Four inspiring entrepreneurs from four countries come together to talk about what it takes to found a successful company.
Or Offer is the head of a Rating startup trying to take on Alexa.
Stefan Bayer’s company is a content provider in the education space and a mass video production company called Sofatutor.com. They combine videos with interactive exercises and services. Stefan says they have gotten very good at mass production of educational videos.
Vishal Gondal is a serial entrepreneur who comes from a games background and realised that wearables are hot. He noticed, however that most people chuck them in the first month. Most people were lacking motivation, so he reimagined them as a way to get data and bring it back to a human coach. His hardware is free because what people really need is motivation through training and coaching. His current setup is a design app and services model spread across three countries, China California and India
Sam Shank’s company is Hotel tonight. Their goal? Help people get a hotel tonight. Serving the need for last-minute lodging. Solving the mobile problem of “I need something right now”, while providing savings to customer and service to hotels.
How have the entrepreneurial ecosystems evolved?
According to Or Offer there are too many entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv. High tech is flourishing there. There are around 5000 startups and a village like atmosphere with tight networks which makes it a good place to do a startup.
What is it like for foreigners?
You could find the right people but raising money would be more difficult for someone who didn’t have an organic network. You would need to spend time to get to know the investors and let them gain trust in you.
What about Silicon Valley?
According to Sam Shank doing a startup in the Valley is difficult. His current success is the result of lessons and failure and networks built up over a very long period. Fundraising was difficult. He had 9 meetings with the guys who gave him money for the series A round in his previous startup. For Hotel Tonight he had 8 meetings with VC’s and companies with no result despite a good initial response during the meetings. It is a lot about relationships.
India, Mumbai, San Francisco
Vishal wants to challenge the idea that a startup has to be in an inner city. India and China have a huge android install base, the bulk of What’sApp users are in emerging markets. It makes no sense to be limited to one location. Go where the best talent is. Finding people with passion is important.
You can't build a service department in the U.S., it makes sense to build that business out of India. For manufacturing China is key. He finds the best place to make a startup is an Airplane.
"Go and hire the best talent. Geography is history."
Berlin? Stefan, Why Berlin?
It was organic. You can see Berlin changing. Today it’s like San Francisco, a lot of events, it's the startup magnet of central Europe. Lots of incubators and accelerators. Berlin has changed a lot since 2008. It needs more growth funding, but for early stages it is a haven.
It also attracts people who don’t even know what they want to found. That is not so good. The drive for invention is letting up, more business school graduates with people who want to be co-founders.
Or Offer sees Berlin as the biggest threat to Tel-Aviv.
Has the ecosystem harmed the quality?
Or Offer: Yes, everyone wants to be part of the party, that has made it more challenging to get high quality employees. You need to find an interesting way to keep them in the company.
Sam Shank: It’s fairly easy to get a convertible note from friends or family, if it shows promise you can then get funding but investors are being more disciplined which means it isn’t as easy as it used to be. You never know what is going to come out of smaller experiments.
Vishal: There is a huge euphoria around startups. Everyone has business plans, but people don’t need business plans, they need balls. It’s not about creating clones, it’s about innovation.
How did the global strategy of Vishal evolve?
Vishal: Through wanting to work with the very best people. The second thing was getting rid of email. WhatsApp and IM as primary communication has been effective. Making sure standards are high has also worked out well, and helped make sure people working are passionate.
Have you ever thought of creating content for another market?
Stephan: Everyday. It's hard to localise education. But it’s our philosophy to be strong in the German market first and then go international.
Sam originally thought it would be a local business, but quickly found that customers wanted to use it to travel which lead to a much more rapid expansion than originally planned. “We have aims of being the next great global travel brand.”
Do you have thoughts on New York? or Offer has been dreaming of setting up a New York Office. New York is the centre for going into the U.S. market.
Vishal: Outside of India the best Indian food is in New York.
Sam: It has the best hotels and best hotel managers. They like to give deals.