“We bring the concept and then we find entrepreneurs to start up and run the business,” says Hansmann. “In other words, we make the ‘Big Bang’ happen. After this magic moment, an incubator could come into the picture and a venture capitalist after that.”
Hansmann describes this concept as ‘venture creation,’ a term (as far as he knows) no one else has ever used in this context.
FoundersLink differentiates itself in two ways: by being an institutional co-founder and by taking only equity in the new companies. It is only able to generate income by selling shares or by getting dividends.
“That means we are only successful if the entrepreneur is successful,” argues Hansmann. “Normal consultants get paid for their services and venture capitalists get a management fee in addition to their carry (from the exit proceeds) from their limited partners. FoundersLink can only make money if the price of the stock goes up.”
Business acumen in his blood
As a young boy growing up in Frankfurt, Hansmann didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. At the tender age of 12, he started developing software. The next logical step was to bring the software to the market and that’s how he started his first company together with a school friend.
The company produced file management software, the Universal File Operator that was comparable to Norton Commander. “The company was tiny but always profitable,” Hansmann recalls with amusement. However, he says his first ‘real’ company was Steganos which he set up when he was 16 years old. The inspiration for the security product of the same name came from a hacker conference he attended in Berlin in late 1994.
Hansmann managed the company until 2005 when he went off to get an MBA. Since he was “too busy working to go to school in the early years,” he never got a first degree and is thought to be only one of ten participants to be admitted into INSEAD without one.
He had been developing the venture creation concept in his mind for a while when, by pure chance in 2007, he met Oliver Beste, the entrepreneur who started myToys.de and made it the leading internet retailer for children's products in Germany with growth rates of more than 40 per cent. Beste liked Hansmann’s venture creation concept so much that he left the company he had started and they co-founded FoundersLink the same year. There was synergy in that partnership because Hansmann had a good network in the software industry and Beste, in the internet arena.