Start-up Advice: Maren Lesche, European Innovation Hub

20 Apr 2016

The multi-talented Maren Lesche is a communicator and adviser to founders and young start-ups.

With a background in PR, Maren Lesche now holds a multitude of roles, including: communications manager at the European Innovation Hub and mentor at Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin.

Berlin-based Lesche is also the curator of Startup Digest and a blogger at

In your opinion, which areas of technology hold the greatest scope for opportunity?

2016 is said to be the year of virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). I am fascinated by digital health and fintech, especially insurtech and proptech.

I am currently taking a deeper look into blockchain and robo-advice based on big data in fintech.

Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be made?

You can, for sure, learn the necessary skills to run a successful company, but you have to bring passion and a tremendous motivation into the mix. I know many successful founders that are, or have been, athletes. Entrepreneurs and athletes have a lot in common: the drive to ‘hit the wall’, the discipline to overcome pain and failure, as well as the ability to listen to the advice of coaches and interact in teams.

What are the qualities of a good founder?

Great founders have to be creative, have to be driven and most of all have to be ‘people persons’. Founders have to understand people’s needs and interests and have to find new and fresh ways to meet these needs. This also requires stamina. If you think outside the box, you push boundaries constantly. I usually advise young entrepreneurs to learn to listen first.

What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day?

Many founders burn the candle at both ends – there is always pressure. I recommend to sleep well so you wake up energised and to find something you love that is not job-related to balance out your work life and your private life. Take some time for yourself!

I ride my bike to the office every day and I have the best ideas while cruising through Berlin since the city is so diverse, inspiring and creative. At traffic lights, I have to take my little notebook out of my bag to make notes.

‘I am fascinated by digital health and fintech, especially insurtech and proptech’

What resources and tools are an absolute must for your arsenal?

I love Twitter and LinkedIn. They are my best source of information. I read a lot to find out what stories people are most interested in. I also love coffee – I spend a lot of time catching up with founders, mentors and editors while enjoying a good cappuccino in one of the many cosy cafes in Berlin.

How do you assemble a good team?

Don’t rush hiring. You might have heard the saying ‘hire slow, fire fast’. Young start-ups do not necessarily need the best skilled experts but, rather, team members that share the passion and the drive of the founding team. Everybody has to complement each other in terms of skills but, most of all, in terms of personality. It is like a puzzle.

What is the critical ingredient to start-up success?

A good product and a great team that is able to bring the product to the customers.

What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?

A recent survey by CB Insights lists arrogance, lack of planning and egoism as the major sources of failure. But, essentially, it comes down to ‘no market, no cash and not the right team’. The good thing? All these aspects can be changed!

  • No cash? Find the right angel investor, dip into public funding or reach out to VCs.
  • Not the right team? Network and activate fellow entrepreneurs to recommend candidates. Nothing is more valuable than a warm intro or a strong personal recommendation.
  • No market? Check out other markets with less regulation, less competitors and other external factors. For example, certain fintech solutions are very successful in markets with a less defined banking system. Or pivot the product, make it fit. Sometimes you also have to educate the customers about why they need the product.

‘Young start-ups do not necessarily need the best-skilled experts but, rather, team members that share the passion and the drive of the founding team’

Who is your business hero and why?

Tricky question. I do not worship an idol. I am inspired by the many entrepreneurs I meet at conferences and meet-ups. The ones that just started their venture are the ones you have to look up to – their energy is inspiring, their fresh ideas are enlighting, their future is the one I would like to help shape.

Whats the No 1 piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?

Listen – to your customer, to your team members, to your mentors and, of course, to family and friends.