As founder of IDnow, Investor and Business Angel and as organizer of Germany's largest founder conference Bits & Pretzels, Felix Haas is the perfect interviewee for our author Stefan Ruzas. The two men spoke about business start-ups for the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of LfA magazine, photographed by Hannes Rohrer.

Felix Haas with white shirt and blue trousers sits at the edge of the table and looks to the side
In addition to his participation in the founders' conference Bits & Pretzels, the Munich-based seed investor is also involved in more than 50 Internet start-ups. He has also been a member of the advisory council of the German government's Young Digital Economy.

How does the successful establishment of a company work?
With a good team, the right timing, the luck of the brave and an awareness of market gaps. For example, when an industry changes fundamentally and new technologies create new access to customers and make other products possible. Without the smartphone there wouldn't be companies like Uber, Lieferando or Instagram.

Which obstacles and deficits are the main reasons why start-ups fail?
Timing is immensely important. So many people have failed because they were too early or too late - even with the right team and enough capital. Sometimes a founding team is not complementary enough to complement each others' skills. In addition, there is a tendency in Germany not to finance ideas ambitiously enough.

What is more important: to identify an opportunity or to have the courage to actually implement it?
The courage to implement. An idea alone is worth nothing. That's why ideas shouldn't be kept to themselves. Many people make the mistake of not wanting to talk about them. My experience is: discuss the idea with everyone, especially with potential customers.

Felix Haas explains to Stefan Ruzas what it takes to successfully found a company.

And how do you protect yourself from idea theft?
Through implementation. Someone invented the car, yet there are dozens of car manufacturers. The exception is perhaps secret patents in the high-tech sector or in biotechnology. But 99 percent of startups do not have any magical inventions. It's all about making.

"Start-ups are turbo-charged experience cannons."

Felix Haas

  • Black and white photo of Felix Haas holding two mobile phones in his hands and looking at the screen of one mobile phone
  • Felix Haas looks attentively and curiously at Stefan Ruzas, who explains something
  • Felix Hass in a white shirt gesturing while talking
  • Felix Haas and Stefan Ruzas sit in a meeting room on grey chairs at a long white table
  • A grey round chair, in the background Felix Haas is sitting at the table
  • Portrait of founder Felix Haas

What qualities do you need to be able to survive as an independent entrepreneur?
Persistence. Because exciting things are always hard. It's always the ones where everyone tells you that they don't work. Things that make you want to give up. As a founder, I am in the management of the Munich-based identity verification platform IDnow. It took us two years to get approval from the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin). The same happened to us as organisers of the Bits & Pretzels founders' conference. For two years we tried to engage Barack Obama as a speaker. At the end of June we got his confirmation. You also need conviction and enthusiasm. How else do you persuade your first employees to sign contracts for a third of the salary they would get at Siemens or Google? A certain naivety, coupled with pure curiosity, doesn't hurt either.

Read the full interview with Felix Haas in LfA Magazine Fall/Winter 2019.

Cover of the LfA magazine autumn/winter 2019
Presenting the full story LfA Magazin 02/19

Since 2016, Storyboard has produced the customer magazine of LfA Förderbank Bayern. Published twice a year, the magazine carries LfA news and funding opportunities. A variety of narrative perspectives as well as large-format infographics and service elements bring to life complex content on the topic of business development. The Autumn/Winter 2019 issue focuses on business start-ups and meets a selection of LfA-funded entrepreneurs. In an interview, Felix Haas, organiser of the Bits & Pretzels conference, urges a new entrepreneurial spirit in Germany.