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A German and Swiss Entrepreneurial Conversation with Priscilla Schelp

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

By: Thoughts of a Random Citizen Podcast

Priscilla, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm very excited to talk about the many things that you're involved with. First off, I always like to talk about people's life experiences and in an attempt to potentially motivate anyone to do the same.

We talk about a bit of travel on this podcast as well, specifically how those experiences have shaped people, such as yourself. Seeing as you've sailed across the Atlantic and considering that's super cool and something that I've wanted to do, sailing around the world for some time now. Can you tell us about that experience and maybe explain if it is, or isn't a good idea to just attempt.

Yeah, thanks you for having me. I'm really excited to be here and I'm happy to share. It's really tough. It's mentally even more tough than physical. So it's more like always that's the challenge. I want to do it. I want to show myself that I can do it. That was the way I was approaching it. It's I think if you want to have nice sailing and so on, it's better to island hopping, like in Greece, you have more than 200 islands. That's super nice. And then you can just. Yeah, one day I go to a marina one day, I want to snorkel.

So I think , we have a way of seeing it in a romantic way as traveling around the world, sailing around the world, sailing across the Atlantic, and across the Atlantic, the weather was so tough that we were on the boat. We were three people in total and there was no day during the crossing where we were able to swim. So we were stuck on this boat, it was like super, super hot during the day. We actually, sometimes, pulled up a bucket of water to put a feet inside and we have to ration everything like the food, the water. So we have defined shifts where, because you can't stop on the ocean. So you have to sail 24/7 and divided by three people, so we try different shift systems and you sleep little, you get sun strokes and just like it's.

Sounds like a blast!

No, so really and at the end, we all thought never, ever again.

Who were the three people that you were with?

So one person was a friend of mine that owns a boat. So, he sailed across the Atlantic multiple times. The other one was my boyfriend at that time. You need to be careful who you're going with.

Yeah. Was it a big boat or really small cause sailing, that must have taken-

It was a bigger boat, 18 meters and it was a really good boat. It was luxurious in the way that such a boat for three people crossing as I'd like to guess. Okay. Because if people charter boats, they will make the boat completely full. What happens is sometimes they have just half the cabins because you have to there's two shifts.

So basically you have like one bed for two people. Hell of the time, one person sleeping in it as a half, say as a person. We even though it's we had situations where we really annoyed each other so badly that it's like, you can feel like pushing the person overboard. Imagine three weeks, it's like nearly, like we took 17 days, 10 hours, 50 minutes, and you're stuck on this boat. A lot of times the weather's so bad that you cannot really do something. So you really have to be okay with yourself, otherwise you're in trouble.

You started to lose it a bit, I assume. So island hopping is the way to go. I can't imagine if you did go around the world., the pacific is another animal in and of itself, I couldn't imagine.

There are different challenges. One is going across the Atlantic and then you are officially allowed to wear a red trousers, officially. But the thing is, if you sail from Europe to the Caribbean, that's okay-ish, it can be dangerous, but if you go the other way around, then you sometimes have icebergs and stuff. So the weather is much more dangerous. Then you have another routes that's actually very popular and it's around the Cape Horn. If you do that as a rule, that if you are, for example, with the queen, you're officially allowed to put your shoes on the table. So yeah, that’s some of the key challenges to go for.

Wow. I didn't know that there are so many rules involved with sailing. That's funny. I appreciate you taking the time and walking us through that. I really wanted to talk about this company that you're forming, networks . It's an AI platform that if I'm correct matches individuals and clubs together. Can you elaborate on the purpose of this platform and the moment that made you aware to fill the specific need?

Yeah. Basically I bring young people into old clubs. So I won my first management award was 19 and I was awarded by one of the best management clubs in Germany. Then I traveled around the world for my work and joined different clubs. I was always the youngest and always also one of the few females. I thought I got so much by being at these clubs. I learned by spending time with these people, how's they make decisions, I found mentors, I found jobs, I got ideas, it's incredible.

It's so many opportunities. I started talking to people and figured that most of them did not hear of many of the clubs. So there's no transparency. What are the criteria to get in? And most of the times you need references. That's how was the clubs ensure the quality and on the other hand, many clubs are over aging, so they are looking for young people. And so there's a mismatch and I tried to connect it.

I tried to enable people that are really innovative and want to make changes for the better have an impact. I want to provide them with the networks they need to make them come true. On the other hand, I mean, that's the legacy. I want to bring them into the future and they actually massively contribute to economic growth to international relations. So there are studies on that that say massively, impact stability, freedom, safety, security.

Cool. So who can qualify to become part of this network?

There’s one stage where I decide who gets on networkx, on the platform. Obviously, I want to have people that want and are willing to make an impact. I don't look just on grades and which amazing universities and so on, but I also look on personality and visions, and goals, I like good people. I like kindhearted people. Honestly, I don't want to get people in there that are basically, one to think about the next Porsche, but think about how they can make the life of other people or like the world generally better.

