Do What You Do Best, Outsource the Rest

Katapult, the business accelerator set up by Podim’s long-time partner Dewesoft, offers excellent support for startups with a physical product.

We spoke to the Katapult team about the benefits of working with Katapult, the challenges faced by startups developing hardware, the most common mistakes they make, and much more.

Read what they had to say in the interview below.

1. Tell us a little bit about Katapult.
Katapult is an entrepreneurial environment that supports startups with a physical product. The key is the synergy between a large company (Dewesoft) and a startup environment (Katapult). Following best global practices, we build shared services and production for physical products, so that the entrepreneur can focus on the core business (product development and sales) and outsource the remaining areas to professional shared services. This makes it easier and faster for Acrobats to achieve business success in a secure environment.

We would also like to point out that Katapult:

  • Is privately owned;
  • Does not become involved in the ownership of startups;
  • Reinvests all profits back into the support environment;
  • Offers scholarships to young Acrobats and
  • Introduces employee co-ownership systems, following the example of Dewesoft.

Overall, all our activities spread a positive mindset, encourage entrepreneurship and show entrepreneurship in a positive light.

2. Who are the Acrobats you are referring to?
For us, Acrobats are the ones who change the world. They are the ones who test the limits of what is possible, who love to create and are always asking themselves how they can make something better. They are very few in number, so they are sometimes lonely and misunderstood. Katapult is made for them.

Can you imagine a student developing an innovative spectrometer that makes science more accessible to everyone? Then there is the tennis enthusiast who has developed an innovative robot, the only one of its kind in the world, that can almost play like a teammate on the tennis court. Or the team that automated hand tools in workshops, replacing €100,000 worth of machinery with a single device – a true revolution in workshops.

These are just a few of the many stories emerging in the Slovenian environment. Stories that will change the world. For us, these are the stories of the Acrobats.

3. What do you offer to startups?
Jure Knez, co-founder of Dewesoft, says: “I never thought I would have a company with so many employees all over the world. I’ve always just wanted to create. Step by step, success by success. I believe there are many more like me – you just need support and the right environment.”

That’s where we come in. What does an entrepreneur with a physical product need to build a globally successful business as quickly and consistently as possible; what can we offer them?

In addition to infrastructure, training and mentoring, we are building shared services – administration, accounting, product packaging and shipping, including machinery (laser cutting, CNC, pick’n’place…) and testing facilities for CE certification – everything needed to get the product to market, following the example of successful practices around the world.

4. What are the main advantages of working with Katapult?
Time savings, lower initial investment and reduced fixed costs, made possible by shared services and professional machines shared with startups.

In terms of knowledge, we have strong support from Dewesoft, who are always ready to help with advice, connections or even by offering their own infrastructure if it is feasible.

And we have a really nice coworking space. And good coffee. 🙂

5. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges startups face?
Sales. Sales is not taught in schools and it still has a negative connotation in our environment. So where do we learn it? George Deriso, Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado, reminds us that a company needs three people – someone to develop it, someone to manage it and someone to sell it. He adds that no one person in history has ever been able to do all three at the same time. Therefore, startups need first to understand the important role of sales and then find or train the person who can do it.

It is interesting to note that Dewesoft is a high-tech company that already stands out in terms of marketing with the look of its products and its prominent presence at trade fairs, its solutions are among the most advanced in the world, and yet it has 200 salespeople out of a staff of 450.

6. What are the most common mistakes made by hardware startups?
They spend years developing their product to the smallest detail before testing it in the market. Only the market, the customers, really tell you what kind of product they really need and therefore has the potential to become a global success. From the beginning, listening to customers and developing the product according to their needs is crucial. This is something that does not change, even as the company grows.

7. Is it really harder to set up a hardware start-up than a software one?
It is definitely harder to set up a hardware start-up. The cost of prototyping is already higher, the product needs to be well tested, it is expensive to move from prototype to regular production, and the cost of potential complaints is significantly higher. This makes it all the more important to have the support of a community where all this infrastructure and knowledge exists.

What is a problem on the one hand can be a competitive advantage on the other. The whole world of investors is focusing on startups that do not have a physical product. This creates a gap that we can fill very well with the right infrastructure and take advantage of the growing opportunities in today’s world.

In our environment, we can help them the most because we know this area well, with the support of Dewesoft.

8. What kind of companies are you looking for at Podim?
Anyone developing physical products is welcome to visit Trbovlje to see our facilities. We may also be able to find solutions for you that will further speed up your development, reduce your costs or otherwise contribute to your company’s success.

We always emphasize that we also support companies that we know can only stay “small and beautiful”. These are the ones that are often excluded from various types of startup support. But why not help the individual who wants to turn a hobby into a business, even if they say up front that they will never have more than two employees?

But out of all these, there are also stories that we believe can really revolutionize the world.

9. What’s your message to all Podim attendees?
Make use of the support environments available to you.
“Do what you do best, outsource the rest”. As your business develops, make sure you’re focusing most of your time and energy on where you’re irreplaceable – for an entrepreneur, that’s product development, sales and marketing. Outsource everything else if you can, otherwise sooner or later you’ll find yourself swamped in paperwork, accounting, packaging and other tasks that take up too much of your time to stay competitive in your industry.

10. What is the vision of the Katapult for the future?

We are building the City of Acrobats, which will upgrade today’s synergy of a large company (Dewesoft) and a startup environment (Katapult). It will be a unique technology hub in Zasavje, Slovenia, enabling hardware startups to compete globally through shared services and production. We are creating an environment where generations after us will combine cutting-edge technological knowledge and develop world-class success stories.

It is estimated that 600-1000 high-value-added jobs will be created within ten years.

The City of Acrobats will be a place of infinite possibilities, a universe of possibilities. A paradise for engineers. A paradise for entrepreneurs. A paradise for those who refuse to settle for mediocrity.

We won’t be able to do this alone. So we invite all of you who can see yourself in this vision, who can see yourself in the description of the Acrobats.

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