp.
Startupbootcamp, the first global affiliate of TechStars, launched last year and held the first edition of its 3-month program in the fall. From August-November, the 32 selected entrepreneurs representing 12 different countries (including Argentina!) worked day and night with the program’s 75 different mentors. Alex Farcet, Startupbootcamp’s co-founder, spent 5 months carefully selecting mentors, as they are the most critical aspect of the program. Farcet managed to gather 100 business angels and entrepreneurs for the famous “Investor Day”, which was held on November 16th. Barely 2 months have gone by since the end of the program and several of the companies are already in advanced negotiations with investors.
Given the success of the first edition of Startupbootcamp, the program is now preparing to launch in additional European cities. As part of a joint venture with Okuri Ventures in Spain, the next Startupbootcamp will take place this summer in Madrid. Okuri Ventures is behind Spanish acceleration program Tetuan Valley. The Startupbootcamp team is also preparing additional programs in London and Berlin for 2012.
Startupbootcamp programs will most likely be organized so that they occur on an on-going basis. This year, the program in Madrid will take place from July-September and the program in Copenhagen will take place from September through November. The dates for London and Berlin are yet to be confirmed, but the Berlin edition will most likely take place from December through February and the London programwill follow from April through June.
And while Alex is also a mentor with France’s new acceleration program, Le Camping, it is very likely that the 2 programs will not establish a similar joint venture to launch Startupbootcamp in Paris. Despite the fact that the programs have a lot of similarities – the mentors, the investor day, the free office space – the programs are most definitely not identical. To my knowledge, Le Camping doesn’t provide each entrepreneur with €4K right off the bat to cover expenses during the program. But the main difference is actually that Le Camping is run by Silicon Sentier, a publicly-financed organization, which means they cannot directly invest in the startups. Bum-mer. But that doesn’t mean that Le Camping can’t take part in the international network of accelorators, United Accelerators, launched by Alex and Luis Rivera – the co-founder of Okuri Ventures who will be responsible for Startupbootcamp in Madrid.
For anyone interested in applying, applications for the Madrid program open tomorrow, on January 21st. No specific previous experience is required and entrepreneurs of all nationalities are welcome to apply. Most entrepreneurs tend to be somewhere from 20 to 30 years in age, although there are no contraints. Just whatever you do, don’t go sending in your business plans; the team has a simple 20-question form to fill-out with interview to follow for the selected entrepreneurs. All information on applying can be found here. Good luck to all the applicants !
It just took me 24 hours to return from Madrid (where I was visiting our friends at Tetuan Valley). It was a trip from hell – not the Madrid part, the snowed-in Frankfurt part! But it’s strange how a few random act of kindness can help lift your spirits in the middle of a bad day.
First the Spanair stewardess spotted that I was sitting with my knees next to my ears (is it me or is the leg space getting squeezed with every new generation of low cost aircraft?). She went and looked at the exit row and waved me to move. Three hours later my legs and I thanked her profusely. Then as we queued for 45 minutes to get through security, an elderly lady in front of me spotted a single mom with a child in a trolley so she lifted the rope and waved the pair ahead of us, easily saving them 20 minutes. That woman’s look of surprise, relief and thankfulness was worth the wait. Small, random act of kindness but they sure changed someone’s day.
It’s the holiday season so it’s appropriate to thank people whose not-so-random acts of kindness made Startupbootcamp possible.
First of all Carsten Kølbek, Morten Bjerregaard Nielsen, Morten Kristensen and Martin Bjergegaard, the four Rainmaking musketeers who shared the vision and took the first risk on Startupbootcamp (and on me).
Then of course our amazing mentors without whom there would be no program. As David Cohen says, mentors are the secret sauce to startup accelerators. There are too many individuals to name here but these brilliant people all volunteered their time and made a huge difference to ten startups, and to Startupbootcamp.
