Startup expert Maren Lesche is an adept communicator – especially when she’s advising tech entrepreneurs on their business strategy. Maren’s expertise from her work at European Innovation Hub, European Pioneers and Startupbootcamp Digital has provided her with ample evidence that even the most tech-savvy companies can’t afford to slack on their branding. Here is what she had to say about aspiring startups and why in today’s ultra-competitive climate, it’s not enough merely to innovate. You have to communicate.
How did you first become involved with the process of incubating startups?
I did not end up in the startup ecosystem on purpose. I for sure did not dream about such a career when I was choosing my university subject. Back then, I wanted to become a publisher of books. After studying Applied Media Science at a Technical University surrounded by engineers, I moved into tech journalism and tech PR – two areas in which you have to be a good people manager to understand peoples’ interests and values. Step by step – and with a lot of detours – I came to Berlin to work on innovation and startup projects. Now, close to 5 years later, I can’t even remember how working in the corporate world felt like. I truly enjoy being surrounded by entrepreneurs, sharing my knowledge to support startup growth – from idea to a successful company that is active across the world.
When you are communicating on behalf of a startup, what key ideas do you prioritize getting across to consumers and investors?
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Storytelling is immensely important to reach people – doesn’t matter if you talk to consumers, business partners or investors. People have to feel you are emotionally involved, have to feel your passion for the project, have to understand that it is not a game but you are bleeding and sweating for your project. Therefore, I am picky and only support startups that I truly believe in. For many reasons, I am most interested in healthcare, IoT and Fintech solutions.
And by the way: I always recommend the entrepreneurs I work with, to focus on their customers and the product first instead of quick investor money.
What do the startups you’ve worked with more typically underestimate? Their technology needs or their branding needs?
I started working with startups years ago, when the startup ecosystem was younger and less mature, many entrepreneurs were just in for the ride. Founding a startup was hip! Today, entrepreneurs realize that running a young company and creating a strong and sustainable product are hard work. In this process, communications and brand building became even more important. Many entrepreneurs had to realize that a good product is not enough to compete in the growing startup ecosystem where many skilled founders are working on similar solutions. An exceptional technology is no guarantee of success – unfortunately!
What advice could you offer to entrepreneurs seeking to start new businesses in HealthTech?
Prepare for a marathon. eHealth is a very rewarding sector – you are working on solutions that might save lives – but is also a very close-knit group. Especially, if you leave the wellness and fitness space and look toward solutions for hospitals or patient treatment, you need insight knowledge or experienced partners, which you will find, if you look closely and selectively! Moreover, the Healthtech sector is still a great playing ground with many options. Now is also the right time to start exploring: the support network is getting stronger every day and success case like Ada Health are motivating young founders but on the other hand, there is still a lot of space to digitize and improve healthcare. And not just here in Europe! I recently travelled to India, Indonesia and the Philippines and have seen many areas where European healthcare startups could collaborate with local partners to improve healthcare services in Asia.
How did etventure startup hub come into being?
One of the first projects etventure startup hub coordinated was EuropeanPioneers, an EU co-funded accelerator, which provided funding and support to 25 startups from all over Europe. However, since then the importance to support cross-sector and cross-organizational innovation became even more important. Nowadays, etventure Startup Hub is providing exactly this bridge: between startups and corporates, between labs and startups as well as between startups and investors. All these activities aim to support young companies in their growth. That’s also the reason why my job changed to an ‘Ecosystem Manager’.
When a startup is just getting started, what do they need to prioritize when they are at that critical early stage of defining their goals and putting concrete constraints on their ideas?
Timing – fast testing, fast decision making, fast output. Do not procrastinate! I know that startups need visions and should keep them in mind. But most important is getting things done. Smaller challenges, getting done step by step but in a short period of time, will keep the team and the product development dynamic. Small achievements can be celebrated regularly, smaller mistakes can be reviewed and dealt with easier. If the bites you take are too big, you might suffocate chewing!
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