Niclas Schlopsna, Managing Consultant and CEO, spectup


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Niclas Schlopsna, Managing Consultant and CEO, spectup

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This interview is with Niclas Schlopsna, Managing Consultant and CEO, Spectup.

Niclas Schlopsna, Managing Consultant and CEO, Spectup

Niclas, welcome to Featured! Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an expert in the world of finance, startups, and consulting?

I started with a banking apprenticeship, which gave me a solid grounding in finance. Then, I joined N26, the fintech unicorn, and fell in love with the fast-paced startup world. Picture me, fresh-faced and eager, diving into process optimizations and handling everything from garnishments to training new recruits.

From there, I jumped into consulting at different firms and Deloitte, where I got to play with big ideas and innovative strategies. I helped companies like Audi and Zalando discover new growth paths and even had a hand in venture clienting for BMW Startup Garage—think of it as being a pit crew for the next generation of mobility startups.

Now, I’m leading a fantastic team at Spectup, helping startups from Silicon Valley to Singapore grow and attract investors. And yes, there’s a lot of caffeine involved!

So, that’s my journey in a nutshell—full of twists, turns, and a lot of learning along the way.

Your career path, from consulting to founding Spectup, is quite impressive.  What key decisions or learnings from your past experiences helped shape your current approach to helping startups and corporate spin-offs?

My journey has taught me a few key lessons that shape my approach today.

First, from my time at N26, I learned the importance of agility and adaptability. Startups move fast, and you have to be ready to pivot quickly without losing focus.

During my consulting stints at different firms and Deloitte, I saw firsthand how critical a solid strategy is. But more importantly, I learned that a strategy is only as good as its execution. Helping big brands innovate taught me that no idea is too wild if it’s well-planned and backed by data.

At the BMW Startup Garage, I realized that collaboration is key. Working with startups in the mobility sector, I saw how partnerships can accelerate growth and innovation. No startup is an island; the right connections can make all the difference.

Finally, at Spectup, we focus on turning startups into investor magnets. This means addressing common pitfalls like running out of cash or lacking a product-market fit. My past experiences have shown me that these issues can be preempted with the right planning and support.

In short, my approach is all about being agile, strategic, collaborative, and proactive. And a little humor never hurts!

You mentioned navigating the challenges of scaling operations and talent acquisition for growing software companies. From your experience, what is one often overlooked aspect of scaling that can make or break a company’s success?

One often overlooked aspect of scaling that can make or break a company is maintaining the company culture. As you grow, it’s easy to lose the essence of what made your startup unique. I’ve seen companies focus heavily on hiring and operational efficiency, only to find their once cohesive, driven teams feeling fragmented and disengaged. Ensuring that new hires align with your core values and fostering a sense of community as you scale is crucial. A strong, cohesive culture can drive motivation, innovation, and loyalty, which are essential for sustained success.

You’ve worked with both startups and larger corporations. What are some key differences in mindset or approach that you’ve observed between these two when it comes to innovation and adapting to new market trends?

Startups tend to be more agile and risk-tolerant. They’re not afraid to pivot quickly if something isn’t working. Their smaller size allows for rapid decision-making and experimentation. Think of it like a speedboat—able to change direction swiftly.

Larger corporations, on the other hand, often have more resources but move slower due to established processes and layers of approval. They focus heavily on minimizing risk and ensuring any innovation is scalable. It’s like steering a cruise ship—steady but less nimble.

This means startups can often outpace corporates in adapting to new trends, while corporates can leverage their scale to turn successful innovations into widespread market changes. Both approaches have their strengths, but understanding and balancing these differences can lead to powerful synergies.

You’ve witnessed the evolution of content consumption firsthand. For entrepreneurs who might be struggling to reach their target audience, what’s one unconventional content strategy they could experiment with to stand out in today’s crowded digital landscape?

One unconventional content strategy entrepreneurs could try is leveraging interactive content. Instead of just blog posts or static videos, think quizzes, polls, and interactive infographics. These formats not only engage your audience but also provide valuable insights into their preferences and behaviors. For instance, a startup could create a fun quiz related to their industry that subtly highlights their product’s benefits. It’s a great way to stand out and create a memorable experience that encourages sharing and repeat visits. Plus, who doesn’t love a good quiz?