Next our interns, Sylvia Brune, Maribel Estrada, Mikkel Rosener and Anders Olsen. They went way beyond what was expected of them and are the unsung heroes of Startupbootcamp.
There was a whole community of people who got involved by spreading the word, joining our Facebook page, following us on Twitter and joining our events – including the amazing group of volunteers who helped me pull off arguably the most successful Startup Weekend ever.
Finally of course the 150 entrepreneurs who applied for Startupbootcamp, and those 32 special people who were selected as part of the ten teams. They all quit jobs, left family behind and took all sorts of risks in the hope that Startupbootcamp would deliver value.
On a more personal note, my wife Gro and kids Noah and Olivia sure took a heavy load as I ran around building Startupbootcamp. I thank you and I love you three .
2010 was a landmark year I will not soon forget. We took an idea and brought it to reality in record time and had a blast doing it. Running Startupbootcamp is a dream come true and my wish to 2011 is that we can continue to build on this success story.
Thank you all and very best wishes for 2011!
With our first clinic open in London, Trueskin provides advanced skin care expertise in an accessible retail environment. Through ongoing free skin consultations, using our state-of-the-art imaging equipment, we can monitor all skin conditions and provide skin care treatments and cosmeceutical products that will guarantee results for our clients.
After the initial success, we are in the process of rolling out the clinic chain across high quality department stores, malls and high street locations.
Trueskin was co-founded by Rainmaking, Dominic Perks, Louise Taylor and Huw Anthony in 2010. The company is headed by Mats Stigzelius in collaboration with Carsten Kølbek.
GreenWire is an electronic recycling business trading from commercial premises in London and Hong Kong. The company specialise in the recovery, refurbishment and recycling of consumer electronic devices.
A key component of the business is our mobile phone take back scheme www.simplydrop.co.uk – a platform operated in partnership with Royal Mail.Today SimplyDrop process several thousand handsets per week for reuse and recycling with a focus on protecting the identity of the person who donated their handset, and a commitment to environmental excellence.
GreenWire was co-founded by Rainmaking and Pilotlite Ventures Ltd. in 2010. The company is headed by Carsten Kølbek and Kasper Vardrup.
Fresh Inhale offers an easy, natural and effective program to help you give up smoking; Laser Therapy. Our soft laser releases Endorphins in the body for a painless, drug free result, with no side effects. The treatment helps removes the physical cravings and dependence of nicotine. Combined with advice from the therapist we can help deal with the change of habit / routine to maintain your new smoke free lifestyle.
Our existing treatment centres are based in London and we plan to grow and raise the awareness of this extremely effective treatment program. The company is headed by Richard Turnbull in collaboration with Carsten Kølbek and Mats Stigzelius.
A huge week for Copenhagen, Denmark and the Nordics with both TechCrunch Nordic and Mini Seedcamp coming to town.
Startupbootcamp was well represented at both events and I brought back a couple of observations.
The first observation is that there’s a wealth of talented people in this region.
As is often the case, the pitches were of uneven quality (if someone can figure out how to get paid to help entrepreneurs make great pitches there’s a lot of business out there) but there are some brilliant entrepreneurs in the making; I enjoyed Uninel‘s pitch at TechCrunch Nordic, and Mihai Gheza of Nugames gave by far the most animated and entertaining pitch of the day at Mini Seedcamp Copenhagen. Other interesting startups included Swedish Hypezoo which monitors new products, Danish ClaimMy.biz which will help local business manage the geolocation jungle, and French Mailforgood which enables donations to NGO’s via email.
Startupbootcamp mentors were also prominent at both events (among others: Ari Wegter delivered a keynote and both Nikolaj Nyholm and Peter Engelbrecht were panelists TC Nordic; and Thomas Madsen-Mygdal was a mentor at Mini Seecamp). All in all, a testament to the caliber of our mentors.
