[Teil 1] Die Höhle der Löwen – Erfahrungsbericht und exklusive Tipps

Wie haben wir uns von der My Pillow Factory auf Die Höhle der Löwen vorbereitet? Welche Fallstricke gibt es zu berücksichtigen? Ist es ratsam das Investment der Löwen anzunehmen?

Fünf kurze Hinweise:

  1. Ich habe ein schickes PDF aus allen Posts zum Thema DHDL gemacht. Zum drucken und offline anschauen. Zusätzlich bekommst du 3 Seiten voll mit exklusive Tipps zur Vorbereitung und zum Dreh: Du kannst es hier kaufen.
  2. Beachte auch Teil 2 des Posts: Auslagern von Produktion und Versand
  3. und Teil 3: Wie Deine Homepage mit 67$ online bleibt, während 319.081 Leute darauf zugreifen.
  4. Wenn jemand wissen möchte, was ich gepitcht habe: hier geht´s zu My Pillow Factory.
  5. Das eBOOK: Vom Hobby zum Unternehmen. Alles was du über Steuern wissen musst ist Eine Schritt-für-Schritt Anleitung mit 50 Tipps zu zu Steuern (inkl. Elster), Buchführung, Preisfindung. Verfasst von meiner meiner bezaubernden Frau.

My Pillow Factory in der Höhle der Löwen: „Wir sind auf der Stelle getreten.“

Sie können die Hingucker auf jedem Bett und jedem Sofa sein: individuelle Kissen. My Pillow Factory hat diese Idee zum Geschäftsmodell gemacht und kämpft heute in der „Höhle der Löwen“ um ein Investment. Gründer Sebastian Donath hat mit uns über Prokrastination, eine intensive Vorbereitung und ernüchternde Erkenntnisse gesprochen.

My Pillow Factory_Yulia UND sEBASTIAN_1700pxl

Sebastian und Yulia Donath wollen die Löwen mit ihren personalisierten Kissen begeistern (Foto: My Pillow Factory)

OnlinehändlerNews: Warum haben Sie sich für „Die Höhle der Löwen“ beworben?
Sebastian Donath: Unter Druck arbeite ich erstaunlich effizient! 😉 Ich habe gemerkt, dass sich in der Firma etwas ändern muss, dass wir auf der Stelle treten und notwendige Anpassungen aufschieben. Ich wollte außerdem wissen, wie eine Expertenjury unser (damaliges) Konzept bewerten würde. Insbesondere war ich auf der Suche nach objektiver Kritik, um daraus direkte Handlungen abzuleiten.

Welcher „Löwe“ erschien Ihnen im Vorfeld als besonders interessant?
Wir finden Jochen Schweizer mit seiner thematischen Ausrichtung „Geschenke“ sehr interessant. Auch Judith Williams, die Göttin des Verkaufs, ist absolut beeindruckend und interessant für uns. Natürlich können wir von allen Löwen viel lernen und sind für jede Unterstützung offen.

Inwiefern unterscheidet sich das Format für Sie von einem gewöhnlichen Pitch?
Den Pitch an sich empfand ich nicht anders als auf anderen Events. Eine neue Erfahrung war das Wissen, dass alles, was ich sage, ein Millionenpublikum sehen und beurteilen kann. Das hatte kuriose Auswirkungen, denn meine Stimmung wechselte zwischenzeitlich von ausgelassen zu schockgefroren!

Wie haben Sie sich auf die Sendung vorbereitet?
Sehr intensiv. Ich hatte einmal ein Interview gegeben. Also habe ich in Vorbereitung auf die Sendung viele Freunde und auch eine Schauspielerin gebeten, mir Feedback über mein Auftreten vor der Kamera zu geben. Es war ernüchternd und so lehrreich! Ich empfinde tiefe Dankbarkeit für die ehrlichen Worte! Das Video für das Casting haben wir dann ca. 50 mal geprobt. Unseren Pitch für die Sendung ebenso. Zudem haben wir alle Folgen der ersten Staffel angeschaut und analysiert. Als Highlight haben wir jedem Löwen ein Geschenk vorbereitet. Dazu haben wir viel recherchiert und telefoniert.