As an entrepreneur and in the process of building this platform networkx, can you walk us through or tell us some of the challenges, maybe the biggest one that has just been stressing you out from this venture?

There are a lot of challenges and you need to see all the times that you don't freak out. I think the biggest thing is you really need to work on your mindset. You need to work on your willingness to grow and learn because you have to do that literally every day. There were multiple challenges.

I can give some advice I learned until now. The first thing is you don't need to have an idea to be a founder. There are platforms like one of the best is Y Combinator. There are people that are founders that have amazing ideas and they are looking for co-founders.

So I think I could have gone, or I would have gone much earlier into entrepreneurship if I would have known. I thought I have to wait for that idea and that's bullshit, so that's the first thing I learned. Then if you have an idea, and you're not a technical person, you're sitting there, you have this amazing idea and have no technical co-founder and no money to basically have some or building your product. You have a lot of chicken and egg situations. I solved it for me in a really funny way. People taught me, Priscilla, you don't have an MVP, a minimum viable product, like a prototype, and you don't have co-founders.

Usually this disqualifies you already to get accelerators or to get to get funding. So, people told me you need to find a co-founder and like you need to have a technical co-founder or you need to get money. I thought, what do I do? So, what I did is that I read a lot of books and one was the one about Netflix, a company culture, no rules. It's about having the maximum talent density. Then also another person told me, yeah, you should have an advisory board.

I did not have any co-owners no prototype, no nothing. I started gatherings the best people I know and form an advisory board. I have a specialist in every area, like people that are like super great people, but also very successful, so good on paper, but when good, in reality as well. That has enabled me to attract co-founders, so I have a technical co-founder. Our MVP is ready next week. We have one week delay actually. Now we are looking for investment. You just need to find solutions-

Really quickly I didn't quite catch what was that platform in which connects people who are looking for founders and co-founders, cause we'll throw it in the show notes for anyone who's interested.

One of the best ones is Y Combinator co-founder matching, and Y Combinator is really famous. Basically investors and accelerators that really create trends by their investments, and you have things like Elon Musk, Google, KKR, and Y Combinator. So, what they love is the tomorrow, you know.

Okay. I know that you've told me one of the areas in which you're trying to reach out or are having actual interest from arising out of Africa. For whatever reason, that surprised me quite a bit, who specifically is interested in your product in Africa and then do you see much growth as a region in general from that area?

We are having our prototype really ready and we have pilot clubs and we have partners. Then one of the partners is the startup, a startup launch Africa. So these are entrepreneurs in Africa and if you look at the club cultures, there are actually a lot of also wealthy people and Africa and there are also clubs.

It’s not that companies are developing countries where there are no clubs or no networks, so we plan to be global and we will definitely also cover Africa. I have a personal interest in it because my mentor is from there, from Nigeria and she is really amazing very successful and a great role model.

Yeah. I just, it was a surprise to me because typically, you know, one to have a club over there specifically, but as like an entrepreneurial club. I was actually just interviewing a guy a few weeks ago, who, they're having in east Africa and Uganda, these orphanages where these kids just don't have much. Is that something that you guys are connecting with people in that regard or not really, I guess it's something long-term.

Two things. The first thing is about entrepreneurship, we have a trend on scaling and that's due to computers, smartphones, AI, so everyone can build a startup in his or her garage. It doesn't matter if the garage is in Africa or in Germany or in Spain, and that's why location, I think generally gets less important. I think we'll take big chunks away from large companies because we are going more instead of building one big product, and push it and we go to customize solutions and that's possible with AI now. And that's why you have more and more like small start ups that serve certain niche. Regarding what we try to do, what did you mention as an example?

I was just specifically asking the entrepreneurial, outlook in Africa and how there was a gentleman who was working with an orphanage over in Africa talking about how they didn't even have energy over there.

Yeah, so we work with service clubs as well and clubs that are focused on international relations and a lot of these push philanthropic projects, so in that way we support that.

Okay. I know obviously you're based in Europe, but you have intentions of US being a large part of your business. For all the listeners over there. How do they reach out and become a part of this product? Obviously the MVP is about to be released, and then on top of that are you partnering with universities and finding in the process of building. Can you elaborate on all that for us?

Yeah. So we partner, for example, with universities, incubators, accelerators, or also organizations that give away scholarships. These are our primary focus of the people that we actually take on networks. So basically you can sign up on the website or contact me on LinkedIn or there's a contact form on the website.

Club match making Networkx - Priscilla Schelp

Cool. Well, we'll post that in the show notes, obviously for anyone in the US who's interested. So one thing that a lot of people in the US definitely don't have to consider is the language barrier that kind of exists over here in Europe. How are you dealing with that with such a platform that you're building.

The language barrier?

