Blog > General

What established companies can learn from start-ups for their corporate venturing & venture management – 5 tangible experiences from successful founders

These five experiences of start-ups offer valuable insights for companies to make their corporate venturing activities more successful: 1) A deep knowledge of customers and their needs is crucial, as the example of SchülerVZ shows. 2) Persistence in recruiting can attract top talent, as Gorillas’ experience proves. 3) The courage to take risks and the willingness to break new ground are essential, as the beginning of Nike illustrates. 4) An innovative business model can be decisive, as Mister Spex demonstrates. 5) Creative use of advertising, even without a high budget, can have a big impact, as Amorelie has shown.

Wussten Sie wieso die Seite von SchülerVZ pink war? Oder wie die Gorillas ihren CTO geangelt haben? Oder das Nike eigentlich mit der japanischen Marke Onitsuka begann, die heute Asics gehört? Oder wieso Mister Spex ausgerechnet Brillen verkauft? Oder mit welchem Medium Amorelie gratis Werbung gemacht hat um groß zu werden?

The following 5 experiences of start-ups show you things that you can bring hands-on into your company to promote entrepreneurship and innovation and in particular to make your corporate venturing (aka venture management, corporate venture building, business development, innovation management) activities more successful and possibly even build your own unicorns.

1. Ganz genau wissen, wer der Kunde ist. Customer Centricity at its best.

SchülerVZ (the VZ stands for directory) is probably still familiar to everyone. Children of the 90s and their parents will remember when Facebook didn’t yet exist and social networks were in their infancy, but screen time was slowly increasing, as were concerns about what children were revealing about themselves on the Internet. Suddenly all the teenagers of the time were on SchülerVZ or – if they were a bit older – StudiVz. What was the reason for the rapid growth? If founder Michael Brehm has his way, one of them was pretty simple: the color of the site – pink! The original idea was to create a cool black design. But does this appeal to the target group, does the customer really want it? The target group was obviously schoolchildren, boys and girls. So what are teenage boys most interested in? Right, for girls. Which color is often used to represent girls in the western world? Right, Pink. The aim was to attract attention from girls with the color pink and get them on the platform. Because you knew the boys wanted to be where the girls were and would follow.

What is the lesson here? I’m sure more than a few venture managers would have answered “communication” or “staying in touch” when asked about the customer value of a social network. But what did the customer, the boys, really want here? What was their need? “Communication”? Yes, too. But only superficially. Because it was actually about getting to know girls.

So next time, dig deeper and don’t just scratch the surface if you want to know what your customer really wants.

2. Hartnäckigkeit zahlt sich aus. Wie man gute Leute an Board holt.

Kagan Sümer, founder of Gorillas, the start-up that delivers supermarket shopping to your home in 10 minutes and has achieved a billion-euro valuation in just under a year, is not an IT specialist. He had the MVP built as a favor from a friend. However, the rocket-like ascent quickly required more power. When Kagan heard about a business idea similar to his own from Libya, he tracked down one of the founders and contacted him. He wanted to win him over for his project. He was not uninterested, but declined for unspeakable reasons. Kagan initially accepted the rejection reluctantly, but later refused to accept it. From then on, he set his alarm clock for 6 p.m. every day and rang his desired partner – for two months. For so long, Kagan drilled into him how big the whole thing was going to get, that he had to be there and he couldn’t miss it. Then one day at 6 p.m., Kagan got a call: I’m in! It said on the other side.

Competition for skilled workers is fierce and the better someone is, the more offers they will receive. However, it is often not only money that plays a role in the decision, but also perspective, vision and becoming part of something (big). So the next time you are putting together a team for a venture project, please don’t ask in the interviews: Why do you want to join us? But find good answers to: Why should she/he want to start with us? What great vision can we show?

3. Probieren geht über studieren. Einfach endlich mal machen, ey!

This headline is not old or hackneyed, but a classic. And classics are classics for a reason. In this case, too, it is simply true. The beginnings of Phil Knight’s career are a good example. Phil describes himself as a “shoe dog” (meaning “crazy about shoes”; the “dog” probably stems from the unconditional and loyal devotion for which dogs are generally appreciated) and is an enthusiastic track and field athlete whose most important tool is what? Exactly, the shoe. However, he was not satisfied with the quality of the local US manufacturers and suppliers. He would have loved to produce his own shoe. But how do you get started if you don’t have your own shoe factory at a time when Amazon FBA is still as far away as the climate neutrality of our planet is today? So he looked around the international market and became aware of the Onitsuka brand from Japan. Phil quickly decides to give up his studies, borrow money from his father, fly to Japan and enter into negotiations with Onitsuka. He concludes a contract for the delivery of a low 4-digit number of pairs of shoes. Initially, he sells them out of his car trunk, but soon establishes branches across the USA as what is effectively the first supplier of foreign sports shoes. It wasn’t long before he was finally able to produce his own shoes under his own brand, which we all know today under the name Nike.

So have the courage to just go for it and jump in at the deep end. After all, “venture” management is no coincidence. It always means risk and often a total loss. But the important thing here is to put together a small team, no more than 3-4 people, and give them full responsibility from the idea to the realization with everything that goes with it.

4.  Nicht ausschließlich out-of-the-Box. Auch Geschäftsmodell denken.

“Thinking outside the box” often refers to ideas for specific products or services. The second step is to think about how to build the whole thing so that money can be earned. But you can also do it the other way around, according to Dirk Garber, the founder of Mister Spex. Although he does not wear glasses himself, on average every second person in Germany does. So the market is large. The average prices are quite high, while storage and production costs are low. The margin is therefore also large. At the same time, you can make it very clear online that you are cheaper than bricks-and-mortar retailers.

So at the next venture workshop, think less about products and services when you hear the word innovation and more about what is needed for a profitable business model.

5. Werbung auch mal ohne Cash-Out.Konventionelle Methoden können genauso rocken!

The capital that start-ups finance via venture capital is often earmarked exclusively for marketing measures. Especially when it comes to scaling. Especially at the beginning, when start-ups are bootstrapping and turning over every penny several times over, it is difficult to achieve reach. The founder of Amorelie, the online mail order company for erotic toys, Lea-Sophie Cramer, has therefore used an effective and often underestimated tool – don’t worry, no SEO or SEA is coming: public relations (PR). With an article in ‘Bild am Sonntag’, the young start-up was able to achieve a turnover of €65,000 in one day, which had previously only been achieved in a month, if at all. Naturally, other newspapers with high circulations followed. The founder had recognized that the brand essence, which is about making sex toys socially acceptable and removing taboos, works best when this message is explained and authentically represented.

Of course, learning is not about relying on PR for your next corporate venture. Rather, it’s about thinking again about what is actually being sold, with what message and to whom it is directed. The advertising channel adapts to the product, not the other way around.

As you can see, the topics of start-ups, venture capital, venture management, etc. are a broad field. Established companies often have to reinvent themselves and constantly question themselves, although it is often the small things that ultimately determine their success. Be it the wrong color of the product, a poorly selected employee, the delaying of important decisions, the wrong advertising medium or business model.

Good venture management teams therefore think end-to-end, always focus on the customer and have the instinct to make the right decisions.


More blog posts


Perpetuo GmbH is your strategic partner with offices in Dortmund and Munich. We accompany your company through all project phases as a holistic partner with in-depth industry knowledge. Together we develop tailor-made solutions and maximize your potential.


You can also contact us directly by e-mail or telephone. Our experts look forward to getting to know you and discussing your requirements.

0231 86408 – 39

Rely on Perpetuo GmbH – your partner for outstanding management consulting in Dortmund and Munich.