If you have ever founded a company in the German start-up hub Berlin, you probably know Matthias Bellmann. And chances are, Matthias knows you, too.
When he was no older than fifteen, he started his first little company, while others were delivering newspapers for 2.50€ per hour.
“When I founded my first company it didn’t even feel like founding a company,” he says. “I was just solving my own problem: I wanted to have a really cool computer system and in the local computer shops you could buy only crap. So I built my own system. And what happened next was that all my friends wanted to have the same that I had. So I started building computer systems for them.”
Since then Matthias’ passion has been to found companies from scratch. While some would say that building and selling computer systems in high school is not a real company, Matthias is sure that this first experience marked the upcoming years, and indeed his life: “I realized that this is the one thing that really excites me. It’s because I can do what I want, I follow my dreams, my passion – and that makes me super happy.”
Eight years and four co-founded companies later, he still burns for the same thing. But just founding companies himself is not enough. “What I want to do now is to inspire others and help them do the same so that they also find their passion,” he explains.
That is why he recently started mentoring a couple of youngsters who wanted to create their own web-based business. He not only taught them how to design and develop the website, but also supported them on the business side.
But wait…is Matthias a developer or why does he know how to do create websites from zero? Well, the answer is simple: he learned it by himself. “There are so many business graduates out there not having a clue about website development, who still want to found an online business. Often they can’t find a technical co-founder or early investors to hire one.” Matthias knows that this should not stop you.
“I taught myself how to code and built one webpage after the other. And I now have the ability to create prototypes on my own. In general, this skill, that I am confident and able to teach myself anything I need, has always been very, very crucial for my career and my success.”
All that sounds so easy! But can everyone actually found a company? “I think yes, everybody can found a company, but it depends on the type of company,” Matthias says. To be more clear, in his opinion everyone can create a small business, like selling things on eBay or doing a yard sale. But not everyone can found another Lufthansa. “Let’s say you would start right away an airline business without previous knowledge in the field. That feels overwhelming. You need to know how to get people, how to manage planes, how to do accounting in different countries, how to train pilots and so on. All this is very, very complicated. So maybe it’s not a good fit for you.”
Sounds reasonable. So as a learning he explains, “Find something, a business idea, that really fits to who you are and then you build a business naturally out of that.”
And if you do that, you will be successful and never fail. Wait…what?
Of course that is not true. Entrepreneurs fail all the time. If you haven’t heard that before, you haven’t heard about entrepreneurship.
For Passion.io, Matthias even revealed the biggest fail in his career. “It was when I built a company in 2010/11. It started of very well: sales were going up, we hired lots of people, launches in new countries and it was just exciting. The second year, the market changed and it was really difficult to get new customers. As a management team we made the mistake that we did not realize it to work on ways how to solve the issue. So it got worse. Liabilities increased, sales went down, we had to fire people, we were running completely out of money, until we had to file for bankruptcy. We were completely broken and it was a horrible situation. And obviously we had lost all our confidence!”
Oouch! How can one get back up after falling so hard? For Matthias that what not the question. Just a few days after this disaster an investor approached him with another opportunity for co-founding a company. And this one became a success.
“So, without this kind of failure before, I wouldn’t have met this investor and I wouldn’t have been successful in the end,” he summarises. “I noticed that this is actually part of the journey. It’s full of ups and downs, just like a rollercoaster.”
And this rollercoaster seems to be very fun, if you know that it goes up again after it went down. That is something Matthias is confident about now. His future plans don’t sound too bad either.
“I think that the upcoming years will be super exciting and I will hang out with pretty much the coolest people out there: the inspirational ones with the best skills. That can be chefs, that can be fitness stars, web developers or interior designers, digital nomads, that could be anything. And while creating Passion.io, I am working with these people and build products with them that enable everyone to find their own passion and do what they want. That will completely fulfil me and I will have an amazing time.”
Easy to say for someone who has already founded a couple of successful companies. But honestly, not everyone has the confidence to take the time and money in order to found their own company. How do we know when is the right timing to do so?
“Why don’t you start right now?” is the question Matthias always asks people who want to found their own company, but are insecure about really doing it.
“Because you will always find reasons to not do it: first you want to finish your studies, or concentrate on your job and so on…but it will always be like that! And starting now is fairly easy, because you can begin with a small step. If you plan to build a yoga company for example, that sounds very difficult. But a first step could be going to a yoga meet-up in order to get to know other yoga passionates. You can learn from them about what they need and what ideas they have. And then you could do a market research in the second step. That is something very simple to do.”
Time and money are one of the major excuses people have. But Matthias explains, “You don’t have to quit your job, you don’t need any money, you don’t need much time for that. You just go there and do that first step. And that is the most important one! If you do that first step, that’s already like 50%. Afterwards it will be easy to go on and on an on.”
Top 3 Success Secrets
Okay, now I want to be an entrepreneur, too. But what are Matthias’ top three success secrets? You can actually remember them quite easily with just three verbs: inspire, enjoy and educate.
- Get inspired: Try to find the right mentors that help you on your way. Those can be functional mentors like a very successful chef in case you want to build a restaurant. But those can also be personality related mentors, so people who help you to become a cool dude.
- Enjoy: Stay happy throughout the journey, because whatever you do, you will face huge ups and downs. And this kind of rollercoaster can be tough sometimes. Maybe you always think about how cool it will be in the future when you reach whatever your goal might be. But actually you should know that the rollercoaster itself is a lot of fun and that the downs are just before the next ups. It’s just part of it.
- Educate yourself: There are billions of resources out there to learn the things you need. Try to find the best resources to solve the problem you currently have. So if you want to build a webpage, yes you can try to get money from investors or find a co-founder, but you can also just learn it yourself. Get a really good WordPress course, learn rails or any other language you need. And then it will actually be much easier to find co-founders and investors, because you will already have a prototype to showcase.