Wie haben Sie sich und Ihre Website seit der Aufzeichnung der Sendung auf die Ausstrahlung am Dienstag vorbereitet?
Das war eine wirkliche Herausforderung! Ursprünglich sollte unsere neue Homepage inklusive sehr leistungsstarkem Cloud Server bis zur Ausstrahlung der Sendung fertig sein. Das hat in der Kürze der Zeit aber nicht funktioniert, obwohl wir sehr hart daran gearbeitet haben.
Fassen wir es kurz: Seit Juni habe ich insgesamt fünf Homepages konzipiert und mit vier potenziellen Serverangeboten kombiniert, um eine hoffentlich tragfähige Lösung zu finden. Die Kombination muss laut anderer StartUps millionenfachen Zugriffen in zwei Stunden standhalten können!
Letztendes habe ich auf einen Kompromiss zwischen Performance und Marketingmöglichkeiten gesetzt und drei sehr leistungsstarke Mini-Hompages – Notfallplan A, B und C – vorbereitet. Diese Mini-Homepages sind mit unserem Shop auf einem etablierten Online-Marktplatz kombiniert.


Ein Interview beim Leancamp 2015 in Stuttgart.

LeanCamp

Erfahre wie wir gelitten haben und zum Schluß doch alles gut wurde. Möchtest Du die deutsche Version, dann schreibe mir an info@slowcarb.eu

How did the idea evolve to participate in that TV show?

My wife once called me and told me: „You know what, we should participate in this TV show!“ Ok why not? Just write the application and that´s it. Up in two days, there was the phone interview already. So this was the first casting. First check if I am a freak or not. Next step was a video casting. We passed it as well. In this casting, the TV station (VOX) looks for likability and if we fit in certain stereotypes. They have a certain scheme where we need to fit in. Next step was a Skype interview and we finally made it!

How long did it take from first contact to Sony Pictures (production firm) to the broadcast?

After applying in December we got our first interview 2 days later. It was spectacular. Not being prepared at all with the Christmas Market in Esslingen with the Church Bell ringing in the back making it hard to hear my own voice. Luckily we passed. Very exciting was pitching to the jury in early March and it was thrilling to see ourselves in TV seven months later at the End of September.
The pain was that we have been nearly bankrupt! We even had to quit our office and go back to home office. We have been really suffering and always hoping and thinking „shit, this really has to work“! We borrowed money from my parents to pay the rent! „Mum, please give me 500€ I will pay back as soon as the TV show rocks.“ Ok but what if you are never in? No worries Mum, we are in. I am absolutely confident about that! And I smiled confident while being on the phone. As soon as I hang up the phone all the faked confidence broke and I panicked: SHIT WHAT IF WE ARE NOT IN THE SHOW??? The following month I asked my grandma to support me..

What was your intention? Why did you participate?

It was planned as a marketing campaign. To be honest we didn´t want to have an investment at all because it is much too expensive. In preparation to the Show, I was calling many people from previous year who got an investment – at least in TV. I wanted to know their experiences. And I got clear answer! They mostly told me thinks like to forget the investment of the „LIONS“, as the investors like Jochen Schweizer are called. Instead they argued that one gets money from the bank or „real“ investors at much lower conditions. And indeed in TV there have been deals with 50+ % founder shares.

How did you prepare for the show?

We where practicing a lot! I mean really a lot! Everything was well studied. In advance I talked to many people whose pitch I loved and asked for advice.
As I learned in a great presentations book from Nancy Duarteit is essential so segment my audience. I became aware that as soon as the Jury asks me something, my brain needs to ask itself: #1. How can I answer this question in order to satisfy the jury, but more important: #2. how can I answer the question so that the AUDIENCE turn from potential customers to real customers?

