We sat down with Sascha Schubert founder of spendino, a venture-backed Charity Micropayment Service. spendino enables donations via Short Message Service (SMS) and assists Charities to enhance their donation income and media-savvy. In addition to the mobile bill, spendino makes out donation receipts (for tax refund) and supports the charities in customer communication via the web and mobile channels to provide a best in class customer experience and to extend customer lifetimes.
Before we start, can you give our readers a bit of a background on yourself and ECB
I started “doing something” with networking in the internet entrepreneurship scene in 2005. I wanted to move to Berlin and get in touch with more people interested in start-ups. Together with Florian Nöll, I started an event named StartUp Lounge. At that time, it was one of only two events in the start-up space.
As a serial entrepreneur, what is your take on the current start-up scene in Berlin?
3 years ago, the Berlin start-up scene was a pretty German phenomenon and it has changed very fast. Many big corporate players are now moving in and a lot of people from abroad. It is impressive.
Are they developments good or bad?
It´s good – the international thing is good. The thing with the big corporates still has some risks because the start-up scene in Berlin is not developed yet, with no big exits. The risk is when the amount of money, time and awareness the corporate players are bringing in is bigger than the number of cash start-ups are generating. there is also a risk that the startups’ scene starts to become a Zombie big corporate start-ups scene.
There are many incubators springing up, with the corporate players moving in – is this helpful or does it just add to the noise?
It takes away the awareness of the real scene. When people start to think that sitting in an incubator from a DAX Company is the real start-ups’ thing, this is not helpful. Starting a business is about moving fast, it´s not about being part of something stable.
and where does Entrepreneur Club of Berlin (ECB) fall in all this?
We are an independent group of people. We have all founded companies by ourselves. We are self-funded and it´s about peer learning, networking and helping people who want to start something with mentors, increase knowledge and contacts.
We support growth companies. If you want to become a freelancer, lawyer, etc., we´re not the best network.
ECB is dedicated to promoting a vibrant entrepreneurial culture in Berlin, shared learning and a positive business image. ECB is a non-partisan advocate for Startup political issues. We organize numerous Start-up related events such as Startup Camp Berlin, Pitch Marathon, Failcon, and StartUp Lounge. In addition, we offer an Entrepreneurship mentoring program for students together with Start Berlin e.V.
Does a company have to be at a certain stage (customers, revenue) to join?
No, but you must have a vision that fits – the vision to build a scalable business.
What are the biggest challenges faced by these growth companies?
The lack of a business model or a market. When you start something, you never know how it will be received by the market and how big the market opportunity is. And sometimes when you start your first company you are usually not an experienced business owner.
And remember, 70% of all startups fail and from my point of view this is part of the game when you start something new.
Often we find that the process is backward – start-ups develop a product and then go look for a market rather than finding an unmet need in the market to serve.
Yes, but both ways could work – though the risk to fail is bigger when you do identify an unmet need before developing a product or service.
As part of your programs, you offer a series of conferences. Can you tell us about what upcoming?
The next events are FailCon and Pitch Marathon.
Can you explain the premise behind Failcon?
We think that failure is part of the game, but in Germany, we view failure as a bad thing. Often people ask who’s to blame rather than asking what we have learned. We want to change that because we think there is a lot of knowledge in failed experiments.
Who will we hear from at FailCon?
We will have some start-ups, VC´s and a former Board Member if the German Stock Exchange who will speak about the rise and fall of the German tech market, which was one of the biggest failures with a loss of 150b €.
And FailCon is followed by Pitch Marathon
Pitch Marathon is for start-uppers looking for funding – 42 startups presenting in front of 40 Investors. All of those real companies with a working MVP – Minimum Viable Product. We don´t want people to present just an idea for feedback. If your product is ready, if you have some customers as a startup – you´re the perfect person to apply for Pitch marathon. Over the last 5 years, we have had 800 companies apply with 104 presenting.
To learn more
Entrepreneurs Club Berlin e.V. is a not-for-profit organization pursuing the goal of a vibrant entrepreneurial culture in Berlin, promoting collaborative learning and a positive business image for start-ups. It stands as a partner for founders on bi-partisan political issues (www.entrepreneursclub.de) and organizes a range of events for founders and entrepreneurs including Startup Camp Berlin, FailCon, Pitch Marathon and Startup Lounge. It is supported by the Bundesverband Deutsche Startups e.V. (German Startups Association (www.germanstartups.org), a non-profit representative organization for start-ups in Germany, committed to establishing a founder-friendly environment and opening up a dialogue with decision-makers in politics to help encourage a culture of self-employment and reduce the barriers to starting a business.