Why Berlin? Interview with Emily Casey, Femna

Berlin has been having a moment in recent years. Said to be the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the world that receives the most venture capital investment of any city in Europe, it’s become a popular hub of creativity – stemming from its fascinating past, its music roots, and its affordable lifestyle. Throw Brexit into the mix and Berlin doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, as a great city to start a business in.

We recently had the chance to talk to an Aussie who made the move to Berlin, Emily Casey of Femna, on taking the leap from Melbourne to Berlin two years ago.

Emily is the co-founder of Femna, a Berlin-based start up that creates natural products for women to help them through each stage of their hormonal life – PMS, menstruation, fertility, pregnancy and menopause. She’s also a qualified yoga teacher and combined her love for
beer and yoga to start BierYoga in 2015, leads the team
of TEDxKreuzberg, and founded The Lonely CEO Club – a dinner club for CEOs and founders.

Here’s what she had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to Berlin? 

I was already based in Berlin when I founded Femna, just over 12 months ago. I met my business partner Maxie here in Berlin at Impact Hub. It’s difficult for me to judge what Europe can offer that Australia can’t to be honest – I’ve never started a business in Australia 🙂 But judging from the market stats for our business – Europe is definitely a bigger market for natural health, and there’s an association with “Made in Germany” that gives us a kind of stamp of quality that consumers appreciate.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

Well, when I arrived in Berlin I knew no one – the only person I knew here was my Berliner friend Julia. It’s only really been through the Aussie.EU network that I recently got to know any Australians in Berlin!

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

Yes, we raised a small pre-seed round for Femna in June this year and we’re currently raising a round of funding now. I’ve never tried to raise money anywhere else, so I can’t compare!

I’ve found that the Berlin startup community is very supportive, everyone seems to always be open to sharing contacts and making introductions. I think we did quite well, compared to some stories I’ve heard from other businesses. Of course we spent a lot of time getting our business plan and pitch ready, and took many meetings with investors, but it didn’t take long to find the right investors for us. Let’s see how we go with this next round!

What is it like to do business in Berlin?

I think there’s two sides to doing business in Berlin – there’s the day-to- day interactions with our customers, community, suppliers and partners, and then there’s the bureaucratic ‘back end’ stuff which is extremely time and paper intensive. The red tape is long and confusing, even for Germans, so I’m very lucky my business partner is German and she takes the lead on handling that stuff.

In general, Berliners are very open and a little crazy which is great for us – we can try new things any time and there will always be people around to support us, give us feedback, tell us how to improve. We have a very incredible community of people around us, including all our suppliers and retail partners. Sometimes, particularly in more conservative cities, Germans can be more reserved and formal, which is also fine – they are very organised and precise which is great!

Do you, or have you, hired local talent? 

We are all based here in Berlin – we don’t want to have any team working remotely for now, while we’re still in the early stages of really building our base and core business.

What do you love about living in Berlin? 

I really love the sense of freedom I feel there is in Berlin – you can be and do whatever you want, and no one will judge you or tell you to be something else. People will celebrate your successes with you, and be there for you in your ‘failures’ or down times.

Top 3 tips:

  1. Don’t make too many hard and fast plans – go with the flow, things will change quicker than you expect, embrace it
  2. Join a co-working space- I joined Impact Hub as a volunteer when I couldn’t afford a membership so even if you don’t have money, do whatever you can to get involved with local spaces and communities
  3. Be yourself – Australians have a very positive reputation in Europe, for being easy going, friendly, fun but also good workers!

Thank you to Emily Casey for this interview. You can contact her at Femna.

Why London? Interview with Carl Petrou, PandaPay

London has always been a hub of activity and great business opportunities. With scores of tech incubators and accelerator programs within the city, despite the recent Brexit issues, London still is a great place to do business and now, run your startup from. Thanks to also being a financial services hotspot, another side-effect are the favourable conditions for fintech startups.

We recently had the chance to talk an Aussie who has taken the leap, Carl Petrou of PandaPay, on making his move from Sydney to London almost 11 years ago.

Carl is the co-founder of PandaPay and PandaPayApp.com. From a successful health platform as Wellbeing In the City, to running CoderDojo coding clubs for kids in London, he has a longstanding background in the entrepreneurial space. He’s since now developed PandaPay, which solves the social awkwardness of split payments of your restaurant bills. Carl also mentor teams, both back home and internationally.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to London? 

I started my first European startup in London, Wellbeing In the City, and am now running my 3rd, PandaPay. Although I didn’t move these businesses from Australia to London, I’ve decided to create their HQ in London. This was because Australia just doesn’t have the population and it’s too far spread-out with limitation on expanding into other markets for the hospitality industry. Other industries are more able to expand from Australia.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia?