The European ‘Silicon Valley inferiority complex’
The second observation is that the endless discussion about Europe not having a Silicon Valley equivalent drags on. “Do we have the talent? Do we have the investment dry powder? Do we have the market” and on and on. My answer, to paraphrase another Startupbootcamp Mentor, Michael Jackson of Mangrove Partners: “Who cares? Get on with it!” It’s like not going to university because you didn’t get into Harvard or not going out to a restaurant because you couldn’t get a table at Noma.
The way we’re going to win – assuming this is even a battle – is not by obsessing about replicating something which cannot be replicated. It’s by embracing what makes us different. We’ve got a fragmented, multi-lingual market? We know how to conquer international markets from the get-go! The talent isn’t concentrated in one place? We know how to attract and (remotely) manage international talent! Our angels aren’t as active? We’re better at boostrapping!
Having Mike Butcher of TechCrunch come to Copenhagen and agree that Something is Cooking in the Copenhagen Startup Kitchen puts us and the Nordic region on the map. It attracts talent and inspires first-time entrepreneurs to jump off the fence.
As David Cohen @davidcohen mentioned in a tweet, if you google “best startup town” you get Boulder, Colorado – a town in the west with 100,000 residents who are a mix of hippies, artists and college students which is neither particularly close to an airport nor cheap to live in. Why are they on the map? Because David, Brad Feld and others and launched TechStars and a bunch of other initiatives and got on with it.
So apply to Startupbootcamp and get on with it! ;D
Most of us seem to follow the same persons on Twitter, read the same articles in TechCrunch, and go to the same events like GeekNRolla. In many ways this is fantastic to build relations and keep updated about trends and new exiting opportunities. However, the problem arises when most of the entrepreneurial talent is funnelled into looking at the same type of ideas.
Example: Groupon has been widely quoted and discussed in nearly any European forum read by entrepreneurs. And since people so easily can share links and documents via Twitter and other media the hype becomes even bigger than what a great success story like Groupon would have generated some years back.
The consequence is that many entrepreneurs start to think: “This is THE next thing – and we have to jump onboard now to not miss the train”. It is obviously great that we can all learn from other success stories and be inspired to develop new and modified startups in other countries, however, I would claim that many entrepreneurs would benefit from looking left or right of the mainstream and super hyped ventures, and instead find a less crowded space where they can create significant value with less competition.
Example: In Rainmaking we have entered the market for eye laser treatments in the Nordics and Germany. As far as I know we are the only entrepreneurs who have taken this step in that industry, which is 100% dominated by doctors and industry players. But we have proven that entrepreneurs with no medical backgrounds can make significant success and decent exits.
And I am confident there are plenty of such spaces out there waiting to be explored by some of the entrepreneurial talent that dares to think them self and not just follow what is mentioned on Twitter.
As Rainmaking is co-hosting Startup Weekend throughout the Nordics, Startup Weekend found it interesting to interview Carsten Kølbek about Rainmaking’s involvement. Here is the result:
How have you got interested in Startup Weekend?
We have launched a European accelerator program called startupbootcamp. The critical factor for us is to attract the best European startup teams. When we met Clint Nilsen, one of the founders of startupweekend, we immediately saw this as a great vehicle for getting in contact with hundreds of entrepreneurs across Europe and that is the reason we are now sponsoring and co-arranging startupweekends in Vilnius, Kaunas, Stockholm, Lund, Copenhagen and Oslo.
What do you hope to get from Startup Weekend?
Personally, I hope to have a fun and rewarding weekend where I meet a lot of great people who are enthusiastic about entrepreneurship. From the perspective of Rainmaking, I hope we find one or two great teams who could be candidates for our startupbootcamp program this summer in Copenhagen.
Please, tell prospective participants about yourself and Rainmaking
I am the co-founder of Rainmaking, which is a “startup factory”. We have created 11 companies in 3½ years. Some have failed but fortunately we have also made our first two exits. Currently, our companies have an annual turnover of EUR 20 million. And we employ 60+ people.