Build a team that is capable of executing your vision

The next step after profiling and prototyping is to source what you need for the "execution"-part in your entrepreneurial journey. Cleaning up with a general myth of pop culture around startups, you have to realize that there is no a harder job than building a startup. You better gather a team of like-minded people to go the extra mile.

Your Navy SEAL team

One of the main reasons for the failure of new ventures are difficulties and problems within startup teams. The logic behind it is simple: If you are pursuing a purpose with a special unit to operate behind enemy lines, would you then occupy your team solely on the base of friendship and sympathy? Not at all! You would try to get the best and most experienced soldiers in the country. Although a martial example, the parallels to new venture teams are evident.

»The venture capital industry agrees: You are much better off with an average idea and a good team than with a good idea and an average team. «

Alexander Stoeckel, btov Partners

Same but different

Heterogeneous start-up teams with different competences have more potential than homogeneous teams. New problems can be solved creatively by complementary knowledge of different disciplines. A team has more resources to meet the demands of implementing innovative business ideas.

In addition to a wealth of experiential knowledge, a balanced role allocation is crucial for the success of your entrepreneurial team. British psychologist and team researcher Meredith Belbin identifies three role categories and nine associated team roles. Specifically, Belbin describes the implementer, the perfectionist and the doer as action-oriented, the coordinator, team player and pioneer as people-oriented and the inventor, observer and specialist as knowledge-oriented. Based on research, all three roles should be distributed as evenly as possible for a successful team composition. Yet, a person may usually take one to a maximum of two roles.

Learn more about the eleventh module "Team Roles and Competencies" of the Startup Navigator in our handbook.

What makes you unique?

This field of the Startup Navigator is about defining your unique selling proposition (USP) compared to other market participants.


If you compare your value propositions (VPs) with those of your competitors’, your USP results from the non-existent intersection, which is what the others do not provide or offer (the balance of your VP Competition Matrix). Your USP can also be a combination of multiple VPs. Even those that contradict each other at first glance: high quality, short production times and 50% cost savings. It is worth to look for the "Thunderbolt" - the promising contradiction in the list of your VPs. Just this contradiction may make you stand out from existing offers in the market.

The startup VIU also knows how to set new trends with Thunderbolts in the Red Ocean of eyewear providers. With their self-designed glasses, the brains behind VIU have discovered a niche. The models are fair produced, beautiful - and above all, cheap. Thunderbolt 1: "Swiss Design - Made in Italy" instead of the conventional, reverse combination "Swiss-Made from Italian Design". Thunderbolt 2: Nice and fair produced versus cheap.

»For us, Swiss design, the highest quality standards of an Italian family business and reasonable prices are not a contradiction, but the prerequisite for making glasses really fun. That's why we founded VIU to do just that and give a new perspective on glasses.«

Kilian Wagner, VIU

The eureka moment

With your USP you have arrived in the heart chamber of the Startup Navigator. Your unique selling point defines the Product Market Fit, which can be easily tested in the Startup Cockpit with customer recommendations, for example with the Net Promoter Score. The eureka moment has arrived: Your products are accepted by the market.

But how exactly can you measure the Product Market Fit? One of the most common methods is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Just ask your customer the following, quite simple question:

»How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? «

Your customer is asked to enter his answer on a scale from zero (not at all) to ten (in any case). This scale is divided into the following categories:

Learn more about the tenth module "Unique Selling Proposition" of the Startup Navigator in our handbook.

Competitors push you to achieve more

There is always competition, and that is a good thing! Even if you think that you are creating something completely new, there is usually a reference market for comparable products or services. Especially in the startup phase, it is important to learn a lot from the competitors in your market by analyzing and questioning their existing business concepts.

Know your enemies and friends

A competitive analysis is the most cost-effective form of market research! If you examine the relevant market in more detail, you will find some companies that are already trying to solve the identified problem in a certain way. You may also have noticed some of these companies when you worked on your problem solution. Now it is time to work out how your solution differs from the others. The easiest way is to create a table of your own value propositions and collate them with the competition.

