Digital Knights core product is connecting people with high quality and thoroughly vetted tech teams. They are a Swiss company who currently base their operations out of Berlin – Europe’s startup capital. We met with one of the founders at their office in Mindspace to find out more about Digital Knights, and the people behind it.
Prags Mugunthan, Digital Knights founder, recalls how the startup came to be: “In the beginning, I was working from my laptop in the Berlin Spätis, in those little kiosks that stay open late-night and on Sundays. It was terrible. But they had Internet,” he recalls. “Then I had my first meeting with a tech team in a café downstairs – right here in this building.” It was then they decided that finding teams, rather than freelance developers, was the answer.
Back then, Mugunthan was in the midst of formulating an idea for a startup, for which he drew inspiration while working on several other startups in the past. He realized that one of the biggest obstacles hindering the success of a young startup was its inability to recruit the right tech resources. “Entrepreneurs often have great ideas,” he explains. “But the bottleneck is the tech side as every business needs a digital vehicle. There is a large supply of tech resources out there – but it’s hard to find the right team to create your high-quality product.”
Often, Mugunthan says, seed capital runs out before a product is ready to launch to market due to mismanagement, delayed timelines, and inflated budgets, causing a startup to fail as a result.
To help startups and businesses avoid that roadblock, Digital Knights set out to find and vet high-quality tech teams across Europe with the necessary skill sets to build great digital products. In essence, Digital Knights’ mission is to become the go-to company for outsharing tech resources for startups and businesses aiming to digitalize themselves.
“So far, we have screened over 150 tech-teams from across the globe and narrowed it down to just over a dozen who we have accepted into our network,” says Mugunthan. Digital Knights do not work with “large development studios who pay low wages and build poor products,” but rather, with “hand-picked, solid boutique teams with their own creative input, who care about the outcome and the success of the client.”
Digital Knights have teams based in Estonia, Turkey, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, and Germany to name a few. “It’s like an insurance for high-quality engineering as we do the due diligence required to assess if a tech team is the right fit,” Mugunthan says of his startup, which seeks to optimize the success rate for startups and businesses by providing prescreened tech teams. Venture Capitalists are already jumping on the bandwagon. “VC’s are getting in touch with us asking which startups we work with. Since we de-risk a big component for why startups fail, our clients become attractive for VC’s.”
Digital Knights has come a long way within six months. Mugunthan began to pursue his venture in October 2015 with his eyes set on Berlin. “London has a great tech scene, but the city was too expensive. Swansea was a big mistake. And Tallinn didn’t have the right vibes,” he says.
A college friend recommended Berlin. “He told me: If you want to found a startup in Europe, Berlin is the place to be.” So that’s where he went. “I realized quickly that Berlin is a great city with its low prices, its pool of talent, and their entrepreneurial spirit,” Mugunthan says.
Co-founder Keilian Knudsen worked with Prags from the US despite the time difference, until April 2016, at which point he crossed the Atlantic to join Digital Knights in its new Mindspace office. The startup has 9 employees based out of the HQ today.
The twin pillars of Digital Knights is building a strong international business network, and providing top quality tech resources. Coworking out of Mindspace was a no-brainer, it made sense to surround themselves with an existing network of entrepreneurs to kick off the business. “We knew we wanted to be at a place where we could move forward with like-minded individuals,” Mugunthan says. “From a financial point of view, it would have made sense to rent an office loft in the city center. But we wanted to co-work. Being here reduced our go-to-market by a year. People here are helpful. And they have similar ambitions.”
Despite the international nature of Digital Knights, Mugunthan says his team wants to increase local ties and forge relationships with the digital ecosystem in Berlin. They recently hired a new recruit – Canadian native Emma – placed in charge of nurturing business relations in Berlin. Step one: Learn to communicate with locals. She’s already sweating in intensive language courses working on her German.
Prags Mugunthan was born in Sri Lanka, raised in Norway, and educated in Scotland. He founded Digital Knights after working on a few other startups. He is in charge of operations & business development.
Give us the low-down on Berlin
The city is young and formed of four subcultures: music, fashion, politics, and startups. As a young startup, we can be a part of shaping it. By sitting with our team and clients in cafes or restaurants – we’re immersing ourselves in the essence of the city. This would be impossible in cities like London due to financial limitations. And even though I don’t speak German, I get on quite well here.
Where would you be in a world without high-tech?
Probably in Rio, Brazil – being a broker of sorts – The lifestyle there is fantastic.
Office: 625, 6th Floor, Friedrichstraße.