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ENTREPRENEURSHIP Archives - Jan Ahrend

Startup co-founders

Finding a co-founder

What to look for in co-founders – Paul Graham on determination, flexibility, imagination, naughtiness and friendship

A guide to find the right co-founder – Co-founder relationships: from falling in love to outsourced tech and remote CTOs

Don’t “Look” for a Technical Co-Founder. Earn one with these steps – Too often do founders try to just “look” a co-founder, rather than “earn” one.

How to Find A Co-Founder For Your Startup – You can’t be great at everything. Finding your compliment could be what drives your company to success.

50 Ways to Find Co-Founders – Don’t know where to find a co-founder?

34 Questions to Ask Potential Co-Founders – Jessica Alter of Cofounder Dating outlines all of the questions you need to ask.

A Tech Founder’s Guide to Picking a Non-Tech Founder – Jessica Alter of Cofounder Dating shares a strong list of things to look for when finding a non-tech founder

How We Fight – Cofounders in Love and War – Steve Blank shares extremely important lessons on managing co-founders.


Places to find co-founders


Building a founding team
Where do you fit in? A Founder’s Guide to Startup Roles – Before you build a team, you should know your role in your company

Lessons about building a team from Zuckerberg and Facebook – This article explains how Mark Zuckerberg was able to build a great team from day one

How to Build Your Startup Team – This article explores the trenches of making your first hires

How to Assemble an All-Star Team for Your Startup – This video explains how to overcome the challenge of getting great talent to work for your young company

How to start a business with your significant other – Five tips to keep in mind: Set boundaries and expectations, Divide and conquer, Be your own person, Don’t lose your perspective, Always be honest, no exceptions


Steve Blank’s free online course on How to start a startup

Insightful startup podcasts

Fun fact: Most Founders of Technology Companies Graduated in Computer Science, 4x more than in Business or Economics

FormSwift’s Tax Guide for Freelancers and Businesses and Sample Business Plans



Open Education at Oxford Entrepreneurs

Today I had a meeting with two brilliant minds; John Burk Stringfellow, the new President of Oxford Entrepreneurs and Yuning Chai, an Associate Intern at McKinsey and also a committee member. Oxford Entrepreneurs is the largest student society at Oxford University and the largest student society promoting entrepreneurship in the world. As of September, I will be honoured to become part of the committee and begin working on some exciting projects. One will be OE Podcasts, an initiative that draws upon the principles of open education. The concept for the upcoming online series came up when John asked me for ideas for the upcoming year. I pitched him the following high-level concept:

“Oxford Entrepreneurs’ (OE) mission is to inspire and educate on the highest level, and provide an outstanding network, competition and support. In order to achieve our mission and continuously become better, we are dependent on the following:

Heading to Silicon Valley

I just got off the phone with Christian Gehl, founder of TRIFENSE, a network security company and also the new CTO of Fair Observer. Fair Observer is a multinational magazine and also the company where I am looking forward to stay as an intern during the summer.

Fair Observer provides analysis of and context for issues, trends and events of global significance – with focus on business and politics in the first place. Fair Observer’s aim is to overcome the current broken news media model, which is event driven and often lacks historical, cultural and religious context. They provide so-called 360° analysis with a plurality of perspectives from all over the world.

Fair Observer Heading to Silicon Valley

Founded in 2010 by Atul Singh, Fabian Neuen and Dr. Christian R. Becker, Fair Observer has now over 300 content contributors and an advisory board including the former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton, former Indian Foreign Minister Singh Jaswanth, former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and former German Ambassador Ulrich Hemel among others.

