“Berlin is a city of super-angels” Adeo Ressi – 10 things I know…

Adeo Ressi
Adeo Ressi


Adeo Ressi has an impressive resume – he has founded eight startups, seven of which are still successful, and is now pouring his passion and energy into expanding The Founder Institute – the world’s largest incubator.

Based in the Valley and now operating in 32 cities (with another 12 in the works for 2013), Ressi’s Founder Institute prides itself on being different from your average incubator.

In Berlin for the Ideation Bootcamp at Betahaus, I caught up with Ressi to find out what he’s learnt along his startup journey and how he is a hyper-efficient person…

width="134"Berlin is a city of “super angels”

We’ve been in Berlin for about two years and what’s happened in that time is a “super angel” has emerged here that is funding lots of companies, which has allowed other smaller angels from around Germany to easily jump into investing in companies that they previously wouldn’t have felt comfortable investing in because they didn’t have the lead investor. That has helped Berlin take a more prominent role in the global startup system, you have a lot of high quality, well-funded startups coming out of Berlin.

Successful startups can be found in the most unlikely of places…

We see great companies everywhere in the world. Seven out of nine of our graduates in Columbia are funded. One of the largest funding rounds in Vietnam was secured by a Fouder Institute graduate. So in every market that we’re operating we see great companies – right now we’re opening in Perth. We go where the interest is. We’re launching in Saudi Arabia, we’re launching in Turkey, we’re launching in potentially a few other cities. In Alexandria, maybe Oman.

There needs to be more women in startups

Berlin Geekettes @ Google 2012A big focus of ours is trying to equalise the gender divide. We’re actively trying to get women involved in the tech scene. So when we first started, we had a much higher than average graduation of female entrepreneurs in companies – about 16 per cent, so we introduced a scholarship program for high-quality female applicants and we got it to about 21 per cent female led graduation.

We started more aggressively marketing these programs so in the last batch of graduates we hit 36 per cent and in some cities we even got to 50 per cent female-led companies in the Valley, in Tel Aviv, in Chicago.

The Founder Institute “mines diamonds”

We tend to produce entrepreneurs that go on to join other programs. I like to say we “mine diamonds”, other programs make jewellery. So we find raw talent and turn them into entrepreneurs, who then go on to make companies and join these other incubators. The main difference between us and other incubators isn’t scale, it’s focus. We take people who aren’t entrepreneurs, or are just becoming entrepreneurs, and we turn them into founders of successful companies. Other programs take founders of successful companies and are like a finishing school, they give them a bit of money, help them do product development. We’re complementary not competitive.

Personality tests can reveal a lot

All people have to do a personality test to get into the Founder Institute. It’s not hard, it’s thoughtful – you have to use your brain. So when founders go through the program they’re rated between one to five from a lot of different people, up to 80 or 90 times. So you’re rated by your peers, rated by the directors and the mentors on a frequent basis.

And the correlation is very accurate. 84.72 per cent of the time the test was either equal – so the test predicted how the founder would do, or a little bit lower. So you would hope that that would be the case because you want the founders to be better than a short test could predict. It’s a two-part test – how you feel about situations plus some logic-based puzzles.

Determination = success

You have to make a conscious decisions to do a company full-steam ahead. Starting a startup is literally one of the hardest jobs in the world, so if youre not 100 per cent committed and focused you will fail. So the test can say, if you are 100 per cent focused you have a better chance than average at succeeding because you have the raw personality that when you push yourself in circumstances, you will succeed. There’s no question of it. It’s not just raw skill, it’s “Do I have the raw skill and extreme level of motivation required to succeed?”

Slackers are easy to spot

You can tell if someone is not giving 100 per cent. And only 40 per cent of people actually graduate. We definitely help them realise the error in the ways if they’re not taking it seriously. So they shouldn’t be there. For the most part it’s clear they’re not trying really hard, it’s clear to them and us.

Good ideas come secondary to hard work

Occasionally people don’t have a good idea, but nine times out of ten that’s a factor that they’re not working hard enough. Because they have up about four to six weeks to work on their idea. If you can’t refine a good idea in that time you’re not really trying, especially if people are sitting with you telling you that’s not  a good idea, or to change this or that.

There is no point having regrets

The only thing I wish I’d done differently is started to do something I really wanted to do – The Founder Institute – a lot earlier. But I have made a lot of mistakes to get wise.

Entrepreneurs are a great bunch

I like working with entrepreneurs, I like the idea of starting businesses and what that means. So I definitely found my passion. I like spending time with entrepreneurs as people. And, number two, I like the genesis of the business, I like the formative stage when people step out into the world and they are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, it’s before the world has beaten them down.


Image credit: Flickr user Anuj Biyani

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