Balance between Action and Knowledge

Basic economics: Abundance of and access to knowledge makes actions more valuable. 

There is too much information about startups. There is too much knowledge about how to build a startup. Too many books, too many ideas, too many coaches and speakers, too many ways how to do it the right way. Knowledge is abundant; it became a commodity. Certainly, we created a situation, where action and execution are overvalued. And naturally, knowledge undervalued.

I have observed the increasing denial of knowledge in entrepreneurship. Although I am an advocate of action, I concluded that we should not underestimate the impact of knowledge in our actions. What matters is not the one or the other. But rather the connections between action and knowledge. Here are three connections between them I found so far:

1. Action generates practical knowledge. A practitioner is, therefore, generating practical knowledge by his or her actions. It would be stupid to ignore this valuable knowledge, which already has an aspect of practicality.

2. Knowledge is always actionable. Many people make a mistake and separate knowledge from action. And this is probably the issue practical entrepreneurs have a problem with. If you know what needs to be done, why don’t you do it, what holds you back? There are couple of reasons that block our actions: fear, too much or lack of information, thought patterns, wrong strategy, wrong people, etc. If knowledge in not executed, something is missing. Find out what it is.

3. Too much knowledge is paralyzes action. Overthinking, overanalyzing and gathering too much information is number one reason for not taking action. This type of situation leads automatically to a very unproductive activity because all actions are directed toward gathering information, which becomes a one-dimensional cycle: Action is taken to gather knowledge, which fuels more action for details. Especially, in the early stage of a startup, this cycle can absorb many resources and discourage actions at all. The world is multidimensional, startups are multidimensional. You need to move, not only inside but also on the macro level. Make steps. Make wrong steps, but make them.

Now, if ideas without action, are just dreams, then actions without ideas is just madness. So what is the point? The point is time. As you move along the timeline and develop the business model, talk to customers, gather expertise – there will be the at right time necessity for the right knowledge and right action.

For example, I experienced knowledge and advice overload in very first steps of my startup journey. It was mainly management and operational advice, which is great but not at the right time. Hey, we just started. I was convinced that a business plan in the beginning is not the right tactic. So, I insisted on building and re-building the business model again and again. This way we built a solid foundation for the business model and now we know exactly, where we are going and which market we will not only address but also create. The vision became clear and the business plan was not a pain anymore. It was just a lot action and a lot of fun, at the right time.

Knowledge has the power to adjust our actions, but it should not dictate them. There is a delicate balance between action and knowledge. And there is one key skill, a startup entrepreneur needs to develop to survive. I will share this insight in the next post.

Words don’t move, people do!

It’s common sense that the startup journey is like a rollercoaster ride. Partly, I agree with such a statement. But there are more than two major directions for startup. I identified three of them. And the third is the scariest one to me. The three directions are: Up, down, halt.

Enjoying the hype in the market and great team performance can be easy. The market is pulling, and things are moving fast. Problems occur and bring only little tension in such a dynamic landscape, which is resolved with little effort.

Downturns are inevitable and necessary for learning. Contributing factors to a downturn maybe macro and micro: timing, product, team, market fit issues, economic downturns, weak startup ecosystems etc. Basically, it’s not working out. That’s difficult and only the best startups can manage themselves in tough situations. Such startups build real businesses and do not rely on the illusion of luck.

For me, the up or down scenarios are equally fine. Because whether it’s going up or down, I see the direction. It’s simple. What really scares the hell out of me is the situation of going nowhere. Imagine, everybody in your team is doing her or his job. On the inside, something is happening. Hey, that’s good! But when you look at the overall progress from the macro-level, the startup is not moving. And solely by talking about superiority and flexibility of the technology or business model won’t move you

Such a state is a deadly disease for a startup. It’s called complacency. To me, it’s equal to lethargy. Here are some ways I found to diagnose the lethargy and to treat the symptoms.

Symptom: “They don’t get it”
You present your idea to a bunch of people and also experts. But they don’t get your genius idea or superior technology. You are talking about your startup and your plans and every time people ask the same questions.
You should become very cautious. If they don’t get what you plan is, it’s not because they lack education and you are too brilliant. It’s because you haven’t done your homework and now you are stuck, and you don’t get your current situation.

Remedy: Empathy
Take this feedback seriously and use your passion for your business idea to make your ideas digestible.

Side effect:
You will discover assumptions you make that make no sense.

Symptom: Comfort, aka group thinking
If you have raised money there will always be a phase of comfort. It’s like a vacation weekend. Enjoy it, but make sure to come back from that mental vacation. Comfort can become a root of inefficiency. That’s not what you want! You are just started to build great future and you love this work. Don’t let your mind become numb by those first successes. Don’t pour water into the fire of your passion. That’s probably not the reason why you started the whole thing.

