Mar 09

Success of persistent entrepreneurs…

Cem Basman brought this interesting article from Harvard Busines School to my attention: There is a new study out that measures the success of first time entrepreneurs versus repeat entrepreneurs.


Successful entrepreneurs in the study had a 34 percent chance of succeeding in their next venture-backed firm, compared with 23 percent for those who previously failed and 22 percent for first-timers.

This is not to say that I am about to start a new venture, but it does make me think 😉

Mar 09

What does your company do better?

Whenever I work with web entrepreneurs, the discussion quickly goes onto one point:

What is it that your company does better than anybody else?

In an era with unprecedented low barriers to entry, and where competition is absolutely global, answering this question correctly and then executing on it becomes more important than ever. And it is surprising how easily we are all being drawn away from that.

Take Qype for example: Qype is successful because it only focuses on local reviews. We had to develop a local search for each market, just to make reviewing simple. Qype reviews are easy to find via Google, on your mobile phone. That is what Qype does really well. Whenever we ventured out of this area, for example with local Groups, we found that we just could not focus the same amount of energy into this.

Nearly every great company stands for one thing they do exceptionally well.

  • Doodle.ch is a fantastic example of this. It does one thing extremely well and is being used for just this: Agree on something, mostly a convenient time for a meeting.
  • Facebook is (and will be) successful in essence, because it will continuosly strive to deliver the best product to connect with your friends. Whatever form this may take. And they have the resources to do so.
  • While a BMW is a car like any other, BMW make the experience for people who like driving just better.
  • Ryanair is fantastic at lowering their costs for flights. Even to the point that they seem to only buy new planes in an economic downturn.
  • Many German Mittelstand companies simply turn out the one product and do that better than everyone else, legions of books have been written about this phenomenon.

You know if a company stands for something if it does one thing really well. And here I find too many startups trying to do too many things at the same time, becoming mediocre in each one.

In the old marketing days, this was called a USP, a unique selling proposition. But today you have to live up to it. And that means focusing all your efforts on this one thing.

Feb 09

Business ideas that excite me.

Finally getting to talk to people again. Discussing ideas, market developments, the underlying trends, barriers to entry, business areas worth disrupting and all these things just plain fun for me.

I will get bored eventually as I prefer to do things instead of talking about doing things, but for the moment I enjoy the conversation. Most of it, at least. People have been trying to drag me into their ventures and ideas and a surprising number of people, even good friends, have pitched business ideas and concepts that are just not for me.

So, here is what I find interesting:

(1) Businesses that make life easier for everyone

When I started working on  TravelChannel in 1998, I wanted to make it easier to book flights. We build the first engine that could compare flights in two totally different pricing mechanisms – the official IATA tarrifs and the so called grey market in one go, enabling people to find the cheapest flight.
Qype was started from  a similar starting point: If everyone starts telling everyone about their experience in restaurants, butcher shops or dentists, then there will be less bad experiences.

Bigger examples that fit this category. Google, Flickr, Facebook, you name it.

(2) Business that make markets more efficient and disrupt the status quo
The fun being involved in DocMorris, Europe’s largest mail oder pharmacy that delivers prescription drugs and allowes people to save was that it worked against the existing distribution structure with it’s extremely high cost to the public.
Qype also is ideally positioned to challenge existing near-monopolies like the yellow pages in each market to give local businesses more efficient advertising.
Other examples that make markets more efficient: Ebay, of course. But also craigslist, hitflip , nestoria and many others.

(3) Businesses that help us to reduce emissions
Together most other people on this planet, I am convinced that we are in a massive climate crises ,  and that mainly our carbon emissions are at a suicidal level.
I am therefore  – like many other entrepreneurs I know – particularly interested in businesses that help us reduce our carbon emissions. This is where I do most my research at the moment.
So I will try to combine my background – a degree as mechanical engineer –  with my experience in business-to-consumer internet and starting up companies.
Here I am not alone. Look at people like John Doerr, Shai Agassi, the Google guys with google.org – lot’s of inspiring examples.

In summary: Useful, disruptive, saving the environment. These are the discussions I enjoy and the businesses I will get involved in.

Jan 09

Recession Investments…

I recently attended the Techcrunch UK event in December and two guys from two top European VC firms were present. Mike Butcher started a discussion about their recent investments. It turns out that all was in games, and dating.

Easy money. Easy payback. I do hope sincerely that there still is a market for “useful” stuff. Things that make life easier or more fun, or maybe more green. Daft hope?

Jul 08

Zitat des Tages

„Die Deutschen werden andere Autos fahren und anders wohnen, mehr Geld für Nahrungsmittel und die monatlichen Heizkosten ausgeben und härter arbeiten müssen,wenn sie ihren Lebensstandard halten wollen. Und vor allem: Sie müssen Energie sparen, bis es weh tut.”

Der Spiegel, 7.7.2008