The VP-Competition-Matrix

Analogs and Antilogs

Now refine your analysis and derive specific characteristics of your market from the competitors under consideration. Are the customers in this market highly competitive? Are there any specific customer segments that are preferable? Which sales models are used in the market? Which different business models can be found in the market? Is the market subject to certain rising or falling trends? Compare your project with this appraisal and identify the so-called analogs in the market. Who has already successfully implemented which components of your project? On the other side, antilogs can be found when market participants deliberately choose new, different, or conflicting models that have either been untested, previously failed, or are being transferred from a completely different market.


Intensive competition and market analysis quickly give you the feeling of having to go back to »Go« and having to start over. Firstly, that would not be bad; secondly, despite competition, that does not necessarily have to be the case. Based on the analyses, the existing concept can often be adapted quickly and easily. After all, potential customers have already been identified and found in the »Go to Market« test. If you did not find any customers, this analysis has hopefully made clear where the problem lies. If there are similar offers and you were still able to get your first customers, there could be potential. If not, follow the startup mantra »Take harsh decisions fast and iterate constantly. «


Learn more about the ninth module "Competition" of the Startup Navigator in the handbook.

The entrepreneurial story of Valentin Stalf

On the 26th of May, Valentin Stalf, Founder and CEO of N26, was honored as the Founder of the Year 2018 of the University of St.Gallen (HSG). But how did he become so successful as an entrepreneur? A look behind the success of Valentin Stalf and his startup N26.

How Valentin Stalf founded his own bank

Valentin Stalf quit his job in 2013 in order to set up his own bank. His feel for financial matters is something that he had already developed during his time at the University of St.Gallen, where he studied Business Administration and obtained a Master's degree in Accounting and Finance. In 2013, he and his partner finally set up Europe's first mobile bank, N26, which reached a million customers last week. N26 has optimized banking for smartphones: simple, fast and in tune with the times. An account can be opened completely on the smartphone in less than eight minutes. Customers can send money to friends and contacts by e-mail or SMS in the same second. By now, Valentin Stalf leads a team of more than 400 employees at N26.

»Just do it! I am founding a bank. «

Valentin Stalf, N26

Combination of evidence-based research and practical knowledge

The Startup Navigator is not just a theoretic concept. It combines the evidence-based research of the University of St. Gallen with the practical knowledge of leading entrepreneurs such as Valentin Stalf. Valentin had a strong impact on the Startup Navigator and gives the reader consistently tips in topics such as how to get your first customer or developing a solution which solves your problem throughout the book.

In the chapter “Solution” of the Startup Navigator, Valentin shares one of his key learnings. According to him, the main reason why startups fail is a simple one: no market need! In order to prevent this, you must think from the market side and not from the personal point of view, otherwise the startup remains small.

Valentin also gives insights into the FinTech area, for example in the chapter “Product/Service”. »In the FinTech area you cannot just "Fake it till you make it!". The hardest thing is to build the MVP. By the time you're ready to launch your product, it's no longer an MVP, because you'll have to meet all the regulatory requirements and have all your partners on board. While state-of-the-art technology is crucial in other sectors, the legal requirements for financial services are the benchmark in the FinTech sector. «

Get more entrepreneurial insights from Valentin in the Startup Navigator handbook.

Fake it till you make it

After you have defined your value proposition and built your first prototype, it is now time to bring the first versions of your product or service to the customer. But how do you get your first customer to buy your product or use your service?

Your previous conversations with potential customers should serve as a starting point, with which you can get going. If you solve a relevant problem, there will be people looking for a solution. But, where are they looking for it? On the Internet? At trade fairs or in the local branch? If you offer something for which potential customers have not yet developed a problem awareness or do not feel a need yet, you must look for ways to sensitize them.

Your first customers might not care if you exist or not

»These are tough times for B2B startups. Nobody wants to work with you. Nobody understands what you do. It does not matter if you exist or not. To test our first offer, I talked to several hundred companies. That needs perseverance! «

Andreas Brenner, Avrios

Your first sale does not need to offer a finished product

It is not necessary that you offer a fully functional product! You can just pretend! The feature can be simulated by a video, a clickable presentation, 3D printed designs, or static input masks on your website that lead to a predefined result. The goal is to generate so-called leads, which are later converted into active customers, or directly trigger pre-orders for your offer! »Time to market «, which means to show a presence in the market as quickly as possible, is extremely important. In many cases, landing pages and simple websites can be enough.

