All About Startups At The Latest Techspert Panel

A recap with this month's Techspert Panelists on the hottest topic in Berlin: Startups.

Another edition of our ongoing Zalando Techspert Series has come and gone, an event which collects experts from respected companies to talk all things tech.

During this month’s debate, we shone a light on startups and how they could earn their big break – a hot topic in one of the hottest startup hubs in Europe. The panel featured Rocket Internet’s Johannes Bruder, CEO of zLabels Jan Wilmking, and Co-founder of CoffeeCircle Robert Rudnick. A great turnout yielded some interesting and insightful questions from the public.

Sad to have missed the event? We sat down with our Techsperts to dive deeper into their knowledge of the startup scene and get their tips for budding techpreneurs.

Zalando: How important is it when establishing a startup to engage with the local tech scene, or should startups be thinking global straight away?

Jan Wilmking: We’re in the process of growing our tech organisation and we’ve realised that purely relying on local talent isn’t enough, so we’re tapping into the global talent pool. We’re employing people from all over: India, the United States, etc. It’s very critical to have these kinds of connections.

Robert Rudnick: We’re a coffee e-commerce company, more #roastingtech, and we’ve grown a little slower than the likes of Zalando and Rocket Internet. For us, it’s not so important to scale quickly, especially with tech talent. We haven’t experienced problems hiring great talent locally over the last twelve months.

Johannes Bruder: I would say it’s very important to have a mix – you shouldn’t restrict yourself to being global or local with tech talent. The goal should always be to attract the best in tech, and there’s enormous potential both globally and locally to achieve this.

Zalando: What kind of influence does financial backing from incubators or venture builders have on strategy and the overall creativity of a startup?

Johannes Bruder: Independent of whether there is easy access to capital or no access at all, in the early days startups should try to stay lean and to focus on the one single thing they want to be really good at.

Robert Rudnick: I totally agree – you should have a great core team that shares the same values and a guiding star for the company. But scaling too quickly is then as dangerous as being under-funded, so having an experienced investor or incubator definitely helps.

Jan Wilmking: It might seem easier to start out with a big budget and build, build, build, but I also completely agree with the other panelists – this presents difficulty in a larger context for having the discipline of iteration and the discipline in scaling a tech team for the sake of scaling. It’s vital to keep that logic of iterating and building small things first, before putting all of your resources into one basket.

Zalando: Share with us your one essential piece of advice for any would-be startup founders out there.

Jan Wilmking: Be persistent!

Robert Rudnick: Focus. If you’re starting a business from scratch, it’s easy to have a lot of small wins, but that may not add up to long-term success, so focus is key, on top of listening to your customers.

Johannes Bruder: For me it’s a combination of these: Focus, laser focus, on one thing and do it really well, and never stop – be persistent.


Keep an eye on our Zalando Tech Meetup page to be notified of the next Techspert Panel, or follow our updates on Twitter @ZalandoTech.

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