I’ve been flying to SF regularly for 4 years now, and with much increased frequency this year. I hate being tired, and get really grumpy, so I’ve developed a pretty well working model of how to prevent and treat jet lag. It’s based on experience, and this great research, from which I learned that:

  • Your body is able to adjust its internal clock by about 1.5h per day going West and 1h going East (internal clock is not sleep rhythm but depth)
  • You can use melatonin to trigger sleep (larger doses) and to slowly adjust your circadian rhythm (small doses)
  • You can use bright light to trigger wake time (daylight or a daylight lamp)

Here’s a rough schedule for going westwards (i.e. EU to US).

Roughly 1 Week before taking off

  • Stop drinking coffee. Why? It messes up your internal clock and despite how well you metabolise coffee (I’m bad at it), it will have an impact. To avoid headaches, ween yourself off by reducing by 1cup/day from your normal levels. You want to be at zero caffeine (no tea or Mate, either) about 5 days before you take off.

3-4 days before you take off

  • Go to bed 1.5 hours later each day, and spend the last hours in bright light (e.g. fully cranked up laptop displays, lights on, etc.).
  • Don’t kickstart the mornings – sleep in, slowly wake up, exercise later in the day

On the flight

  • Try to take an early flight and sleep the first few hours, so you can get through the rest of the day.
  • Skip the first meal if possible.
  • Choose a window seat so you can sit in daylight for the second half of the flight.

Landing & first day

  • Eat a healthy meal when you arrive. Plane food sucks and bloats you, and light, healthy food will give you energy to make it through the day.
  • Exercise if you can, or spend some time at work to keep busy.
  • Go to bed as late as you can, I usually keel over at 10 o’clock when in SF.
  • Take some Magnesium and/or Melatonin to make sure you sleep through the night.
  • Sleep in a room as dark and quiet and possible.

Day 1-3 Depends on how much you preslept

  • Don’t worry about getting up early as long as you have at least 6 hours of sleep.
  • Spend time in bright (sun) light in the mornings to readjust your clock.
  • Go to bed later by the day until you’re on normal time (if it’s short stay, just get up and sleep early)
  • Follow your normal routines for exercise and food (lots and healthy)

Before you go back

  • Start going to bed earlier 3 days before you leave (eastwards you can only adjust about 1 hour/day)
  • You can take small doses of Melatonin (.5mg) in the late afternoon (I haven’t been that disciplined yet)
  • Make sure you’re very tired on your last day: go out (don’t drink too much), exercise, or just work hard

Return flight

  • Have a healthy meal before you fly so you can skip the bad plane food
  • Late afternoon is the best time to fly, as you can go to sleep quickly
  • Sleep as fast as you can (Melatonin or a sleeping aid is a must)

When landing

  • Eat a good meal as soon as you can to readjust clock, drink lots of water
  • Unpack your bags, run errands at home
  • Keep lights low so you become tired
  • Go to bed late, take Melatonin to sleep through the night

First days at home

  • Don’t book too many early things, give yourself time to readjust
  • In the mornings, expose yourself to bright/daylight
  • In the evenings, keep lights low.
  • Slowly use less Melatonin each day until you don’t need it to fall asleep (I start at 5mg, going down to 1mg over 3-4 days).

After 4 days back home

  • Welcome to your life.

I managed to return this Monday from SF, and be back on track by Wednesday. It works.

This schedule is obviously easier if you have a flexible work environment, but you can decide how much you want to prepare yourself, adjust to local rhythm at all, and how much you are prepared to suffer upon your return.

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AngelList für Anfänger

  1. Erstellt komplette Profile für eure Person und euer Unternehmen – und füllt diese mit hilfreichen Informationen. Ziel ist es, Investoren dazu zu bringen, auf „Follow“ zu klicken – und das passiert nicht, wenn sie auf eurer Profilseite neben dem Namen nur ein Logo zu Gesicht bekommen.
  2. Schöpft die Vernetzungsmöglichkeiten der Plattform voll aus, indem ihr vielen interessanten Leuten folgt.
  3. Gebt regelmäßige Updates! Je öfter euer Startup im Newsfeed der euch folgenden Investoren auftaucht, desto höher ist die Wahrscheinlichkeit, dass sie sich bei der nächsten Finanzierungsrunde positiv an euch erinnern.
  4. Nutzt AngelList zur Recherche geeigneter Business Angels: Wer interessiert sich für meine Themen? Wer hat schon einmal in meinem Geschäftsfeld investiert?
  5. Bindet die Plattform schon früh in die Investorensuche ein und nicht erst während einer Finanzierungsrunde. Besteht ein Kontakt zum Zeitpunkt des eigentlichen Pitches schon länger, ist die Chance, dass er Gehör findet, um einiges größer. Daher lohnt es sich, schon im Vorfeld der Fundraising-Phase die Fühler auszustrecken.

