In the middle of 2014, Sebastian Winkler (father of two) had just bought a house and had a tidy salary from a safe job to comfortably cover the mortgage. By January 2015, he had quit this job and founded Medizintechnikmarkt. 12 months later, he and his co-founder have made EUR 200k in revenue and are well on their way to disrupt the global market for medical technology.
Sebastian is going to tell us more about his journey in the keynote at the GTEC Demo Day on 14th December. We interviewed him to explore find out more.
1. Tell us about medizintechnikmarkt.de in a nutshell?
“We disrupt medical device purchases. Before we existed, buying certain kinds of medical equipment (such as ultrasound, lasers, etc.) online was impossible. We’ve made it possible. Health service providers see what is out there on the market, tell us what they need, and we connect them with the best possible partners. In short: we want to be for medical device purchases, what Amazon is for Christmas shopping.”
2. Why did you apply for the GTEC Berlin Startup Academy (BSA) acceleration program?
“We were clueless on how to build a company. And we wanted to built a company, not a start-up. We were receiving mentoring through a state-funded program called “Innovation braucht Mut” (Innovation requires bravery) – one of the mentors (Tobias Dillinger) connected us with Christoph (founder of BSA). Christoph took us in, despite the idea being half-ready at best – for quite some time he was the only outside person believing this could be big.”
3. How was working in a startup environment different from your previous experience?
“Despite having worked in big corporates, small companies, as well as a small consultancy agency before, life in a startup is very different. A company won’t break if you fail on something as an employee. Despite that, what I experienced was that failing was not accepted – that attitude fostered a culture of slow progress, no risk taking, and no clear responsibilities. The “fail early and fail often” mentality is the daily business of running a startup, even though failure carries much more risk – if you get it wrong too often as a founder you can destroy your company.
Also I always had the feeling in my previous work that everybody was expected to stay in the role they were assigned to and people will always try to bind each other to those job titles and descriptions – in a startup you are encouraged to step out of your role. I was never unhappy with my work before, but now I am very happy.”
4. What were the specific challenges you faced with your startup? How did BSA help you overcome them?
“Through BSA, we were able to meet people with actual knowledge, the people who had been there and done that themselves. At most startup meetups and events, the majority of people are as clueless as you are. The BSA mentors all have a great track record. On a practical level, BSA helped us with a lot of the organisational stuff – like how to register the company, not just in terms of giving us the knowledge, but also the impetus to get on and do it right now.”
5. Was there a particular mentor / mentor experience that fundamentally changed your approach?
“Definitely – Rainer Kruschwitz from Thinkery.de. But before I tell you the story about Rainer I’ll fill in the background. We had two approaches for making money – one was a commission-based model the other through lead generation. Until that point had received 50/50 feedback on which approach we should take, and had decided to follow the commission-based model.
Then I had lunch with Rainer. He asked me how the business was going. I told him about all our promising leads and that the business was growing. He asked how much money we are making. I said none but I was very optimistic. His next question was the most important one: “Let’s say your hope is wrong, when do you need to change your model, so that you don’t go broke?” The maths was not complicated: “Now”. So he said: “Change to lead gen, get paid per lead.” He explained he case, made suggestions about how to start. I listened for about half an hour with an angry face, but when he asked me if I would do it, I said:“The decision is made, and we will change but it doesn’t mean I am happy about it.” The next day we changed the model, I went to a trade fair, sold leads and the rest is history.”
6. Where were you at by the end of the program? What has happened since?
“At the end of the program we had incorporated our company and had both quit our jobs to work full time on Medizintechnikmarkt.de. At the BSA Demo Day, we had plenty of promising conversations with investors, but they didn’t get us anywhere. What I realized was that commitment is hard to get and that you should always be careful of what you promise. Nobody will invest in just an idea: it’s so important to have numbers if to prove your idea. We had somebody who wanted to invest EUR 65k, but after a lot of time and conversations he took back his offer. It was such a huge waste of time.
Fundraising was the hardest part after BSA. The lesson I learned was not to ask for money if you only have an idea. You can see that for yourself if you go to a meetup. All the people there have great idea, but would you invest in those ideas? What makes you and your idea different? Be realistic and ask yourself how far you can get without any external money.”
7. Is it fair to say that the BSA changed your life?
“What changed my life was building a company. BSA was a huge part of that and of achieving such success in a very short time. So I would not say BSA changed my life, but it definitely put me in the position to change it.”
8. What would be your advice to other founders in a similar place to you 18-months ago
“Start selling before you do ANYTHING else.”
Thank you Sebastian!
Sebastian at GTEC | Berlin Startup Academy sharing his insights with the new Startups.