PANDO Ventures is a later stage accelerator program, which does not invest money (like the name first would suggest). In this interview, Startuprad.io is traveling for you to Wiesbaden, the capital in the state of Hessen. There we found ourselves in the basement of an art gallery (great location!):

The art gallery is the headquarter of PANDO Ventures, where we talk to Enrico (https://www.linkedin.com/in/enrico-jakob/), who is a junior partner of PANDO. PANDO focuses on digital business models.

You can learn more about their program and the applications here: Website (https://pando-ventures.com/) or straight to the application (https://pando-ventures.com/en/apply/).

During the interview, Enrico shows a can at the start of the interview. This was a can of acáo (https://pando-ventures.com/client-item/acao/)

Transcript below

 

Joe: Hello and welcome everybody, this is Joe from Startuprad.io your startup podcast and YouTube blog from Germany in English. I’m here in a basement, actually an art gallery in lovely Wiesbaden which is the capital of the state of Hesse, where the biggest city is actually Frankfurt. And I do have another guest here, hey, welcome.

Jakob: Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Enrico from Pando, thanks to being apart.

Joe: You already say it from Pando, it’s called Pando Ventures.

Jakob: Right.

Joe: And it’s the reason I’m here. We might tell everybody who’s not from Germany, as usually there’s a local rivalry going on between all the cities in Rhine-Main area. I’m a native to Mainz and usually, there’s some competition between those cities.

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: But none the less, I’m here, happy to be here and we’ll like to learn a little bit about Pando Ventures. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Jakob: Of course, maybe I start with really the early stage. It all started with a can, I have a can here, that’s the can. It all started with a can, a can was the first startup and the three guys who have founded can in 2013 are also partners from Pando Ventures. And the startups really developed pretty good in the first years until.

Joe: The people there couldn’t see it so–

Jakob: Oh.

Joe: –we should tell them it’s like a drink, it’s a drink–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –in a can containing coffee with exotic foods and flavours and all that’s stuff.

Jakob: Right.

Joe: Right?

Jakob: Right, right, right.

Joe: Okay.

Jakob: Yes, it’s a containing coffee and drink which is pretty successful in Europe already. We started with the project in 2013, Chris, Michael and Florence did that. And they will for pretty successful in the first years until 2015, they got pretty large clients in the first years, they had like 35 employee pretty fast and so on and that was the reason why so many guys came to them and said, “Hey, how did you do that? How did you do the financials? How did you do the marketing part? How did you find that the right investor? And so on and then they came up with the idea to make it more professional, to make it to create a way where the founders can go, where they can develop their own projects. And that was the first idea and the first where the pace can be on the street to build up–

Joe: Sounds to me like a kind of incubator?

Jakob: Right. But we are more focused on the later stage. But it’s– we start a bit different than it is today. Today it is really focused on this on the gap between having the right product and finding the right investor. In 2016, we start with the idea to more like an incubator. We sourced several founders which already have founded or wanted to found and we source them, we had fixed application phase, where the founders can apply to all program. And then we started in January of 2017 with the first startups, it was a normal batch system. In general, in 2017, right, and we got so many applications for like about 80 to 100.

Joe: What was the geography of the application? Was it Rhineland area, Germany, Europe the world?

Jakob: Actually the world but the main part national wise but some of them are also from Eastern Europe or also India and China. Yes, because they’re so interested in Germany because in Germany is a great place to found startups though.

Joe: For all of our foreigner listeners out there we also do have a lot of guys from India, Namaste!

Jakob: Yes right. And so we started in general in 2017, so we founded Pando in March 2016 and then we took a lot of time to find the right people, to plan the program to get more expertise in several areas. And so we started the batch in 2017. And yes we got so many applications, but we have chosen four. And then it [moves] the program more and more. For the second batch, we started the second batch in September 2017, right. And we developed a program in that way that we have more workshops that we have a strict time phrase, we had 3 months up, 3 months from September to December to find the right investor, to get the first market traction to other these other things. And yeah it was pretty successful, we also got a lot of application for this phase.

But now we have changed the idea of the program more and more because we have– the reason we got so many applications national and also international application than that and then we came up with the idea to make it more decentralized. So we changed the concept of the program to more decentralized way and we only do the things which are relevant in the specific phase of the startup. So we– our main focus now as we focus on startups which already have the right product and the right team, and also the first market traction. And we only do the things which are challenges for the startup like for example, you have founding team which is full of developers but they’re not pretty good in sales or they don’t know how to find the right investor or which KPIs are important and so on. And we do the right leveraging things to make all this possible, because we know which things are important in the first weeks or first months, yes.