I guess it's not really a barrier. I'm still getting used to it, being an American living in Barcelona, but I guess, how do you deal with, if you have a really good applicant in Spain who speaks Spanish primarily and only.

How do you deal with that? If you have people of interest in Barcelona or you specifically creating, networks in all of Spain and then using that to promote within specifically Spain, how do you deal cross border?

So the thing is maybe to just quickly tell you as a pro process, like you import, for example, your LinkedIn fill in a few question, and if you get accepted, you can choose the categories of clubs you're interested in as the location.


Then you get just the clubs. You can just see the clubs where you feel fulfills the criteria. You don't have to look at every club and see, do I even fill the criteria? And then in these ones, descriptions so you can see how international are they. So if you, for example, are looking for a club then in Barcelona, you would probably choose someone that's more international focus, maybe has diplomats in it. So actually what is that there are a lot of clubs especially in like the like the main cities where you have consulates, for example, or you have embassies. There a clubs actually, for example, Americans Spanish or here in Frankfurt, we have American German business club or American German society. So they have a lot of these ones. Yeah. You're surprised because you don't know. And there are a lot of these and no one knows like a few people and I tried to solve that problem.

I was literally thinking about filling that need over here in Barcelona. Cause I was like, how does this not exist? There needs to be some kind of collaboration on that, but that's good. So I'm assuming that exists over here in Barcelona, in Spain as well. Yeah, that's right.

Yeah, I can show you the just for you, I can show you an overview over the Barcelona clubs.

Let's do that. So speaking of Europe, obviously there's a lot of potential growth in certain, maybe underdeveloped areas in Europe for different states in the U S it's quite simple to cross border transact and just do business in general. Can you tell us more about the startup system in Europe, specifically?

Yes, I can actually. There’s some shifts as well, due to Brexit. So actually one of the favorite locations in Europe was the UK because it's a place still where you can found a company, a limited company with really little cost.

Now with Brexit, it's basically if you are sitting in the UK, you then have to do double accounting and they are like additional restrictions. I think it's getting less and less. In Germany, for example, it's a free version, but the investors don't like it, so they don't invest. So you have to switch it into another legal form. And then for example, Germany's 25,000 euros then, or in Switzerland.

25,000 euros to form a company?

Yeah, in Germany or in Switzerland it’s 30,000, and then you have obviously lawyer cost and so on. And if that's, so that's why people are basically looking for alternatives. For example, I think it's Estonia is now like a new one and that's how countries compete a bit, or like this kind of, slightly less developed European countries tried to compete and gets to innovation and gets steal some from the entrepreneurial scene, of other countries.

Absolutely well, that, that actually leads me up to my next question. Speaking of Estonia, being that more tech focus hub and trying to rebrand themselves, I think Barcelona is attempting to do the same as these Latin and Eastern European countries attempt to do those things. Are there any specific regions within the EU that you see a new or growing markets that didn't exist 10 or even five years ago?

I think there's a general shift right now. I think we will see more and more entrepreneurs and that's why it's not necessarily that one spot disappears and another one grows, but what you see are salaries, the development of the housing or rental prices and our generation is high.Most people I know they have like a pre-midlife crisis or the generations after you see they make a completely different goal setting.

It's because people realize like just even if you have a really amazing career, you will not be able to afford what our parents were able to. I'm not talking about big mansions, but just having a house, having a car paying your children's education and that's leads to more and more people, like me thinking like, why should I go into this hamster wheel? And it's not safety to be employed anymore. It's like they can kick you out any time. They will anyways do it when you get older. So why not, going all in, if you have an idea or even if you don't have an idea, you can join another company and create something meaningful.

Ideally, at some point you make an exit and earn at least a decent amount of money. So, you're rewarded for your work. I think that's happening more and more. That's why I think all these startup hubs in the different countries will be growing. Also, due to the virus, you have another phenomenon that, you know, this working from the office, working from one place and it is not that standard anymore. You have more and more digital nomads. That, I think you will see in summer or like when the weather nice people go to all this places in southern Europe or wherever to buy and work from there or in the winter, Wednesday, like skiing's they work from Austria. I think that we'll get more and more like the normal, status.

Yeah, absolutely. So speaking of, that startup atmosphere, in what ways is venture capital different compared to that of the US.

Oh, that's what I'm saying. I don't like about Europe, especially about Germany. Like people are really risk averse. If you like, and let's imagine it's like you tell people here an idea, they will tell you like all the many reasons why it can't work. While in the US people find reasons why it could work and that also reflected in the evaluations of the startups, so valuations are much higher. I'm doing fundraisers for the first time now, and I actually prefer to get US investors. So in case we have any contacts because why should I stay here, and get so much lower valuation and give a much bigger chunk of my company for less money. And US is anyways, one of the biggest markets, US is like amazing for clubs. And there was a lot of start up's at evaluations like, it's like you could start crying.