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Venture Further 2013 finalists join digital accelerator

Venture Further 2013 finalists Simon Specka and Markus Hänel are set to launch ZenMate, the first product from their online security business, ZenGuard.

Following their success in the Technology category of Venture Further 2013 they have gone from strength to strength. They recently joined the Berlin-based Axel Springer Plug and Play accelerator programme for digital entrepreneurs to further develop and grow their business.

We recently caught up with Simon to find out more about their progress.

Tell us about the product that you recently launched.

“ZenMate for Google Chrome provides a one-click solution which uses a lightweight browser plug-in to allow users to surf the net securely using encryption, thus securing all browser activity. With IP addresses hidden and internet unrestricted, users’ privacy is protected.

“Following the soft launch our product went somewhat viral. We’ve had more than 17,000 downloads across 138 countries with zero marketing spend. We’ve had evening peaks of up to five sign-ups per minute.

How did you get the place on the accelerator programme?

“When we were in Manchester I made a list of all of the relevant accelerator programs in Europe, focussing on Germany where our network is strongest.

“I found out about the Axel Springer Plug and Play accelerator as I knew the Axel Springer company from other sources and was aware that it is a very open and innovative multinational. Furthermore, the connection to the Silicon Valley accelerator was very appealing.

“We applied in a two-step process. We submitted a business plan and then we received an invitation to come to Berlin to pitch in front of a panel of judges. The panel included the founder of Alando – which later became later Ebay Germany/Europe, a venture capitalist from Wellington Partners, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Plug and Play Accelerator and three top managers from Axel Springer.  

“There were more than 100 applications and we were one of eight start-ups to be accepted.”

What support and funding will you receive as part of this accelerator programme?

“The package is great! We receive initial funding of €25,000 for 5% equity in our business, fully equipped office space in Berlin, a variety of workshops, access to intensive coaching by highly experienced internal and external experts, mentoring days and weekly sessions by highly-renowned speakers.

“It also gives us the chance to grow our network, build business relationships and meet potential investors. Also, the access to everything that Berlin and Silicon Valley have to offer is fantastic.”

How will this opportunity help your business?

“This opportunity not only helps but is one of the very core elements that will enable us to develop the idea and progress.

“In this period we can grow our team, have the public beta launch, secure further funding, handle legal issues with the support of our investor and will be able to cover our own salary and expenses. 

 “The accelerator has made our start-up ‘frictionless’ in that we got a fully equipped office in the Berlin Start-up Eco System and all the relevant contacts at hand. It has enabled us to really focus on the product and business development, as well as our mid to long term vision.”

How has the enterprise support at Manchester helped you?

“I studied for the MSc in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Manchester Business School, with some units taught by staff from Manchester Enterprise Centre which were very useful. The things I learnt as part of the Venture Further competition were also great.

“We were the first start-up in The University of Manchester Innovation Group's (UMI3) IQuBit office for tech start-ups and got a free office for four months. We used this to build the prototype and establish the first business structures. UMI3 also gave us valuable introductions to some good contacts.

“I was also involved with the Manchester Entrepreneurs student society. The network, exchange of thoughts and creative input was very helpful and valuable for testing, refining and improving our initial idea.

“I chose to study at Manchester as I believe it is one of the top universities in Europe for entrepreneurship. The support was very helpful for us and helped us to our current achievements. The Venture Further competition and support of UMI3 enabled us to prepare the application for the accelerator.”

ZenMate for Google Chrome can be downloaded from our website or the Google Marketplace.










ZenMate Chrome homepage >>

Find out more about the Venture Further business start-up competition >>

Visit the UMI3 website >>


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