Joe: Still sounds to me pretty much like an accelerator program–

Jakob: That’s right.

Joe: –even though a very special craft one.

Jakob: Right, right.

Joe: Can you give us a little bit more of an idea, for example, when usually your accelerator batches start? Where are you current startups from? And how many applications you have gotten–

Jakob: Yup.

Joe: –in the first place–

Jakob: Yup.

Joe: –for this batch?

Jakob: You can apply for our program on a rolling basis, this is also something–

Joe: If you’re watching this on YouTube or somewhere else, go down here in the Show notes and you’ll find the link to Pando Ventures.

Jakob: Yes, thank you Joern. You can apply to our program on a rolling basis, this is also something we have changed over the last month because every startup has its own challenges and its own time table and we want to be more customer-centric in that way, so we really want to focus on the startup itself and not to give specific timeframes. So rolling basis and what was the other question.

Joe: How many applications–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –you have gotten in total, let’s say for the last batch–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –of which you just took four, if I remembered rightly?

Jakob: Right. We got for now in total about 250 to 300 applications from national and international ways. But we also actively sourcing for good startups, because we also act like an investor and we are on the road and all over Germany to Wiesbaden, [inaudible 09:07], to speak with good startups and to tell more about our expertise and more about our program, yes.

Joe: If you’re traveling across Germany, I always tell our listeners of yours, Germany has a history decentralized, so–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –not everything is happening in Berlin. There’s some talk about startups in Frankfurt, Rhineland area, Cologne, Munich, Hamburg.

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: Would you know some other like hidden gems where they’re interesting startups that people don’t recognize yet?

Jakob: You mean places or startups?

Joe: Places, like for example, I have heard there’s a lot going on in Karlsruhe around the–

Jakob: Right, yes.

Joe: –Technical University there–

Jakob: Right.

Joe: –where as a peace also not too far way–

Jakob: Yup.

Joe: –is there another place?

Jakob: Yes, of course, Karlsruhe is a really good example, also Darmstadt–

Joe: Darmstadt also Technically University–

Jakob: Technical, yes.

Joe: –it’s more or less considered the southern border of the Rhineland metropolitan area for everybody who doesn’t know, for example, the ESOC, the European Operations Space Centre–

Jakob: Oh yes right, right, right.

Joe: –of the European Space agency is there. Very good Technical–

Jakob: We also had a startup for there–

Joe: –University, yes.

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: And this Technical University was, by the way, the first one who got a chair in electrical engineering.

Jakob: Oh right. I didn’t know that.

Joe: Yup. I’m so good in trivia games.

Jakob: Yes mates, and also I really like Cologne to France, it’s more like media-centric city but there’s also a lot going on there. We also got a lot of applications from the past from Cologne. Also from this region, like Dusseldorf and Aachen also, is also pretty good. And the Rhineland regions is also– there’s also a lot of going on here, yes.

Joe: I also notice that there is more going on in terms of startup in a little bit to the south of Dusseldorf, Mannheim, and Heinberg.

Jakob: Right, yes. Could be.

Joe: So, everybody who’s watching this we not going to bore you to death with city names, just have luck there’s a lot of good places, is the bottom line, right?

Jakob: Right, right.

Joe: And for your program, how long does it take?

Jakob: This is also a thing which makes us different from other programs because we have no fixed phase when its finish. Because we really want to position our self as a long-term partner. In the first weeks, we have a more intensive way of working together, more operational support from our side but as the time goes on we are more the strategic partner but there’s no ending time because the challenges are going on even if for the finals things rounds, series A, series B.

We also want to be the partner in crime that’s the claim we always describe our self for a startup because we want to do the best for every startup which is in our portfolio and there’s no fixed time but if you want to make it more concrete and the more intensive part is about 3-months.

Joe: Okay and I also missed this place because you’re actually in the back–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –of an art gallery.

Jakob: Right.

Joe: And there’s just one sign Pando and I wasn’t such which building and you already came and saw–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –and told me, ah it’s here. So it’s very fancy, you get in the modern art gallery and then in the back they are your tables.

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: But you’re just a handful of guys, I don’t assume all the startups, all the ventures are located around here, right?

