For the last three years Founder and CEO of the start-up Harba, Christian Elkrog, has been receiving good advices from a broad array of mentors. Now, he is the one mentoring.
A lot has happened since 2015 when Christian Elkrog founded his start-up company Harba that digitalizes and connects boaters and sailors with marinas and the whole industry around it.
»It’s funny how some things in life go in full circles. In three years I have been receiving relevant advice and feedback from a lot of highly regarded people within my business. And now with all of this accumulated knowledge, I all of sudden have a few pointers to give other start-ups,« Mr. Elkrog says and adds:
»I’ve always been very passionate about Entrepreneurship, so I probably have a backlog of 100+ ideas. But one thing I have always lacked when I had these many ideas was sincere guidance, so I always seeked advice and feedback myself and now, I’m super excited to be able to “pay it forward” and help somebody on their start-up journey today.«
Mr. Elkrog doesn’t want to reveal the name of the start-up, he is mentoring, nor the issue it’s disentangling, as it’s still a bit of a secret. However, he explains that it’s a woman psychologist who wants to make a Research Center, so that a lot of the psychological issues revolving a very known disease can be solved.
Applied for Venture Cup right away and got a mentor!
Mr. Elkrog adds that one of the first things he did when Harba was founded was to apply for the National Competition of Venture Cup June 2015. Next to this he took a course in Entrepreneurship where he learnt about business model canvas at University of Copenhagen.
»Even though I only had an Idea when I signed up for the National Competition, Venture Cup introduced me to a lot of fantastic industry experts and interesting people.«
Mr. Elkrog also did a 2-minute pitch at another Venture Cup event, a so-called Speed Matching Event January 2017, which is a part of the Mentor Program.
Met the perfect mentor at Speed Matching Event
Here Mr. Elkrog met Alex Steninge Jacobsen, which is a highly active and praised mentor within Venture Cups extensive 370+ mentorship network.
»At the Speed Matching Event I got so much valuable feedback from field experts, as the Harba concept appealed to a lot of the mentors. A lot of the them had many years of start-up experience, much more than Alex, who was just getting into the game. Nevertheless, he and I had a really good conversation and hit it off really well, so I picked him,« Mr. Elkrog says.
Mr. Jacobsen and Mr. Elkrog began their structured 6-month strategic mentorship back in January 2017, but decided to continue their cooperation as they were very fond of each other and liked working together.
»I had a mentors prior to Alex, which was really good, but many of the relationships didn’t last too long. With Alex, who today maintains to be my mentor and now in fact also is a part of the board and an investor, it’s just more chill. He doesn’t do it because of money, but because he thinks it’s fun,« Mr. Elkrog says.
Mr. Jacobsen nods gently with a big satisfying smile.
»I see mentoring as a journey. I took active part of Christians company back in January 2017. The adventure we are on together is so much more valuable to me than the money itself,« Mr. Jacobsen says.
»But I’m also very philanthropic in the way I view life. I think the more experienced a person is, the more he or she has a duty to share this knowledge with others upcoming persons. It’s a way for us as a society to grow,« he adds.
Copenhagen, Denmark – March 23, 2018. Alex Steninge Jacobsen has been a mentor with Venture Cup Mentor Program since January 2017.
Was it coffee or beer?
Mr. Jacobsen agrees with Mr. Elkrog that chemistry is maybe the single most important factor in the mentee-mentor relationship.
»When I attended the Speed Matching Event January 2017 at Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship (CBS), I didn’t know what I was seeking. Other than adventure and fun. There were some 20 start-ups pitching and some 40 mentors listening,« Mr. Jacobsen says and adds.
»I found Christians pitch on stage to be very profound. He seemed very empathetic, had a good touch with the audience and I could see myself be on the journey with him.«
But Mr. Elkrog was quite popular at the event, Mr. Jacobsen recalls. He was surrounded by a dozens of mentors. However, Mr. Jacobsen gambled and put only Mr. Elkrog’s name on a matching sheet.
»Luckily, Christian felt the same way, so a few days after the event, we sat down, had coffee together and got in depth with the business plan,« Mr. Jacobsen says.
»Yeah, coffee sounds better than beer, right?,« Mr. Elkrog teases.
»Oh, you are right! We had beer of course,« Mr. Jacobsen replies with laughter.
Mr. Jacobsen is originally from the engineering world. He studied electronic engineering and IT and has slowly grown into a more commercial role with strategic decisions, customers, IT outsourcing, contracts and people management. New Year 2018 he quit his full time job at a big IT company as he wanted to make a transition from the corporate world to the start-up world.
