Campus - 09.10.2014 - 00:00 

Getting started in Silicon Valley

Laura Behrens Wu and Simon Kreuz quickly had to jettison their initial business idea after they arrived in San Francisco. Today, they run a startup with eight employees and seed funding amounting to 2 million US dollars.
Source: HSG Newsroom


9 October 2014. Sometimes it takes several attempts for a business idea to succeed. Laura Behrens Wu and Simon Kreuz needed exactly two. They had just established their first startup and received a scholarship from the HSG Entrepreneurial Talents Programme when they moved to San Francisco in the summer of 2013. They wanted to succeed with an international e-commerce market platform. But the two founders soon encountered problems, as Laura explains: “It’s difficult to link up dealers and purchasers worldwide since shipments are expensive, customs duties have to be paid and so the shipping price makes products unattractive.” The idea was abandoned.

The problem is the solution

However, they did not give up and quickly turned the problem of their first startup into the business idea of the second: they developed the Shippo shipping software, which calculates the most favourable shipping price for small online dealers. Unlike Amazon, such dealers are often unable to profit from bulk discounts. The software also draws up customs documents automatically. “In contrast to our first idea, Shippo solves a genuine problem. This motivated us even more,” explains Laura.

About 5,000 dealers are already using the software and generating turnover. Shippo is growing by 40 per cent a week – facts with which the team was able to convince venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.

Early in 2014, they were among 30 startups (out of 2,000) that were accepted into the 500 Startups Accelerator Program of the former PayPal marketing manager, Dave McClure. The programme provided them not only with financial support but also materially with office space and training sessions for the next funding round.

2 million dollars seed funding 

In mid-September 2014, the Shippo team concluded its biggest series seed to date: 12 investors made available seed funding totalling two million US dollars. The venture capitalist SoftTech invested the highest sum. Founder Jeff Clavier is now on the board of directors, along with Simon and Laura.

During her time in Silicon Valley, Laura learned that a startup can be a real headache: “Founding isn’t glamourous, founding is a 24-hour job. Ups and downs alternate daily and are extreme; that’s emotionally demanding. I may not have a boss who tells me what to do but then I’m 100 per cent responsible for all the results myself.”