Florian Hofmann, Co-Founder and CEO of pixoona, will join our accelerator program as an international expert. Besides his job at Germany-based pixoona he is board advisor to the team of paij, a mobile payment app. Florian brings great experience in team building, leadership and product development to our program. In a first article, he talks about his experiences.
A thrilling idea is born, what is the next step?
You shouldn´t fly solo! The next challenge is to enthrall 2-3 people with your vision and mission-statement. It should be your first reality check: is your idea really generating value for people? Bringing in partners who supplement your blind spots and weaknesses can be the difference in determining success or failure. If you have to “going it alone,” you should make sure that you have access to a support system of trusted mentors and advisers, like Yunus Social Business team, who are willing to help you look at your business objectively and navigate through unexpected events – because they will arise, believe me.
You’ve already founded several Start Ups – Where do you find your investors?
I think that’s a wrong perspective. It’s not about where you can find investors, it’s more about what kind of money do you really look for.
I’m sure the German investment environment for startups is quite different in Albania or the U.S., but for every entrepreneur it’s important to understand the consequences of your choice of investment strategy:
Do you need a proof-of-concept first or do you really just need to scale up? Do you look for a strategic partner or do you need more reach? – There is a source of money for every need.
Family and friends are the first choice for you to look for investment money for the startup, when you’re sure that everyone understands the risk of failure and in the worst case, they would still respect you and accept failure as part of doing business.
Private Business Angels bring in money and expertise. When you get your first good results they are the perfect door-opener for bigger investments.
Crowd funding platforms provide you a low level entry to a broader scene of micro-investors. A positive marketing aspect is that these investors will probably be your first fans and customers, too.
A venture capitalist can transform your dream into a rocket, but be aware of the fact that they’re just managing money of their customers. So the valuation of your company has to be in a realistic relation to your investment-need. They won’t accept investments with a ratio bigger than 25%.
What kind of mistakes should you avoid as a “first time founder”?
Sure, running out of money is one oft the biggest challenges for young businesses. Often this is the consequence of mistakes the founder or management team did in the past:
When we were just starting out, I was still studying Social work and Business Administration. At one point I decided to drop out, because our company was growing faster and faster. I was aware of my gaps in classic management skills, like controlling or financial planning and I had to learn to bring in external expertise for these kinds of tasks in the company. . Don’t wait for that! Perfection means weakness. Don´t fall in love too much with your product. A fast roll out is more important than making sure that the world knows how genius you are.
What are the 3 most important learnings for you?
It’s all about building, testing, learning.
Think Big and Stay Lean: Spark 59 are providing a lot of practical ressources for founders and the book rework from Jason Fried, founder of 37singals, taught me a lot
Launch Early: You´ll never be the only person on the planet with a specific idea. Your idea is worth nothing until you’ve implemented and proofed it. Start with the minimal viable version of your idea/product, test the acceptance and then decide about the most important things to improve for your user’s/customer’s experience.
Measure, Measure, Measure: You have to identify the most important key indicators to control your theory and assumptions. There is no one to blame when your analytics point out that some assumptions were not realistic. These insights can reveal which measures you have to put in place.
What are the most effective tools you are working with? Can you recommend some powerful applications that founders could use?
Wow, let me think… Managing a project has never been easier, thanks to some great online collaboration tools. When trying to coordinate my team for example, the tools I worked with were basecamp and flow. They are both task management tools for managing files, tasks and deadlines in one place. They are not free, but it’s a small and effective investment.
Another very clever tool is IFTTT, a service that connects different web applications together and that lets you create actions with one simple statement, to manage very easily your social postings and stuff like this automatically.
And here is one of my little dirty secrets: For user growth on Facebook we are working a lot with the tool: Social Lead Freak. It’s an application that allows you to extract and export ID-Numbers of groups, fan page-members and events, and migrates these lists into your Facebook Ad-Manager. Instead of just targeting socio-demographic parameters, you can now combine them with personal preferences like group’s memberships, liked pages or events. The site of its provider looks a little fishy, but the app is doing its job very well.
How important is personal support and your social network as a founder?
Besides my co-founders and teammates I really have to say that I never could run my business without the strong support of my wife and family. They backed me up 100% and gave me the emotional support to walk through the valley of disappointments and the fear of failure. And they were willing to pay a price too, because it’s not easy to make time for them like I could in a 9 to 5 job. But with your family and friends you are able to move mountains. So I would like to encourage every reader to really start working on their own things. And don’t fear failure – it’s a chance to strengthen your personality.
Florian Hofmann is co-founder and CEO of pixoona, a startup which develops the same-named photo tagging app revolutionizing communications on images. Besides his job at Wiesbaden-based pixoona he is board advisor to the team of paij, a mobile payment app. After his studies of Social Work and several semesters of Business Administration at the University of Applied Sciences Wiesbaden he worked as Manager of Business Development for the company for more than two years. Before joining pixoona in June 2009 Florian Hofmann was manager of Internal Retail Sales at Berlitz GmbH Deutschland.