HOT SEAT - ALEXANDER MARTEN:
What are three words to describe yourself?
Serial-Entrepreneur, US Lawyer, Tech Guy
What was your very first business or creative idea? Did that make any money?
The third business I started was the first “real” startup – connected cars. We got over EUR 3 million in VC funding and had some clients but we did not make enough money to become cash flow positive.
What was your biggest challenge when you started your first business?
It was an idea that needed too much development or put otherwise we thought we needed more to enter the market. So in retrospect the biggest challenge was to slash enough of the functionality to be able to turn this into a prospering business and build upon that.
What was the best advice in life or business you've ever received?
A quote: “Everybody said it is not possible. Then, somebody came around who didn’t know that and just did it.” – don’t let people get into your head and tell you why x and y is not possible. Humor yourself and assume a world in which it is and how it became possible there. That gives you the first clues where you need to start.
Which three people, famous or not famous, dead or alive, would you most like to invite to a dinner party? Why?
Elon Musk – personal hero as he really did not care what others thought and convinced the world that anybody can build banks, cars, rockets,… Christopher Columbus – one of the first and most successful venture backed entrepreneurs and my question would be how he convinced a queen to invest. Hugh de Payne – the first man I know who build a most successful startup, the Knights Templar and expanded internationally.
How do you define success?
In my opinion, success consists of three things 1. economic success (earn enough to live a decent life in which money isn’t the most pressing issue), 2. personal success (happiness with what you are doing to earn money as well as with your personal/family situation) and 3. returning success (giving some of the success you have earned back to make others smile/achieve their success).
What makes a founder successful?
If (s)he is able to achieve all of the three above mentioned prongs.
What do you do in order to keep on learning and developing?
Read a lot on new technologies and developments. Talk a LOT with people in different industries to exchange ideas on their industry & take on business
Which resources are you recommending to first time entrepreneurs?
Meetups to meet other entrepreneurs that are already in the game and ask them about their failures and what obstacles you can evade before hitting them.
What's the biggest risk you've ever taken?
Each time I found a new startup or invest as an angel in one.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Learn patience before life teaches it to you the hard way.
What do you know to be true that no one else does?
There is always a way, but most of the times it is not you that will discover it. But try nonetheless and stop only if you are convinced you won’t figure it out and not when somebody else tells you.
What's something you don't want to regret when you're older?
Starting the companies that did not work out or failed. I learned from each one my lessons I put to use today.
Is there something you know you should stop doing?
Not be too overeager when I hear a cool idea. The idea is only 25% of the deal, 50% is the capability to execute it and 25% to find the right financing.
What's your favourite book?
A fantasy book series “The Warded Man“
What character traits of other entrepreneurs have impressed you?
Going beyond your and everybody else’s limits – to push beyond a point where most people are uncomfortable to push others to. Most founders will need to be able to do this as it is essential in 90% of the companies that are started.
Do you believe successful ventures require something meaningful?
Focus. Not jumping on every opportunity that comes along as it will distract you. Make a plan/vision/strategy/whateveryoucallit that explains where you want to go: what is the minimum viable product to achieve and how are you going to put it successfully into the market (traction). Do not – repeat – do not stray from that as it will increase your chance to fail. If and when you make it to the market, then you can always reconsider how to enhance/increase your offering. As Reid Hofmann puts it: if you make it to the market and you are not ashamed of your product, you have waited to long.
What's something that first time founders should avoid at all costs?
Hiring finance consultants to get funding and hiring people too fast.
Why are you getting involved with Best of X?
Helping others to achieve their goals by sharing the experience and know how I have build up the last 8 years.