The 7 Most Important Learnings

Even though Demo Day has come and gone, we’re still keeping an eye on our startups. We spoke with CEO Daniel Vollmer from Flowtify about his experiences with Techstars METRO Accelerator. He told us which seven learnings he took away with him from the project.

1. Have a Clear Focus!
The number of mentors and the possibilities they presented made me realize how important it is to focus. After our first speed dating day, when we met ten to twelve mentors at 15 minute intervals, I noticed how well-prepared you have to be to get the most out of the shortest amount of time. But processing and assessing the information afterwards was also important for us in forming an overview of the various tips and tricks our mentors offered. In about two weeks, we met over 100 mentors. I’m still working on and through all the notes I made four months later to see which mentor could be helpful for which area, or who contributed which opinion on certain subjects.

2. Give First
They say “give first!” – and this has always meant a lot to me, personally. I for one have never before seen the idea put into practice as consistently as TMA did. Seeing 100 mentors, eleven teams and the complete Techstars METRO staff living it day in day out and sharing it with everyone was a real gift. It didn’t matter who you spoke to, everyone helped everyone else in whatever way they could. An amazing experience!

3. Plan B
Rob Johnson, Managing Director of the Techstars METRO Accelerator, told me at the beginning that he had the “worst feeling” about how our business model would work. Who was supposed to pay for it, and then how much, etc. He recommended the book Getting to Plan B: Breaking through to a Better Business Model, which shows how businesses with an idea start out and how they – often unexpectedly – develop into something completely different. Meaning you always have to question, compare and optimize your business model.

We didn’t change our business idea, a digital solution for hygiene control and general quality management in the food industry, but we did define our optimal target group for the beginning.

4. The Checklist Manifesto
I have another book recommendation, this time not from Rob Johnson but from five different mentors (but I’d already read the piece after the second recommendation). It’s about a doctor who’d perfectly analysed what kinds of checklists there are, why they’re important for people from the most varied professions and why they work. It is in a way our central issue. A lot I already knew subconsciously, but I only saw the right connections after having read it. That certainly helped me better explain to potential clients why our solution is needed in the food industry.

5. Why Do Investors Put Money in Startups?
That was a question I always asked myself. No one could predict what would happen with Facebook and Google and what unimaginable sums of money are invested in startups day after day.

Jens Lapinski, managing director of Techstars Berlin, gave an amazing talk on this subject, which now helps me in preparing my presentation for potential investors. At the end, it’s a really banal “bet on the future”. I have to show an investor why my solution will be a solution for a problem tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and two years from now that not many people of thinking about at the moment. In my presentation, I have to show that we want to become the pioneer and thus the market leader in our segment. With startups, time is the most essential factor. I could never have explained that to anyone beforehand, although actually it’s simple and logical.

6. A Corporate Group Helps Startups
At the beginning of the Techstars METRO Accelerator, I could not have imagined how and why a transnational corporate group would want to and be able to help food industry startups. On the first day, I got it. METRO wants to give its Cash & Carry customers something worth much more than a 50 euro voucher for the next shopping trip. They want to keep their customers with innovations that they themselves can’t develop. That’s why METRO uses startups which are certainly not supposed to become part of the corporate group, because otherwise they would lose their agility. But with the group’s know-how and support, the startups can grow. For Flowtify, it’s a win-win situation for sure.

7. Pitch training
I more or less smirked the whole time at the Demo Day – you know, it’s the American part of the program. At the beginning it was hard for me to warm up to formulating the presentation. My co-founder even said, “Daniel, don’t worry. For our product, it’s not crucial”. The closer Demo Day came, the more intense the training became, and when the acting coach came in, I got it. When I look back at the video of the performance, I’m really proud, because if I’d given the presentation five weeks earlier, well, I don’t know how many people would have been listening after five minutes instead of playing with their smartphones. I definitely learned how to present Flowtify better – in one-on-one conversations as well.

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