Your side hustle journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and adapting to market needs. What advice would you give to someone hesitant to start a side hustle due to fear of failure or uncertainty?

If you’re hesitant to start a side hustle due to fear of failure or uncertainty, here’s some advice:

  • Start Small: You don’t have to quit your day job. Begin with manageable tasks and gradually build up.
  • Embrace Failure: Treat failure as a learning opportunity. Every misstep brings valuable lessons.
  • Leverage Your Network: Seek advice and support from friends, family, or mentors who believe in you.
  • Focus on Passion: Choose something you’re passionate about. This will keep you motivated even during tough times. It’s not about making money fast; it’s about solving real problems.

Remember, every successful entrepreneur started somewhere, often with more uncertainty than certainty. Just take the first step and learn as you go.

You’ve helped numerous startups refine their pitch decks to attract investors. What is one common mistake you see startups make when crafting their pitch, and how can they avoid it?

One common mistake startups make when crafting their pitch is focusing too much on their product’s features instead of the problem it solves and its market impact. Investors are more interested in understanding the real-world problem your product addresses and how it stands out from the competition.

To avoid this, follow these steps:

  • Define the Problem: Start your pitch by clearly articulating the problem you’re solving.
  • Showcase the Solution: Explain how your product uniquely addresses this problem.
  • Highlight Market Impact: Emphasize the benefits, potential market size, and how your solution fits into the broader market context.
  • Use Data and Stories: Back up your claims with data and real-world examples to make your pitch more compelling and relatable.

A pro-tip: Don’t just talk about what your product does—talk about what it does for people. Show the emotional and practical benefits, not just the technical specs. This approach makes your pitch memorable and engaging.

From your experience helping companies navigate fundraising, what is one piece of advice you’d give to entrepreneurs who are preparing to approach potential investors for the first time?

From my experience helping companies navigate fundraising, here’s a key piece of advice for first-time entrepreneurs: Be prepared to tell a compelling story. Investors hear pitches all the time, so you need to stand out.

  • Craft a Narrative: Connect your journey to your startup’s mission. Show your passion and commitment.
  • Highlight the Problem: Clearly define the problem your startup solves and why it matters.
  • Show Traction: Use data to demonstrate market demand and your startup’s progress.
  • Know Your Numbers: Be ready to discuss financials, projections, and how you plan to use the investment.

Remember, investors invest in people as much as in ideas. Show them why you and your team are the right people to execute this vision.

Looking ahead, what emerging trends in finance, technology, or entrepreneurship are you most excited about, and why do you think they hold significant potential?

Looking ahead, I’m particularly thrilled about the wild ride that is fintech, especially with AI and blockchain teaming up like the dynamic duo of finance. AI is making banking smarter and more personalized, while blockchain is turning transactions into a secure, transparent playground.

Then there’s the green-tech wave—think renewable energy startups sprouting up like eco-friendly mushrooms. These innovations are tackling our planet’s biggest headaches and making serious cash in the process.

Oh, and let’s not forget the remote work revolution. It’s like the Wild West out there, with tools popping up to make virtual collaboration as seamless as if we were all back in the office—minus the commute and stale coffee. These trends are not just hot; they’re reshaping industries, solving real problems, and opening up new opportunities faster than you can say “startup unicorn.”

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

In wrapping up, it’s been quite a journey through my career and insights. From my early days in banking, discovering the exhilarating world of startups at N26, diving into data and strategy at Civey and Deutsche Bahn, to playing with big ideas at Different and Deloitte, and finally leading the charge at Spectup—we’ve covered a lot.

Key takeaways? Always be adaptable, never underestimate the power of a solid strategy, and don’t forget to inject a bit of humor and humanity into everything you do. Whether you’re pitching to investors, scaling your operations, or exploring the latest trends, remember that authenticity and passion are your greatest assets. Thanks for diving into my story—here’s to the exciting future ahead!

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