Lately, I’ve been asked a lot about my new venture «betascale». I’ve been keeping it under wraps so far – but now that the market launch is imminent, I thought it’s probably time to give some background info.
«Scratch your own itch»
What fascinates me about building new companies is the period between the time when a company exists only as an idea in my head until the time when the company becomes independent – i.e. «brings employees bread and wages», customers make payments and the market begins to adopt the company.
So, I asked myself: how can I experience this part of entrepreneurship as many times as possible?
To do this, I did a little math: I am now 45 years old, the average cycle of a venture is 5-10 years and I can reliably build two companies in parallel. With a remaining life expectancy of 30 years, I can still build around 8 ventures. I found this number to be sadly low. What can I do?!
«A company that builds companies»
Since my first days as an entrepreneur, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of a company that builds companies. I’ve been mentally tinkering with it all these years. If instead of just building a new startup, I build a company that builds startups, that sad 8 can be multiplied. And thus things are less sad.
Combine that with the fact that I’ve learned over the last few years that startup entrepreneurs are constantly reinventing the wheel. Often it’s a lack of experience, sometimes it’s a lack of focus. In any case, a lot of money is spent on things that could easily be copied. Things like accounting setups, ESOPs, personnel administration, sales & marketing, but also code for generic components. This money should actually be used for the actual USP of the startup.
I thus thought: what if you could make these components maximally reusable? I asked myself this question with a big Excel sheet and lo and behold, you can build «Minimal Viable Companies» with fundamentally less capital.
To achieve this reusability, however, critical things must be in place:
- There must be a focus on one type of business – at betascale this is SaaS
- The production process must be industrial in nature
- The control must be with the company builder
- Everything that has no subject matter and no domain specifics must be made consistently reusable
This concept of reusability is of course found in the software that is built, but also in the services such as backoffice, accounting, and sales & marketing. In the next few months, we will be launching various «Professional Services as a Service» offerings that can also be used by third-party companies. We are making our own infrastructure available to third parties, so to speak. Sooner or later, we will probably do the same with the software, e.g. as an open-source model.
Combining company building with venture capital and corporate innovation
If reusability is given, there remain 3 other problems that need to be solved for scaling:
- Domain know-how: In a way, it is easy to always build new SaaS, but it is not easy to build the respective industry know-how. We solve this by working with larger companies in the innovation space. We provide them with consulting and co-building for specific challenges that can be solved with SaaS
- Venture capital: Our model requires a relatively large amount of money due to the high cadence of startups – we aim for a medium-term pace of 1 startup per month. Fortunately, there is a significant demand (even in these times) for early-stage, local good investment opportunities. We’ve already had a lot of demand in the last few years, this is where we can now create appropriate opportunities. We are doing this with our own venture capital vehicle
- Doers: Of course, the model also requires a relatively large number of employees. With our startup program, we have launched a concept that enables interested youngsters and professionals to get to know the startup sector, work with us, and eventually take the lead in one of our ventures
Thus, betascale today stands in the triad of «company building – corporate innovation – venture capital». We believe that these things belong together under one roof.
Blood refresher from here for here
Anyone who knows me a little knows that my role models are not Jobs, Gates, or Musk, but rather Escher and Duttweiler. In recent years, I have often asked myself where the great companies of the next decades in Switzerland will come from. The pattern is always the same: if something becomes bigger and more successful, it is bought away abroad. Or it is even founded abroad by Swiss people.
In recent years, I have been asked a few times by economic areas promoters and politicians what needs to be done to get more innovative ICT companies. My answer was always simple – «you just have to do it». betascale is in a way our answer to this question. And yes, still: «We have a strategy – it’s called doing things.».
See, if we at betascale can encourage just one young founder to take the entrepreneurial path – to motivate himself or herself for risk instead of security, for adventure instead of regulated circumstances – yes – choose life over waiting for others – and then also creates jobs, the whole thing has already paid off.
And: We deliberately chose to be based in the Basel region. Precisely because the region is a «Brachland» in the ICT sector, we think we can grow up faster here. Our ambition can therefore be summed up in one sentence: «2k jobs in 50 startups in 5 years».
A lot has already happened since the foundation by me and my co-founder Mattia Rüfenacht. We have opened a branch office for software development in Pristina, Kosova.
A bank became a strategic investor (detail announcement to come up soon), and with Nils Aggett and Alexander Hasler, we were able to gain two senior partners who have an enormous wealth of experience and a large network in the area of financing and corporate innovation. The bottom line is, that as of early February 23, there are already 12 people working for betascale. And there are a handful of startups in the making – in the «factory», so to speak. In other words, the next few months will have a few launches!
Everything under one hat
I am often asked how I manage with multiple companies at the same time. I am still fully involved as founder and CEO of Parashift. There, after an intensive investment phase, Parashift is now growing fast, approaching break-even and starting to expand globally.
The sensible thing to do would have been to wait a few years and launch betascale after Parashift, so to speak. That I didn’t do that has two reasons; firstly I feel that I don’t have the time left for it (8!!), secondly, it is my co-founder Mattia Rüfenacht who as CEO with the rest of the team relentlessly drives everything operational in the daily business at betascale. Without him, betascale would not exist any more than without me.
So let’s go!
The great interest in Betascale over the last weeks and months has truely surprised us. Sure, the whole thing is unconventional and a bit crazy (“what else?” 😊) – but we seem to have hit a nerve with the topic in each of the three areas.