In Awaken the Giant Within, Danny describes his journey from ex-communism working class family in East Germany and its limitations to being an entrepreneur.
Be inspired and follow the thousands of entrepreneurs that started their journeys before you — also with a first, single, small step … to awaken the giant within.
I am happy that you continued reading.
—This blog post is the third of a three-part series about my Entrepreneurial Awakening. A story that can inspire you to awaken the giant within as well. I describe my journey — from ex-communism working class family in East Germany and its limitations to being an entrepreneur. If I can do it, you surely can do it, too.
- Part: My Entrepreneurial Awakening (1997 – 2012)
- Part: My Entrepreneurial Awakening (2012 – 2014)
- Part: My Entrepreneurial Awakening (2014 – 2015)
—PLUS I want to encourage you to leave a comment — either to just say hello, ask a question or give feedback. I highly appreciate you taking the time and helping me to improve the quality of this content for you and other readers.
[Summer, 2014] Transition: Live in harmony with your values and goals.
After I voluntarily left my first startup, I asked myself:
- Who am I? (Or: What are my values?)
- What can I do well? (Or: What are my talents?)
- What do I want to accomplish? (Or: What are my goals?)
- What am I burning for? (Or: What can my mission be ?)
I wanted to make sure to live in harmony with my values, goals, and mission because they hadn’t been in line before.
I had a hard time focusing, staying motivated and delivering outstanding results with what I did. My actions weren’t heart-centered, but mind-driven.
How can any result be great if it doesn’t come from a place of love, caring, authenticity and integrity?
I don’t think you can ever achieve excellent results over longer periods of time unless you believe in what you do.
Consider ‘discovering your values’ a project.
You can’t believe how much time I spend? Asking? Searching? Identifying? I still do.
- Is it a waste of time? Maybe.
- Is it overthinking? Maybe.
- Does it help me to understand who I am? Definitely.
- Who I want to be? Definitely.
- Does it help me to realize with whom I want to work with? Definitely.
- Better understand what kind of things I want to work on? Absolutely.
- Do I grow personally? Without a doubt!
Is it a waste of time?
If you consider ‘discovering your values’ a waste of time, it’s ok. As always, it’s up to you. I don’t think so. I believe that it’s time well spent. If you don’t think so, I hope you realize one day and can change your mind.
For those of you who already believe in ‘discovering your values,’ consider it a long-term project. Over the course of several months or years, you will better understand what your values are. Better define them — with rigidity and honesty.
If you are like me, you might feel a lot of self-doubts. Only a few people understood what I was going through.
In anchorless times, footholds are a beautiful thing.
Sadly, you don’t find these ankers very often — as it happened to me. But it doesn’t matter that much. No one can hold, guide or protect you. As an entrepreneur, you have to accept that.
The only one who can hold you is …. right … YOU.
The best tips from your friends are of no help if you don’t believe in them. Most of them won’t help anyway. These can only be directions to help you make your own decisions.
Benefits of your discovery
Looking back, the ‘discovering your values’ project has made me a lot stronger, self-secure and confident. I started going down the rabbit hole asking uncomfortable questions. Discovering truths I didn’t plan to discover. I had two options: Cry and run away. Or continue and trust my inner compass that these ugly annoying truths lead somewhere.
In any case, are you curious to know my values? I bet.
My values are
- Fearlessly love
- Radical honesty
- Financial independence
My values are not sorted hierarchically. You might be asking yourself: “So what?” … “I don’t care much. I don’t need this value discovery stuff.”
If you know who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in, then you are right. You might not need to discover your values. You might want to calibrate them. Check in with friends and family. Ask them. If you are not interested in ‘discovering your values’ at all, please let me put it this way:
Are you interested in succeeding in life — emotionally, physically and physiologically? Yes? Then you better discover your values.
—Lessons Learned Transition Time: I am happier by nature when I live in harmony with my values. Ever since I have experienced my most productive and fulfilling phase of life.
In which ones? Discover yourself. Feel herewith invited!
[Autumn, 2014] Freelancing: Develop an expertise!
