Business ideas “on the side”

For the young start-up scene, crowdfunding is the most effective means of financing business ideas and creative projects today. DELUXE met Felix Plötz at Entrepreneurs Day in Munich and asked him what advice he would give to entrepreneurs with new ideas. Interview by Birgit Unger

The advantage it has over a loan from your local bank is that it forms a direct link to the consumer, who through his or her investment establishes the immediate market value of the new business idea. In a few keywords and with a video produced as cheaply as possible, creative types, inventors and social entrepreneurs are able introduce their concepts to the community. The amount of money contributed is ring-fenced for that particular product, which after implementation of the project goes to the investor, provided that the funding target is met within the specified time. This also confirms that the starter had an idea that can achieve success in the market. One example that made headlines throughout Germany was 
the campaign on launched in 2013 by Felix Plötz and Dennis Betzholz. They wanted to publish a book documenting 12 success stories of 12 unusual start-ups, and this brought the two young entrepreneurs to the attention of the successful German publisher Dr Florian Langenscheidt, who gave them his active support. Since then the book, ‘Palmen in Castrop-Rauxel’, has become a bestseller, and the publisher ‘Plötz & Betzholz’ has become part of a publishing group: at the beginning of 2016, the traditional publishing house Ullstein Buchverlage announced they had taken 
over the young publishers. Felix Plötz’s latest book ‘Das 4-Stunden-Startup’ 
climbed into the bestseller lists shortly after publication. His lectures calling for more courage and start-up spirit on the part of established companies have brought him international recognition.

“I compose my lectures entirely on my own, just as I write my own books.” DELUXE met Felix Plötz in Munich.

Herr Plötz, in your new book ‘Das 4-Stunden-Startup’, you tell the story of a German woman who has recently successfully made a name for herself organising yoga holidays to Mallorca. What were the factors that contributed to the success of this project?
It is a wonderful story. At first it appears some-what whimsical, but in reality it is absolutely sound. Before Claudia Gellrich founded her company ‘Karmahike’, she already had several years of experience in major Berlin start-ups behind her. She was one of the first employees of the shopping club ‘Brands4friends’ that caused great interest in 2010 when it was bought by eBay for 150 million euros. She stayed with the company for another couple of years and continued to learn her trade from the ground up. When she finally tired of the Berlin start-up hype, she decided to start up on her own. Her concept was based on a rock solid business plan, but what made it such a success was that it combined both of Claudia’s great passions — yoga and hiking. In my view, this is one of the most critical points when starting your own business. It cannot primarily be just about money, it needs a large portion of enthusiasm behind it.

Karmahike was founded by Claudia Gellrich. She organises combined yoga and hiking holidays, including in Mallorca. Her story is one of those told by Felix Plötz in ‘Das 4-Stunden-Startup’.

You know the Island from holidays you have spent there. Can you see any gaps in the market that could be plugged by young entrepreneurs?
I’m afraid it’s not that simple (laughs). I know the Island well as a visitor, but good business ideas are seldom so obvious that this would be enough. But I am one hundred percent sure that there is enormous potential for new 
business ideas in Mallorca.

What are the most important criteria that a business model ought to meet before it can be implemented?
First of all, it is very important to have expertise in that field. To be more precise, expertise combined with enthusiasm for the subject. Once I have this as a starting point and I am passionate about yoga and hiking, for 
example, then the question of whether I offer this in Germany, Mallorca or somewhere else is of secondary importance. And the answer to that can be found through thorough research of the situation on the ground. 
Once you have done your homework, I myself find it important to subject those results and assumptions to a thorough reality check. This should be carried out as early and as cheaply as possible. So don’t just concentrate on your business cards and a stylish website, talk to the people who might be interested in your idea — potential customers. Early on, Claudia Gellrich asked the yoga enthusiasts among her friends and acquaintances what they thought of her idea of combining yoga, hiking and digital downtime, in beautiful surroundings. The response was resoundingly positive, so she moved onto the next stage of setting up her own website and registering the business. I personally would never invest money in an idea without a certain Proof of Concept, regardless of how good it looks on paper.

Have you got any tips for launching campaigns on
Startnext is a crowdfunding platform for financing creative ideas. Here, despite the fact that it uses expressions like ‘supporter’ and ‘donating’, you should never forget that people are not just donating their money. They want a clear return for their money — and this has to be the focus of every crowdfunding campaign. Finally, your pitch needs to be as good as it can possibly be. We spent weeks honing our campaign until our pitch could not be improved on any more.

Your new book ‘Das 4-Stunden-Startup’ takes us through the steps required to start your own company while holding down a permanent job. Have you already had feedback and success stories from people you have been able to motivate?
Yes, I really have and I receive more nearly every day. I think this is because the concept of trying out a business idea ‘on the side’, in other words in addition to your normal job, offers great advantages. I believe that only a few people are such go-getters that they immediately give up everything and hand in their notice the moment they get a good idea. I am not like that myself and so have founded things ‘on the side’ a number of times. Up to now however far too few people were aware that this was even a possibility. Others can’t work out how they could manage it timewise. And this is just what the books clarifies.

Das 4-Stunden-Startup is already one of the best-selling business books in Germany. It is both the official ‘Manager Magazin Bestseller’ and the ‘Handelsblatt Bestseller’. AS SEEN ON AMAZON.DE

You are now a publisher yourself, not only of print literature but also of audio and e-books. What market share does each of these enjoy? How important is print today?
You’re right. Following on from our 2013 self-publishing project, we founded Germany’s first publishing house for YouTubers in 2015. This means that our writers are all social media stars, some of them with millions of followers. The result is that our readers are not traditional book buyers. Despite this the split is pretty traditional — the largest market share for our books is print. E-books account for only 5 to 15% and the market for audio books is even smaller.

Herr Plötz, many thanks for talking to us.
Photo Felix Plötz by Sarah Rubensdörfer

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