On September 13 my colleague Nicole Schrempf and I made our way to Berlin for the first stop of our 10-day study trip. We were about to visit university entrepreneurship centers, private incubators, accelerator programs, co-working spaces, and some startups in the German capital, as well as in London, Cambridge and Nottingham. Our goal was to learn best practices from successful concepts in these geographies and figure out how we can best apply them in Karlsruhe.
Let me give you a quick overview of who we visited and what our key learnings were. Some of these are more common knowledge but some might really surprise you. I’m not going to share everything, but definitely what I thought was really important. Have fun:
- Cultural change towards a more entrepreneurial mindset is curcial to produce awareness and gain support of influencers.
- Creating the right incentives for your multipliers is important for long-term support.
- Personal engagement of key figures leads to much quicker adaptation of a culture (“If our boss does, we should, too”).
- The build-up of an active startup- and investor ecosystem takes time (recycled capital, serial entrepreneurs, and success stories are self-accelerating).
- Inspirational speakers telling success stories raises awareness and motivaton amongst young nascent entrepreneurs (“You can be the next…”).
- Monetary incentives (potential investments) keep motivation high to produce a successful startup (“Work hard, an maybe we will invest.”).
- Building up a good quality signal for follow-up investments by filtering the more promising startups over the course of accelerator programs is much more important than the RoI of the small upfront seed-investment.
- Affiliations with strong brands open many doors (“Google organized this speaker.”).
- One of the strongest incentives for startups to participate in incubator programs is to be part of something bigger.
- Intense mentoring by experienced role models (entrepreneurs, investors etc.) is a valuable tool to speed up learning and improve business models in early stages.
- For every dollar the accelerator fund invest as seed-money in their startups one dollar has to be spent for executing the program.
- Co-working spaces need the freedom to develop their very own local culture.
- The target group of startups which need co-working space within an area has to be large enough to support the revenue model of the co-working business.
- In oder to grow a co-working concept the networks of all members should be actively invited to join events.
- The surroundings of a co-working space (city area, architecture, furniture etc.) influence its culture and member base.
- The essence is hidden from the eyes: Looks – architecture, furniture, design – are often unimportant for the success of a co-working concept. If office space is desperately needed, it will be filled no matter what.
- Organizing many events at a co-working venue boosts exposure as the attendees share the experiences and act as multiplicators.
- Starting a company can make you very lonely, the social interactions at co-working spaces keep you sane, motivated and increase stamina.
I definitely want to thank all of our hosts so much for sharing. If you plan on going to one of those places in the future, let me know and I can try to make an introduction.