12.Feb 2021

“We Are Living the Bootstrapping Idea to the Fullest” – Julius Bär About His Tough First Years as a Founder

You are finally taking the leap to found the company you have been dreaming about? Get ready for exciting times and the challenge to balance many moving pieces! For our series The Tough First Years as a Founder, we have asked different founders from the German Entrepreneurship network about their early days of establishing a business. In today’s episode, 24-year-old Julius Bär shares his experiences from founding the startup localstoring in 2019 and shares insights and tips for young founders.

What is localstoring? localstoring is the Place For Space – an Airbnb for storage locations. Tenants can store directly in their neighborhood and up to 80% cheaper than if they had to resort to conventional self-storage providers. Landlords earn passive income from vacant space. 

Founded in: 2019

Founded by: Julius Bär, Janis Held, Stefan Held

Julius, you just recently became a startup founder. How did you experience the first months after starting your company?

 The start is not so easy to name, because the transition from the idea to the real company was fluid. I already had the idea in mid-2018 when I moved in with my girlfriend in Munich and needed storage space for furniture. With self-storage providers this was an expensive affair, so the idea was born to rent the already empty basement from my school friend Stefan for a small price. A great deal for both of us and the starting signal for localstoring. In the end, a whole year passed with a lot of strategizing, work, and the search for suitable team members until we officially registered our company in 2019.

Building a company from scratch is a real challenge. How did you approach it?

We set up localstoring with a typical startup strategy. At first, we only had a lousy website with very few features, which we went live with to collect customer feedback. Then we built the marketplace backwards, so to speak. Our credo to this day is to work as lean as possible financially. From the beginning, we did almost everything ourselves and worked many night and weekend shifts. That became quite a challenge when the first customers had to be looked after and we got a lot of attention through our appearance at the tv show Galileo.

How did that affect your work-life balance?

Especially in the early days, the many hours of work on the weekends, in the evenings, or even at night, came at the expense of free time and sleep. Of course, I also had less time for my friends, but many of them are also founders themselves, and so they could understand what I was going through and how I was doing. To this day the company is my biggest hobby, so to speak, and most of my time is dedicated to localstoring. But I don’t mean that negatively, because it is a lot of fun.

That sounds like a lot of work. Are there any areas where you reach out for help?

We still live the bootstrapping idea to the fullest and try to do as much as possible ourselves. But with some topics, it simply makes sense to get external help. For us, these are mainly legal topics, fundraising, or for example SEO optimization for our marketing. That would simply take too long for us to learn.

Do you remember the first moment when you wanted to give it all up?

These moments happen again and again, but fortunately, they are short-lived. One situation I remember very well was the cancellation of our insurance. The insurance policy was a challenge right from the start because no insurer wanted to insure the objects of a stranger on the premises of another person. When we were finally close to closing with a British insurer, Brexit got in the way and we had to start from scratch. A real setback, but from today’s perspective probably even good, because we found a much better partner. Such small stumbling blocks are just part of the game.

You also have your co-founders and school friends Stefan and Janis on board. Does that make it easier to cope with setbacks?

Yes, definitely. The team comes first for us and is perhaps even our biggest success factor. We operate well together, see each other often, and are very close. No matter what the problem is, everyone can give his or her opinion and we will find a solution together.

Which 3 tips would you give to young founders who are just starting their journey?

1. Seek the exchange with other startups. The LMU EC Accelerator was a great opportunity for us to talk to other founders at the same stage and exchange insights and tips. Regardless of the industry, the question of the appropriate legal form, a good tax advisor, or marketing without a budget is something that really concerns every founder.

2. Don’t let admin stuff discourage you. In the beginning, we were hooked on our idea, wanted to get started, and only gradually realized what kind of rat-tail of administration that brought. Legal and organizational questions make up a large part of the time and can be really annoying. But it is worthwhile to bite through.

3. Go to market as early as possible! Talk to people about your idea, go live, collect feedback. We tried it but in the end, we still worked on our prototype for half a year. We could have been even faster. You really have to be careful not to get lost.

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