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EntrepreneurshipMindsetPirates' Stories

Learning by Failing

When you start working on your idea, it feels amazing! You fall in love with it and ask yourself why did nobody start this thing before me? You feel like you are going to revolutionize the world just like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk did. I’m not gonna lie… It feels like you are unstoppable!

This was exactly the feeling I had when I came up with wannarent at the age of 14. wannarent is my attempt to revolutionize the sharing market. I thought it would be useful if people could share items such as tools and sports equipment they rarely use with each other. It would be cheaper than buying new things, plus it would save storage in your home. It should be an app, just like Airbnb but for things instead of rooms. 

So I literally dreamed about building the next Uber or Airbnb, but I had no clue where the hell should I start. I didn’t know anything about apps or startups. Nothing. I couldn’t code, design or write a business plan. Nothing. The only thing I knew was that my godfather, Harry, knew about businesses. So I asked him and he became my first mentor. With his guidance, I started to write the idea down and define it, and half a year later he introduced me to Denise, my designer. She helped me design the app. It looked amazing. A little bit later I looked for programmers. 

One thing I wanted to integrate into the app was insurance, so the items would be insured during the rent. Harry helped me to contact many major insurance companies and soon we had meetings with a couple of C-level executives. After three meetings with one of them, we had a solid plan. It felt amazing. My ego was through the roof. 

Though, two weeks later, after I had just given a pitch in front of a jury about our amazing plan, I received an email from the insurance company: „We are sorry. Our board canceled the money for innovation and we cannot continue with wannarent.“ It was a painful moment for me. 

I had to start all over again. I tried with other insurance companies for many months over and over again, but it was impossible. The idea had to adapt and we crossed the insurance out of our plan.

It was a tough experience, but I learned a lot from it. My greatest learning was that whatever idea you have, the chances that it will work straight away are very little. You will have to adapt, change or maybe even trash the initial idea at some point. The odds are against you. It is risky, complicated and you need tons of dedication to succeed, especially when you start without any experience. Starting a company is not like in all those Instagram stories. Most of the time it is hard work, setups, and you have to give up many things for what you believe in. 

However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give it a go. If you asked me whether I would start with wannarent again even if I knew I would fail. I would say: Yes. 100%. Not only can you learn things you never learn anywhere else but you also meet amazing people who want to help and change the world with you. I met people I’d never thought I would meet and I’ve gained amazing new friends and mentors. 

Talking with Jakob about his experiences at the Moonshot Pirates Vienna Round Table.

Nevertheless looking back I would do some things differently. Here are my 6 tips on how you can reduce risk and make it more likely to succeed as a young founder:

  1. Start with a friend. It’s more fun and studies have shown that startups with 2-4 founders are more likely to succeed. 
  2. Know the essential parts of your business. How do you want to know if something is good when you know nothing about it. Learn the basics of every part of your business. This can include coding, design, marketing, and financing. Also start reading business books, listen to Podcast or watch videos from successful entrepreneurs. Learn from the experience of others.
  3. Find a mentor. Start going to events, start to talk to people, ask them for advice or even tell them that you want to be their mentee. Many people are happy to help the youth. Tell them about your idea, ask them for advice and if they could help you somehow. Another way is to simply text them over social media like LinkedIn. 
  4. Keep costs to a minimum (in the beginning). Your first product does not have to be perfect, you do not need a patent or an expensive domain. Those are things you can buy when you know people love what you are doing.
  5. Start by doing everything by yourself. If possible don’t hire anybody or spend a lot of money on the production of your product. There are tools to build anything by yourself. For apps, there is Glide Apps, for a website there is wix.com. Most of the time those make-it-yourself tools are enough for the start, and as a bonus, you will learn a lot too.
  6. Make mistakes and fail. Another one of my mentors, Stefan, told me once: „I can tell you what mistakes you are going to make but most mistakes you have to make by yourself. Otherwise, you won’t believe me.“ So just make mistakes and learn on the way. 

Nobody builds a company the same way. It is like in many other areas of life. There is no one perfect way but there are 100 good ways. The only thing that really matters is giving it a go. 

Good luck and all the best, 

Jakob

Books I found useful: 

  • Zero to One from Peter Thiel
  • Wenn es hart auf hart kommt von Ben Horowitz
  • The Lean Startup from Eric Ries
  • The Exponential Organisation from Salim Ismail
  • Play Bigger from Christopher Lochhead, Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson and Kevin Maney
  • Biographien über Florian Gschwandtner, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Warren Buffett and Phil Knight 
  • and Artikel from Reid Hoffman

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