This is the second post of our blog series called “My Biggest Mistake” featuring our mentors and their advice for startups. Startupbootcamp Berlin mentor, Holger Weiss, talks about the importance of making mistakes and what he wishes he had done differently in the past.
As a Team Member, Leader and Investor
In German there is a saying that mistakes are for being made (“Fehler sind dafür da, gemacht zu werden.”)- which simply means that it’s very natural to make mistakes. And I couldn’t agree more: everyone is making mistakes and did already. So from that perspective it seems that they belong to us. As such we should also see them positively and not only as something to be avoided. Mistakes help us to learn, to understand and to improve and as such they are essential part of success. I am only stating this at the beginning because in general I cannot find anything bad in making mistakes other than they sometimes have quite ugly consequences.
Therefore it’s also not easy to define which my biggest mistake was. There is not a single event I would remember but there are a few – all from a different role and perspective:
As a Team Member
My biggest mistake as a team member was maybe that I didn’t stronger insist on a product idea I had, while the rest of the team had a different one. At that time I desisted from that idea after a very short discussion and time. Mainly because I felt that it would cause a lengthy and painful discussion with others, but also because I lost trust in my own concept after no one else shared my view. It turned out that over 2 years later the company I was at that time with (a startup) ended up with exactly this idea I had – still early enough to catch up against competitors, but a little bit too late to lead the race.
As a Leader
My biggest mistake in leadership is still that I sometimes forget to take the team with me: daily dynamic, decisions, strategic shifts, tactical moves – there are many things going on in a company. As the CEO you are usually involved with most of them: the bad and the good ones. Of course you have to expect from your team to follow you. You cannot communicate in real-time – but it is important to explain a committed team why things are the way they are, or even more, why they are not as they might appear to be.
As an Investor
My biggest mistake as an investor was clearly that at the beginning I focused too much on business models and the general product. I completely ignored that also a founder team is minimum 50% of a later success. Not only the different skill sets and rigor or tenacity, but especially how the founders interact together and how the dynamic is – a positive or a destructive one. Today I can say that many startups also fail because of unhealthy founder teams.