How does the accelerator behind Flixbus and Foodora work?
An interview with Jasmin Steinhardt, Accelerator Manager at the LMU EC Accelerator
Can you tell us a bit more about the story behind the LMU EC?
“Yes, the LMU EC was founded in 2007 by an entrepreneur, an innovation professor and a venture capitalist. They envisioned to support entrepreneurship in Germany and to educate students about starting their own business. We wanted to inspire students to start their own business and teach them hands-on skills beyond theoretical concepts. We were also one of the first accelerators worldwide after Y Combinator pioneered this model in 2005.”
How did the LMU EC change over time?
“In the beginning, we were strongly interwoven with the university and were working as an incubator for graduating students and LMU alumni. The teams could stay up to one year and would often be in an early stage. Over time we gave our program more structure and are now operating in two batches per year. We also adapted our model and value proposition based on the needs and feedback of our startups. For example, we strongly focused on getting our startups investment-ready at some point. Also, we teach a lot about bootstrapping. Bootstrapping is a very valid form for startups to finance themselves and specifically in the beginning often the most viable option to follow. The most recent addition to our program is our cooperation with the Social Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA). The SEA helps us to educate our startups about their impact and their responsibility as entrepreneurs, economically and environmentally. We see that being aware of their impact becomes more and more important for startups not just in terms of fundraising but also recruiting top talents.”
How do you select the startups for your program?
“First of all, we are industry agnostic and do not have any stage focus. For example, we have teams in our current batch which are still in the concept stage. Other startups are already very successful with a revenue of over 5 digits. We also pay attention to a good mix and diversity among the startups because we realized how much the teams can learn from each other. It’s always exciting to see when our teams cooperate and teach themselves different skills. For the specific startup selection, we care most about the team composition and the founder’s backgrounds. We want to see that the startup has the competencies but more importantly the motivation and commitment to building a successful business. We also analyse the market, the business idea and the scalability of the startups. Other aspects like financial planning can be improved in our program.“
How can founders impress you?
“With their pitch and their ambition. We once accepted a solo-founder who was still looking for cofounders because we saw his strong commitment.”
What tips would you give other accelerators and investors?
“The most important factor is to listen to the founders and to understand their needs. There is no “one model fits all approach” and it always depends on multiple factors to make a startup successful. Although we have some predetermined elements in our program, we are quite flexible in our approach and design our program around the founder’s needs. In addition, we ensure that we have a broad network of support systems which can help our startups. One of the outstanding benefits of our accelerator is the strong network to experienced round 300 alumni startups and mentors from different industries who experienced the ups and downs of a startup themselves.”
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