photos: The Hundert /Irene Wissel
About 5 years ago Jan Thomas arrived in Berlin with a plan to do “something big” here. His professional background was marketing but his main interest was the thriving startup scene in the city that he didn’t know much about at that point. He started to write about it on his small blog called “Berlin Valley”. While writing, analyzing and reading other blogs and media, he learned very quickly how the scene works, what its problems and needs are. He went to all kinds of events, where he met a lot of people and collected their business cards. After a year he had a large pile of cards lying on his table and Jan began wondering, how he could use all of his new contacts on his blog. First idea – ask the ten most important players he knew to write their statement on the Berlin startup scene. It should be simple but interesting. Yet he struggled to narrow the group down to ten, so broadened the number of participants to fifty and then quickly to a hundred – the concept of the Hundert began to take shape. From this simple idea a new magazine completely dedicated to the startup scene in Berlin was born and the first issue came out in October 2013. Since then 6 issues of the Hundert have been released, with currently 4 editions a year.
We spoke with the editors of The Hundert about the advantages of Berlin as a base, how to start a project, how to network and how to find investors. Read our interview in a new edition of The Berlin Experts after the jump.
What makes you different from other magazines?
The Hundert is a totally independent magazine, breaking the market rules. Its main concept is to paint a picture of the Berlin startup scene, which is dominated by online businesses. Big Data, Online Marketing, E-commerce, FinTech – all these fields have a very strong innovative approach and mostly exist online. We took a risk and developed a print magazine about them.
We have a very strong Berlin focus. The companies we portrayed were funded here or have their main headquarters here. Berlin is actually home to over 30% of German startups and every day 2 new companies are being established. For us this means a never ending amount of startups to portrait.
The Hundert is a mono-thematic magazine – we always present one hundred startup related stories. Nevertheless each issue has a different concept, which should surprise the readers, be a work of art and also provide added value. Each issue is connected with an exclusive photo series. Additionally, we celebrate every new issue with a release party. We invite all the startups of the issue, investors, our partners and multipliers. Just as every issue is a surprise for the readers, the party always takes place in a different, special location.
Which startups are the most promising ones in Berlin?
A very difficult question, and we don’t want to be unfair or favour one over another, since there are hundreds of great startups in Berlin, who we have been able to meet and introduce in the past two years. But what we can say for sure, is that there is almost no great Berlin startup that has not been in the Hundert somehow.
If we should name a few from the most promising ones we would underline these five from the current issue of the Hundert:
Kitchen Stories – A cooking app that after 1.5 years after launch reached 6 million Downloads. It was awarded by Apple in the App store and was one of 25 apps in Apple’s Holiday Product Red Campaign against AIDS.
Helpling – cleaners-on-demand service, active in over 200 cities worldwide. They raised more than $60 million this year and acquired the British market leader Hassle and 2 other German competitors: Cleanagents and Familienhelfer.
Lesara – online marketplace offering clothing, jewelry, electronic, and home goods for very low prices. They announced 50,000 products listed on their site, currently employ 120 people and just got €15 million funding to continue expanding their operations.
Einhorn – the world’s first fair and sustainable vegan condoms. You hear a lot about them – they had a very successful crowdfunding campaign and participated in the famous German startup tv show „Höhle der Löwen“. 50% of the profits will be reinvested into social projects.
Number26 – modern bank account, enables users to complete all banking activities on their phone or laptop. The startup announced a €10 million round led by Valar Ventures, an internationally-focused venture capital firm backed by Peter Thiel – PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor.
What do you like about the startup culture?
The startup culture is very vibrant and versatile. It consists of a mixture of people from different backgrounds and of all ages – from young, courageous students willing to build a unicorn (=1 billion dollar) company, to experienced managers, seeking new challenges in their career.
What they all have in common is the understanding for the changes in this age we’re living in – innovation, disrupting traditional markets, digitalisation. They destroy the status quo and seek new, more efficient solutions in every aspect of life. It is really amazing to see how fast the startups are at making things happen and how readily they adapt when it comes to changing the strategy or features of their products and services. They prove, that everything is possible and inspire others to follow their dreams. Even if failure is one of the main characteristics of the ecosystem (statistically 9 out of 10 startups fail), there is no shame in that in the startup culture, because you learn something from every failure, gather new experience and then increase the probability, that your next startup venture will be successful and grow.
What are the advantages of Berlin as a location for business?
Berlin offers everything entrepreneurs need. It is still a low cost city if we compare it to London (the biggest startup hub in Europe), where rent and living expenses are considerably higher. There is also a wide startup infrastructure full off co-working spaces, workshops, meet-ups, startup events and conferences. These are all attractive selling points of the city for those looking to move here and work in the startup field. Berlin is subsequently a city full of educated, international and motivated people. Investors are therefore also being attracted to the city. Not to be overlooked is Berlin’s central european location and cool and exciting city to enjoy living in. All of these Berlin selling points have made Berlin one of the most important startup ecosystems in Europe.
Which funding programs and sources for investors do you know and like in Berlin?
Maybe it’ll sound strange, but there really is a lot of money to be found in Berlin. There are a lot of active business angels, venture capital funds, accelerator programs, startup contest etc.. A lot of traditional companies like Deutsche Bahn, Bayer, Telekom and Metro have understood how important the cooperation between older industries and startups is, and they are also organising funds and programs supporting young entrepreneurs. Here a few examples from each group of possible ways to get investment:
Innovators Pitch by Bitkom – competition for early stage startups, seeking the most innovative startup in the emerging categories FinTech, Health and Internet of Things. In each category there is chance to receive €5,000.
Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator is a 3-month-program offering individual coaching, mentoring, workshops, networking opportunities, events, and €25,000 in support.
Participating startups reap the benefits of close connections to Axel Springer and get an office space located in the heart of Berlin.
Companisto – Berlin based crowdfunding platform, where entrepreneurs can present their projects and collect money from anyone who sees it as a venture worth supporting. And there are over 40.000 users registered on the platform and willing to invest.
Venturate is a platform connecting startups and investors. On the basis of completed profiles and a matching algorithm, Venturate finds investors, whose interests are suited to startup and allows you to contact them via the platform.
Spätschicht is an after-work networking event series also connecting startups and investors. Participants receive different coloured lanyards according to their background, so it’s easier to find the right networking partner.
What can you recommend to someone who wants to start his business in Berlin?
Stop “wanting” and really start “doing”. But don’t invest all your money in an idea alone! Start discussing it with people, building prototypes, making tests, learning more about the market you want to join. Become an expert in this field to make sure that you really know what you’re doing. Go to events and use your contacts – there are many people around, who are willing to help and connect you with others, who you should talk to.
During this learning process you’ll probably change your concept many times, or maybe come up with a totally different idea. This is normal! One important rule in the startup scene is, that an idea is worth nothing. The crucial part is the team behind the project, who should be competent and passionate. Investors are investing in people, not in ideas. Focus on building a team as soon as possible and make sure that you are compatible with each other. You’ll have the feeling, that together you could do anything- from an app to a restaurant concept, you’ll just click. With a great team, the right idea will come sooner or later. And if you work really hard to prove that your concept makes financial sense – investors will also come.
When you make the next step and your startup goes live, then you can list your first success and contact us. Who knows, maybe you’ll be one of the 100 startups in the next issues of the Hundert?