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Entrepreneurs who started companies at coworking spaces & are now going big

Sascha Kellert is the CEO of ezeep, a software-as-a-service that brings print-infrastructure management to the cloud.

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Ezeep, Coffee Circle and Orderbird are three young companies that began their businesses in Berlin’s Betahaus, a prominent European coworking space. Since, all three companies have expanded into their own offices and now employ between 25-50 people. Here, they talk not only about the value of coworking, but also their learned experiences about how to create a product or service, move it to the market, and make a mark on the world.

About ezeep

Ezeep is a software-as-a-service that digitally outsources print-infrastructure management, with the goal of helping small-to-medium companies save costs (typically 1%-6% of annual overhead) associated with printing and print-infrastructure, as well as helping these companies print smart, in order to minimize environmental waste. While there might not be much recognition for a tool that transforms print-infrastructure, it can have a huge international impact on other companies’ bottom lines and, more importantly, it serves the people in these organizations by helping streamline their workflow.

About ezeep’s Early Coworking Days

It all started in Sascha’s, CEO of ezeep, mother’s kitchen in Stuttgart. But as the ball got rolling, ezeep set-up its operations at Betahaus, with nothing but a PC and a printer. The first days were spent doing nothing but searching for funding, and Sascha pitched to over 60 investors before angel investor Thomas Madsen-Mygdal and then High-Tech Gründerfonds, both connections Betahaus helped foster, made offers to invest. The coworking environment, with its infrastructure of access to inspiring people, fellow founders, and a professional energy, provided an ideal place to begin a business.

Why Not Go Big?

“It takes exactly the same amount of effort to create a startup, whether it’s a small business or a world-changing one. If the investment is the same, whatever the size, then be bold and work on something big.”

Know Your Market

“One of your most important success factors is that there is a market for what you’re doing. You can have a AAA team working on a niche idea, but if there is no market need for it, it isn’t going to work. One thing you have to be clear about is that your vision has the power to grow into a long-standing company. If people don’t want to pay for it and use it, then a great team and even great investment don’t matter. A poor team can work on a market with demand better than a AAA team with no market.”

Unlimited Growth (& How Coworking Spaces Foster It)

“Entrepreneurship can exist on many levels, not just high-growth tech companies, but also just people working together in a coworking space can add value to one another and change markets. We are always impacting the word around us, and there is great value in taking the step to create room for self-actualization. Coworking spaces have a great share in making that happen.”

About Coffee Circle

Martin Elwert of Coffee Circle describes himself as ‘just a guy trying to start a company that’s not only about money and growth, but also creating a lasting social impact.’ Back in 2009, he worked on a project to create a school for orphans in Ethiopia and the experience got him thinking about entrepreneurship as a means of helping the country reduce poverty. Martin’s natural gravitation was toward coffee, as the plants origin is in Ethiopia and some of the best coffee beans in the world are produced there.

Further, it’s a product that brings people happiness. Through Coffee Circle’s sales, one euro per kilogram of beans is channeled directly into social projects in Ethiopia. Working in conjunction with farmers who have a true knowledge of what local communities need, the company collaborates with NGOs to be sure each euro is well-spent on developing meaningful change.

About Coffee Circle’s Early Coworking Days

Coworking provided him with a very flexible alternative, in terms of financing. Rather than renting an entire office, he could just rent a few desks. The space also provided a special opportunity to have exchanges with people from diverse backgrounds. Martin considers it a luxury to have begun alongside programmers, designers, press relations people and entrepreneurs, who all provided inputs he might have otherwise encountered. He had literally never done anything like this before—and had to experience developing his own company, exporting coffee, or even building a website. His track was one of trial and error. Being at Betahaus was a boon for his business in its early days, as the coworking space brought in many journalists, and he had easier access to press coverage.

Now with about 25 people on his team, including interns and freelancers, his business continues to expand throughout the DACH region. Martin has the following advice to offer those who are beginning their own businesses:

Clear Vision

“Know where you want to go and what you want to create.”

Good & Right

“Find the right people to get there with you, and be sure these people share your values, or else you can run into trouble. The people, vision and values must align.”

Enough Is Enough

“Make sure you have the resources to run a sustainable business, and then just work very, very, very hard.”

Feedback Is Fundamental

“In startup culture, we always hear about this stealth mode thing, but it’s not very smart. The beginning of a venture is the most crucial time to get feedback about your ideas. You need to know if these ideas are attractive to people. If you are beginning in a coworking space, use this chance to exchange thoughts and ideas about development. But being silent because you fear somebody will steal your idea is bullshit. In the end, it’s not about the idea anyway, it’s about the execution.”

 Next page: Learn more about how Orderbird reached success 

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