I had two primary goals after leaving my first startup: First, establish yourself as an expert and second, offer a service as a freelancer.
I aimed at spending half of my time on my own projects and the other half on freelancing.
Why? I wanted to pursue and invest in my own projects without financial pressure. My solution to making income was freelancing.
Moreover, ‘expertise’ establishes freedom and financial independence.
Business student and freelancing — how?
I always felt intrigued comparing myself to freelancing designers or programmers. Because they made money while offering their passion, their skills. This doesn’t seem to be realistic for me as a business student.
What can I offer? Accounting? Finances? As a student, you don’t really have any practical experience. No portfolio. No references.
These are all things that are significant for getting a freelance job.
Hence, creating an expertise became a strong motivation.
I decided to postpone my startup activities until I established myself as an expert. Three questions helped me to focus on where to search for expertise:
- Which topic am I passionate about?
- What is the potential?
- What access do I have or can I build?
Developing an Expertise
My main areas of interest are startups and innovation (culture). I researched both — the local Berlin market (e.g. The Dark Horse; SI-Labs) as well as international pioneers (e.g. Move the Needle). I quickly realized that I want to support startups — not corporations. Though many corporations have a great need for consultancy and coaching in areas, like ‘The Lean Enterprise – How Corporations Can Innovate Like Startups’.
But these corporations are too dull and sluggish for me. They will never be bigger versions of startups by applying the ‘StartupGeist’ – a Startup-like mindset based on startup’s best practices and success principles.
As a result, I focused on organizations that help startups succeed because most startups don’t and shouldn’t have the budget to afford a coach/advisor. Side note: Most startups give equity in return for advice. I needed cash. Hence, I approached startup accelerators.
First speaking and freelancing jobs
In summer 2014, I reached out to my network, and I signed two projects as a freelancer and one speaking engagement.
The first assignment, Startupbootcamp Berlin hired me as their ‘Lean Guy’ (P.S.: Thanks to Alex and Tanja). I promised to push startups forward. Teaching applicable stuff in ‘Lean Startup’, ‘Customer Development’ or Team Productivity. Feel free to read more about my experiences here.
— Sbootcamp Berlin (@sbcBerlin) August 22, 2014
—Lessons Learned From my Start as Freelancer: Because I never burn bridges, be kind and try to help people, I leveraged my reputation when I most needed it. I got my first two assignments from friends who knew me well from projects before. Take a look at my freelance offering at DannyHoltschke.com: I assist Startup Executives in Customer Acquisition and Team Organisation & Productivity. I also inject the StartupGeist to SME Managers via Workshops.
[Autumn, 2014] First Product: You can do anything you want.
My first idea I followed was a photo booth rental service. I focused on weddings in the greater Berlin area. You might be asking yourself how I found this idea? Yes, I showered and then … ah no! I run and …
Even though media tells us all kinds of different stories how great ideas are discovered. This didn’t happen to me. I did plain old school research. Nothing exciting. I listened to a Mixergy podcast — btw recommended listening — and got inspired by a wedding DJ who started a photo booth rental in the USA.
My rules for building a physical product
Before building anything, I defined rules for validating my ideas.
- Initial investment to validate = <250 €
- Maximum time to build product = < 1 month
- Cost per click Google Adwords = <0,75€
- Cost per click Facebook Ads = <0,25€
Firstly, I built a simple website — Fotoautomagic.de. Secondly, I used Google Adwords to bring traffic to the site. Some of the keywords I used in German were [photobooth rental] [photobooth Berlin wedding]. Thirdly, after closing 3 contracts, I built a prototype.
Side note: I already had the product concept in place knowing all parts and where to order them. This allowed me to build the product in two weeks. One of my best friends helped me build the photobooth because I wasn’t able to do it alone. Thanks again, Andre!!!
Why focus on weddings as targeted customers?
Two reasons. Firstly, when I married in summer of 2014, I went through the whole process of planning. Actually, my wife did all the hard work of researching and deciding. I happened to be part of it. Secondly, my wife began to work as a marketing director at a beautiful hotel — Gut Suckow — near Berlin and could leverage my offering. I thought:
Why not connect business and private stuff?
