After a welcoming speech by Peter Middendorf, Prorector for Knowledge and Technology Transfer at the University of Stuttgart, Andreas Rudyk kicked off the event and talked about his journey as an entrepreneur, which started very early: He founded his first company, an online gaming enabler, with a school friend at the age of fifteen. Andreas learning from that time: "Start as early as possible and be brave. When you're younger, your costs are usually not that high yet and you probably don't have a family of your own yet."
This first startup, where his parents still had to sign all the contracts, took a slightly different path than thought. The contract that was supposed to secure the first financing included an early repayment of the money, which is why, for example, purchased hardware had to be sold again. Andreas advises here: "Take the time to really understand the contracts you sign and only sign good contracts. Most of the time this is easier said than done, but the time you invest is definitely worth it!".
After selling his first idea, the next start-ups followed, for example a consumer cybersecurity company with over 7 million users worldwide. "Never give up and don't forget that luck always plays a big role, too," Andreas says about this.
In 2014, he co-founded Smartfrog, merged the NYC-headquartered Smartfrog & Canary in 2018, and leads the group as co-CEO. To date, the company has raised more than $100 million in venture funding. It's worth noting here that the company got its start in Europe and then expanded to the U.S. by buying a market-leading U.S. company - a story we mostly know the other way around.
"Think global, but don't forget the local approach and the specifics of a foreign market. A local team on the ground, even if it's not big, can help you a lot with local knowledge about the market," Andreas advises. Also, he says, it is usually very useful to select investors who can bring not only capital but also value to your business.
With Cornelius Carl, who followed Andreas' insights and learnings as a speaker, as always in this format, a founding team that is still in an earlier stage also had its say. In the case of Cornelius, he told his story. He, too, had programmed an app at an early age and knew the situation of needing parents to sign contracts.
In his search for what he would like to learn after school, Cornelius took a few detours to study architecture. However, his focus on the digital world always stayed with him. Then, after the first effects of the corona pandemic arrived in Europe, Cornelius began to wonder: shouldn't there be a more dynamic system where people can meet each other digitally? People with friendly faces! A fun environment where there is movement! This idea gave rise to SaySom, which just a few weeks ago received an EXIST founder grant.