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APX Voices

The Early Stages Episode #6: Grow your idea

Every startup wants to grow — but how do you use your funds to make a splash onto the scene? Our alumni and experts are here to help in the sixth — and final — episode of our podcast series „The Early Stages“.

In the beginning, you had an idea. Now, you’ve learned how to take the leap into the unknown, found a company, and put together a great team. You’ve accepted help, are enrolled in an accelerator program that provides you with a great network and mentorship, and have raised money. Now, it’s time to grow your business. Here’s how.

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 sixth and last episode, host Julia meets Anna Banicevic, co-founder of the global boat rental platform Zizoo, Hendrik Schriefer, Co-Founder of the people development platform Sharpist (both APX alumni), and APX Director of Finance & Portfolio, Melanie Schröder. They talk about the challenges of growth and how to find the right speed.

Does pressure mount with the money that comes in?

It is a double-edged sword: You could think that the more money you have, the easier it’ll be. But money might also increase pressure. Anna and her team at Zizoo raised EUR 650,000 in seed funding in 2014, another EUR 1,7 million in 2016, and EUR 6,5 million in their series A financing round in 2018. Her experience? After the honeymoon phase following her time at APX, the work was beginning. “We underestimated what a fundraising process looks like,” she remembers, “The period after is even more stressful. Then, you need to deliver on the promises you made.“

Hendrik and his co-founders turned the pressure into energy. They locked themselves in a small room and hot-dialed the phone lines to sell their product. Hendrik’s advice: “Get out there and try to sell.” Because that’s what a business is all about: making money.

Graphics by Jasmin Zimmermann

Personality over skills

Let’s imagine you have raised a lot of money — how do you invest it wisely to let your startup grow? There is — as so often — no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Technology, marketing, team, the priorities all depend on the product. But Melanie from APX says that growth can hardly be managed without good employees. “Not every founder is also a good manager for a bigger company”, she says. Founders have to find people to whom they entrust responsibility. After all, you can’t do everything yourself when a company grows from 10 to 100 employees.

Anna and Hendrik share the view that the cultural fit is more important than simply finding the very best skills. “We would always choose the person with less experience but the right mindset and potential”, says Hendrik. From Anna’s experiences as a recruiter at Google, she learned that it’s worth going through several rounds of interviews to find out if people are fun and make the company a better place. She is now trying to implement this process in her own company.

The art of sustainable growth

Growth is the goal, but the art is to choose the right speed and make the right choices to grow sustainable. Something that needs to be taken into account when preparing for financing rounds is the amount of money. “We advise you to really think about how much money you actually need”, says Melanie. “It should ideally last around 18 months before you go fundraising again.”

Completing a financing round can be a full-time job. So be prepared, have a plan, and know your purpose. “Make sure you’re always a little bit ahead of the development of the company”, finishes Hendrik.

And never forget: The right speed is not only important for the growth of the company, but also for you personally. Take time off — and celebrate your victories!

Listen to the full episode for more insight on the final steps of the startup journey! “The Early Stages” episode #6 is available on all common podcast platforms. We hope you enjoy it!

“The Early Stages” is available on all common podcast platforms. We hope you enjoy it! Follow APX on social media and Bear Radio on LinkedIn.

About APX:
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.



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Europe’s leading earliest stage VC. Based in Berlin and backed by Axel Springer and Porsche, we support the most ambitious pre-seed startups. APX.vc.