Interview with Jan Thomas

SINCE 2013, Jan Thomas, founder and CEO of NKF MEDIA, publishes the founder MAGAZINE “BERLIN VALLEY” and the STARTUP NEWSLETTER “VENTURE DAILY”. Once a year a top-class jury of digital experts, business and politics chooses Germany’s 100 TOP newcomers in “THE HUNDERT“. At the NKF SUMMIT CORPORATE meets STARTUPS. Startup-enthusiast JAN THOMAS provides Germany’s founders with what the scene has long been longing for: A strong platform.

The Berlin Valley magazine is the German equivalent of the Red Herring magazine. What inspired you to create this magazine four years ago?

The beginning of Berlin Valley as a print magazine is more by chance. I came to Berlin six years ago and was eager to set up a start-up, but realised early on that I was missing a lot of essential knowledge. As a result, I started a blog “What’s up in Berlin Valley” to get access to successful entrepreneurs and ask them questions. The print magazines the Hundert and Berlin Valley as well as the daily newsletter Venture Daily and the conference series NKF Summit have gradually emerged from this mini-project. All unplanned.

Red Herring was already founded in 1992 in Silicon Valley. Why was there not something similar in Germany before?

There have always been different approaches to insider magazines in this country. However, none has survived the collapse of the new market. It took a long time before the digital scene was taken seriously again as a sustainable economic sector.

Which trends are currently dominating the start-up scene in Germany?

It is particularly important that we build up more and more sustainable start-ups in Germany, i.e. not just copy-cats or e-commerce. Sustainable means above all deep tech or industry-related companies such as IoT, AI or hardware start-ups.

Although a startup must always keep an eye on the international market, there is an excellent breeding ground for many topics in Germany due to the many world market leaders. And it should have gotten around by now that German blockchain start-ups are among the most successful in the world. This is also the reason why our publishing house has set up a blockchain program with which we introduce established companies to this promising technology.

How do you recognize a promising start-up?

Idea. Team. Market. Financing. Timing. Traction.

Without which start-up concept could you no longer live your everyday life?

There are really countless start-ups that I use daily or weekly. This ranges from collaboration tools to online marketing and media. Our company is 100% digital and most of our tools come from the start-up world.

What are the main reasons why founders fail?

It is now recognised that bad timing is the main reason for failure. This results in issues such as a lack of market acceptance or the absence of financing rounds. Of course, underfunding is also an often cited reason. And last but not least, the team also plays a decisive role: An A-Team can also successfully implement a B-idea. The reverse is not possible.

What hurdles do German founders face?

In the coming issue of Berlin Valley we will be publishing a few opinions on the DSGVO. This is a typical example, by which the biggest problem of the German founders becomes obvious: Unfortunately, we have no digital competence in politics as well as we do.

What do you propose to bring this digital literacy into politics?

Politicians have to be detained here and above all they must not allow themselves to be tied down by lobbyists’ carts out of their own ignorance. And of course, a reduction in bureaucracy would be desirable. Startups and administration, this is a real clash of cultures.

What advantages does the NKF offer the founders?

Our goal is to build Germany’s largest start-up community with our media channels. We understand the needs of start-ups very well and try to bring them together with potential clients from the established economy or investors.

What makes NKF attractive for investors?

As already mentioned, we have very good insights and discover many start-ups with a clear time lead over investors.

How do you assess the future of Germany as a business location?

Germany has every chance, but is always in the way with a hesitant fundamental scepticism. Of course, it is sometimes beneficial not to immediately follow every trend. However, this often results in a problem or danger, because certain time windows close again.

Do we need an unconditional basic income in 2030?

You have to accept that work will change. Digitalisation does not stop at any industry. Certain tasks that are currently performed by humans can be performed better and more efficiently by machines or algorithms in the future.

Inherent in this idea is an evolutionary progress, because man can thus devote himself to things that cannot be taken over by the computer. In short, man can concentrate on being human.

The problem will be that in the transition phase many people will feel disconnected and superfluous. Whether these can be satisfied with an unconditional basic income remains to be seen. Apart from that, I find the idea of an unconditional basic income exciting, but I haven’t thought it through.

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