Yes, both personally and have assisted other startups that I mentor in London. Australia seems to be extremely difficult, from what I’ve been told.

In London it’s a lot easier due to the tax rebates and government support. Angels that have come off the back of previous successful exists and now want to invest in London startups is common. The startup community support is stronger and there’s just more money flowing around the economy to support investment rationale. We also received support from Startup Direct and the London Co-Investment Fund.

What it’s like to do business in London?

Australians have, and are known for, their entrepreneurial drive, along with their work ethic. Whereas, the English, I’ve personally found, are very diplomatic and will rarely state how they truly feel. They’ll normally be very support of an idea, even if they’re not. When you’re starting out, you need constructive criticism – not “kindness”.

In maximising your success over here: Play on our chilled fun Aussie culture, it’s a great excuse to get yourself out there and make mistakes. If you make enough right mistakes, you’ll eventually find the right answer. The style of doing business in London is to network and do business together, and there’s a lot of it. The harder you play the the more you will actually achieve. It’s a fun game.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

Both. In London, depending on your business, I don’t think it matters if your team is from the UK or not. Local talent is great if you’re running a business that reflective of the city.

What do you love about living in London?

The energy, the constant opportunities and the supportive networks. It’s Sydney times 100 (if not more).

Top 3 tips:

  1. Get yourself out there and tap into as many groups as possible, then focus on the ones that will assist you the most.
  2. Reach out to the organisation that assist startups in London – that are SO many! Give me a buzz, and let’s make your idea happen!
  3. Be prepared to network and embrace the London style of doing business. This will help you integrate and get more achieved, faster.

Thank you to Carl Petrou for this interview. You can contact him at PandaPay App.

Why Toulouse? Interview with Simon Webb, Tarot Analytics

The French Tech Ticket has become a popular way to move your business to France and gain some much-needed support to get things moving in Europe.

We recently had the chance to talk to yet another Aussie who’s taken this route, Simon Webb (along with his co-founder Jesse Treharne) of Tarot Analytics, making the move from Sydney, NSW to Toulouse, France six months ago.

Simon is a co-Founder of Tarot Analytics, a winning start-up of The French Tech Ticket season 2. Tarot Analytics builds business optimisation tool with a focus on logistics optimisation. At Tarot, Simon manages sales, business development, marketing and operations of the company. Currently based in Toulouse, France, he previously worked in Technical Sales at IBM in Sydney and studied a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Commerce (Finance and Economics) at UNSW.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to France? 

We moved to Toulouse as winners of the French Tech Ticket. As one of 70 winning start-ups (two from Australia, over 1,500 applicants) we were given €57,000 and a residency permit by the French government to build our business in France and Europe. Our biggest reason for moving to France and Europe is market size and population density. Our primary product, Tarot Routing, is a logistics optimisation tool works better with larger, dense cities where our clients are visiting more addresses every day and therefore see a greater benefit from Route Optimisation.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

There is not much of an Australian start-up network in Toulouse so we have had to do most of it alone. However, the guys at Tenderfoot, the other Australian FTT start-up, have been a great support network. Facing similar problems, we have collaborated well sharing our problems and solutions.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

While on the FTT program we are supported by BPI, French Tech and in Toulouse our incubator Ekito. Otherwise we have bootstrapped our business from day one using our own money and reinvesting the revenue from our initial customers to build our business. For the future, we would consider industry partnerships and investment (La Poste, DHL etc.) if it was going to open a large enough market.

What is it like to do business in France?

In a lot of ways business in France is like business in Australia, particularly with B2B products. While your product is important your interactions and rapport with your customers are equally important – The French don’t care how much your product will revolutionise their business and save them time and money, they want to do business over lunch or a coffee. Their trust in your product is directly related to their trust in you – work hard to build it.

Biggest cultural difference (apart from language) – a meeting you would have done over coffee in Australia is done over lunch in France. This means having multiple meetings in one day is difficult, unless you’ve got a great workout regime.

Language is another important consideration for success in France. The younger generation speaks English but do not expect the older generation to, even in large multinational companies (especially outside of Paris). Language can make phone calls and cold calling very difficult.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you?

Our main team, Jesse and Myself, made the move. This was a requirement of the FTT funding
We are currently looking for local talent to help with business development. Currently we are looking to bring on somebody as an Auto Entrepreneur rather than an employee (easier under French law) but that may change with our success.

What do you love about living in France? 

Best part about France is the summer afternoons spent on the terrace/by the river enjoying a wine with cheese and baguettes.

