Starting up your own business appeals to many – but finding the business model is not easy. Chris Eberl, who teaches at the TU Munich how to set up his own business, presents the methods that lead to success. For him, the best foundations emerge from an inner personal complex.
LEAD: At the Center for Innovation and Business Creation of the Technical University of Munich, you teach how to best start your own business. How do you come up with a successful business idea?
Chris Eberl: There are three approaches. The worst in my view first: A founder has a technology or solution for which he seeks a target audience. The better second approach is to focus on and solve a problem of a target group. For example, if subway passengers do not have to book their tickets manually or at the counter, but instead develop an automated solution via an app.
But the best part is to develop a business that makes you your best customer: that’s what I call the Center Me strategy. It focuses on areas where you yourself are an extreme customer who knows no mercy. One can recognize this by the fact that one gets into anger, if something is not as one wishes it.
A fanatical coffee lover will not accept bad beans or machines and will voice bad quality too loudly. Out of such a negative energy often the best foundations arise, because the actual does not correspond to the desired state. That’s what the founder wants to change. Ideally, the founder still addresses an inner personal complex.
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LEAD: Do you have an example?
Eberl: There is, for example, Mark Zuckerberg, who was less socially integrated and therefore, as a talented programmer, starts the social network Facebook. Someone who has many friends would not do that. The mixture of negative energy and talent is incredibly strong. Steve Jobs was a Zen Buddhist, and was keen to keep everything simple and tidy. This resulted in the design of the iPhone. Or Thomas Edison, an ingenious engineer who took thousands of experiments to develop the light bulb. He had only a long breath, because he was afraid in the dark.
One of my best friends invented the car navigation system. He is the most disoriented person I know. To the question of me, why he was busy with navigation, he answered me “because I had to fix my problem damn again”. Such founders solve their own problem, making the highest possible demands on themselves and the solution. As a waste product, so to speak, they create tremendous added value for many people.
LEAD: The idea has been found – now it’s time to start: What are the most important three things an entrepreneur needs to build his start-up?
Eberl: Contrary to popular belief that a good team, solid financing and effective sales are the most important things, in my view, other things are more relevant. This includes that you already described as described above, his own target audience and even is itself part of it. Then you know exactly what the product should look like. Team and investors come alone in a stringent story.
At the beginning, a high amount of venture capital is not necessary. For almost all business models, it is enough to save 25,000 euros to start a limited liability company and have enough money on the side to have employees available for the early days and stay afloat.
“By practicing and trying out, you can even learn what matters.”
LEAD: How much do you need for that?
Eberl: Every founder has his own security needs. For example, those who only feel good, if they can earn their livelihood of around 2000 euros net for rent and miscellaneous for a period of twelve months without income from the foundation, will need an additional 12,000 euros, or 24,000 euros.
If you do not have the money, you can also do a part-time job and cover the monthly net cost. As an entrepreneur who builds products that are more likely to devour money, it often takes several years for any significant amount of money to be made to live on them. Reserves are therefore the A & O.
LEAD: How do you find out if a founder is in one?
Eberl: Either you feel it in yourself, or you know role models in the immediate environment that inspire you and also let you know what entrepreneurship means. For example, the parent or grandfather who had his own business. Those who do not have to surround themselves with people who have themselves founded and from whom he can learn. In the end, it only helps to try out whether a start-up is for you: the sooner the better.
LEAD: Still a difficult decision …
Eberl: If you do not take action because you have so many options and can not decide or, for example, you feel torn between a permanent position and a start-up, I recommend that you take a methodical approach. Either through personal coaching with an entrepreneur. Or about the system-theoretical method of Kübernetik.
A model that I have developed for the reason that, paradoxically, many options can paralyze one to start something. The “ü” stands for practicing. In kübernetik as well as in reasoning, the most important thing is not to hesitate any longer, but to take action. By practicing and trying out you will learn what matters. This is not possible in advance to anticipate.
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“Most founders, like me, lie to themselves when they start a product and then think they are very good customers of their own product.”
LEAD: After Kontextr, you’re starting your second business with Abilitools. What did you learn from the first foundation, what you want to do differently in the second?
Eberl: With Kontextr I have founded a company that offers a solution for publishers and integrated contextual links into their website. Although I worked as an employee at Microsoft for the publisher’s clients, I did not know my target group well enough. In addition, because of their economic situation, publishers are not very open to innovation and have less and less money available. Therefore, I would only found, where I myself am the best customer.
Most founders, like me, lie to themselves when they start a product and then think they are very good customers of their own product. This is where the bias comes into play, that you usually love what you spend a lot of time on. In other words, if the start-up costs a lot of time, it means being in love with the product and being a good customer or user. But that’s fake: Only what you’ve been looking for in vain before, and that you’re implementing yourself, has a higher chance of succeeding.
LEAD: How about Abilitools – are you really your best customer here?
Eberl: I have a core team at my side. Together, we only develop software that at least one member of the team absolutely needs and has previously used only workarounds to overcome his exhausting problem. Since Abilitools stands for digital accessibility, the first products are being implemented here that allow online users to read online content better.
As someone who reads several hundred articles per week digitally, I’m here, next to Silver surfers and blind people, my first best user. And if nobody really uses our tools except me, it was still a success, since it at least solves my problem. Experience shows that there are more people like you who are grateful for solving their problem. Then you have happy loyal customers and ideally a business model.
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