March 8, 2022

Meet the founder: Maximilian Fleitmann

Meet the founder: Maximilian Fleitmann
Maximilian Fleitmann talks about founding an EdTech startup, his acquisition of BaseTemplates, the Startup&VC initiative, launching on Product Hunt, angel investing and much more.

Hi Max, please introduce yourself!

I am 29 right now and based in Berlin. Over the last 16 years, I have built businesses in different areas, starting with browser games, education, and digital products. 


The first more significant business was in the education space (StudyHelp), where we bridged the gap between offline and online education and created a brand tailored towards students. That was quite a ride, as we quickly grew to over 200 cities, hundreds of tutors, and >1M visits per month on our online platform. But I also made many mistakes growing the business, especially around fundraising & people.


So I decided to change sides of the table and became an investor in around 15 companies myself. 


Today I am spending my time on a mix of things - building, operating, and investing. I am incredibly passionate about everything that relates to the founder & VC ecosystem and will be doubling down on that in 2022 and beyond. 


We heard you started building internet businesses when you were only 13 years old. What's the story?

Yep - that's right. Looking back, it was such a fun time. It all started one day at school when a good friend told me about Skype. We agreed on trying it out in the afternoon and it was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. I was so fascinated that I could talk to my friends without using a physical phone, so we decided to do that day in and day out.


And because we were spending so much time on the internet, we came across the first HTML & web design tutorial sites and learned how to build websites. And back then, most people could not do that. 


So at one point, I decided to sell the first graphics, websites and scripts to a community I was part of - and my clients loved it. I think most of them didn't even know that they were working with a 13-year-old.


I think making money online was easy back then because there was so much less competition and for me, the first $ that I made online changed everything.  


You acquired a business called BaseTemplates. How did you find it and why did you buy it?

Back in 2019, I was still working full-time on my education startup, StudyHelp - but I always had many ideas besides that and was trying out a lot on the weekends and evenings.


I wanted to pitch one idea in a competition. But because I didn't have time to build a well-designed pitch deck from scratch, I was looking for a beautiful and well-structured template online and found the first version of the BaseTemplates Pitch Deck Template. I bought it, filled it with my business idea, went to the pitch competition and won the 1st prize. Not only because of the template, but it was one part of it.


Some weeks later, I was diving more into digital products and why they could be a great passive income stream and I thought to myself, why not do something in that direction myself. 


And as I was a satisfied customer of one of these products, I decided to reach out to the owner and see if he would be interested in selling the company. And he was, because he wanted to use the liquidity to start something new from scratch.


So I went right into due diligence and realized how unique the business was. It had a great product, tons of content, and almost 100% of the sales came from organic visits. In my head, I saw a considerable upside potential through adding new products, paid marketing, and also improving the website and branding. 


And luckily, all worked out better than expected and BaseTemplates is still one of the best investments I have made so far. 

Maximilian Fleitmann, founder and investor


What is "Startup & VC"?

I have spent the last decade of my life on both sides of the startup & venture capital ecosystem - first as a founder and later as an investor. And although many things in the space could be improved, I am still fascinated by it every day and am passionate about building more companies in that area.


Startup&VC was initially founded by my good friend Sina Sadegh as an Instagram account that provides valuable content around all relevant topics for founders and investors. And it grew quickly. At one point around 1.5 years ago, we decided to team up, bundle our forces, and make Startup&VC something bigger.


Now Startup&VC is one of the leading job boards for everyone who wants to find their dream position in venture capital. We collect tens of new jobs from all top VC firms worldwide every week and make them accessible on our website and newsletter. Over the past year, we managed to help dozens of candidates find new positions and firms suitable candidates for their open roles.


Little side note: As a part of Startup&VC, we recently launched VCStack.io - a directory of tools & resources for VC & angel investors, because we thought it would be time for more transparency in the VC tooling market.

What is your method for coming up with and validating all of the new products you build for the founder and investor community?

I always have a ton of ideas. Most of them pop up into my head through discussion with people or reading about problems online. 


The real challenge is to decide which ideas to pursue. Over time, I have built myself a small framework for that, making it possible for me to assess an idea on paper first and have different steps to validate it with potential users.


But to be honest, with some ideas, you have to listen to your gut and go for it (e.G. VCStack.io - from concept to launch it took  around two weeks without any assessments made upfront).


What role does Product Hunt play for you in building and scaling businesses?

ProductHunt is by far the best place on the web to launch and validate your product. I didn't know ProductHunt existed until two years ago. And it changed my whole life.


You will get honest feedback from customers, founders, investors, and fellow makers. Besides that, it will bring you many visitors if you do it correctly and have a great product.


That's why I made it a fixed component of my launch strategy for every business. 


Feel free to take a look at the 18 products I launched over the last two years: https://www.producthunt.com/@maximilian_fleitmann.

Do you have an exit strategy planned for most of your ventures? If so, are you looking for full acquisitions or partial buyouts?

I am not starting with the exit strategy for my business, but in my opinion it is essential at some point in time to think about it.


In my experience, it always makes sense to do two things. 


  1. Clarify for yourself why you want to sell. Do you want to have more time to spend on other things? Do you want to bring some money behind your firewall? Do you need a strategic partner?
  2. Run a structured exit process (prepare data room, think about expectations, talk to many buyers, etc.)


Depending on what your thoughts on the first questions are, I think both existing opportunities (full acquisition vs. partial buyout) can make sense, and I am happy that founders nowadays also have the option to do a partial buyout because I have seen so many sell their business too early. After all, they wanted to get the first cash out in their career. 

You are also an angel investor. What's your strategy behind finding and backing the right companies and founders?

As I am primarily investing pre-seed / seed, it is all about the founders. Being an entrepreneur is ridiculously hard and most people fail at it.


I am always looking for people who have an ambitious vision paired with a hands-on maker mentality and the mind to go through hard times. Because I can guarantee you, they will come in every entrepreneur's journey.


Most of the founders I invest in pop up through my network, but I also regularly invest in companies I meet through ProductHunt or Twitter. 


I am specially interested right now in everything around the democratization of private markets. 

How do you manage your time between building new products, managing your existing companies, and investing in startups?

That's a hard one. I always tried to develop a strict schedule that separates my week into blocks for each of them. It never worked out for me. So it depends on the week and the stuff that is going on. 


But If I had the opportunity to choose I would always spend most of my time building.


What is some advice you give all of your portfolio companies' founders? 

I know it is hard, but I give one piece of advice to all of my companies and myself daily.


Focus, Focus, Focus.


As a founder & entrepreneur, you will always have limited resources. If you try to solve every problem at once, you will most likely fail. If you try to solve it one by one, you have a realistic chance of success.


Anything you would like to add?

If you are thinking about raising funding for your startup, check out my pitch deck & fundraising templates on BaseTemplates


Also, appreciate anyone reaching out on Twitter @MaxFleit!