Guest feature Lars Schatilow | How I failed with my startup… and how I keep going

11/02/2017  |  CODE_n Alumni, CODE_n13 Startup CONTEST, Digital Transformation

We recently shed light on the topic of failing with your startup – something which hurts but can also be an opportunity to learn some important things! If you find yourself in this situation, you could learn from tips on how to get back on track. In today’s guest feature, Lars Schatilow, the founder of the CODE_n13 finalist Selando, tells us his personal story of failure. Our thanks go to Lars not only for sharing the story of his success but also for telling us what defeat actually feels like and the lessons learned.

Our startup,, ended in failure in 2015. In my opinion, our business model was simply too innovative for German investors. The concept was to offer users “C2C transport storage sharing” and our aim was to bring together as many reliable mitpackers as we could over a period of four to six years. Afterwards we would have had a pool of trustworthy drivers who would deliver expensive returned items for Amazon, Otto, or Zalando. So far so good. The problem was, neither the investors nor our own development team were ready for such a business model. As I was the CEO of the startup, my team – and the venture capitalists we were talking to – continuously asked me the same question: “Hey Lars, when will you earn money with this service?” My reply: “Well, not for five years. To grow, we need to invest two million euros over a period of six years.”

Little by little, the team and the investors, who genuinely were interested, said their farewells. Furthermore, our target group – e-commerce shops – weren’t yet interested in C2C return services (although now, in 2017, Amazon has a prototype in the US, where private drivers return consignments).

When your business fails, take a close look at your skills. Review what went well and what went wrong. Talk to former team members and address ongoing conflict as things start to turn downward.

There’s no sense in severing relationships. It’s better to stand back, understand people, and pivot the business together. You already worked together and rolled out a service that would have helped so many people in their everyday lives. Together, you developed high-tech software, a solution that could be reinjected with life or used for other services that are also related to the previous business concept.

I never really felt bad about going offline with MITPACKgelegenheit in 2015. The market and the team were exhausted. And my attitude has always been to “accept the situation and make the best of it.” So I recommend that you stay hungry. If you already had the energy and strength to run your own business, there’s an engine inside you that can’t be simply switched off. It’ll always be somewhere at the back of your mind and before you know it, it will kick into action again.

After my experience with MITPACKgelegenheit, I worked for a consulting company for two and a half years. But I couldn’t suppress the startup spirit inside me and my particular way of working. So I felt this drive to set up my own consulting firm in 2016, and things are going really well.

That doesn’t mean the idea behind MITPACKgelegenheit is dead and buried. It’s just offline for the moment and I still have a certain inclination to relaunch this great human-centric service as soon as possible, assuming I find the right investor and can pull a team together that’s also driven by my vision.

So my last tip would be to adopt an “agile motto” in life. I don’t know if I’ll still be a consultant in ten years, or if I’ll still be helping OEMs manage the process of digital transformation. The reason I say this is there are so many business pains in the world, and there are smart high-tech solutions out there to manage these pains. But I know one day I’ll make a big difference. I simply have to keep learning and stay in touch with my attitude toward continual change so I can help people in their daily lives.

Dr. Lars Schatilow, founder and CEO of CODE_n Alumnus

Speaker at d!conomy: Lars is now a specialist for digital innovation and agile business development.