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Key ingredients for Incubators/Accelerators

Most commonly discussed in bold.

  • Positioning / Competition / Goals / Location
  • Why this / Value proposition to all stakeholders / Best alternatives
  • Financing / Business model / Sponsorship
  • Deal flow / Awareness / Applications
  • Selection / Criteria / Mechanisms
  • Deal / Negotiation / Investment
  • Onboarding / Induction
  • Program style / Depth vs length / Organisation
  • Coworking or not / Events / Mentoring style
  • Mentor acquisition / Mentor program / Mentor benefits / How to get top level
  • Top teams / How to identify winners / Process to improve bad teams
  • Demo Day format / Presentation / Community involvement
  • Investor connections / Follow on funding / Class funds / Relevance to international investors / Angels involved
  • Long term support / Community / Alumni network
  • Pro Rata investments / long term investment planning / How to double down

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European success that could only come from here?

Caution: excessive stereotyping in this post!

People quote Skype ad Nauseam when talking about category changing models from Europe. It’s time for the new generation to come up with businesses that actually take advantage of the unique makeup of Europe and show that we’ve got it.

I’ve been looking at the various European grant and support programs in what is called Horizon 2020, FP7, and various other names. These are EU and EC designed programs that are supposed to come up with a new mega success in Europe, or at least support regions and markets to compete on an international scale. All those programs quote the great minds, research, education, and design from Europe. And all of those programs remind us of “world beating companies such as Skype” that play to the unique abilities of Europe.

Where are the new players in that category, and why are they unique and why can they only be built here? Skype couldn’t have built in the US alone, for the simple fact that long distance phone calls were already cheap enough or free by the time it came around. Europe with its borders and the built in issues was a perfect place for Skype to emerge. MySQL and Linux were probably rooted in the strong socialist (for lack of a better, or worse, word) nature of the north, and the resulting strength of OSS there (also influenced by the strong academic and scientific education and resulting community). Betfair and it’s siblings are of course the result of strong betting/gambling cultures, especially in the UK, that are regulated out of existence in the US. H&M and Zara aren’t tech startups, but still immensely successful companies based on the design heritage in their respective cultures, much like Ikea is the result of no-nonsense design combined with wonderfully Swedish egalitarian principles of affordability (the egalitarianism is still there, not so much the affordability I might add).

What are companies that are playing to similar principles, and build their raison d’être simply on cultural, regulatory, or market realities?

Transferwise is one I’m very familiar with (Seedcamp was an early investor and I’ve spent a lot of time with Kristo and Taavet). In most markets, nobody besides marginalised minorities is even thinking about cross border financial transactions. That’s why I’m so excited about it. Oh, and Taavet was early at Skype. Go figure.

I’m sure there are more, and I’m already thinking about markets that might be unique to Europe. The nucleus for this post was Fabrice’s piece on Craigslist. They have about 90% of the classifieds market in the US (a guess), and are prohibiting a single player to take over their market. Of course, as per Fabrice’s post, the mighty will probably stumble and fall, but this is the reality today. Might this lack of a clear leader in Europe make for an opportunity to build something? Of course, Zoopla in the UK, the Scout Group in Germany, and many others have taken some of those markets, but there are many more white spots than in the US.

If you’re in Europe, and thinking of something big to build, find one of those markets where you don’t just have speed, ideas, and great execution on your side. An inherently different and hard to understand market might be the biggest moat you can build to prevent a well capitalised competitor from the US to enter your space.

If you have an idea of some of those markets, leave it in the comments, I’m excited to hear about this stuff. Or, even better, build a kick ass company and take that market for yourself and replace the same name to pop up in those policy briefings.

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Why Apple doesn’t get community

I was reading [this great post by Tom Tunguz]( on the tube and realized one thing: apple doesn’t get the ‘community’ aspect nailed in their software because they don’t have the culture and values across their customers like our other great social products do.

Reddit, tumblr, soundcloud, Instagram – all amazing social products have their own community and put an amazing amount of effort into keeping them alive and true (HT David at SC and Topher at tumblr who’ve worn the community hat proud and high).

Apple simply uses ‘social glue’ type products like twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to augment the experience of their users. They allow you to take your output back to where your friends are by some level of mostly superficial integration.

While Startups often fear Apple as a category killer (filters in the phone app? Simple video editing?), they oversee that community and a sense of belonging is a much stronger barrier to entry and mechanism of defense. Especially early on, a lot of companies fail to build a brand and sense of style that allows customers to closely identify with the product. This is a variant of lack of focus and decision taking that is prevalent in many product focused companies: my suggestion is to build a much stronger voice, _intentionally_ excluding customer groups so that your core users feel as much at home as possible, allowing you to build the social fabric that will make your community.

