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Start-up conferences have been popping up like mushrooms in the last few years, especially in hubs like Berlin. Around here, it is not unusual to either found a company or to work in a start-up. You see new stuff all the time, but the way start-ups are founded and their financing strategies are oftentimes similar, following best practices hoping to be “as good as Silicon Valley”.

Being unconventional and not fitting into the start-up box truly is an art we learnt to master at Book a Street Artist. Last week I had a chance to talk about it at the “Q-Summit“, an entrepreneurship conference hosted by The University of Mannheim. I was happy to hear that they wanted to shed a light on entrepreneurship in a university where investment banking and consulting are still dominating students’ dreams about their future careers. Being a Mannheim alumnus myself, I was thrilled to be invited to speak about my own venture at the event.

Charlotte talking art unconventional summit mannheim
Charlotte talking about “The Art of Being Unconventional” at Q Summit in Mannheim

“Talk about your success story”

In our first call, the organizers suggested I share our “success story” with Book a Street Artist. Easier said than done – “success” means many things to many different people. In the start-up world as I experience it, most founders coined as “successful” either made revenue in the millions or – even more prevailing – raised tons of money in one of their “series” of “raising capital”. Or they “exited” and sold their company, of course. However, the founders I personally admire are usually either very strong on the (social) value creation side or made (not raised) their first million themselves. Hence, I decided to make the talk about our success and how we got to the point where we are now: a company with an amazing team, a loyal artist base, recurring clients and revenue, as well as a hell of an investors’ team.

The Emotional Journey of Creating Anything Great

Preparing my talk, I came across this wonderful graph depicting “The Emotional Journey of Creating Anything Great”:

emotional journey of creating anything great
Source: unknown

I cannot tell you how well this resonated with the exact thought I had. It shows precisely the journey we had just made – from having a great idea through the “dark swamp of despair”. Our success story was about getting through that valley, and it was not a comfy ride!

Embrace your vision and stick to the “WHY”

The only way for us to build ourselves a bridge through this valley was to embrace our vision. Many times had we been on wrong paths. From talking to the first artists on the streets to today, we lost focus many times and way too often prioritized the wrong things. Instead of telling our story and speaking about why we want to empower artists and why our hearts burn for this, we repeated the “whats”: what is our business model, how do we make money, who is our target client, who is the competition, and why we are so much better than them. It did take us some time because it is what is preached you should do as a startup to sweet-talk investors: create the perfect “deck”, have an amazing “exit strategy”, and don’t forget the “hockey stick”.

Once we realized that we simply don’t fit into this world, that we don’t need series ABCDEFG to build something truly valuable and sustainable, everything just came together. It was as if the universe synchronized and connected us with people who have the right energy, and therefore share our vision. It is how we found our team, our investors, and I believe our artists as well.

roberta charlotte summit mannheim
Roberta and Charlotte at Q-Summit in Mannheim

We love to speak about our greatest passion

Q-Summit is one of many events that we speak at. While it was an honor to speak amongst the Berlin celebrities like Lea from Amorelie or Roman from Lesara, we usually love the crazy stuff. Just recently my co-founder Mario stood in the Arctic Sea in an ice hole at Polar Bear Pitching in Oulu, Finland to spread the word about Book a Street Artist just where the North Pole starts.

mario polar bear pitching
Mario in the Ice Hole for the Polar Bear Pitching Finals – Photo by Henri Luoma

I want to thank the incredibly dedicated and helpful crew at Q-Summit Mannheim and dearly hope they will continue this event successfully. I love to see when conventions are broken and people take self-determined decisions to do the unconventional stuff and go the extra mile way out of their comfort zone. Entrepreneurship is one of those endeavours that can catapult you there, and I wouldn’t miss it for one day in my life.

One love,
Charlotte