Move on to knowing instead of believing

If so far you are still in the stage of “believing” that your product is worthwhile buying, you will now start knowing it by collecting relevant market data! Keep track of your (digital) customer interactions and check out what converts and what doesn’t. Be systematic!

»As long as there's no data, decisions are based on gut feeling. Gut feeling is important, but do not be surprised if you're wrong. If you make everything measurable early on, it will help make better decisions later. «

Simon Schmincke, Creandum

Is there a fit?

Your goal with the Go to Market is to achieve an optimal fit between your offer and the market. If you have previously identified a problem that is worth being solved (Problem Solution Fit), you then need the product that is worth buying (Product Market Fit). As long as this is not secured, it makes little sense to expand your startup further. However, this product market fit is not just about the product or pricing alone, but also about the business model behind the product.

Learn more about the eighth module "Go to Market" of the Startup Navigator in the handbook.

Generate value for your customer

Why should anybody buy your product? Because it creates added value! In these examples, we speak of value propositions. The value propositions are the answer to the previously identified pain points of your target group. They promise customers the value or benefit they receive through the product or service.

But how to develop a value proposition?

The Value Proposition in the Startup Navigator creates a link to the existing problem and thus increases the need for a solution - the Gains. One way to develop your value proposition, for example, is to express the added value and benefits of your solution in characteristics. Brainstorm a list of up to ten keywords that describe your solution and are the answer to the identified pain points.

»Book unique accommodations and experience the city like a local.«

Airbnb Value Proposition according to Alexander Schwarz

A customer-centered approach is the key to success. Use all tools and facilities that put you in the customer's position or enable direct interaction with the customer.

»In the B2B area, emotional value propositions do not work at all. Here you have to name clearly defined added values in your customer approach. Our process in the customer discussion is:

1) Problem Discovery
2) Value Proposition
3) Process Discovery.

With the last step, we try to develop a deeper understanding of how the processes currently take place for the customer.«

Andreas Brenner, Avrios

Same offer – different benefits

The same offer can have different benefits for different target groups. In Airbnb's example, the same offer can be appealing for two different customer groups: on one hand, those who want to experience the city like a local, on the other hand, those who are looking for cheaper accommodation opportunities. Both or all target groups may be relevant to your business model. In the beginning, however, it can also be crucial to focus on one target group, as the value proposition also defines the sales process, the customer approach and the product design.

Tell your story

Very few customers only buy a product for the sake of the product. They don’t pay Nespresso between 60 and 80 euros only for a kilo of coffee, they pay for a coffee cult. For the most part, the product has a story which is nicely connected to it by the supplier. Storytelling is the buzzword here. If you manage to create emotions with your product or with your service, you have a good success factor in your luggage on your entrepreneurial journey.

Learn more about the seventh module "Value Proposition" of the Startup Navigator in the handbook.

Time to fall in love with your product!

After you have described how to approach and solve the customer problem in the Navigator field "Solution", it is now time for prototyping. In the first field you describe which product or service you offer your customers. Try to consider all the services your product includes. This comprises, for example, services such as support, assistance, installations or product advice, which only come into effect after the actual sale.

Visualize your product ecosystem

The conventional way to define a product would be to process all functional aspects of it in succession and list them in written form. Today, however, it is more and more about offering entire systems, because more or less everything is already digitally connected with each other. Therefore, the focus on the product alone is rarely sufficient. A better approach is the central visualization of your product as the center of your system (also called ecosystem).

Visualization of a product ecosystem

Make your product experienceable

First of all, the most important thing is to make your product or service visible to others as soon as possible or even better to make it experienceable; It does not matter at all that the result is particularly beautiful, but that the idea and all connections can be understood immediately (therefore the world and also the models). Especially to better explain and discuss with others. This is how the first valuable feedbacks can be collected.

