advisors Archive



April 2013



Due diligence – what is important for digital acquisitions?

Written by , Posted in Finanzierung

Over the last month we have supported a wide range of acquisitions in Germany with eTribes. On the one hand we have worked with our clients to identify targets on the other hand we are constantly asked to evaluate business ideas by VC/angle investors or by entrepreneurs who are looking for feedback. In addition, we also have to work with the CEOs of our equity participations to create new business models and to react to a digital environment that has really picked up speed. Through these various mandates and evaluations a range of points have come up again and again – so I am now publishing a quick summary. I am hoping that some of it will save me from hearing the same catch phrases over and over again e.g. if I had a dime  for every time a marketing plan consist of „it will go viral“  I could probably buy Apple.


Probably one of the most overused catch phrases is „team is everything“ but again it is absolutely true. Give me an A team with a B idea anytime over a B team with an A idea. Therefore, we pay  lot of attention to the skill set of the founds and team – are they complementary? Can they cover the entire needed range from business skills to online marketing expertise? Will they be good at sales? How do they deal with stress? How well do they talk to investors? Here, we do not only look for solid CV credentials but also talk to people they have worked with in the past to get a good understanding of the work they have done historically.

Additionally, I would argue that not only having a certain skill set is key but that implementation trumps credentials every time. What do I mean by that – some people will have worked in corporates and gained substantial experience in a field (on paper) without ever actually doing the work. Supervising an add agency that prepares an online campaign is not the same as running your own web project with a marketing campaign you have to set-up and optimize. Often people will be surprised by the difficulty that is in between theoretically understanding a concept and implementing it.

Customer Acquisition Cost

This key variable is often connected to the marketing section shown below. 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs we talk with have not thought scalability and customer acquisition cost through. Every time we are surprised by this – online business models collect an amazing amount of data and so determining a rough estimate of customer acquisition cost very early one is not very hard. How much does it take to get a customer to buy your product? How often do you need to be in contact before a purchase is made and what does each contact cost? How often will your customer come back e.g. what is your customer lifetime value? I do not expect to get a formula that is absolutely correct but I do expect the entrepreneur to have thought about this!

Marketing (Viral does not work!)

Marketing is expensive. Even in times where zalando clearly spends millions and millions on advertising most business models still think that if there product is strong enough customers will just be running through the (non existent) doors of their website. Here we most often see horribly wrong assumptions about marketing costs. These days it is incredibly hard (and expensive!!!) to differentiate yourself online and to get a customers attention long enough to place your product. There are very few viral models that have worked historically and generally these work only in the United States and not in Europe.

An accumulation of hype phrases is not a business model

Oh my – have you seen my newest mobile optimized app that through geo location really adds value in the social media space through its gaming characteristics … 🙂 Going to a digital conference and adding all the seminar titles together does not create a business. Where is the differentiating value? How do you plan to make money? How do you acquire your customers? What problem do you solve? These are questions that are not answered through hype phrases but through well thought out business plans!

Money & Billing 

So often I see entrepreneurs who sit here and tell me that they have already several very happy customers – my next questions always is: great, what is your revenue? Unbelievably enough I often get the reply: well we are using a freemium model and are not actually charging anything. If you do not value your product enough to charge money for it, why would or even should your customer value it? How honest is feedback for something you get for free? Make money right from the start – get a billing system and send out invoices!

Hockey Stick (but only in sales)

Never missing is the famous hockey stick for sales projections – customers will love the product after 6 months and make you rich. Unfortunately, lots of business plans show this trend but neglect to create a sensible cost to revenue ration. I do not believe that you can either increase revenue by 10x without hiring additional people nor do I think that additional people will not need new / bigger office space etc. Often business plans will have a strong cost /revenue correlation for 6-12 months and in month 18 show entirely surreal ratios.


Is key! So here it is a second time 🙂



Februar 2013



eTribes Business: StartUp-Roundtable am 19. März 2013 – come see Alex in action!