»Venture Cup and the many amazing projects they run, both the National Competition and the Mentor Program in Copenhagen, has definitely inspired me to make this decision. I have done a lot of mentoring before, but the Venture Cup Mentor Program is the one I’m sticking with the longest,« Mr. Jacobsen says:
In fact, Mr. Jacobsen got so inspired from all the meetings Venture Cup facilitated, that he recently has started his own start-up. Hunters Institute (Danish: Institut for Jagt) is a small tech company, where he together with a handful of people work with digitalization of the hunting industry.
Mentoring is not only about the business
Another thing Mr. Jacobsen and Mr. Elkrog have in common is that they both have a ring on their fingers. Mr. Jacobsen has been married for almost 11 years, has two daughters, age 6 and 9, and live in Værløse in the Greater Copenhagen area. Mr. Elkrog has been married for 2 years, has a 3-year-old son and lives in Valby, Copenhagen.
»Of course our main focus is on business-related talks on how to strengthen, commercialise and develop the concept of Harba, but both Christian and I enjoy the fact that we can discuss other subjects like marriage too,« Mr. Jacobsen says.
»So our relationship is much more than a mentor-mentee thing in a very strict matter,« he adds.
Mr. Elkrog agrees and brisks up the pace of his voice.
»Alex, I can call anytime. We always have something to discuss, on either strategic or operational level, or simply things related to our families. It can often be a very difficult thing to balance work life with family. At least I think it is super hard,« he says.
»In a start-up you have limited resources. And if you don’t do the work, nobody will. So often work controls you, and not the other way around. But it’s a part of the package.«
Asked upon whether Mrs. Elkrog understands the sacrifices, now that Harba is progressing and achieving results day by day, he says, chuckling:
»She thought I would be a billionaire by now! So she is kind of disappointed. I showed her my 5-year plan. But I’m just a little bit behind.«
Mr. Elkrog believes the key to the strong mentor-mentee relationship is that he and Mr. Jacobsen somehow have kept their innocence and strive to support each other whenever they can.
»Such a mentor-mentee relationship is based on trust. And as Alex is a very philanthropic person who is sincerely interested in seeing other people strive and become succesful, it becomes much more easy. Not everybody is like that, so I guess, I’m very lucky.«
What is Harba?
An app that digitalizes and connects boaters and sailors with marinas and the industry around it. Boaters and sailors will through the Harba app reserve and pay for berths or mooring in advance.
How did the idea of Harba come about?
Mr. Elkrog always wanted to help other people. As he grew up with a boat himself, it was only natural that it would be people within that industry he eventually would help. So, a warm summer day in 2015 in Rørvig harbour in the North-western part of Sjaelland, he did a great discovery.
»I like anyone else enjoy a nice ice-cream and some fresh water in the summertime. So often, as it is if you combine those two things in the Danish summer, you will naturally be at a harbour. So I did. I was sitting in Rørvig harbour, not the biggest one in Denmark, but there are a lot of guest boats, and also families who have vacation homes nearby with kids running around and having fun. Let me tell you, it’s extremely idyllic and lovely.«
As Mr. Elkrog was having this nirvana-like moment, something of course had to go and ruin it, he recalls with laughter.
»A guy on a boat got caught in between another boat, so he started complaining out loud to the Harbour Master “What is this, what am I suppose to do?”. Then I thought to myself that something about this whole boat-parking-system was very illogical. Most of the times boaters from around the country would just take a chance and go to a harbour, but realize that all spots were fully booked and then turn around and go back.«
So Mr. Elkrog started immediately to talk with customers after he finished his ice-cream.
»I wanted to ask other users of the harbour whether they also felt that this was an issue. And not only that, I thought to myself that the payment method was quite old fashioned too. I mean, the Harbour Master was walking around with a big leather bag and collecting cash. Sure, there was a payment machine, but wouldn’t be much more cool if users could book and pay in advance through a simple app? This way we would get rid of unnecessary cash and phone calls.«
So that’s how the adventure for Mr. Elkrog started. Today Harba has build something called Harba Master, which is a system, originally for guests, but now open for all users, that solves all administrative IT-problems.
»I guess running a harbour is like running any other business, but since the harbour unlike many other businesses don’t have strong IT-systems supporting their business, most of them face great challenges. In fact, it obstructs them in doing their job well,« Mr. Elkrog says.