Hanse Ventures: Building Great Companies
7 March 2011
and co-founder of Hanse Ventures, Sarik Weber, gave this week’s guest lecture.
Weber is a graduate student of European Business Studies from Osnabrueck,
Germany, and also studied at Buckinghamshire Business School and Deusto, San
During his career, amongst his many start-ups, Weber helped to build
XING AG and founded Cellity AG which was sold to Nokia in 2009. On February 1st
2010 Weber founded his latest and current company in Hamburg, Germany: Hanse
Ventures GmbH, a start-up incubator for entrepreneurs and their ideas.
Hanse Ventures is
made up of a team of thirty-eight people, among which founding shareholders,
established senior managers and directors who thrived for a change in their
careers and can now “feel less like managers and more like entrepreneurs”.
Weber explains that as an entrepreneur “you get approached by others for help
because you’re the expert”, suggesting that this was the initial stimulus
behind Hanse Ventures.
Weber then explains how his incubator’s model differs
from other models, which only offered office space, coffee and wi-fi. Weber
believes that its not enough to state you’re an incubator, you must also offer
real value. For this reason, he provides the big offices, in-house resources
(e.g. web designers, developers, search engine optimisation experts, contacts
and expertise), continuous mentorship and access to the founding-shareholders’
valuable network of contacts.
Weber then explained
how Hanse Ventures operated. The entrepreneur either approaches the incubator
with an idea seeking support (financial, advice, mentorship) or he approaches
the incubator looking for an idea. In the former case, Hanse Ventures will
finance the entrepreneur together with other experienced angel investors or
venture capitalists and sees the company through its creation and growth. In
the latter, Hanse Ventures operates an “entrepreneurs in residence” programme,
where entrepreneurs are assigned tasks and challenged to see where they best
fit. Once this is established, they are matched with one of Hanse Ventures’
ideas. Weber mentions that his aspiration is not to create the next Skype or
Twitter, but rather to focus on business and industries which are successful offline
but have not yet shifted online.
Many people don’t
start a company because they are offered a job within a big company and “a
talent is lost” (i.e as an entrepreneur). Weber encouraged students to found
their own companies immediately after graduating suggesting that they are still
young and have nothing to lose. At best, a company will be founded and will
grow and become profitable. At worst, the company will fail but a great deal of
knowledge will be learnt, useful for future employment.
Weber then proceeded
to give students tips for starting a business. In Weber’s opinion, the most
important thing is to have a co-founder who can help in tough times, bring in
complimentary skills and be a source of motivation. He then mentions “too many
cooks spoil the broth” and that ideally a team should consist of two people.
His second choice would be three to four co-founders, and lastly a one-man team
if inevitable. Another valuable tip given is that it’s never too early to start
networking. Furthermore, Weber also believes “it’s all about finding the right
people” and states that “your best people bring in the best people”,
illustrating the power of networking.
Weber concludes by stating that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, one must have an “inner desire” from an early age. For example, in his case, Weber told students of how he performed his first entrepreneurial activity when he was 12 years old. At the time, Weber wanted to purchase a stereo but did not have the money. Failing to get the money from his father, Weber then established a deal with the local bakery to buy bread in bulk with discounts; he then delivered it to his neighbours and sold for a profit. Finally, he encourages students to “never stop learning, never stop asking and to continue improvement”.
Written by Mansour Abdulghaffar and Carolina Mostert, UCL Students.