David Strittmatter

Last-Minute Trip: Startup Glory or Waste of Time?

Dear friend,

How to determine what’s important?

It was Tuesday evening at 8 pm when my cofounder called me.

I was sitting at my desk working on our hiring process. I thought he will give me a debrief of his day. He was at the MadBlue Impact Summit in Madrid (Spain), representing our startup. Maybe he met a particularly relevant partner for our first industrial plant?

“We are in the finals!”

Great news. Our startup ICODOS won the category Clean Energy. 1.500 EUR in cash and publicity.

“We have to pitch!”

“Awesome, what, when, how?”, I responded.

“There is a finalist pitch battle. Tomorrow evening. In-person. In Spain.”

Well! That’s great news I thought.

But how can we make this possible? My cofounder will have to fly to Finland. We planned that he will attend only the first day of the MadBlue Impact Summit.

“If we want to take part in the finals, you have to come to Madrid.”

“I see. But that’s no dealbreaker.”, I said.

I’m used to traveling. Spontaneous, straining traveling.

But we have to be very conscious of our most valuable resource: time.

“Let’s outline whether that’s actually reasonable”, I suggested.

There are 3 options:

  1. My co-founder stays in Spain and travels to Finland the day after → No option as he has to take part in a project meeting and connecting in-person is key.
  2. I travel to Spain and do the pitch. → We will gain even more publicity in a core market for our technology. And we have the chance to win EUR 3,500 in addition if we win the finals pitch.
  3. I stay in Germany → I can do all the scheduled meetings and do not lose valuable time for the priorities of the week.

I quickly checked my calendar. I have no meetings in the early morning the next days. The meetings from 12:00 pm I could do in Madrid. There are only 2 meetings in the evening I would need to reschedule.

I’m used to working during flights and taxi drives. And the stuff I was working on I could do during travel.

The cost of travel ≈600 EUR was high. But the chance of winning the EUR 3,500 was conservatively estimated at 25% (4 finalist pitching). The expected value was EUR 875 (25% x 3,500). Hence, the rational decision-maker would take the risk.

“I can do it and it seems reasonable to do it. Let me quickly check for flights. If there is a suitable one, I will book it and let you know.

I checked possible routes. No direct connection. Hence, the shortest flight was about 5.30 hours. I had to wake up at 4:45 am to be in Madrid and attend my first scheduled meeting.

The same for the return flight the next day. I had to wake up at 4:55 am.


I quickly checked with my girlfriend. I take her advice seriously when it comes to health, sleep, and sports. And this travel would have an intense impact on it. Also, I would be wasted on Thursday evening – the only evening during the work week when we spend “romantic time”.

She gave me her full support but told me from a health perspective that’s not good. I shall recover and sleep more at the weekend.

All right.

I booked the flight. I set the alarm at 4:45 am. I packed my bag. I went to bed.

Retrospectively, it was the right decision to fly to Madrid.

We didn’t win in the finals. The money went to a startup where it makes a real difference. In our case, the EUR 3,500 wouldn’t have made a real difference. Our first financing round will be >1000x larger.

But the pitch was perceived very well. I got connected to further key players in the Spain ecosystem. We got even more publicity. And except for the cost of travel, we didn’t lose anything. I could do all meetings and was productive in the travel.

So my friend, how do you determine what’s important?



Share This Post

Recent Posts