Of course, every third team that comes through the door of the Media Lab Bayern, commits one of the biggest mistakes in start-up reasons. They confuse the vision with the idea – and they stick to it dogmatically. Start-ups often think that the most important thing is first the idea, then the money to develop it. It is completely different factors that make successful entrepreneurs so different. You can name dozens, but if I had to decide, it would be enthusiasm. For the vision – and for the problems of the customers.
Solve a parent problem
Founders – and anyone who wants to develop a product – need a vision. What is the big problem I want to solve? How I solve that, that’s the idea. The crux now is: There are a variety of solutions to every problem. Founders who want to stiffen their idea and do everything exactly as they have thought it through in their heads will not succeed. Nor if they change their vision every week. Successful founders have a North Star, a big overriding problem they desperately want to solve – they do not care how they do it.
When I founded Media Lab Bayern four years ago, my vision was to bring more innovation and new products to the media industry. This has not changed exactly today. The way how we achieve that, but already. The lab’s initial concept included co-working, funding for start-ups, and editing suites for video and audio. I thought that media production must necessarily be part of a lab. After a few months, we threw out the editing suites and instead focused on coaching, today we even do intrapreneurship programs.
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How did we come to this? We listened. How helpful that is, I came to it by accident. I learned journalism, how to research and write texts, and not to write “man”. How to build an incubator, I did not know. But I had a few basic assumptions: that teams might need money and desks. When the first start-ups arrived, I asked and listened. Where are you? What are you working on? Which stones are in your way?
The stones that lay there were always the same. How do we find out what the market really needs? How do we legally position ourselves? So we started to solve these problems. Looking for coaches who can work with them on product development. Others who have betrayed their marketing secrets. Found that the secrets of a head of marketing of a large corporation do not help at all. He solves everything with money that start-ups do not have. Bringing the head of marketing of a start-up.
Besides listening to better products, it also saves you an incredible amount of money. Because you find out very early on that the solution that you have considered is a fantastic solution – but not for this problem. So you can reject them without spending a Euro on them.
We once had the idea to hire developers in the Media Lab, because all start-ups are constantly missing. Spitzenidee. Until we talked to teams and said: very nice, but what do we do when our Fellowship is over and we no longer have access to the developers? Then they know our technology but can not continue working on it. It was better for the start-ups to be able to hire freelancers themselves, who would then help them permanently with the product. So we set a budget for it. It took exactly 15 minutes and tasted two cappuccinos in the Media Lab kitchen.
There is a lot of hype about “the user”, and without words like “user-centric development”, an innovation hub can not handle today. Where there is hype, critics are fast. But I actually think that the best founders are those who are not just user-centered, but also user-obsessed, so to speak. Start-ups who ask until they understand the customer’s problem properly, and work on it until they really solve it.
By the way, the next level of user-obsession is not just listening at the beginning, but always and always. At the Media Lab Bayern, we are constantly asking everyone what problems they are currently dealing with. The media industry is changing so fast, every three months comes a new platform, a new trend, a new technology. In the same three months, my idea may become obsolete. But if I know who has just what problem, I just turn 26 degrees and continue in a tight left turn to my vision.
Lina Timm is Managing Director of Media Lab Bayern. The Media Lab has locations in Munich and Ansbach and, as an Innovation Hub, supports media start-ups from the initial idea to founding and media houses in developing innovative projects. Lina Timm completed the DJS in Munich. Before that she studied German and sociology. She is also the founder of the international slack community www.digital-journalism.rocks.
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