Did this work out in reality?

I think we managed our pitch very well since investors like Jochen Schweizer said unexpected thinks like: „One of the best pitches I ever heard! No one sells better than you, except Judith Williams (the queen of Homeshopping)!“ Astonishing the other jury members found delighting words to our presentation, too.
However, the TV viewers at home have been polarized by us and our product. One viewer told me: „It loved you and I think you should get an investment! It was really a good point to see your product and rise demand. You have had a high likability and I think you got extreme traffic that day.“ On the other hand there have been some dislikes towards our products and my presentation style.

How does it feel if some people dislike you and your product?

I had no illusions about it and tried to be prepared for the case that the jury and the viewers „hate“ us. At the end causing controversy can be very beneficial! People talk about you. You have fans and haters. Perfect! Finally even the worst publicity is better than no publicity!
Let´s get philosophically: What I learned is that people cannot hate me personally but only my behavior in a certain situation. Since this is something that can be changed I wasn´t concerned too much. The hole life is an experiment. If one fails try again but change some parameters.

Let´s get deeper into numbers. Are you a rich man by now?

OH YEAAA don´t know what to do with all the money! ;)) Seriously, first of all I am happy my investment payed off.
How much traffic did you get?
We had 300.000+ unique visitors in that hour.

And how many did convert?

500 pillows were bought instantly and 500 were preordered for Christmas in September already. So we made some money and are very happy about this!! Before the TV broadcast my wife and me have been SUFFERING financially a lot and prayed that the show will come soon! In my wildest dreams I hoped that there is the big burst and we will be RICH immediately! 😉 Ok, I am exaggerating. At least our financial status improved dramatically.
Let´s get back to the show. Did you really have to study every word you say?
Yes, at least during the pitch. The pitch needs to be perfect! And it is the only time YOU can control the situation and deliver your message.

So you wrote your text and learned it?

Well, at the Leancamp Stuttgart in 2014 there was a TED talk presentation Coach. And this Coach gave me a very good tip: Always remember the keywords! If you wake up during the night you need to be able to say all the keywords that belong to your pitch. And even if you have a blackout you need to be able to tell me your keywords. And this is what we did. Telling keywords combined with some improvisation. And this worked very well! When Jochen Schweizer praised us it was the result of hard training. And if I can do it, everyone can!

The pitch was well trained, what else could be trained in advance?

We thought beyond the pitch. For example we prepared gifts for the jury, the investors. Jochen Schweizer got a pillow with his favorite German saying „Mit der Hand am Arm“. I knew exactly: If we hand over the pillow there will be one question. And of course he did ask me what this saying means! SO BE prepared and have a nice story! It´s like a game and another chance to control the situation a bit. Of course I had a nice story and we had a warm conversation for some minutes. YEAH. STRICKE!

Seems to be running perfect?

The shocking moment appeared when it came up to business details. Numbers you know. The business model in detail. So this was a bit – how to say friendly – LIKE A PUNCH IN THE FACE! The jury had no mercy and punched us really hard. Finally we didn´t get the investment. They argued: it´s just a hobby and advised us to stop doing this business right know! BAM! You are sympatric but your strength is not selling pillows. BAM BAM PUFF!

 

Ouch! The jury didn´t believe in you. How did you deal with this?

This dramatic change was good for one reason! At the beginning our session and pitch was running far to smooth. The problem: the audience is always bored if something is too smooth and has no or little conflicting points. But you urgently need to have some contrasts. Remember: if the viewers might be bored the producer might not want to show your pitch in TV!
Unexpected sentence ahead: Of course we have been prepared for this! We prepared many scenarios! And we were clear: if its running too well we need to stop that in order to be interesting! Only interesting people will be shown in TV. The boring ones are left out! But no worries, we failed dramatically! And people had some tears because we didn´t get the investment. Some people called us and supported us by telling how sorry they are.

