Interview with Miriam Bundel, Founder of Shelf Sailor
11. April 2017
Customer Validation 101
22. April 2017

Introducing our Facilitator: Daniel Johnsen

We asked Daniel a few questions, so that you can get some insights from your facilitator. Spot on – introducing Daniel Johnsen:


Daniel introducing himself at our last years event (06/2016).

Hi Daniel, who are you and what do you do, when you are not on a stage?

That’s a tough question, no day is the same — I have my own startups I’m exploring, coding out and seeing if there’s a market that will pay enough to continue developing and scale. Frequently I work with small businesses with quick projects on a consulting basis.

In the entrepreneur ecosystem in my (current) city of Louisville, Kentucky, USA, I often meet with early stage founders and teams to hear their current status and introduce them to resources in the region or tools to help with their current challenges and opportunities. I also travel around the world for startup workshops and events similar to Start & Found.

To destress, I enjoy traveling, meeting new people, debating business opportunities, powerlifting and cooking.

You are travelling once again about 7000 km all the way from Louisville, Kentucky to Germany. You already got an impression from last years event. How would you describe the spirit and the energy compared to events in the U.S.?

Hamburg holds a special place for me, as it kicked off my first trip to Europe — what was supposed to be a 4 day trip in a backpack but I didn’t return to Louisville for 21 days due to a trip to Dublin, Ireland to emcee an event there, then concluded in Port of Spain, Trinidad.  Let’s just say I didn’t pack for 21 days or plan anything else out for that amount of time.

The energy was high, people participated, the organizing team did a great job and put on one of the most impressive experiences I’ve seen in over 40 events around the world.

Three distinct experiences stand out about Hamburg:

While visiting with teams during the weekend I noticed and overheard the teams talking in German. However, the teams immediately switched to English when I would approach so I could understand their progress, challenges, needs and successes. That respect to accomodate for someone to be able to participate when there is a barrier such as language was impressive and humbling.

During the final presentations we experienced a magical and powerful moment: One of the presenters clammed up and went blank. Without much hesitation the 160 people in the audience erupted in excitement and support. I got a bit emotional because that’s the reason we come together and support each other (and as I type this my eyes are tearing up — stupid onions!).

The last really, really humbling experiences was around where I would sleep for 2 days after the event. When I was boarding the flight to Germany I got a call (I rarely get calls from the team that places the emcees/facilitators around the world; they call if you did something wrong or need urgent help) and they were in a bit of a bind: they needed someone experienced to facilitate Dublin’s Startup Weekend after Hamburg’s event. I said yes, boarded the flight and then realized I had to first figure out how to get to Dublin (easy) but then how do I get back to somewhere in the USA to get to my next event in Trinidad — I had already scheduled flights out of Ft. Lauderdale/Miami. Sunday’s closing event I shared I didn’t have a place to stay and 3 people approached me afterwards and all offered their extra room. I know I would do the same in my city, but to experience that with community members I had just met 48 hours ago was very impressive and helped me get a good night’s sleep.

And then I got lost running before my departing flight, but that’s another story (tip for Hamburg, make the streets straight, they wind around … a lot…)

What are the things you are looking forward at this year’s Start & Found?

I always love hearing what happens afterwards when people leave on Sunday, how they apply the experience to their next idea or endeavor.

Do you have any expectations from the attendees?

To work hard, come with an open mind, be fast paced, willing to collaborate and make magic happen.

How would you describe the Startup Ecosystem in the U.S. compared to the Startup Ecosystem you met in June 2016 in Hamburg? Do you see any cultural differences?

I’ve had an opportunity to travel the world and experienced different cultures and their startup ecosystems. The USA is very risk tolerant and willing to experiment and know that the concept, execution, value proposition or pricing is incorrect. The German culture seems to be more risk averse than I would have imagined. Some of the early stage traction ideas of asking for payment without the product being ready is common in the USA, however I’ve not experienced any other community being as willing to test the market than USA based entrepreneurs. That’s neither good nor bad, just a different approach. In the States, being wrong, faking it til you make it, losing $10,000USD on experiments is part of the game of starting a business — eventually you get it right, but it comes at a cost. I’m of the belief you can never have 100% of the information to predict or impact an outcome, eventually you have to decide to move forward, even if the decision isn’t optimal or efficient — just move forward.

Thanks Daniel. Have a safe flight and see you soon in Hamburg!

Serhat Kaya
Serhat Kaya
Serhat Kaya is Founder & Managing Director at XPERIENTS – a digital communication agency in Hamburg. He is also one of the great minds behind the Start & Found. Additionally he is facilitating events around the globe. Formerly he worked in several digital companies like D-Level, Toptranslation and Hanse Ventures. Trained as IT-specialist and studied Business Psychology, he is passionate about startups and innovation.