Written by , Posted in Allgemein

Liebe Mitglieder und Freunde von Hamburg@work,

Woche für Woche sprießen neue StartUps wie Pilze aus dem Boden. Es lockt der Traum der Selbstständigkeit mit der zündenden Idee. Doch nicht jedes StartUp kann zum Knaller werden.

Rising Star oder Flop! Ist Erfolg eines StartUps planbar?“ heißt das Thema unseres nächsten StartUp-Roundtables am 19. März 2013:

  • Wie bewerte ich, ob mein Geschäftsmodell erfolgreich sein kann?
  • Der ‚Proof of Concept‘ ist erbracht; aber wie bringe ich meine Idee
    zum wahren Erfolg?
  • Auf welche Faktoren kommt es dabei wirklich an?

Auf diese und viele weitere Fragen zur erfolgreichen Umsetzung einer Geschäftsidee, werden Ihnen unsere 4 erfahrenen Podiumsteilnehmer in der moderierten Diskussion Antworten geben.

Freuen Sie sich mit uns auf:

  1. Jörg Binnenbrücker; Geschäftsführer von DuMont Venture, Beteiligungs-Unternehmen für digitale Medien & IT sowie Capnamic Ventures, dem neusten Multi-Corporate Fonds.
  2. Alexander Graf; Gründer und Geschäftsführer der eTribes Framework GmbH sowie Herausgeber von
  3. Katharina Wolff; Bürgerschaftsabgeordnete der CDU und erfolgreiche Gründerin der Personalberatung „Premium-Consultants„.
  4. Christian Richter; bekannt als Serial Entrepreneur, gehörte z.B. zu den Initiatoren von; heute Geschäftsführer der internationalen Digitalagentur Spoiled Milk.

Weitere Informationen zu den Podiumsteilnehmern finden Sie hier.

Einlass: 18:00 Uhr
Beginn: 18:30 Uhr
Networking: ca. 20.30 Uhr

Im Anschluss an die Podiumsdiskussion laden wir Sie sehr herzlich ein, sich bei Drinks und einem kleinen Buffet auszutauschen.

Bitte melden Sie sich bis Mittwoch, den 13. März 2013 zu der Veranstaltung HIER an.

Wir freuen uns auf Ihr Kommen – ob junger Gründer, erfahrenes StartUp oder innovativer Unternehmer – und danken Ernst & Young ganz herzlich für die Unterstützung!

Herzliche Grüße,

Hamburg@work Team



Oktober 2012



(b) Bankers, accountants, lawyers, consultants, fund raisers – how to deal with eCFO service providers

Written by , Posted in Strategie


Depending on your business you should consider building a junior legal presence in your business to avoid having to pay high hourly rates for all legal related questions. This is especially important if you deal with legal questions, contracts etc. on a regular basis.

If you do have to hire a lawyer always go for the best and somebody with specialized knowledge. If your counter party has to negotiate with a highly qualified lawyer it will save you more money in the long term compared to paying a slightly lower hourly rate. I would not engage one lawyer for everything but instead get an expert for each topic and use them as needed. That means a lot meetings and time spent on searching for various lawyers but it also means that you will get expert advice for each questions you might have. I would advice against large firms since work will usually be done by junior associates and you will only meet the partner for sales negotiations and billing purposes. Stick with small, specialized firms that know what they are talking about and do not have a deep hierarchy. Also note that lawyers will never tell you yes or no – they will always give you options so that you cannot blame them later on. If you know this, always make them spell out the costs, benefits and problems associated with each option so that you can make a well-informed decision.


I am not a huge fan. They will generally tell you what you already know and bill you without mercy. Often an outside perspective can be very valuable but try to get that initially from new employees or hire individuals for specific projects, if you feel you should have an outside perspective. I am very hesitant to believe that someone else knows your problem better than you, if you are truly honest with yourself. Consultants also have the tendency to give advice and to not stick around for the execution of their brilliant plan – they are also not accountable for any of it. Would you work with an unaccountable, extremely expensive employee who does not like to execute? Why should the same not apply to consultants?

