COVID-19 has shaken the world. Social distancing, travel restrictions have affected us all, leading to far reaching economic impacts. Especially for startups the knock-on effects have been huge. Startups need more support than ever – in terms of funding, advisory on customer development, business models to go to market, and to adapt to the overall situation that is characterised by lesser demand.
Global and online communities for startups therefore are gaining importance as they allow for exchange and help to obtain the right information crucial in crisis times like these. Having realised this need Parul Madan, a hands-on business practitioner who values big ideas, out of the box thinking and teamwork launched the DueDash community network. Along with her co-founders Nikhil Madan, Michail Kosak and Markus Buck, she founded DueDash in May 2020, in the midst of the corona crisis in Europe.
DueDash is a community platform that gives access to a global network and knowledge base. Objective of DueDash is to help startups become investable and build their business by getting the support they need, gain access to knowledge, exchange and connect with experts and like-minded professionals through the DueDash community platform, while at the same time enabling investors, accelerators and VCs to find talent. “The platform has been designed to enable interactions between community members to support each other and build sustainable businesses primarily focusing on value co-creation,” says Parul Madan.
Coming at the right time where online communication and interaction is seeing a new peak, the platform has gained traction fast. “Within 24 hours we had over 100 users and are currently standing at 950 users from 60 countries, without having invested a cent in paid marketing,” Michail Kosak, Community Head highlights. While DueDash will continue to offer free resources to the startup community, the founders envision a premium service business model in the long run. Asked whether they anticipate challenges to monetise the business model, Parul quickly replies: “I will tackle them along the way. I cannot worry about potential challenges today. Because I am an engineer, I look at challenges as problems that need to be solved. Monetisation will come later on as we go along the development stages.“
Born in a family of entrepreneurs, Parul has been exposed to the business environment since her childhood. “Entrepreneurship comes naturally to me because my father was an industrialist who has built several businesses in his lifetime. I have seen the struggles of having a business and have learned to adapt,” she says. Both Parul and her husband Nikhil have had their own respective entrepreneurial journey’s in the past before joining hands with Michail and Markus to build DueDash. With each of the coming from different cultures and background, they have set-up a strong international team that can cater to the specifics of the global startup community. Asked how Michail and Markus joined the idea of founding DueDash, Parul says: “By coincidence.” “Michail was engaged in the local Entrepreneurs Club Cologne, which is supporting student founders and reched our to Nikhil via LinkedIn for an opportunity to speak at an event,” she further highlights. When the two met over coffee, they found a common basis and little over 10 months later Michail joined DueDash.
Parul and Nikhil both have been founders in the past and built several businesses including in Germany. Diversity and equal opportunity have been core to their values. “In my last German company, we had great diversity in our team with 14 people coming from 9 different countries,” says Parul. In DueDash, that is again a common thread with both Markus and Michail being native Germans whereas for Parul and Nikhil Germany it is an adopted country as they are originally from India.
Talking about cultural barriers which they experienced while working with each other and how they overccme these barriers, Michail says: “I don’t see any cultural barriers. I rather see them as opportunities. Being an international startup is enriching and helps to see issues from different angles”. “Sometimes our discussions of course can be intense, but we have learned to respect each other’s point of view. If leveraged properly the cultural diversity can add immense value,” Parul further adds.
Like any other startup, COVID-19 has also affected DueDash and their future plans. “We cannot deny the effects of the corona virus but overall, we see it as an opportunity,” Michail says. “When we started building the startup in January, we realised quickly that we have to fast track our efforts into building and launching the community. We didn’t deviate from our main strategy, we just decided to accelerate the development of this part of our product.” Parul further adds. Started as an online community, DueDash wants to be more in the future. “We are already in talks with few accelerator programs from the USA and Asia to run their operations on our platform,” Parul says.
Migrating to a country and another culture can be challenging, let alone navigating through the entry barriers and excruciating bureaucratic hassles. On asking upon why they chose Germany and which market fit did they see in Germany, Parul says: “Our product is digital and global by design. Cologne was more of an emotional decision as we came here 20 years ago during our Europe travels and fell in love with the vibrant city. We eventually ended up moving here and setting up our businesses.”
Like any other new place, Germany also offered multiple challenges to the founders of DueDash in terms of operating a business. “People are more risk-averse and it takes more time to build trust. Germans generally are not as open-minded as Indians and dislike uncertainty. In Germany, entrepreneurship has an associated baggage of failure that inhibits young minds to try new ideas,” Parul highlights. Michail further adds: “I also believe that Germany has not been able to leverage the full potential of its citizens, especially with migration backgrounds. In Cologne alone, 40% of the youth have a migration background. Leveraging their different values and cultures could add immense benefit to the startup sector.”
Asked about which support they would have wished for, Parul says: “Operating out of Germany should be made easier. UG is a good step in that direction but the operational costs remain the same like for any other normal private limited. Additionally, there are not enough information about opportunities and support mechanisms in English”.
Having founded multiple start-ups, Parul also has some advice for entrepreneurs seeking to expand to Germany: “Indian entrepreneurs should first and foremost accept Germany as a different country. They should understand the culture and should learn German. This also includes understanding the market dynamics. Entrepreneurs seeking to come here should do a thorough research to understand the cultural nuances, as similarly to India there are also regional peculiarities.”