Top 3 tips:

  1. L’ Administration Français is real and will be a problem for you: To move to France with your start-up you will need 6 months deposit to begin renting an apartment or a guarantor.
  2. French time: France moves a bit slower than the rest of the world, especially over summertime. Do not expect to close any deal between Bastille day and the start of September.
  3. French life and culture is a lot of fun: They really do love Australia and Australians. As soon as you attempt to speak their language the snobby French stereotype disappears.

Thank you to Simon Webb for this interview. You can contact him at Tarot Analytics.

Why Paris? Interview with Ava Lawrence, Pawmetrics

Moving to Paris isn’t just for the fashion or the fashion-related startups. It’s now being recognised as a booming startup ecosystem, thanks to considerable public funding made available for startups and input from key local players in this space.

We had the chance recently to speak with founder Ava Lawrence on making the move from Brisbane, QLD to Paris six months ago, and hear why Paris is an viable city to consider for your startup.

Ava is the founder and CEO of Pawmetrics, a biotech company that is developing an implanted biosensor to monitor the health of pets and other animals in real time via an app.

Here’s what she had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to France? 

My startup won the French Tech Ticket competition. In its 2nd year, 70 of the most promising startups from around the world are chosen to receive special visas, support and funding from the French Government to live in France for a year to develop the company. I lived in London for seven years before coming to Paris and part of the reason for leaving is Brexit. It is already impacting on recruitment and business confidence for startups. Europe provides access to a 500 million strong consumer market and is 7-8 hours away from the US. France has a long history of medical, engineering and scientific excellence which was attractive as well. Now with the election of Macron, you can feel an acceleration of interest, support and funding for startups here.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

I work with mainly French people, but there are some Australians in the competition too – it is nice to meet up with them and share information. The Australian community is great for when homesickness strikes and you long for people who understand your cultural references and humour. Hearing the Australian accent is comforting in a foreign place 😊 The Australian Embassy is quite active and holds events here in Paris. My cat is Australian and provides a lot of support to me – I’m sure that counts 😉

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

We haven’t raised yet but we are starting to find the right investors. France is unusual in Europe and probably the world in that so much public funding is made available for startups. We are funded by a private-public organisation called BPI France, they provide a colossal amount of funds to the startup ecosystem each year.

What is it like to do business in France?

I don’t speak French at all so I thought that might be a big barrier but it surprisingly hasn’t been. All the partners I work with speak English and my co-founder Alexis is from Paris, so he handles email exchanges and meetings in French if someone’s English is not fluent. I find the banking system here baffling and stuck in a time warp, and there is still an emphasis on paper files and transactions – there seems to be a lag with putting government and financial services online. I’m sure that will change soon though.

Business is more formal than Australia and the UK, there’s an emphasis on being professional from the beginning to the end. In Australia we like to quickly move from being formal to informal once the relationship develops, but they keep it up here. Some French people respond well to being more informal and find it refreshing, but I have to take the steer from the verbal and non-verbal cues on how far to push it and from my French co-founder.

Being a female founder doesn’t seem to be a big deal here. I don’t feel I have been treated differently to my male co-founders here, which I have to admit is different to my experience in the UK. I asked a French VC if being a female founder is a barrier to raise money and he didn’t really understand the question. He said it would never cross his mind. I don’t know if it is Anglo-Saxon culture that has a problem with it but it is fantastic that it isn’t an issue here. Maybe ask me in a year when I’ve had more experience in the funding system though.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? 

My French co-founder was already in Paris and we have one British team member back in London, so it is a semi-virtual team. Trello is great for managing the workload and we work online with Google. We have hired a local art director to help us rebrand and with our marketing. Having things like relationships with local printers and advising on what words and symbols mean in French as opposed to English is a blessing.

What do you love about living in France? 

The obvious ones are food, culture and wine. Coffee still needs some work but there’s a handful of Aussie cafes in Paris now so I can get a proper flat white!

My favourite hotel ever is Hotel Costes, I love the ‘CD’ series and the aesthetic so I always used to go there when I visited Paris. Now that I live here I use it to work, hold meetings and have a drink.

The French countryside is beautiful and Provence is heaven on Earth. Biarritz reminds me of Noosa and I went to Champagne a couple of weeks ago.

I’m single so meeting French men is an interesting adventure! They are intrigued to meet an Australian as many haven’t done so before.

Bring patience, humour and join as many groups as possible on Facebook, LinkedIn and Meetups to start to build friendships and a business network.

Thank you to Ava Lawrence for this interview. You can contact her at Pawmetrics