So not every pitch has been shown?

Yes! As far as I know Sony records more pitches then actually shown in TV. It´s a kind of backup which I totally understand. Image our tension when we realized that the show is broadcasted only for three more weeks in TV but we still didn´t know if we are in or not.

Do you know how many applicants there have been?

No. They didn´t tell me although I was asking several times. Sony told me it must be hundreds.

How long was the actual pitch to the jury?

The pitch is always 3 minutes.

How long have you been in the show?

The discussion with the jury took about 1 hour and 20 minutes. But at the end the producer cuts it to about 12 minutes. And this is where it becomes interesting! The producer needs to entertain the audience. That´s his job! And in case of DHDL I he is doing it excellent! No doubt! I enjoyed watching every episode!

Can you give a example of the artistic freedom the producer uses?

You might say something less smart. Believe me this WILL happen since you are under enormous stress. Image to have final exams and 2 Mio people are evaluating your performance! Anyways the camera turns to the jury showing them freak out. Suddenly there is a change in the camera perspective showing you smile all over the face like a Chesire Horse. It seems you are not getting their point. In that moment you lose all credibility in your audience. Maybe you are a fool? We are trained for decades to believe what an authority tells you. People WILL believe what they see and hear. No matter what! And be sure if you „are“ a fool Twitter and Facebook will love you! Amen!
And here it comes: you might not have smiled during their criticism but maybe half an hour earlier or later. It´s just put together in a certain way to make the show more interesting! At the end this is good for everyone!
So this was a point we have been aware of an trained it beforehand. Always to have a certain facial expression that cannot be misinterpreted. Freak or hero. Better be the hero and NEVER SMILE TOO MUCH! 🙂

What did you do to capture or to remarket visitors at your webpage?

Traffic is a very big issue! Many startups forgot about this. So they go to the show, do not get an investment, are disappointed. Or maybe they have their head full of other stuff and forget about the Homepage! Their point of sale! Why can this be shitty? You have only this one evening where all the magic is happening! And if you lose customers because your webpage is offline then you lose a lot of MONEY. And of course this is the reason why you are there! You worked your bud off and now want to get something in return. So we prepared a cloudbased leadpage (see my blog post about creating a strong landingpage with leadpages.net). If traffic comes this cloud based system scales up according to the demand. Only sky is limit. Fun fact: This service cost me 67$!! Not 1,000€ or 10,000€ like some startups told me, no! Only 67$ and a lot of creativity! Remember 90% of the people just want to have a first look and check if you are still existing or how fancy your products you have.
Most important: give them the opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter. This is very important for several reasons discussed later and also for retargeting and to reach out to them later on. So make sure you collect email addresses and install Facebook pixel.

So you redirected your URL www.my-pillow-factory.de to leadpages.net for the evening?

Yes, plus two more days.
Could you talk about the numbers? How many signed up to your newsletter from those 300.000 unique visitors?
To be honest at first I was disappointed about the number because it was only 1500 subscribers. I tried to figure out why and found two explanations:
#1. the time of attendance of the audience is not very long. There are several pitches this evening.
#2. our core customers are between 35 and 50 years old. So maybe this has also an influence on the subscription rate since I learned from customer interviews there is a general suspicion about the internet and leaving personal data.

So why did you go to this TV show if your customers are mainly not the same age as VOX audience?

For three reasons:
#1. to find customers right now.
#2. to verify that I am in my most profitable customer segment.
#3. to find the press. Due to the Show we have been featured in many hardcover magazines.
Furthermore our Google ranking improved leading to more long term sales.

Can you track traffic from hardcover magazines and other press releases you just mentioned?

This can be very difficult to measure. Usually it´s like this: We get the information from a magazine that they wrote an article about us or featured our products after it´s already published. So we get a spike in Google Analytics and more or less assume that it´s form this publication.

