Most people start businesses because they have experienced or observed a challenge in their personal or professional life. Most importantly, there doesn’t seem to be a satisfying solution yet. If the observer(s) feel that they are in the right position and have the required expertise to find one, a startup and founding team is born.
In November 2020, when the High-Tech SeedLab opened the application round for the next batch of startups to support in 2021, over 100 visionaries submitted their business idea. Well, not all of them were visionaries. We also received a few double submissions and some (relatively funny) “troll” applications. My personal favourite of the submitted “troll” pitch decks includes an old man in underwear on the beach. Who could say no to that.
But seriously. With 83 ideas to go through and evaluate we observed a few interesting trends.
There are a whole lot of single founders out there.
Most founding teams seem to come in pairs (36), followed by single founders (22) and finally teams of three (19). The minority (6) consists of a large founding team of four.
The explanation for the high number of single founder applications might be the fact that we are an early-stage program. The idea generator might not have had the time or necessary network access to recruit the much needed fellow founders.
Another (probably quite significant) factor was our communication. While we very much stress that we are looking for teams of 2-4 people, we didn’t actively discourage single founders to apply. Most support programs (and investors for that matter) refrain from accepting single founders. The reasons are:
- the low probability of one person combining all necessary expertise to build a successful company
- the immense stress that is put on just one person in the break-it-or-make-it starting phase, and
- convincing others to join your mission is a crucial skill and first proof of an entrepreneur and her/his idea.
So, why did we not simply disregard all single founders? Because, in our experience, there are exceptional individuals who, against all odds, make it. Just look at Alina Bassi and Kleiderly, our alumni from 2017. So if we get the feeling that you have the necessary skills, guts, and ambitions to succeed as a single founder and benefit from the program we might consider you.
We see you, single founders! And it’s a tough, tough world out there for you.
Female founders are (hopefully) up and coming.
The statistics around female founders are shocking, year over year. Just last year the Female Founders Monitor reported that only 17% of startups are founded by women. And as a program whose one focus area is “Women in Tech”, this topic is very dear to us.
That’s why we are very excited that more than half of the applications (57) came from mixed or all female teams. On the one hand, this definitely has to do with our marketing and outreach strategy, as we focused on events around female entrepreneurship and made the topic a clear focus area in our social media presence. Some might argue that the fact that the accelerator team is 75% female could also play a role. However, we’d also like to believe that more and more women consider the path of entrepreneurship and are ready to take the risk and test their idea (especially as our program supports them financially for 10 months – a pretty safe space to fail if necessary).
Finally we want to assure all the male-dominated teams out there – of course we don’t want to or will discriminate against you and are looking for a well-balanced Batch 2021.
Many want to start a marketplace, network/relationship, or EdTech business.
Looking at the type of ideas that were submitted, there are a few very clear trends, and a few gut-feeling pieces we’d like to comment on. Disclaimer: this is all speculation and we could be completely wrong. But let’s see:
Trend 1: The economic opportunity of marketplaces. For Christmas I received the book “Blitz Scaling” by Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) and Chris Yeh. They clearly identify platforms and marketplaces as lucrative business ideas where subscriptions and commissions serve as strong revenue models. Bringing supply and demand together as a broker has been, and continues to be, an interesting entrepreneurial endeavour.
Trend 2: The COVID pandemic of 2020 (and likely 2021) has eradicated social and professional contact for most people. Networking has moved online – and if you are anything like me, you still don’t feel quite comfortable to meet strangers via screen share. People are likely longing for more and better opportunities to extend their network and meet new people.
At the same time, many people are living and working with their loved ones, flatmates, or friends in the same space. Some might argue that with personal relationships under strain, people are looking for solutions to better manage their human interactions. Others could argue that after optimising physical fitness, mental well-being, and work performance, apps that help you improve your personal relationships are going to be the next big thing.
These two contrasts (missing networks, intensity of some personal relationships) seem to have given rise to entrepreneurs observing relationship challenges that require solving.
Trend 3: Students and teachers (and parents in that regard) are some of the most affected sections of society under COVID restrictions. Months and months of home office leaves people worried about the quality of their childrens’ education, and teachers are constantly looking for ways to engage and inspire their students from their homes. Rather than seeing this as a crippling still stand of education, the need for digitization and technology is being picked up by entrepreneurs, looking to offer novel solutions to foster a future-ready generation of learners.
Trend 4: The rise of individual and team or company sustainability apps/tools. The wish and need for a more sustainable way to consume and produce is translating into B2C and B2B apps/tools that track emissions and other sustainability metrics to provide incentives for better decision-making.
Trend 5: And, of course, we received a few ideas around finding flats and properties in our inbox — in the end we are based in Berlin where a dark, ground floor, one-room apartment with a leaking toilet feels like you’ve hit the jackpot and where a balcony is the distant dream.