Besides Andre, I also received help from Ken Knoll and Philipp Koschel who are both professional photographers and great friends. I asked them to check my concept. Offering beer and pizza always help to bring friends together to shoot photos for your homepage! What a funny night!
—Lessons Learned From my First Product: Firstly, execution is more important than any idea. Secondly, a focus is crucial in executing your ideas.
—Execution is More Important Than Your Idea: As an entrepreneur, you don’t need to have all the skills required to make and built your product yourself. It’s an important skill to get people excited about your idea and receive help. BUT always always always make sure that your expectations with your ‘helpers’ are aligned. Don’t promise partnership if you want to fly solo. Offer a compensation instead. FotoautoMagic is a small project. Truth assured. Every project takes longer and is more costly. Besides these obvious — still no entrepreneur believes them — learnings, I was able to apply the Lean Startup and Customer Development philosophy.
Test. Validate. Build. Scale. It works as much for startups as for any project!
Focus is key in executing your ideas
It’s ANOTHER important lesson I learned. As an entrepreneur, it’s so easy to lose track of all the things you need to do — especially when you are working alone. No one is there to guide and challenge you. It’s often badly needed in early days.
I also needed to learn that each day only has 24 hours. Never ever sacrifice your health over entrepreneurial progress. It still happens to me. Again and again, I am in the hamster wheel of little progress without immediately realizing it. That’s why ‘outside of your mind’ mentors and advisors are so crucial.
Do a smaller project — like publishing an ebook, starting a podcast — instead. Search for ‘passive income’ or ‘lifestyle business’. Tim Ferriss, blogger and author of 4 Hour Work Week, Pat Flynn, successful blogger at SmartPassiveIncome or Andrew Warner, founder at Mixergy, are great starting points to be inspired. I recommend their blogs and podcasts a lot.
 StartupGeist: Develop your vision and follow a mission.
During my work for Startupbootcamp, a startup accelerator, I developed three concepts:
- StartupSales.de — ‘Learn to predictably attract new customers’
- StartupGeist.com — ‘Learn how to start a startup’ (in English)
- StartupGeist.de — ‘Discover your entrepreneurial dreams’ (in German)
StartupGeist will be the vessel for going after my personal vision — a 21st century Entrepreneurship University. A lifelong learning approach. Nothing to be completed in weeks or months with a certificate. Being an entrepreneur is a way of life. A way of personally growing. A way of exceeding your expectations day in and day out.
I want to infect more students and young talents with the StartupGeist — for building companies, solving meaningful problems and accelerating their careers. Though I defined a target group, it still was too big. I lost track of the readers I originally had in mind. During my lecture at the Berlin School of Economics and Law where I taught ‘Entrepreneurship’, I regained my focus about my ideal targeted readers.
With StartupGeist, I now target ambitious students and young, aspiring entrepreneurs (#millenials). I am contributing with:
The startup knowledge base might be helpful at the beginning of your startup journey because finding and searching valuable stuff on Google is hard. Here I aim at compiling valuable resources for you.
—Lessons Learned StartupGeist: I launched too late and confused target readers. Fortunately, external events gave me some direction on how to decide. Feel invited to learn more about the lessons learned from my first startup. As I was (a student) and am (a first-time startup founder, Internet entrepreneur) part of both target groups, I am following one of the most important startup mantras.
Scratch you own itch (a.k.a. solve your own problem).
Nevertheless, he offers eye-opening and life changing lessons. That you might think, aren’t related to Entrepreneurship. But Entrepreneurship is as much about personal development as football is about shooting goals. David Deida brings in another level of personal development for you. Enjoy 🙂
The Way of the SUPERIOR Man
- Tired of being a macho or being softy?
- Tired of not understanding male and female energies?
- Tired of having bad sex?
- Tired of being afraid of … fill in the blank … ?
If you answered any of these questions with “yes”, you would love reading the book. Few of my favorite messages are the following:
Know Your Purpose in Life
For as long as you don’t know your purpose in life and align your life accordingly, you will always feel empty — regardless of being in a corporation, in a startup or doing freelance work.