It also helps to not build a feature, but a business (best use of VC parlance in this post yet). Actually, building a movement or a tribe (+1 Seth Godin point) is the corollary to that in the social universe.

So, why does Apple not get this? Actually, I totally think they do. They are many times smarter than I am, and therefore have figured it out a while ago: their users are too broad, too generic, and from too many different cultures. If you build essentially 4 products (iPad, iPhone, Mac, Laptops, and add ons), you can’t start targeting your packaged software at certain groups. You need to go wide and let others take care of the community bit.

Once that is done, you can _use_ these communities by integrating (twitter, fb, YouTube) or _leapfrog_ because you have penetration of devices (see the new sharing through airdrop in iOS 7). People then use these functions as tools and infrastructure in their products and habits – making Apple much more engrained in the experience.

Being infrastructure sounds commoditized, but in the end, is the better way for Apple to deal with its multiple million users, who all care about their own communities. A classic case of ‘design is what you leave out’.

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Secret road life tips

Each year, we go on a 3 week trip with about 25 of our founders. We take them all around the US – New York, Boston, and San Francisco. The calendar is filled back to back with meetings, and we are constantly travelling.

What I learnt from the past three trips is how you travel smoothly, stay alive, and still get work done:

Travel light

Try to reduce your luggage to a minimum. This doesn’t only increase movability, it also makes dressing much faster.

  • Planning laundry in my calendar so I can take clothes for only one week (8 days to be exact)
  • Taking clothes that match each other so I can combine anything with anything
  • Have a large enough suitcase/bag so I can simply throw stuff together when I am running late or need to leave fast
  • I use this duffle bag (90 litres), my super cool backpack, and I take a small shoulder bag as an alternative for days in meetings
  • I pack items I can use for different things – running shoes that are decently stylish to wear during the day, items I can layer in the different climates

Stay Healthy

One of the obvious problems, especially when having an established workout or fitness routine at home, is sports and diet. Since I started to take this more seriously at home, I have put an effort into keeping it up on the road.

  • Get plenty of sleep. It’s the key to staying fit.
  • Use the jet lag to your advantage: I get up early and go to the hotel gym or do exercises in my room.
  • Go running or walking where you can. Take the stairs, not the elevators.
  • Avoid junk food like the plague. Anyone who knows me is aware this is my Kryptonite.
  • Eat lots of green food, and make sure you stay fuelled during the day with nuts and fruit – no candy.


Being in the action for three weeks is a lot of fun. However, just like at home, you need to make sure to unwind a little to start the next week on the road with the same energy as before.

  • Meet friends. I have amazing friends in all of the places we go to – the US trip is actually a great opportunity for me to see them.
  • Stay with friends. This is even better, especially over the weekends. Spending your waking hours with people you care about makes being away from home much easier.
  • Talk about something other than startups and tech. Give your mind a break.

Stay in touch with home

Being in a long distance relation ship from Berlin to London is terrible enough. Adding 6-9 hour of time difference to that is hard. I usually talk to Isa at least in the morning and evening, and we stay in touch during the day as well. I can deal with two weeks without seeing her that way, but 3 weeks on the road without her just make me miserable. This is the hardest part.

  • Having a smartphone and sending pictures and messages is gold.
  • I added an international voice package to my US phone. Best decision ever.

Basically, travelling and being on the road makes you vulnerable and amplifies every experience – for good and bad. In the last two weeks I have found the above to be helpful for me. I know I will be travelling more than ever this year, so I hope I can keep this up.

How do you decide on the CEO if you haven’t yet

One from the email outbox, regarding a founder who asked about focus for each cofounder, as they were feeling they were duplicating work.

My answer:

Think about the three things that are most important for your business at the moment, and where you spend the most time.

I would assume it is something like building product, fundraising/long term planning, and distribution/getting users/talking to users are your main priorities at the moment. This roughly translates into CEO, CTO, and COO. Now, fixing the exact positions and names to individuals now is probably overkill, but between those areas, try to decide who is best.

  • Who would best present the company at a conference? Who would talk to investors and sell the company best? Who would spend time hiring senior folks?
  • Who makes the best decisions about technology and product? Who is the best coder? Who understands implications of big product and technology decisions best?
  • Who understands the user psychology best? Who figures out the smartest way to get more users?

On top of these – who enjoys doing what?

Now, you might not know all the answers to these questions, but try turning them around. That means, think about who is most likely to be better at it that the others. Think about which parts of these questions who would like to know more about, learn more about, and be good at.

You can still change the exact area of focus later, but these three things are what needs to get done first. Thus, picking the best for each area is key. You will still need to find a good way of dividing decision power, but having each area with one of you as the “Chief Of” will be very helpful.