Jakob: Yup, yup that’s right.

Joe: Is there are need to be physically present for some parts for all of the program or–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –how does it work?

Jakob: Yes for some parts. But that’s also the point what we change. We really want to wizard the startups in their offices. For [inaudible 13:14], next week we are in Buren to wizard two of our new ventures. Sometimes we are in Munich, sometimes we are in Cologne, sometimes we are in Frankfurt also, because there we also have one venture. And also the startups can wizard us any time in our office but this is also something which is a bit different to other accelerator programs we have. No co-working office because we think it’s not necessary to work together in this narrow environment and we really want to get the startups on the street to pitch their products to get new clients, to work on their difficulties than sitting in our office.

Joe: And since you show the can of the drink, in the beginning, is there like a certain focus on like food, on like drinks and beverages, any type of that or do you–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –just take any venture?

Jakob: Funny, funny, yes. Funny question. No, we don’t have a focus on Food and Beverage because the Food and Beverage market as we experience is pretty hard, especially in Germany. To get good product because all these food and product which are coming up in the market are not that successful, some of them, but they most of them are not really successful to put them in retail stores and so, there was a reason when because we also want to create good investment cases and that’s the reason why we only focus on virtual business model. Not only but the main part of virtual business models.

Joe: Talking about the investors, where is the investor’s network from? Is it like locally, nationally, internationally?

Jakob: I would say national, some of them are normal [inaudible 15:04], some of them are pretty ambition business angels and some of them are corporate also. We also do have of done some corporate investments. Really mixed up I would say, but more focus on national wise, yes.

Joe: For everybody who would now consider applying to Pando Ventures, again go down here–

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: –there is a link to do that, what are the parts you pay most attention to in the application of a startup?

Jakob: Mostly the team, because we really focus on the team. Because only a good team can create a good product because the only thing you have to do is to build the [inaudible 15:52] product where the customers willing to pay. And only a good team can come up to make a pivot to some ways, because if there’s no customer who is willing to pay who have to pivot that you have to break up things from the past and build a new product which is more.

Joe: And what skills would you be looking like, good University, good track record or just looking [inaudible 16:22]?

Jakob: I would say the perfect case is a founding team out of three person, one of them should be more product-oriented guy which is really technical deep inside which who have, who can create a really good product which is reusable by a lot of people but. And the second guy should be a more empathic guy who’s more like the CEO characteristics who can motivate external and internal, who can really show the product in a way that other people are excited about it, that other people understand the product and also who can hire and please in the first stage. Because as a startup you cannot really pay a lot of money and that’s the reason why you have to build up a good startup culture in your company, that’s not that easy, so you need some guy who candid, who’s empathic, who’s good to other humans and yes.

And the third guy should be more marketing guy but more in a general way. Who can really get this product in the marketing to make it to find out the right marketing channels, to right, to know where the conversion is high enough to go to the market. And these are the perfect characteristics about founding team and that’s what we look at. There are some differences, of course, more differences in all of the founding teams but this should be the perfect case.

Joe: You always talk about guys, how many women ventures are you actually working with–

Jakob: Two.

Joe: –invested in, in the past.

Jakob: Yes, two.

Joe: Two?

Jakob: Two, yes. Pretty funny I always motivate female founders to build more companies because in my opinion female founders are pretty good founders because they’re really more empathic to other people around them and men are always so rational even especially when they’re developers and so on everything–

Joe: Data-driven.

Jakob: –also in the Fintek part, it’s also rational and yes, startup is more a pragmatic way of doing something. That’s what I like, yes.

Joe: Good. Just the final question a little bit of curveball I like to ask my guest frequently, if you would, if you could describe your life, either as a movie title, a book title or combination of both, what would it be and why?

Jakob: Wow. Difficult question. Wow, I have to think about it.

Joe: And no jeopardy is playing.

Jakob: Movie or a book title. I would say something like starting off the ground in young ages or overwhelming challenges in young ages or something like that, I. Really haven’t thought about it in the past, so.

Joe: I got you with a curveball that’s fine. Great, well, everything I want to know, we’ll link your LinkedIn profile down here as well as social media channels and websites of the company.

Jakob: Yes.

Joe: So guys feel free to reach out and come to [inaudible 20:20], Wiesbaden in the back of the art gallery.

Jakob: Thank you very much. Thank you Joern and see you on our website.

Joe: My pleasure.