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Christoph Bertschi, co-founder Smartbreed, Swisspreneur Podcast
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Timestamps:

11:40 - Where great ideas come from

15:07 - Founders should have a sales role

18:25 - Raising funds

21:22 - Making the first hires

30:15 - Physical and mental health

About Christoph Bertschi:

Christoph Bertschi is the co-founder and CEO at SmartBreed, a startup developing a decentralized upcycling technology to fully exploit the potential of insects. He holds a MSc in Banking and International Finance from Cass Business School, London and previously worked as a consultant at Simon-Kucher & Partners. Christoph co-founded SmartBreed in 2019.

SmartBreed’s vision is to harmoniously blend nature with technology to sustainably improve our food chain. They enable zoos, farms and food manufacturers to breed their own protein-rich grasshoppers using their patented and automated grasshopper breeding boxes. Christoph’s time as a founder has taught him a few lessons which he has very kindly shared with us in this episode, and which we have summarized below.

How do you find the right co-founder?

  • There’s always the possibility of picking someone you’ve known a long time, like a family member. If you choose this, keep in mind that though shared values may seem like a given, they should still be discussed.
  • Pick someone from a different area. Complementary skill sets are a plus.
  • Pick someone who is always curious to learn more. Building a startup is one hell of a learning journey!
  • Pick someone who’s willing to go out and talk to people, to get to know them and inspire them. They’ve gotta be ready to improve their selling game.
  • Being a solo founder is of course an option, but know that the inevitable downturns building a startup involves will be harder to face on your own.
  • Look for co-founders in universities, in impact hubs, or in your own industry.

Regarding business ideas, Christoph warns that though building a product based on research has the advantage of making it harder for competitors to imitate you, it also adds a lot more complexity to your operations. He is a proponent of the idea that execution is far more important than the specific idea you come up with. Part of an excellent execution is to be curious about the nos you get from the people you pitch to: why was your sales strategy not effective? What are you not understanding about your customer’s problem? What about your product could be better?

When it comes to raising funds, Christoph suggests starting with grants, then moving on to smart money from business angels, and finally, at a later stage, going for VC money.

Hiring at SmartBreed is made easier by the fact that the founders’ research background comes with strong ties to universities. Because of this, they have yet to need a professional recruiter. Christoph recommends sharing your company vision with potential hires and showing them how they could fit into the big picture. He thinks the cultural fit is more important than skills, because it’s rather hard to find someone with the perfect skill set anyway.

How can you stay healthy as a founder?

  • Accept that you don’t need to do everything perfectly. Strive for “good enough.”
  • Love what you do. It’ll be more bearable to work through weekends and weather tough storms if you’re passionate about what you’re doing.
  • Don’t neglect spending time with friends and family. Block time out for them in your calendar and don’t cancel on them.

This episode was co-produced by Startup Days 2023. Click here to purchase your ticket now.

Memorable Quotes:

"Co-founders are one of the most important things, and also one of the main reasons startups fail."

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