The Early Stages Episode #3: Taking the leap
How do you know that you are ready to take the leap of faith and turn an idea into a company? It obviously takes courage and a pinch of risk-taking — but there’s a lot more to it as our experts know.
Every founder eventually comes to a point where he or she has to decide to take a leap into the unknown. While many people initially work on their ideas at night and on weekends, a crucial question is increasingly emerging: When will I be in a position to actually do this founding thing?
It takes a lot of courage and willingness to take risks, for example, to leave an open-ended employment contract behind and devote yourself entirely to your own idea. A brilliant idea does not automatically guarantee (paying) customers and long-term financing is rarely secured.
Our podcast series “The Early Stages” walks you through the “Startup Journey” in six episodes — from founding to funding and growing your startup. In each episode, host Julia comes together with founders and an APX expert to discuss one stage in the process of building a company, sharing their personal experiences, learnings, and advice for other up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
In the third episode, our host Julia meets Jonas Vossler, Co-Founder of Flow Lab, Dimitri Gärtner, Co-Founder of Framen, and APX Investment manager Maja Markowitz. Julia picks their brains about the mindset you need and pitfalls to overcome when committing to an idea and turning it into a business.
A need, not a dare
“One thing you must not have is self-doubt,” says Maja. The ability to accept criticism — yes, but there should be no deep insecurity. This is a very important prerequisite for this early phase of the startup journey. From her experience, one is ready for the leap into the unknown when it seems like there is no other option. “At some point, taking the leap shouldn’t feel like something that’s really hard,” she says, “but something that you feel like you have to do.“
Jonas is well aware of this feeling. Before he decided to start the founding journey, he worked as a scientist and basketball coach at the university. There, he first got in touch with the concept of flow, a state of mind in which you are so focused that you forget everything around you. He was so fascinated by this phenomenon that the entrepreneurial fever gripped him. “I was obsessed with the idea”, he says. “I knew I needed to do it, but I had to create the right circumstances first.” Today, his company is working on applications that allow people and companies to benefit from the flow state.
How to turn passion into a plan
However, there is a difference between passion and a plan. Dimitri was working full-time at Deutsche Bank when he became fascinated by turning his own idea into a business. Similar to Jonas, this idea was constantly on his mind. “When you spend more time thinking about the idea than your actual work, it’s a good moment to take all the motivation and bring it to the next level,” says Dimitri. So what was their next step? Jonas spoke with his professor and had his ideas challenged. Dimitri founded a Whatsapp Group where colleagues and confidants provided feedback on his ideas.
According to Maja, sharing and getting feedback is a fundamental first step in these early stages: “It can really help you to eliminate many mistakes.“ Also, there’s a chance that the people you reach out to early become your mentors and support you on your journey.
Seeking feedback and mentors early on has literally paid off for Dimitri: one of his first investors was a boss from his former company. But what to do if you do not start off in an environment that allows for many mentors? Maja highly recommends visiting network events in the startup scene, such as those of APX. Often, there’s much more support available than you’d think: Many universities have start-up clubs, local and state government agencies often provide extra support for young companies and also offer financial grants that may be especially helpful in the very early stages when you are not ready to find investors just yet.
Disclaimer: Check your employment contract carefully
But before it even comes to financing, rather before working concretely on ideas, Maja advises reading employment contracts thoroughly. Sometimes intellectual property clauses might be used to claim your work. This is probably one of the worst ways to hit the ground when you want to take the leap.
Listen to the full episode #3 of “The Early Stages”, available on all common podcast platforms. Enjoy!
APX is Europe’s leading pre-seed VC and accelerator program for very early-stage startups. Based in Berlin, we invest across industries in great teams building digital startups — often as their first investor — and support each team with EUR 50K, access to an extensive network, and a tailor-made growth program to secure follow-on financing. Send us your pitch deck today.