Next stop Boston: VentureVilla Inc.
Recap: Why I built and ran the VentureVilla Accelerator in Germany for the past two years
When we founded CouchCommerce back in 2011, we had no one to turn to, no advisors, no place where we could work on our idea to make our vision come true, no money to get our idea up and running and finally start building a product out of it. We knew that our company had to address the US market but unfortunately we didn't have any contacts who could help us do it - and what’s more, we couldn't afford it either. We bootstrapped for more than 9 months, took on multiple jobs as sorts of consultants to bring money into CouchCommerce in order to pay our first team members who were actually building the product.
That's why and how I created the VentureVilla Accelerator program in the form we needed it when we founded CouchCommerce. I wanted to find and support these small CouchCommerce-like teams to build successful mini NewStores (CouchCommerce became NewStore in 2015) right from the beginning. The aim was to avoid the mistakes we made and the challenges we ran into with CouchCommerce by addressing the right market from the outset, incorporating the right kind of company, setting up everything for the big WHEN and IF using our knowledge, experience and network we had built over the years. Together with exceptional serial entrepreneurs whom I was grateful to have got to know over the years and who joined the VentureVilla Accelerator for these two years as mentors (thanks again to them for helping me create a useful accelerator program), we managed to help nine startup teams build their companies.
Some people say it's good not to get any help, but as a result you often lose a lot of time and money and sometimes even your beloved company. It’s the kind of help that’s important. This involves not doing all the work for other people, but giving constructive feedback, pushing them in the right directions, being there to listen to them and their problems and trying to solve these together as a team, as mentors and advisors who have got their back if required. As a result, you can achieve your goals faster and follow your dreams without too many U-turns.
The great thing was that the teams themselves started to work with each other, mentoring each other, helping each other out and putting their networks at the disposal of the other founders, not just to the teams in their batch, to all of them, new and old :). Teams who regrettably didn't have what it takes to become a flourishing company joined others in the accelerator to become a part of them. It was a lot of fun working so intensely with the teams <3.
Why I quit as CEO of VentureVilla Accelerator
When the opportunity came along to create an accelerator for my beloved hometown of Hanover in Germany to help startup teams build their businesses, I was overjoyed. The terms (my terms) were clear: independent organisation, fair funding and investment terms for the teams, free office space and only entrepreneurs as mentors. Everything was supposed to be built by founders for founders. We got off to a great start and received a lot of attention, maybe too much. As time went on, terms changed and the outcome was more than disappointing, as the old saying goes: "He who pays the piper, calls the tune".
The unfortunate lesson learned is that when you have to work with people, institutions, politicians etc. who don't know anything about startups and how hard it can be to build companies (or just glorify articles about million and billion dollar exits), you will always end up explaining and justifying what you and the teams are doing and why someone is doing the things they do. Those people will never understand what we were doing with VentureVilla Accelerator and they tried to lay down our roadmap and tell us what we weren’t allowed to do. Again, unfortunately they don't know anything about entrepreneurship and fighting for your dreams to accomplish something - yeah, maybe some startups will fail, but at least they tried and learned how not to do it, grow and do it better the next time.
I couldn't stand the negative and restrictive attitude and behaviour anymore and quit to build my very own, self-funded and independent VentureVilla to achieve my vision and to work with people again who really care. I am not building another accelerator with VentureVilla Inc. What I learned in the past two years is that startups (not all of them but the kind of founders I like to work with) don't really need an accelerator program, they just need sparring partners, people who understand them and have a similar mindset. They also require people they can trust and rely on, sort of advisors who spend more time with the teams and open doors for them, more in the style of co-workers.
The purpose of VentureVilla Inc. is to help German technology startup entrepreneurs to build US companies in Boston, find advisors, co-founders and investors here in the US, while developing engineering and product teams in Germany - in a way building mini NewStores. We have learned and still are learning a lot from Stephan Schambach and the ecosystem around him, how he builds companies and why he does things the way he does. We want to give all of this knowledge to startups who would like to work with us and are willing to come to the US to build and scale their companies.
VentureVilla Inc. is based in Boston and I would be delighted to get to know you. Get in touch if you are interested in incorporating in or expanding into the US as a technology startup. Just as our VentureVilla Inc. portfolio team MachineLabs is already doing today :).