Prototyping in the milani workshop

MVP – less is more

The abbreviation MVP stands for “minimum viable product”. In short, the goal is to go into the market as quickly as possible with as few resources as possible, and thus to test the product at the customer. The basic idea is to obtain initial feedback from the market and to see whether the customer's needs have been correctly assessed. An example is the scanmouse from the startup Dacuda. Dacuda's first prototype was a self-made wooden box that included the optical unit with the software and was already fully functional to demonstrate the power of the software technology and to attract potential customers. Only later the prototype turned into the nicely designed mouse.

Learn more about the sixth module "Product/Service" of the Startup Navigator in the handbook.

How do you solve the problem?

After you determined a problem which is worth solving, you now have to find a way to solve that problem. Think about solutions in general, not specific products. Jump back and forth to ask yourself: does my solution-approach really solve the problem? Is it a feasible solution to the problem?

Inspire with your solution

Your solution is the heart of your project and the starting point on which everything else will build up. Therefore, it is important at this point to proceed with care and lifeblood. Remember that a solution to a problem is always unique and exceptional, depending on which entrepreneur or team is taking on the solution.

»Just do it! I am founding a bank.«

Valentin Stalf, N26

Be precise

The important thing about this field in the Startup Navigator is to make an as precise statement as you think is needed to solve the problem in order to convert the pain points of the customer into Gains. Also think about the "tools" through which this should happen: Do you build an online platform or an app? A web shop or SaaS (Software as a Service) model? Or do you develop a physical product that you then sell to the end customer? These considerations and questions are central to concretizing the solution model and have to be well thought out.

Everyone solves the problem differently

Remember, a solution to a problem is always unique and individual in nature, depending on which business owner or team is taking on the solution. Therefore, the execution of the solution is the central point and not the solution itself. Often, the execution lets you encounter another problem that is more promising for a startup than the original problem.

With the solution module we conclude the profiling part of the Startup Navigator. Learn more about the fifth module "solution" of the Startup Navigator in the handbook.

Outfittery and the jobs they get done

After having determined your customer and the problem you want to solve, you have to think about what jobs do your customers actually want to get done. Ask yourself the question: what are the tasks, the jobs that your target customer needs to do or wants to do to solve his problem? Mostly, as consumers, we are looking for products that do our jobs as best as possible.

Outfittery has taken on the problem of "men and fashion": men who want to get new clothes need to get on their way and go to a clothing store. Once there, you have to find your way around first and find the necessary clothes. Then it goes into the dressing room to try on these clothes. Most of the time, this process has to be repeated two or three times in order to find suitable items. What a pain! At least for men. In order to meet your style, you can also involve the staff in the process. Another pain! For most men. Then you have to pay and carry the things home. So there are quite a few "jobs" to do until you can find new and matching clothes in the closet at home and put them on, in order to present themselves to the second half of the earth's population.

»Once upon a time … during a beautiful afternoon in New York City. A friend of ours hired a personal shopper. Enthusiastic and loaded with full shopping bags he came back from his shopping trip. So stress-free and successful shopping – that should be possible for every man, we thought. The idea for OUTFITTERY was born.«

Julia Bösch und Anna Alex, Outfittery

The startup Outfittery has taken on this series of jobs: once you have registered and logged into their website, a stylist will contact you by phone to get a picture of the man who is shopping. Then she puts together a box with an outfit and sends it by mail. The man does not have to leave the house, nor choose clothes or try them on. The box with the hopefully stylish outfit will be conveniently delivered to your home and can be returned free of charge if you do not like it. So Outfittery takes on jobs which are unpopular for many of their peers and even cause "pain" for some.

Learn more about the fourth module "Jobs" of the Startup Navigator in the handbook.

Der Startup@HSG-Film ist da!

In den letzten Monaten hat das Team vom Center for Entrepreneurship der Universität St. Gallen einen Kurzfilm über Startup@HSG realisiert. Dieser wurde letzten Donnerstag stündlich auf TVO ausgestrahlt. Durch den Beitrag sollen sowohl Studierende als auch die Öffentlichkeit einen Einblick in die unternehmerischen Tätigkeiten der Universität St. Gallen bekommen. Wir bedanken uns herzlich bei den HSG Startups und Entrepreneurial Talents Rebels Technologies, OnlineDoctor und Sleepiz für die Zusammenarbeit.