Do you have a little secret you want to share?

I want to share one secret with you. I tried to increase our chances to be in the show by:
#1. making gifts like a little fancy chocolate bunny to say honestly thank you for the teams kindness to us. Seriously, Sony Pictures has always been fair to me!
#2. I also wrote them frequently mails of how I loved the production and how well they are doing their job. Again, I was serious with that.
Somehow it worked out at the end. Maybe it would have worked without as well but I better go the extra mile.

How honest should one be in the show?

Tricky point! We tried to be as authentic as possible regarding when asked. I believe people can smell if they become cheated at.
In general I think this depends on your focus and your goal. My goal was selling. Therefore FOR SURE I would not have argued in the camera: We are just here for marketing purpose we don´t want to get an investment. Or crazy things like: I want to fight with the „LIONS“ and show them who the real king in the jungle is. Some Startups did this. I would like to know their strategy behind because viewers and jury where freaking out! And it´s likely that the producers will show you in a very different light. Being the arrogant guy no one likes! So how likely is it that the viewers buy from you?

So how did they show you? The one with the beard?

We have been shown as THE FAMILY. The nice guy with a little swabian dialect.
Precisely, how did you prepare your pitch?
You know what? I even asked an actor for support. One day I was in a bar with a friend and we figured out that a actor was serving as. Instantly it popped up in my mind to ask her for help!
So later on I showed her my first (horrible) Interview in front of TV cameras. Her feedback was shockingly honest telling me how nervous I was and how this affects my body language. I realized there is a lot of work to do. Her actionable tips and those of the 15 people I also asked for feedback helped me improve dramatically. I was enjoying every single criticism for the chance to know exactly what to improve.
Followed by this, we recorded 50+ times our pitch on video. Analyzed it and deleted it: ARRRR look at my gestures, look how stupid I am smiling, look at my body language. My wife and I learned to synchronize in tone and gesture. She learned to speak up, I learned to calm down.
We prepared our pitch very carefully and focused on storytelling. Instead of telling we sell 40 pillows a day. We created: we sell 40 pillows a day, this is half a DHL truck full of love that is shipped to the world. Fun fact: A friend searched Twitter for entries about us. One thing was: „half a DHL truck full of love“. So the story really worked and people told it back to us.
The last sentence in the show when they told our main story back to us, was my personal highlight: Although they didn´t get an investment, the founders where able to put a smile on the lips of the jury with their pillows. STRICKE! The story was sticky!

Let´s go back to how you managed the evening.

As you know we prepared a cloud based landing page featuring our products. Every product on the landingpage was then redirected to Etsy a online market place like Amazon. In addition I also integrated a newsletter app on Facebook. I gave the people 4 possibilities where to shop. We had several forms to fill out and produced videos to show the charismatic family. You know it´s marketing and I love marketing. But no matter how much I love marketing we did not fake anything. We had to be conscious about who we really are. What we want to do and what people shall learn about us. So it´s no fake at all, but hard work to get to know yourself to show who you are.
So if anyone of you is interested in boosting your startup, just do it! Call participants from the previous year and prepare yourself.

One more tip regarding the investors?

Be very careful with the investors, with the jury. You need to be clear on the fact, that only ca. 5% of the deals will work at the end. Meaning that even if you get the investment in the show it´s very likely that they will finally not invest. So forget about that shit. Actually you need to leave the dungeon, smile and say: it was a great show! Let´s have a bank credit. Anyways, there is a big advantage of getting the deal in the show. Your are in, for sure! That´s the best that can happen to you!
Story: I know a startup that got the deal in the show but never made it in real life. They face another problem. They spend a lot of time with the potential investors and missed the opportunity to get the required money from the bank instead. Why is this a problem? Because the customers believed that they got the deal and bought the requested machine. So sales went up from 10 a day to more than 25.000 in that evening and the following 3 days. BUT they could not deliver. Instead the delivery time dramatically increased from 3 days to 3 months. They received several thousand emails. And had no one to answer them. They got many Facebook comments and had no one to answer them. People started to get pissed. Starting with a big hype they turned happy customers into pissed ones leaving a horrible reputation.
So please, include other options to raise money and plan a communication strategy before day X. We will talk about this later on.

