It’s safe to say that our own start-up experience has been an uphill battle, and we know we’re not alone in this!
The grit, determination and good amount of luck needed to take your company from an idea to a success is immense. As three non-German co-founders, we knew that founding a hardware company in Germany wasn’t going to be a walk in the park – but we never thought the land of BMW, Bosch and Kärcher would be so difficult. We’ve pitched to almost every VC under the sun, and have lived a truly bootstrapped life, continuously fundraising over the past two years to bring our idea to life.
Today, we have raised €4.5 million in total including a Kickstarter campaign, angel investors, and electronics firm Bachmann. Now, our flagship product FLARE is exactly what we anticipated it would be when we were still working out of my apartment. In the end, it has all been worth it, but there are some things we wish we’d known when starting out.
Don’t take rejection to heart
The number of VCs we’ve pitched to is insane, but all the rejections can be boiled down into one simple response: “Come back when you can show some steady sales numbers.” This can be really disheartening, especially when you’re putting so much of your time, effort and money into getting your idea off the ground. We wanted someone to invest in a new innovative product, not just jump the gravy train! It’s important to keep going, even when you keep getting no’s and setbacks.
Sometimes you need a bit of luck
We used up all of our savings in the first seven months, relying heavily on maxed bank accounts, friends and family. Sometimes, you need that bit of luck – a useful contact or two, being in the right place at the right time or a business angel who believes in your product and is willing to invest. Following our successful Kickstarter campaign, raising 200 per cent of the initial goal, we managed to convince a small group of business angels, as well as Bachmann, to invest. Hard work can never be compensated for, but there is an element of luck associated with taking your start-up to the next level.
Be brave enough to ask if it’s still worth it
This is a question most founders don’t dare to ask themselves but it’s actually a really important one. Almost all start-up founders will know that more often than not, your nerves are shot, you’re beyond tired, work-life balance is non-existent and a monthly salary isn’t always a given. You have to be 100 per cent sure that you’re spending your time in the best way possible and that this is what you want from life. If you’re not fully committed, then it will show in the way you run your business and ultimately in the product.
There will be many times when you think you’re on the cusp of making it, with big names and a couple of investors backing you, only to find yourself working flat out for another two years. The best piece of advice we could give is to not give up and stay true to your values. If your idea is truly innovative and brings something new to the market, then it will go from idea to reality with enough hard work and a sprinkle of luck.