At GTEC Berlin Startup Academy (BSA), we believe that our network of expert mentors, who include 60+ of Berlin’s most experienced CEOs and investors, is a big part of what makes us stand out.
At last week’s session on Oct 23, we were privileged to have three of our mentors and true experts in the field spending time with and giving feedback to our startup teams. With them, they brought a combined knowledge spanning multiple industries, startups, and exits.
Gero Decker is Co-Founder and CEO at Signavio, which produces software collaboration tools that help businesses optimize their processes and operational decisions. Gero, holding a PhD in computer science, truly is an unsung hero of the Berlin startup industry; his company now has 100 employees, offices in San Francisco and Singapore, and a global client list to kill for. All of which he and his co-founders managed to achieve without external funding, as they were cash-flow positive in year two. Arguably, there are few founders in Germany with as much expertise in building SaaS and B2B businesses – which is why on that topic he is one of the best mentors imaginable.
Dennis Wetzig is Co-Founder and Managing Director at PIXRAY – the leading supplier of image tracking software for image rights owners and brands. Dennis is a serial entrepreneur, having started his first company (eViato) aged 19. It is quite a pity that running his company has kept him from contributing more to furthering the Berlin startup scene. That’s because apart from being a very structured, street-smart entrepreneur with lots of experience in the ups and downs of company creation and funding, there is no denying that he is exceptionally gifted at sharing his insights.
Aupeo! CEO Holger G. Weiss has more than 15 years experience in scaling technology-driven businesses with a focus on consumer centric services. He helped both to build gate5 – a mobile navigation service – and to sell it to Nokia in 2006. Afterwards, he joined Aupeo! (a leading streaming provider for automotive and mobile devices) as CEO, which was acquired by Panasonic in 2013. He’s an active business angel and superb mentor with an unparalleled expertise on how to sell your business to top industry players. In addition to that, he is a sought-after advisor and speaker across contents and industries – especially because Holger is always ready to be enthusiastic about ideas, founders and concepts he likes.
We asked them why they work with BSA and what it offers that other accelerators don’t. Here’s what they said.
Q: What, for you, is the role of mentors on accelerator programmes?
Dennis: “Most startups change their focus one or more times while trying to find product-market-fit. A good accelerator program facilitates exactly this process. Mentors play a crucial role in this: they ask hard questions and with their experience will often spot fields that the startup has thus far overlooked.”
Holger: “It’s the same as any other sort of mentorship: guidance and advice on a trustful level – and hopefully the possibility to get credibility and access to the mentor’s network.”
Q: Why do startups need mentors ?
Gero: “Being an entrepreneur is extremely challenging. Mentors are typically also entrepreneurs who have experienced a lot of things first-hand. They help founders avoid common pitfalls and stay focused on the most important issues.”
Dennis: “A good mentor makes you think about your business in a different way and help you spot weaknesses or unused potential in your existing model. He asks thought-provoking questions but has few ready-made answers; he knows that his experiences can only offer one of many possible perspectives on what you do. A bad mentor has only answers and no questions. He tries to influence your startup’s direction, which can potentially kill it. A good mentor leads the way to founder’s own insights that otherwise only expensive failures could have offered. Startups do not just need mentors: they need good mentors.”
Holger: “Because startups need every support they can get – financially and beyond. Mentors help to accelerate by drawing on their entrepreneurial experience and network. That’s often worth more than money in the beginning: shaping the business model, the product, building a company, hiring the right people, legal advice, …”
Gero: “I love the energy of entrepreneurs and seeing what people are working on.”
Dennis: “I love jumping into business models with a fresh mind. For a brief moment, it’s like being part of the earliest stages of a startup.”
Holger: “I like sharing my experience. It’s rewarding to meet people hungry for ideas and to help them build their vision into a real company. If there is a chemistry with a team the relationship can grow much further than just the program. And even for people like us who are usually close to the latest trends it’s difficult really to keep up pace – this way I always get the latest trends presented and sometimes even explained.”
Q: How is BSA different to other programs, why are you with BSA.
Gero: “BSA is an honest program, independent of a particular company, and with a good selection of mentors. And most importantly, it is run by Christoph.”
Dennis: “A core strength of the program is that with Christoph Räthke leading it, every entrepreneur joining the program has immediate access to practically all of Berlin’s startup ecosystem. Christoph is the ultimate network multiplier in this city.”
Holger: “BSA is a very personal program, where it’s really about helping entrepreneurs find their way and guiding them accordingly. It definitively has a family-like atmosphere – also with the alumni, Being embedded in GTEC and linked to ESMT is another reason why BSA is a really outstanding program. Enough reasons for a mentor to be there, right?”
About GTEC Berlin Startup Academy (BSA)
GTEC Berlin Startup Academy (BSA) is Berlin’s boutique, independent startup accelerator. In a 3-month, 2 day/week program involving 60+ of Berlin’s most experienced CEOs and investors, BSA helps to turn an idea into a startup or to bring entrepreneurial drive to your enterprise. As part of German Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC), we make the resources of Germany’s industry and Mittelstand, wealth, science, and academics available to founders from around the world.