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Hanse Ventures: Building Great Companies

7 March 2011

Hanse Ventures

Serial entrepreneur 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 Sebastián.

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.

Links:

UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture Series >>

Hanse Ventures >>