Wolfgang Wopperer: betapitch Berlin 2012 Jury Member
Wolfgang Wopperer is a self-described “trained philosopher and untrained entrepreneur”, and co-founder of software development company mindmatters.de. He is currently based in Hamburg, and is also the co-founder of betahaus Hamburg
You are the cofounder of mindmatters, and you write that you apply the principles of analytic philosophy to founding a startup. How exactly does that work, and why is it important?
Basically it works because I believe that analytical philosophy and startup business are two things based on the principle of common sense. One thing I learned while studying philosophy was the importance of asking better questions and being critical of shallow answers. So what I expect from startups is that they too ask themselves questions, and be prepared to give more than just shallow answers in turn. For example, I think that the most crucial question for a startup to ask themselves is who their target market is, and what the real needs of this group are. I often say that the two questions I ask people are “what exactly do you mean?” and “how do you know?” – through asking these, I hope to motivate people to think in honest terms about the core idea of their product, and why their product would be so important to their target market.
Based on that, do you think that most startups these days are able to provide sufficient answers to those questions?
I think that there are too many startups that still ignore these basic questions – the current hype about startups doesn’t exactly help that, as there are now even more people founding startups just for the sake of founding a startup, and nothing else.
Aside from that; based on my experience, I find the ability of startups to answer these questions to whatever extent depends very much on the context in which they work. For example, the startups we are working with in Hamburg often lack a deep-enough understanding of international sensibilities and market forces, but have a good sense of doing local commerce. In Berlin, I find that there are a lot of creative people who have many good ideas and who understand the potential of the internet, but who sometimes lack a business perspective. It really depends on the individual strengths and weaknesses of the startups themselves.
Without giving too much away, what’s one piece of advice you would give to any startups competing in this year’s betapitch 2012?
My advice would be to try and answer one question as honestly as possible: the question of why any real customer or user would be interested in your product. The answer to it shouldn’t simply be “because I want them to be interested”. If a company pitches an idea to me, I am more likely to be interested if they relate it back to a real need that exists, and back that up with real-life examples.
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