Fund raisers and financing partners

As a start-up you will get a lot of requests from these generally well connected senior industry players. They are generally great contacts and very valuable. If you are asked to pay without performance e.g. a retainer or similar up-front payments, I would suggest that you do not work with them. Performance-based pay is the only way to go and it shows that they are confident that they will deliver real value (deals, financing, clients).

eCFO Tips: Remember your consultants/advisors will only be as good as the information you share with them. You should regularly update your advisors and MOST IMPORTANTLY the people who do the actual work on a daily basis (junior staff) at least once every quarter. Invite them over to your company and give them a general update on how things are going. This will ensure that they will provide you with sufficient advice. It will also save you money since advice will generally be better and you will not need as long to bring them up to speed if an urgent matter arises. Throw in some nice food and drinks and I am sure your work will always end up on the top of the pile 😉

Even if you have built a good network of advisors make sure that they can grow with you. From time to time you should review if they still have sufficient scope to giveyou good advice. Sometimes you will outgrow advisors very quickly – you should replace them if it becomes obvious that the relationship no longer works. If you have chosen your advisors carefully and maintained a strong and communicative culture, it is most likely that your advisors will grow with you and continue to be valuable assets throughout the growth cycle of your business.

eCFO Tips: Pricing – often it is going to sound like the hourly rates of your advisors are set in stone. This is not true – make sure that you negotiate not only the hourly rates but also yearly accumulated fees e.g. if you go above EUR50k you get an overall discount on all accumulates fees for next year. In addition, ALWAYS ask your advisors if they are willing to take some risks and enter into a performance agreement. Even if they do not end up doing it, you will find out how convinced they are with regards to actually being successful.



Oktober 2012



(a) Bankers, accountants, lawyers, consultants, fund raisers – how to deal with eCFO service providers

Written by , Posted in Strategie

As an eCFO you will have to deal with a range of different service providers. While making good decisions in this area help you to substantially improve your operations and allow you to run the business effectively, making bad decisions can be very costly to you and your new venture.

I would recommend that you first understand your business well and then look for advisors. You should strategically pick advisors who understand your business and can help you develop it further. As a start-up you should have a good combination of old, reputable wisdom and young, start-upish advisors who will help you to rapidly grow the business. I have selected a few categories of advisors and provided my personal opinion of each. It would be interesting to get some feedback regarding your experience and “best practice for working with start-up advisers!”

eCFO Tips: Always do a beauty contest when it comes to selecting advisors/service providers. No matter how small you are, always have at least 3 potential advisors compete for business. You will learn a lot through these interviews and it will be time well spent. Make sure you also invite people from various background e.g. individuals, small, medium and large firms


Find a bank that clearly shows you a road towards obtaining a rating that will allow you to take small steps towards bank financed leverage. Initially, that might mean a conversion of your rent deposit, credit card limit extension and eventually working capital lines. In the beginning you will have a lot of interaction with your banker so make sure you have a personal contact and a strong backup team for daily requests. Secondly, make sure that they understand what you do and offer sufficient support through customized banking software or (in my opinion much more preferable) solid internet banking functionality.

Fees and costs associated with your account should be minimal and waived for at least the first year. Remember you are giving them money and they will not extend any credit to you initially. You should not be paying for giving money to someone.


Find an accountant who knows your industry, is extremely reliable and detail-oriented. There should be absolutely no excitement. In addition, it is great if they are looking for new business and are willing to deal with all the additional work of a start-up. An additional great attribute would be a close connection to the regional tax authorities to handle any problems on a personal level. We checked out accountants ranging from one-man shops to the Big Five and eventually settled with a firm that is rapidly growing and has close ties with several start-ups.

From my personal experience I would strongly advice against one-man/woman shows or very small companies. You always need back-up in terms of systems and most importantly in regards to having multiple people who can work with your accounts.  I have seen a case where an accountant got sick and suddenly nothing got done anymore.  In addition, there is also nobody double-checking the work – as it turns out most of the work done by the sick accountant was either incomplete or wrong but this was only discovered after several months by the new accountancy firm and at additional cost. So overall I would recommend that you stay away from small firms and pay a little extra for some peace of mind.