Every moment waited is a moment wasted….
— David Deida
Most pauses are excuses. A man who really wants to do something won’t be stopped — neither by limited financial means nor his family duties.
Nothing Will be Achieved in the Future
Men believe that we will have achieved everything at some point in the future.
Men’s voices in their heads tell them: ‘If I only make this project successful then …’ or ‘If I only finish this marathon under three hours then’…
If you think that you will happier, healthier, richer when you only achieve this or that, you are wrong.
Nothing is ever achieved in the future.
Focus on NOW. What can you do right now? Read. Learn. Study. Make notes. Start a side project.
Most men make the error of thinking that one day it will be done. The masculine error is to think that eventually things will be different in some fundamental way. They won’t. It never ends. As long as life continues, the creative challenge is to tussle, play, and make love with the present moment while giving your unique gift.
— David Deida, Chapter 1
Learn About Your True Limits
The current limits of a man are not important. It is more important to live up to these limits instead of being lazy. Respect your limits that you face today. Be honest with yourself about your limits. And be brave to push your limits everyday.
Start today and leave your comfort zone. Start to live and never look back. Start to grow and you will give your gift back to the world. Sadly, very few people do this. The fear of failure holds most men back.
What can you do? Accept your fear. It’s normal. Even Mike Tyson feared most fighters until he stepped into the ring:
I come out. I have supreme confidence but I’m scared to death. I’m totally afraid. I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of losing. I’m afraid of being humiliated. But I was totally confident.
All through my training I’ve been afraid of this man. I thought this man might be capable of beating me. I’ve dreamed of him beating me. I always stayed afraid of him. The closer I get to the ring I’m more confident. Once I’m in the ring, I’m a God! No-one can beat me.
A man should fearlessly love and lead.
A man needs challenges and has to live his own personal truth.
A man faces his fears and seeks freedom.
A man lives a life of integrity and sticks to his values.
If you’re interested, feel free to watch Deida’s ‘Spirit Sex Love’ YouTube series. I found it super intriguing. Even though I painfully see myself in most situations that are described, I accept it and work on myself because I want to. Because I don’t accept my flaws.
What else can I do? For sure, I will never surrender and accept things as they are. Instead, I prefer improving, and personally growing — step by step.
[1997 – 2015] My key insight: Discover a mission.
At the beginning of my journey, I was too dazzled by the startup world and tech billionaires. I assumed that every startup founder would become rich and famous. Of course, it’s wrong. For every Facebook or Google, there are numerous startup failures. Most startups fail. Only a few succeed. That’s when I realized that I started off the wrong way.
If you don’t have a startup idea that suits your values and your personal mission, you should start as a freelancer. Take time to discover your mission and your talents by doing various projects.
By doing you will be discover. Not by thinking.
That’s why I recommend you to start as a freelancer and move down the other steps if you want. Freelancing allows you to build a portfolio, acquire basic business lessons and strengthen your soft skills. All required attributes for successfully starting a company.
— Coming next, I share a few things I wish I knew when I was 20. Get insights and inspiration for your own life!
- Tim Ferriss: 4 Hour Work Week (Book and blog)
- Pat Flynn: SmartPassiveIncome (Blog)
- Andrew Warner: Mixergy (Podcast)
- Podcast: German StartupGeist Podcast
- Examples of Berlin Innovation agencies: The Dark Horse and SI-Labs
- Consultancy and Blog: Move the Needle
- Book: ‘The Lean Enterprise – How Corporations Can Innovate Like Startups’.
- Accelerator: Startupbootcamp Berlin
- Startup Principles Mentioned: ‘Lean Startup’ & ‘Customer Development’
- Report: 2015 Startup Ecosystem Report (by Compass.co)
- Tony Robbins: Awaken The Giant Within
Next on StartupGeist
- StartupGeist: What I wish I knew when I was 20
- StartupGeist: 10 Startup Lessons Learned (Hint: Avoid Mistake 4 at all cost)