Most entrepreneurs have a view on whether they were born with an appetite for innovation, risk and business adventure, or whether their entrepreneurial spirit was acquired.
Alex Farcet, co-founder and CEO of European accelerator, Startupbootcamp, describes himself as a ‘born again’ entrepreneur.
His career, which began at a start-up in San Francisco in the Eighties, and included several years of executive corporate life at DHL, has come full circle, with the launch of Startupbootcamp, which now has programmes running in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Eindhoven, Israel, Istanbul and London, and shortly, in San Francisco.The first career detour, explains Farcet, resulted from an internship he did with DHL in Hungary in the early Nineties. Over the following thirteen years, he moved into an executive role, and may well have still been there if fate hadn’t intervened.
“Basically, over a period of 18 months both myself and my son found out we had cancer. My son was diagnosed with leukaemia and I had melanoma. It was one of those curved balls, and it focused my mind on what really counts; how precious time is, and how important it is to spend that time doing what you really love,” he says.
Startupbootcamp founder Alex Farcet
And for Farcet, that was the business start up scene, that he had such fond memories of from his days in San Francisco. Recovering at his home in Copenhagen, he started making himself useful to other entrepreneurs, helping them to find funding for their start-ups.
He even made an angel investment of his own in a grocery delivery business, which didn’t work out, but taught him a valuable lesson.
“I learned that unlike in corporate circles, when you are an entrepreneur, you don’t need permission from anyone, except for two people, yourself and your customer, and that felt very liberating,” he says.
By the end of 2009, Farcet, who describes himself as a native European; born in Spain, educated in the UK, with French citizenship and a Danish wife, had built up a strong network of business contacts. His plan was to engage them in an accelerator programme that would take start-up support to the next level.
“I’d looked at similar programmes in the US, and through contacts I’d made at the start-up factory Rainmaking Loft we came up with a plan for a European programme, eventually teaming up to co found Startupbootcamp,” he says.
Initially launched in Copenhagen, Farcet relocated the programme’s HQ to Berlin, Europe’s hottest startup ecosystem, in 2012.
And it has delivered for a number of start ups, including Bellabeat, which launched earlier this year with a system to help mothers-to-be to track their pregnancies, recently closed on a $4.5 million round of seed funding.
Seventy per cent of participating start-up teams secure follow up funding, with post programme seed investments ranging from €50,000 to €1 million ($1.36 million) and average post-money valuations of €2 million ($2.73 million), and rising.
The Bootcamp accelerators have also started to diversify into specific verticals, including FinTech, which focuses on financial innovation, based in London, and a new cross-continental program connecting Berlin and San Francisco, and focused on Smart Transportation & Energy.
Farcet believes the timing is right to focus on a space that is really heating up.
He says: “We’ve been inspired by Elon Musk and Hyperloop and projects like the Amazon drones plus the massive funding rounds for Uber and Lyft, and the explosion of peer to peer and crowdsourced solutions for urban mobility and energy challenges.”
Start-ups on the new programme will benefit from expert mentoring from over a hundred entrepreneurs and investors, as well as corporate partners, that include Bosch, Castrol innoVentures, Cisco, Daimler, EnBW and HERE, who Farcet has used his corporate experience and influence to bring on board.
He says: “It helps if you have empathy with the corporate space and can understand road maps and hierarchy, but there is a lot more interest from the big corporate names in the start up sector, because they know that is where innovation is happening.”
Farcet’s earlier brush with cancer, from which he, along with his son, has recovered, was the catalyst for his venture into start-up accelerators, but it also made him rethink his views on business risk, which underpin all key entrepreneurial decisions.
He says: “My definition of risk definitely changed. When you are on the outside, being an entrepreneur looks scary. When you are an entrepreneur, it’s not scary at all.”
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