Remedy: Self-doubt
1. Do you have relevant milestones and ambitious goals? If yes, continue reading, if no, figure them out with your team today. Yes, today!
2. Are you moving towards your goals and milestones? Don’t say in your mind yes, to avoid the pain. Otherwise, you won’t learn anything about the progress.
3. Most critical: are you moving at the right pace towards your goals?

Side effect:
Hallucinogen-like: You will expand your perspective and identify blind spots.

Symptom: High expectations
We begin the startup journey to shape the world. On this journey, we also need to change ourselves. Probably, some of us will have higher expectations than others. And that’s a very good thing. Somebody must navigate the startup towards excellence. You want to become the best and not the average. Who wants average technology or average brands? Average is poison to startups. I always set high expectations. Situations, when my high expectations don’t match the reality, are tough for me. I become rather busy with the conflict between my expectations and reality. But the result is that I stop moving towards success. I was looking for a solution for this problem and I figured out how to manage it.

Remedy: Raise the expectations!
1. First, raise the expectations for yourself. Become better every day!
2. Stop expecting results from others and show the necessity of becoming better. Do the hard work better and faster! This will catch fire and spread the passion for the startup in your team. And that is the result you want in the team: a great team that will build a great future!

The PitchClub Secret

This month I had the opportunity to pitch our startup at the Pitch Club in Frankfurt. The winners of the HessenIdeen contest performed in front of investors.

The setting of the PitchClub in Frankfurt is an excellent  way to bring startups and investors into the same room. Its relaxed atmosphere begins already with the location “The Legends”: a bar on the first floor, chairs for the audience on the second floor, a projector, no stage, all on the same level. We are in Germany, and the next aspect is unusual for such an event: you can say “Du,” which make a huge difference to blur the distances between people you don’t know yet. Sip your coffee and ready to pitch! ?☕

I experienced The PitchClub atmosphere as somehow unique and crisp. Due to preselection procedure for the startups, the level of the entrepreneurs is high. The participating investors are highly professional. In combination with the chill ambiance you can hear the crackling tension in the air. Personally, I find this kind of setting very helpful for my own performance.  In the past experience, I learned that my potential is being blocked in too formal events and I cannot deliver the 180 per cent, I know I can deliver. A more relaxed atmosphere makes you deliver your message more authentic to the audience. Hopefully, this kind of setting will continue to conquer the German Startup scene and the organizers of rusty and outdated event formats will realize this future trend. Btw…With cool beats in the background, networking is at least 1000 more fun.

The PitchClub has evolved to a highly eligible event comprising a high rate of investment deals. It seems that Daniel, Stefan and their team are doing a great job. Doing the right things often requires boldness and I asked Stefan what their secret is. He replied: “We had this great idea and instead of whiteboarding, we just started.” Word!



Hot Coffee from the Startup World

We love to hear those success stories.

People of almost superhuman abilities build great companies, products, services, communities and influence society in a positive direction. Wow! How do they do that? We are inspired, profoundly touched by such stories and motivated in our personal ambitions. But there is a gap between the story told and the actual beginning and the struggle of the journey. We cannot to bridge the gap between ourselves and try to explain to ourselves, they did it by talent, by luck.

To me, listening or reading the success stories is like drinking cold coffee. The thing is, I love hot, freshly brewed coffee! That is why I am serving on this site hot coffee. You can call me Startup-Barista. And from time to time you will find here some espresso shots on my social media channels. 😉


Why StartupLife? Three and a half reasons

#1a. I want to document my personal journey in real-time now and not tell the story later.

#1b. Online topics in portals like “What founders need to know about X” or “Ten rules for a successful startup” are a waste of time. Building a startup is hard. The present situation will be different tomorrow. So, yesterday’s rules will be useless today, and if not today then definitely the tomorrow.

#2. I will share my personal pains & gains. This is not another startup portal for revenue streams, follower generation.

#3. I am writing in three languages. In my experience, the startup community is shaped by values that are not bound to geography, culture or language. Technology in almost all business sectors enables almost a free flow of goods, ideas, data and so on. Let’s build on it!


Looking into the crystal ball, I see that the entrepreneurial spirit will continue to shape our world in an efficient and sustainable manner. Independent from our personal or societal willingness, we cannot prevent the coming upheavals.

At this point, I need to clarify my understanding of the entrepreneurial spirit. It is a personal mindset that

– questions the status quo,

– gains a better understanding of the situation and finds much better solutions,

– follows through practical implementation and most importantly,

– can challenge the implemented solution as status quo.

Challenging the status quo does not mean being lost in an endless loop. But it could mean letting go at the right time and look for new challenges. The entrepreneurial spirit is the key to the transformation of the old and useless into a dynamic and flexible mindset. The spirit of enterprise is the fuel to motion. Keep moving! Use it! There is nothing to lose or win because

It’s Never Game Over!