If you want to make it in Berlin, you need moments of luck, plenty of them.
This was confessed between two schnapps at the 9th Startup Grind event in Berlin. Moderated by Christoph Raethke, digital industry veteran and founder of the Berlin Startup Academy, Startup Grind Berlin founder and director Florian Krumb hosted an intimate fireside chat with Jens Begemann, CEO & Co-founder Wooga. Wooga is one of the most popular mobile game developers worldwide, responsible for hit games like Jelly Splash, Pearl’s Peril and Diamond Dash with 50 million active players per month. So, Jens definitely has career advice worth spreading.
The long and short of it: There is no right time for starting a company, but there is a right approach.
In 2009 – in the wake of the global financial crisis – Jens Begemann had a lot to handle. He got married, his wife got pregnant and they moved to a new apartment. Most people in his shoes would have started making savings and trying to climb the corporate ladder at their current company. Jens decided, instead, to quit his stable job and to pursue his dream of founding a new company.
What do you need to do to follow his example and pursue your dream?
1) Get some experience:
Jens wanted to fund his own company already back in 2001 after graduating from university, but figured he needed some experience at the local startup ecosystem, so he joined a company first to learn the basics and build a startup mindset.
2) Cultivate an “I can do it” attitude:
His main motivation was to build something up from scratch and prove to himself that he could do it. Confidence and persistence were key to his success.[bctt tweet="A can-do attitude is critical to beating the odds, says @begemann via @BarbaraSzirmai"]
3) Don’t look for excuses:
Jens quit his job first, before he had a concrete product idea or business plan etc. He knew he would figure something out within the 6-months notice period. That’s right, creatives come up with the best ideas under pressure. Don’t burn all bridges, but realize that those security nets you’re holding onto may in fact be keeping you from creating the urgency that you need to really hustle. Make sure you have nothing holding you back from doing what you love![bctt tweet="What's holding you back from taking a chance for a job you'll love? @BarbaraSzirmai"]
4) Find your passion:
Go back to your roots and explore your potential! Jens grew up on a farm near a small German town, but wasn’t interested in the family business. He loved playing computer games since he was a little kid. In the evenings, his mom would take the keyboard away from him and send him to bed. After an epiphany, he realized that this childhood passion for gaming was what he actually wanted to pursue. His career advice is to find that a hobby can easily be turned into a profession you really enjoy.[bctt tweet="Go back to your roots to explore your #potential! #careeradvice @begemann via @BarbaraSzirmai"]
5) Find the right people to work with:
This is a tough one. So, you have a great idea and know when to launch your product. How about partners in crime?
We all know that finding the right person to partner-up with is extremely difficult. Jens met his co-founder at his former workplace, where they were working together for several years. He now admits that without their common work history and close friendship it most probably wouldn’t have worked out so well. It did eventually work out because they could finish each other’s sentences at the time they became co-founders, shared the same values and passion for their product.
Whether you’re finding a cofounder, hiring, or joining a team, keep in mind that the company will need strong technical talent to succeed, but the human factor is just as important as the genius. As you interview for a position, make sure you can relate to the company’s goals and fit into the company culture.[bctt tweet="Interviewing? Make sure you can relate to company fit and values- @begemann via @BarbaraSzirmai"]
6) Know that even play can be hard work:
We all want to have a job that we love and time flies by when we’re working on new ideas. Jens could tell us about it: his job is to play online games 24/7. However, it is not exactly how his 15-year-old self imagined. He admits that sometimes it is hard work!
Jens explained that the gaming sector is extremely competitive. This means you have to do a lot of testing before you have the chance to succeed. He spends a significant amount of time testing new games the world never gets to see. Just last year his company, Wooga, came up with more than 100 concepts for new games and created 36 prototypes. Less than 10 made it to the production phase and only four of them were actually put on the market.
Even if you are among the lucky ones and work on things you are passionate about, be patient for successes and be prepared for hard work. It usually pays off.
7) Take calculated risks:
“What would Grandmother do?” is not the right career question in the digital age.
It’s getting more and more common to fund a company or join a startup after university, even in Europe. However, many from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations don’t understand the entrepreneurial mindset of millennials. Joining the startup life is still a risky career choice for some, and Jens encountered many Berliners asking themselves “What would my grandmother do?”
Contemplating such questions only gives you the cold feet. Come on, it’s 2015-- there might not be a better time to join the tech scene![bctt tweet="What would grandma do? - Not the right question in the digital age @begemann via @BarbaraSzirmai"]
8) Start your startup career in Berlin... now!
Berlin experienced a huge startup hype a few years ago. In the meantime, the German capital city has developed and grown up to be a real European startup center.[bctt tweet="Berlin's #tech scene - from dream to thriving reality in no time, @begemann via @BarbaraSzirmai"]
According to Jens, the overnight success of the Berlin startup community is becoming less of a hype and more of a reality. Unlike a decade ago, Berlin is now full of creative and competent professionals who know how to operate startups. The city has become very international and the employees of Wooga definitely reflect that: there are more than 40 nations represented within the company.
Early-stage tech companies get more appreciation, as more and more people are interested in them from the “outside world”. Recently, even the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel visited Wooga as part of her Berlin Startup Tour.
Entering the startup world isn’t always easy, no matter whether you are in Berlin, London, New York, or Silicon Valley. Listening to established founders’ and experienced startuppers’ career advice can give you guidance and inspiration for taking the first steps.
Interested in making a career change and taking the plunge into the tech scene? Check out our free guide to finding a job you love at a startup.