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Uwe Horstmann on the qualities of exceptional founders and the elements of startup success

Uwe Horstmann: “What Rocket Internet companies were really good at was some sort of ‘hyper learning mode’. I don’t think we assumed that we would come up with better ideas just because we were smarter than anyone else, but because we were more aggressive in terms of learning. We would have conference calls at 7:30 in the morning with everybody on the line discussing what the learnings of yesterday were and what we were going to try to improve during the day. And then, we had another conference call in the evening and you were expected to have executed your experiments by then and gathered data.”

 

 

From Rocket Internet to Project A Ventures

Uwe Horstmann is truly one of the big names of the German startup scene who was involved in the meteoric rise of digital entrepreneurship in Europe’ largest economy early on. He was a senior manager at well-known company builder Rocket Internet since its start in 2007. Being involved in Rocket Internet’s operations early on exposed him to successful ventures like Zalando or MyCityDeal/Groupon and gave him a ‘fast-track education’ on every aspect of digital entrepreneurship. From 2009 to 2012, he served as Rocket’s Managing Director, focusing primarily on international rollouts.

In 2012, Uwe went on to found Project A Ventures, an operational VC firm that invests in tech startups in Europe and around the world. Based in Berlin and Sao Paulo, Project A Ventures has assets under management with a total value of 260m€. With a focus on digital technologies, the VC has invested into more than 45 startups, including companies like Catawiki, Tictail and ZenMate. In addition to financial assistance, its team of 100 experts also support its portfolio companies operationally with e.g. software development, performance marketing and business intelligence. In his function as a Partner, Uwe Horstmann is mainly responsible for dealflow, product and IT.

Being engaged in the support of NGOs like Oxfam and working on his PhD thesis in Entrepreneurship, he is also actively sharing his knowledge outside his daily work – with a special focus on the economic development in Africa and researching what it is that makes successful entrepreneurs being successful. In 2016, Uwe Horstmann was named to Forbes’ Europe ’30 Under 30’ list.

Uwe Horstmann (second to left) and the Project A Ventures management team

Uwe Horstmann on Startup Notes

In this episode, Uwe Horstmann talks about how his career evolved, his work as an operational VC, key qualities of successful founders, the competitive edge a company can gain through ’hyper learning mode’ and why luck is an essential part of startup success.

These are the topics that we cover with Uwe who shares his knowledge of having been at the forefront of the German startup scene since 2007:

[01:37 – 03:38] On his professional background and private interests
[03:39 – 04:28] On his advisor activities in Africa
[04:29 – 06:35] What a typical day in his life as a VC looks like
[06:36 – 08:17] On how Project A identifies new investment opportunities
[08:18 – 11:00] On the evolvement and milestones of his career
[11:01 – 12:01] On his PhD studies in Entrepreneurship
[12:02 – 14:05] On the ‘element of luck’ involved in being successful as an entrepreneur
[14:06 – 16:23] On how to set up an efficient startup organization and being in ‘hyper learning mode’
[16:24 – 17:43] Why Airbnb succeeded in Europe over its competitor Wimdu
[17:44 – 19:36] On the currently hottest markets to start a company in
[19:37 – 21:46] On the qualities of exceptional founders that convince him for investments
[21:47 – 23:45] On why building startups is like ‘rolling the dice’
[23:46 – 26:29] His best advice to aspiring first-time founders
[26:30 – 27:51] On the best advice he was given as an entrepreneur
[27:52 – 29:35] Open job positions at Project A Ventures

Podcast Host: Emil

For more insights from former Rocket Internet employees, also check out our podcast episodes with Kilian Thalhammer and Boris Hageney. After working as a Managing Director for the Rocket Internet venture Paymill, Kilian became a FinTech advisor and business angel. Just like Uwe Horstmann, Boris Hageney had worked with the Samwer brothers early on and shares his entrepreneurial learnings in one of our video interviews.

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