If you are one of the lucky guys getting an investor, please consider that this will cost money. Besides the 25% money they take from the revenue for their investment they might offer very gentile to promote you on their platform. Now it becomes tricky. As of what I heard from startups having done this they are being charged a sales commission for every transaction. To summarize this: It could be that you will not only have to pay 25% of your revenue to them but also 1€ extra per sold product and a commission to use their services. So be very careful and don´t be too optimistic.
Please remember one also has to pay notary fees and one might have to change business form from individual entrepreneur („Einzelunternehmer“) to a Ltd. („GmbH“) which will cost another 25.000€.

What is your margin? What does it cost to produce?

This is a very tricky point because some customers don´t understand that one needs to earn money and feel easily jealous. One of the participants from 2014 told me never to talk to deep into numbers and especially do not give your potential customers your profit margin if it´s bigger than 100%. If you tell production costs better include all the costs and give only that total number. Remember the TV producer will pick the most shocking moments and cut your words. But if it´s to shocking you lose customers!
Example: one startup said the production price is below 1 € and they sell is for 13€. Not said was that adding marketing and other costs sums up to 6€ of actual costs. But the audience didn´t know that and so the Startup earned a shitstorm and cooperation partners of them felt cheated and wanted much better conditions. So be careful of what you say.
But luckily we didn´t come to this point of giving to many numbers because the jury smashed our business right before and didn’t want to know this.

So how does the business model work? How is this profitable?

I am profitable because I outsourced everything except the marketing. Therefore I don´t need to pay anyone and have a kind of passive income. I spend little time with it since my sewing company is preparing the pillows and my distributer is doing the rest.
What did you offer the investors and why?
I did an analysis of which conditions have been most successful to enter the show. And I asked the number that startups requested with the highest success namely an investment.
Answer: below 50.000€ and then I calculated the assumed worth of our company. So finally we ended up 15% for 45.000€. In deed this reflected a realistic value of our company.

So did the jury take you seriously?

Yes, why not? Although everything was well prepared, I nearly shit myself! I realized they are authorities! Sometimes I was really frozen because of respect and because I didn´t know how to answer. So if I respect them, they automatically respect me. Simple. Nowadays I would try to argue even more and forget for a second who they are.
What to consider during the Pitch and Q&A afterwards
The jury members sit quite far away on their lovely chairs. Because of this I had some difficulties in hearing their words. Once I understood the question I faced the dilemma of how to satisfy the jury but most important of how to give a crisp response to my future customers. To make it even more fun, the jury members where often talking at the same time to us.
And I did one mistake in that situation: I tried to answer all the questions the same time instead of

 

Fünf kurze Hinweise:

  1. Ich habe ein PDF aus allen Posts zum Thema DHDL gemacht. Zum drucken und offline anschauen. Zusätzlich bekommst du 3 Seiten voll mit exklusive Tipps zur Vorbereitung und zum Dreh: Du kannst es hier kaufen.
  2. Beachte auch Teil 2 des Posts: Auslagern von Produktion und Versand
  3. und Teil 3: Wie Deine Homepage mit 67$ online bleibt, während 319.081 Leute darauf zugreifen.
  4. Wenn jemand wissen möchte, was ich gepitcht habe: hier geht´s zu My Pillow Factory.
  5. Das eBOOK: Vom Hobby zum Unternehmen. Alles was du über Steuern wissen musst ist Eine Schritt-für-Schritt Anleitung mit 50 Tipps zu zu Steuern (inkl. Elster), Buchführung, Preisfindung. Verfasst von meiner meiner bezaubernden Frau.