As a member of the CODE_n12 contest jury, Lars Hinrichs helped to select the startups that will make it into the finals, and thus to CeBIT 2012. We caught him at his desk at HackFwd, a provider of venture capital, where he acts as the “executive geek”. Hinrichs took the time to answer some of our burning questions.
Lars Hinrichs: http://hackfwd.com/people#lars-hinrichs
OG: You’re on the jury of the CODE_n12 contest. What would prompt you to send a startup’s concept straight to the “circular file”?
LH: Anything that’s not new and not innovative.
OG: Does every innovation make money, or does it take something more?
LH: Business models take shape if you have happy customers, not vice versa.
OG: How many startups do you look at every year, and how many of them do you invest in?
LH: I don’t count them. This year we’ve invested in about eight.
OG: What’s the web or mobile app that changed your life or work the most over the past twelve months?
LH: I don’t know – change is a daily occurrence for me.
OG: What do startups really need from the outside – connections, good advice, money?
LH: Three things characterize a successful startup: 1. it adds sustainable value to the market; 2. it has an unique competitive advantage within its niche; 3. it is an economies-of-scale business. In short, startups need a business model. That’s all it really takes – everything else is just icing on the cake.
OG: That’s from within. What can/must investors/angels contribute?
LH: “Angel” is an unfortunate term. Investors provide money and value (experience, motivation, commitment to growth).
OG: The CODE_n12 finalists will be winning exhibition space at CeBIT. What’s your tip for a startup that wants to make the most of that opportunity?
LH: Be outgoing and don’t wait for someone to show up.
OG: Of the questions that people ask you about XING, which one are you tired of? And which question should I ask you instead?
LH: I’m tired of them all. As a rule, I no longer answer questions about XING since leaving the company.
OG: OK, then I won’t ask you whether you had an office in the Valley, and whether that would have benefited your international reach.
If you could nominate one (mobile) startup in Germany, Austria or Switzerland (one that you do NOT hold a stake in or serve as a consultant) for us to interview, who would it be and why?
LH: I would only recommend those that I hold a stake in. *laugh*
OG: Not counting Google and Facebook, which startup would you have liked to have invested in?
LH: I do in fact have a financial stake in Facebook. Unfortunately, I turned down the chance to invest in Wonga.
OG: What does Wonga do?
LH: Wonga offers loans online – almost in real time, of a limited volume (up to GBP 400), and for a short time (55 days maximum).
OG: Thank you for your precious time, Lars!