YPO Business Leaders Share Strategies for Startup Success in Berlin

YPO, the premier chief executive leadership organization in the world, hosted a live Twitter chat with two prominent German business leaders discussing the unique advantages that Berlin offers as a thriving hub for startups, entrepreneurs and innovation, and the secrets to startup success.

Featured guests Dominik Matyka (@dominikmatyka) and Ralph Eric Kunz (@RalphEKunz), both members of the YPO Berlin Chapter, discussed how to ensure success for an early startup and offered tips to improve the odds of success. Matyka is Partner at Calvary VC, a leading (pre)seed fund, and Kunz is Managing Director at Catagonia, a venture capital firm investing in mobile internet, social network apps, location and Internet-based services.

The hour-long, interactive, question-and-answer session began with a discussion about Germany and why the country is so attractive for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike. Given that the city Berlin alone is home to more than 2,500 startups that have attracted EURO2.1 billion from VCs in the past two years, both business leaders noted the unique opportunities that Germany provides.

“Berlin is the place where young people can prove themselves better than in any major city in the world. It is a place where establishment is seen as boring and innovation as thrilling. Berlin itself is a startup that had to start fresh in 1989. I would say that it has now arrived in ‘growth phase,’” said Kunz.

Matyka added that what attracts entrepreneurs are, “Top educated people, good infrastructure, a working and growing economy, and deep networks, especially in Berlin. There is a growing VC base — Berlin is faster than any other city in Germany! Competition is also harder; if you make it here, you make it everywhere.”

More than 50 percent of all new businesses fail within five years, and in fact, 25 percent of new business don’t make it past year one. Although founders of a previously successful business have a 30% better chance of success with their next venture, entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful if they have failed before. As an investor, choosing which startups have the best chance of success is critical, and often complicated.

“Understand the value that the company intends to create for each stakeholder and whether it is unique,” said Kunz. “In the end, there is always a bit of trial and error.”  Matyka added, “Don’t invest in companies you do not entirely understand. Screen the leadership team, as experience, education and entrepreneurial behavior are good indicators for success.”

This year has seen the Internet-of-Things (IoT) is emerging as the next technology mega-trend, mobile enterprise deployments have opened up a host of new opportunities and challenges for companies, governments and consumers and cognitive systems and machine learning completely change the way we interact with technology. As most entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world are looking ahead and mapping their product and business development plans for 2017, Matkya and Kunz reflected on a few of the most interesting trends within the startup ecosystem in 2016.

Kunz said, “Money is moving away from AdTech and commerce into AI (artificial intelligence), bots, mobility and FinTech.”  Matkya added, “Some other of the latest trends include VR/AR (virtual reality/augmented reality), industrialized analytics, re-imagining core platforms, autonomic platforms and new marketplace approaches.”

“Combine the assets of German Mittelstand world leaders with the digital startup capabilities of Berlin, and participate in the transformation of major German industries, including automotive and IoT,” advised Kunz.

What are the most important pieces of advice for a first-time startup founder in 2016?  The chat concluded with the two business leaders sharing their advice for first-time founders and chief executives.

“Try to understand what the secret sauce is in the industries you are looking at,” advised Kunz. “Don’t analyze too long, but get started if you feel you are on to something. Many times you recalibrate on the way.”

“Talk and listen to people – customers, venture capitalists, fellow entrepreneurs, etc. – and validate your ideas.” said Matkya.

Search #YPOLeadership on Twitter to view the full discussion with @YPO.



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