The FoundersLink Process
FoundersLink GmbH is a pioneer in Venture Creation that launches new companies by bringing together business concepts, talent, and access to capital. The Berlin-based company was founded in 2007 by serial entrepreneurs with a proven track record in the initiation of successful companies in different high-growth industries.
The founding partners, Oliver Beste and Fabian Hansmann, started FoundersLink with the vision of fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe. The goal of FoundersLink is to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating an enduring and self-energizing impulse!
Whether you are looking for an entrepreneurial challenge, are an industry expert looking for non-executive positions, or are an investor who would like to get updates on investment opportunities – we would love to welcome you into our entrepreneurial network to start building lasting value!
Example Case Study
Step 1: Concept identification
- We learn from market analysis and 10 years of e-commerce experience that invoice and installments drive double-digit sales increases.
- We interview experts and research market potential in Europe. Legal and regulatory requirements are checked.
- All potential founders sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and a Non-Compete Agreement (NCA) before they learn about the specific concept.
- We see an exit potential above €50m .
- We set up a company to test the business model
- We start a search for exceptional founders who can run the company in the long term; we look for entrepreneurial talent and relevant business experience.
- We find the entrepreneurial talents.
- The "Co-founders" get half of our equity in the company with a vesting over four years (please see the FAQs for a more detailed description)
- They agree, like us, to work without a salary until funding is raised. This makes the selection of candidates much easier for us. Real entrepreneurs demonstrate commitment to take personal risk, and help their baby start-up most, by bootstrapping scarce resources.
- FoundersLink finds a strategic investor who commits significant sums to the company and brings strategic resources on board (know-how, experience, manpower support at critical times, network etc.).
- The investor and FoundersLink send executives to the advisory board.
We are not a VC as in Venture Capital, but rather as in Venture Creation – so we looked for a name that is hard to confuse with Venture Capital firms. We see ourselves as the “missing link” between great business models and great founders. We want to link founders to the different stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Are you an investor?
No, we’re not! On rare occasions, we invest in the companies of friends or long-term business partners who we respect. In general, though, we rely on external investors in our network (take a look under “Become an Investor” and “Current Investors” to see who we have worked with so far – from Angel Investors to Venture Capitalists to Strategic Investors).
What types of founders do you enjoy working with?
We look for people who are not risk-averse. Therefore, we expect founders to work without salary for at least a few months, perhaps longer. We appreciate it if they have domain expertise to help with specific models we’re working on. We prefer generalists to experts. Salesmanship and the ability to lead and fascinate people are crucial. Founders should work well under pressure, and 12-hour shifts are the rule rather than the exception at the beginning. In general, the founders we work with are quite experienced, and are usually in their 30s or 40s. Many already have entrepreneurial experience.
Do you focus on any specific investment areas?
We are flexible, but most models are in the internet field. We have no specific focus on B2C models, but like B2B models as well. Some areas of particular interest at the moment are Online Lead Generation, Market Places, Enterprise 2.0, and Alternative Payment Systems.
What types of companies do you like?
We like business models that we can relate to and fall in love with at first sight. If we do not feel passionate about a model, we will not touch it. A company should at least have a pan-European vision. The exit potential should be north of €50m, or the company should be able to generate significant dividends. As we do not have investors in FoundersLink itself, we do not have any exit pressure in terms of maximum investment horizon.
Why do you not want us to send you our business plan?
Please DON’T send us your business plan! In our opinion, investing and Venture Creation don’t go well together. There is a conflict of interest if acting as both investor and Venture Creator: we don’t want to steal anybody’s information, and, since we create companies, we don’t want insider information on other companies that’s not meant for the public to see. We do not think that a moral conflict could be avoided.
What does FoundersLink get?
FoundersLink gets equity. Period. FoundersLink and its partners do not get a carry from any investor. They get no fee and no salary; just plain equity – so the interests of the founders and FoundersLink are 100% aligned. If no value is created for the founders, no value is created for FoundersLink or its partners. FoundersLink will try to find synergies within the portfolio, and will make introductions to trusted partners, but will never, ever put pressure on an entrepreneur to work with a company we are affiliated with. We believe in the market.
Who is the boss?
YOU are the boss! The core values of FoundersLink include the principle that we are not patrons. We rely on experienced founders, since we want the founders to run the show and allow us to focus on our next baby as soon as possible, rather than playing the role of the puppeteer. We are looking for people who are better than us at running a specific business! Even seasoned entrepreneurs might lack certain skills, such as fundraising – in such cases, we are happy to support our founders with our experience and our network.
What opportunities do you offer for an investor?
We are always looking for further (side) investors for new and existing companies. Please sign up as an investor in our database. We are mainly interested in early stage investors who invest sums between €200,000 and €500,000 in early stages (pre-revenue, incomplete founder team). Our network for later rounds is already pretty extensive.
Are you an incubator?
It depends. Certain “incubators” provide companies with office space or legal services. We do not believe in this concept; the market can do this job best, and every company is different. That’s why we coined the phrase “Venture Creation” when we started in 2007.
What support do you provide to companies?
We are institutionalized co-founders. We do what’s at the core of entrepreneurship: we identify promising business concepts, we find the right people to run the company, and we have skills in team-building. We take the first steps toward making it happen and initiating a big bang! In addition, we are aspiring long-term partners for entrepreneurs: people who have been there; who share the passion; who are not solely consultants, but experienced entrepreneurs themselves. You can always build on our network to suppliers, press and investors.
Why are you based in Berlin?
FoundersLink is based in Berlin because cost is low here, great people are available and are always looking for opportunities, and there is a huge ecosystem for entrepreneurs. Besides, the quality of life is really good!
In what ways can we get in touch with you?
Please use the online forms on our website to sign up as an investor or founder. If you have specific questions, please contact us via email. If you are in Berlin, you can usually meet one of us at Open Coffee Club on the last Friday of the month.
Do you actively foster entrepreneurship beyond FoundersLink?
Absolutely. We’re in juries of start-up competitions at INSEAD, Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow, Wirtschafts Woche, Seedcamp, Deutsche-Startups, Gründersszene and many more on a regular basis. We are very active in organizations such as the Entrepreneurs Organization, MediaNet Catapult, Open Coffee Club, Seedcamp and others.
How can I be involved?
We are always looking for founders, investors and Venture Partners – people who support our founders and bring deep industry experience – as well as Entrepreneurs in Residence – people who are looking for their next start-up together with us.
What are the implications of vesting for you as a co-founder?
Vesting means that instead of getting all the stock up front, you will earn it over time. Often founding members of start-ups leave the team at an early stage. For companies without vesting, some founders give back the stock voluntarily and some don’t. Vesting is a good protection: you want to be clear from the start about what someone will walk away with if they leave. Many start-ups need to acquire external funding, and, for investors, it is often a refusal criterion if no vesting rules are implemented.