I stopped traveling, at least for a while, and live in Berlin now. New environment, new inspiration, new opportunities, new adventures 🙂

During the first months on my new job in a corporate accelerator, I realized how much I’ve really learned during my past 3 years as a (co-) founder. I always had the feeling that I was mostly making things up as I went along but it turns out there are more than a few important lessons I took away from my time at Accelerate Stuttgart. Here are my key learnings:

  1. Pay it forward

Pay it forward has been and is one of my most important mantras I’ve followed since joining the startup craziness in 2010. For me it’s an obvious one but a lot of people tend to forget it as soon as they’re (kind of) successful. Be kind to others who’re just starting out and support anyone who asks for help in a nice way (see 2.).

  1. Ask for help, in a nice way

This is the other side of paying it forward: I’ve seen a lot of humble founders who are too shy to ask for help in times of real need. I’ve also seen lots of people who get aggressive when they ask for help. Get over your pride and ask for help or advice in times of need but do it in a nice way and offer something in return.

Reading tip: Amanda Palmer’s „The Art of Asking“ (no affiliate link) – in my opinion one of the best books out there on that topic! Amanda is one of my role models for creating an authentic business from scratch.

  1. Be nice to people but get rid of those who drain your energy

This one is a no-brainer but still so hard to do. People who drain your energy are everywhere and they suck the life out of you when you’re around them. Learn to get rid of them to have the brain-space for the really important things you should take care of. Your life goals, your family and friends as well as your startup and team.

  1. Everyone else is making things up, too

Yes, you’re not the only one suffering under the imposter syndrome. Most people around you make things up on the way, too. It always looks much more professional from the outside. So don’t be shy and go realize your dream even if you need to figure out every step on the way.

  1. Create a great company, not only a great product

I stole this from some much smarter entrepreneurs out there but it’s true. You can have the best product, it won’t be enough if you can’t motivate your co-founders and employees to work towards a common vision. In addition, do the unnecessary for your employees. It’s the little things they don’t expect which will motivate them to work with you on great vision for your company. This also requires to hire the right people with the right mindset. They’ll be the key to your success. As Aurore Belfrage said recently: „You can’t do epic shit with basic people.“ True story, I couldn’t agree more!

  1. Learn about leadership

This is connected to the previous one. Lots of founders don’t take the time to learn about leadership as they think the motivation of their employees will come by itself and/ or with a great product. That’s so not true! You need to work on yourself constantly to get better as a leader every day.

  1. Success is relative

The outside world has a complete different view on your business. It usually seems successful as long as it sounds good and you do a great job on social media. You’re never more away from the top of your game when the shiny startup magazines and platforms praise you or your company for whatever reason. Focus on pushing your business forward every day!

  1. Follow up forever

This is a lesson from the sales guru Steli Efti but can be adapted to any situation in life. Never give up as long as you think there’s still a slight chance in winning that client or save that really f*cked up situation. There’s no reason why you should give up before it’s really, really over!

  1. Get out of the startup bubble regularly

As time goes by, startup people tend to hang out with other startup people. It’s so easy because they understand your daily hustle. Don’t forget to get out of the startup bubble regularly and meet up with people and friends outside of if. A regular reality check is necessary if you want to build that billion dollar company. Take the opportunity to also eat, rest and exercise regularly, otherwise you’ll give up your creative edge and productivity in the long run.

You learn much more as a founder than you think in that moment. Make the most out of it! If you want to reach a seemingly unreachable goal or a significant transformation in any field, you need to push through painful moments. There’s no way around it. The process will teach you a lot of important life and business lessons on your journey towards creating a great company. There’s a lot more I want to learn and to improve in my way of doing business. And you should, too. Keep on rocking!

What are your biggest lessons you’ve learned as a founder or while working for a startup? Looking forward to hearing about your experience in the comments!

Showing 3 comments
  • Carsten

    Was ich von Startups gelernt habe? Es fehlt vielfach an Respekt vor dem Lebenswerk der „Alten“. Das waren und sind keine Idioten, die haben auch überlegt und sich bei all ihrem Handeln und Tun Gedanken gemacht. Weshalb tun Startups sich so schwer aus Fehlern der Vergangenheit, also fen vorhandenen Erfahrungen, zu lernen? Das könnte alles so viel besser laufen.

    • Kathleen

      Genauso fehlt es meiner Meinung den „Alten“ oft an Offenheit und Respekt für die Jungen. Am Ende gehören immer zwei Seiten dazu, die aufeinander zugehen müssen, daran glauben müssen, dass sie zusammen mehr erreichen als allein. So langsam sind wir auf dem richtigen Weg dahin, aber einfach wird es nie sein.

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