Startup Lessons Learned


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Keynote presentation at the Runway Incubator in San Francisco about lessons learned from 12+ years and multiple startups here in Silicon Valley. Hosted by The German Silicon Valley Accelerator (GSVA) in collaboration with: the German American Chamber of Commerce (GACC), Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), and the German American Business Association (GABA). Seventh edition of My Success. Our Visions. March 5th, 2014 - More info at

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Startup Lessons Learned

  1. 1. Startup Lessons Learned One Exit, One Going, One Failed ! ! ! ! German Silicon Valley Accelerator (GSVA) March 5th, 2014 - Runway Incubator, San Francisco By Frederik Hermann / @netzkobold #siliconvalley #gsva
  2. 2. My computer science professor Prof. Dr. Walter F. Tichy first sparked my interest in“Palo Alto” and the “Silicon Valley” at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in the late 90’s.
  3. 3. Berlin, Germany
  4. 4. Vienna, Austria
  5. 5. Jajah Office - Vienna, Austria
  6. 6. San Francisco, CA
  7. 7. Jajah was acquired by Telefónica Europe/O2 in December 2009 for $207 million in an all-cash transaction.
  8. 8. Talenthouse Office - Palo Alto, CA
  9. 9. Swipp Inc. - Mountain View, CA
  10. 10. Focus With your limited resources it is essential to focus your energy. Set a few achievable goals and make everything work towards those goals. #gsva
  11. 11. Product/Market Fit Don’t wait too long, test and validate your assumptions with real customers. Build a product that people want. #timetomarket #gsva
  12. 12. Reality is for pussies You can't design for the present, you have to build for an anticipated future. You can't build to where your potential customers are today, but rather where they will be tomorrow. #gsva
  13. 13. Go big or go home It totally doesn't pay to think or act small. Big thinking tends to create its own weather system. #gsva
  14. 14. Hire for your culture Hiring the right team is essential. Look for energy. Hire the person that blows you away with energy, curiosity, ideas and focus. A’s Hire A’s, B's Hire C’s. #gsva
  15. 15. F%$k the features Your core value proposition needs to resonate with your potential customers, adding features won’t help. Reduce, make it simple and easy to use. #gsva
  16. 16. Trust your gut Don't lose sight of that finely tuned instrument between your head and your belt. If something doesn't feel right about a business deal or business relationship, it probably isn’t right. #instinct #gsva
  17. 17. You don't want it to be easy The value is often created doing the things other people can't or are unwilling to do. You want it to be hard. #gsva
  18. 18. Be in it for the long haul People think that a startup is a quick/easy way to make money, but startups take time - a lot of time. If you aren't in it for a 5-year time horizon at least, don't do it. #gsva
  19. 19. Create a path to revenue No (business) problem is not helped with cash flow. #gsva
  20. 20. Learn Hard / Learn Fast If you're the smartest guy in the room, get out. You have no time to not be learning and you're wasting your time. Change is the dominant characteristic of today’s business landscape. Embrace it. #gsva
  21. 21. Viral Loop Build a viral loop into the product’s core inner workings. #gsva
  22. 22. PR is dead Don’t spend time and money focusing on PR in your early stages. PR is not an effective customer acquisition tool anymore. Building a product that people want is more important. #gsva
  23. 23. Learn how to present If you can't sell your idea to others, no one else will be able to. #gsva
  24. 24. Honor your fans Your fans and advocates are the most important asset you have, engage and involve them, show them that you care about them, they will bring more users for you. #wordofmouth #gsva
  25. 25. Test, measure, refine Through rapid experimentation create a healthy loop of
 building, testing, measuring, learning, refining and improving. Base your decisions on analytics and data . #gsva
  26. 26. Don’t be a dick The valley is small. Reputation and relationship is everything. #gsva
  27. 27. Believe in your vision You will receive a lot of advice, conflicting suggestions, people telling you to change your approach… take everything with a grain of salt, nobody knows your business better than you. #gsva
  28. 28. Imagine a better future, then go build it.
  29. 29. Questions? Connect. Frederik Hermann ! With thanks to Michael Hirschbrich (@michirschbrich), Don Thorson (@donthorson), Charlie Costantini (@coz360), and Sunil Rajaraman (@subes01) for their input. @netzkobold #gsva