I first met Fabian last year in Munich at the launch event of the Social Entrepreneurship Akademie, one of the partners and where I also currently work as a student assistant. Fabian, who has a background in strategy consulting, investment banking and venture capital is a super nice guy who was promoted to be amongst the Siemens’ youngest managers world-wide only shortly before he decided to launch Fair Observer. He instinctively knew to excite me for this venture and just recently introduced me to Atul Singh and Dr. Christian R. Becker. Christian is driving Fair Observer’s Business Development and has experience in the field of management consulting, despite his research and experience in curative medicine. Atul, who originally came up with the idea of Fair Observer studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, English Literature and History at Lucknow University in India, trained as a lawyer in London and got his MBA at Wharton with a triple major in Entrepreneurship, Finance and Strategy.

With such a skilled and experienced founding team, Fair Observer was recently able to partner up with the German Silicon Valley Accelerator and relocated their operational headquarters from Washington D.C. and Munich to Sunnyvale, California. Which brings us back to today, where I spoke with Christian Gehl about my role as an intern. I am very excited and grateful to join Fair Observer on their adventure.

Heading to Silicon Valley - Fair Observer

As of June 2012, I will stay in Sunnyvale – “the heart of Silicon Valley” – for three months doing front end development. And since my bachelor’s degree in computer science is now befinished and my master’s degree will not start before September, this opportunity is also very well timed.

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Entrepreneurial Landscape of Serbia

Yesterday, the congress Spring School 012: Doing Business in Digital Environment at the University of Belgrade has ended and I will fly back from Serbia to Germany tomorrow. Organized by the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, I was among the 30 students from universities of Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, who had the chance to attend lectures, workshops and teamwork projects to given topics, such as Marketing, Financing and IT-Law.

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, perfect for reflecting on the past week, taking a step back from ‘digital communication strategies’ and ‘internal rate or returns’, to gain a wider perspective over the entrepreneurial culture of Serbia.

Economic Recovery

Entrepreneurship, which is the key point for the socio-economic development of every country, is officially considered to be a major driving force to Serbia’s development of the economy. A high unemployment rate and low labor costs combined with excellent language and IT skills seem to represent promising conditions for future business ventures. Recent studies did confirm the benefit of entrepreneurship in the transitioning economy and also it’s growing national popularity. The entrepreneurial culture of Serbia is prospering due to several factors over the last few years.

Taken at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport

Continuing Serbia’s long march toward economic recovery, several programs have been established to support entrepreneurial culture and entrepreneurial way of thinking. After citizen’s demand, the National Agency for Regional Development is offering support programs and packages and also funding is given by the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development and the state’s Development Fund. Upon that, Belgrade is yearly holding it’s own Global Entrepreneurship Week to reach out to create a new generation of entrepreneurial talent that strives for success while staying at home.

European Union Membership

Furthermore, Serbia’s efforts to become a member of the European Union lead to numerous changes in the entrepreneurial landscape, originating from its domestic front but also powered by the European Union itself. Their action plan Strategy for Competitive and Innovative Small and Medium Sized Enterprises is executed from 2008 until 2013 and is trying to tackle the country’s corruption, bureaucracy and weak judicial system. Just last Thursday, a new Law on the capital market has been passed, that will level the status of domestic and foreign investors and protect small shareholders, to make the market more transparent. The implementation of these regulations (among others) are necessary for the future membership in the EU. Apart from the reduction of administrative barriers to business regulatory compliance, the European Union itself is already supporting Serbia’s overall socio-economic development through several programs (e.g. Enterprise Europe Network, Youth Entrepreneurship Civil-Public Relationship and Mentors of Women Entrepreneurship in Serbia). The European Civil Society Support alone approved projects sums of 4 million Euro last year, which beats the annual revenue of Serbia’s most profitable company (NIS: 3.7€ million).
But also countries like the U.S.A. and Norway have made investments in form of foreign assistance for training programs, concentrating on startups.

Image courtesy of Flickrwhltravel

Although all these changes over the last few years lead to an increase of interest in entrepreneurship -driven by the belief that it promotes a better life, administrative issues associated with the government, political instability and economic uncertainty are holding back Serbia’s economic potential.

As its political and economic stability is returning, it is likely Serbia will gain greater impact on the local and European economy assembling a great potential for investors and entrepreneurs in the future. But until that, Serbia has a long way to go to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem.


I would love to hear your opinions about the entrepreneurial landscape of Serbia. Feel free to use the comment box on the right.

American Journal of Economics and Business Administration
Youth Entrepreneurship Civil-Public Partnership
Baseline Study on Women Entrepreneurship in Serbia
Policy for SME and Entrepreneruship Department
EU Observer: Mass Unemployment in the Balkans
Serbia's new legal framework for regulating capital market to protect small shareholders

StartUp Weekend Munich ’11

Launching a business, getting face time with thought leaders, extending your practical skill set, building a network of similar minded people and meeting potential Co-founders are probably listed under the “long-term achievements” of your to-do list, aren’t they? Now imagine checking those things off within a weekend! Blasting idea, and also feasible thanks to a series of events, called “StartUp Weekends”.

The idea is to offer an environment for developers, business managers, marketing gurus, graphic artists and startup enthusiasts to share ideas for new startup companies, form teams, develop prototypes, and launch startups. And this within 48 hours. Starting in 2007, the events organized by a non-profit organization based in Seattle, have spread to more than 35 countries, gaining worldwide popularity in the field of education and proliferation of entrepreneurship.

StartUp Weekend Munich - Ahrend


This year in Germany, StartUp Weekends were held in Berlin, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Munich, where I attended. On 24 June 2011 over 100 students and professionals came together at the Stratscheg Center For Entrepreneurship to join a startup team or get their own business idea transcribed.

Each StartUp event is structured similar: 
Friday: After registration and welcome speeches, every attendee has the chance to pitch his business idea, from which the 10 most voted ideas have the permission to get executed. This is when the teams start forming, discuss the ideas and begin working.
Saturday: Saturday is all about developing the business plan and building a prototype. Mentors from a variety of fields help teams one-on-one. It is up to the teams, whether they work through the night or not.
Sunday: On Sunday the teams have time to complete their work and also held their final presentation in front of the judges who then will award the winners. Awards will be given for the best pitch, most innovative idea and the overall winner.

After the StartUp is before the StartUp.

My team’s startup is called CloseGuru (http://closeguru.com/) and connects people with certain skills who are willing to share their passion with people who want to learn new skills and get inspired. Find like-minded people and enhance your skills by teaching while getting paid! Thanks to our skilled team and the coaches who understood to solve our initial communication problems, my team was awarded for ‘Best Pitch’.


Jan Ahrend on StartUp Weekend CloseGuru


Lessons I learned from the StartUp Weekend:

Communication is essential. Especially when your team consists of 9 members, coming from a business and computer background. Seeing a business idea from two totally different angels can lead to two different visions of the business. Constant communication brings all team members to the same level.

  • Understand your product. It’s like in the real VC world: only one try, only a few minutes to convince investors that your product is awesome. For those 5 minutes, you have to pick the most important aspects of your business.
  • If it wasn’t StartUp Weekend, I would have probably spent my weekend with overthinking the theoretical potential of the business instead of just building it. So just build it, just go!
  • “Was ich nicht weiß, macht mich nicht heiß!” You will only get judged on information that you are telling the jury. Simply leave information about already existing models away and get honored as being most innovative. (That’s what some other participating startups did at least and it unfortunately worked)
  • At the end it’s all about time. The fact that you have only 48 hours to launch a startup is an immense productivity booster. You stop worrying about the outcome and start building the desired product.
  • After the StartUp is before the StartUp. Although I decided against keep on working on CloseGuru, I made a little step towards my own potential StartUp. Speaking with so many passionate people is very inspiring and motivating.

Ahrend: StartUp Weekend Munich 2011


Attending a StartUp Weekend was definitely the right choice. I gained valuable experience, had interesting conversations and established new contacts. If you want to attend an StartUp Weekend in the future, make sure to check out the official event map.