Give us your 30 seconds elevator pitch. What is it that you are working on? And who are the masterminds behind your company/idea?
I started with a voltage conversion business for people from North America living in Europe (like myself) who needed to convert the 220v power to 110v for their American equipment. I’m not an engineer so I did not do any technical innovation, just working on the product sourcing, visual design and branding, and making a really efficient e-commerce supply chain so that we can be competitive at reasonable prices and offer good value to the customers. So we are already good at that and we have been profitable since the very beginning.
Now we are being more ambitious and bringing more technical and creative talent onto the team and we have a lot of fresh ideas and good design that we are bringing into the clean energy / e-mobility space. Our combination of experience in China product development and manufacturing with e-commerce and logistics is now being matched with product design and engineering skills and that will make us a force to be reckoned with
How did you find each other and what was the final moment, when you decided you’re going to found a company together?
I started the company in 2009 and I’ve been fortunate to bring some great people into the project along the way but I’m the sole founder.
Why did you decide to start working on a hardware idea?
I started in more of a trading mindset, buying directly from manufacturers and selling to end consumers through e-commerce channels, but I quickly wanted to make improvements on the products we were selling and then to make products that did not quite exist yet, but where the technology was already in place but had not been configured and packaged for and end-user yet.
Why did you choose the city of Berlin to found a company? Do you think the city has an impact of how successful your project will be?
I came to Berlin as an artist. I never intended to start a business and I didn’t intend to be in Berlin as long as I have, so it was not a conscious choice. The city has certainly had an impact on the way the company has developed, in Berlin when I arrived in 2007 there was no economic or social pressure to have a job so people could do all sorts of projects that were more experimental and not financially driven. At that time, and maybe still today, Berlin is a good place to incubate ideas but I don’t think Berlin is a good place for small companies to raise financing, so that means that things move slowly and usually don’t get very big, or it takes a lot longer to grow a company. But Germany is also a great market to launch a hardware product into, it has strong infrastructure and people appreciate good quality and technical innovation, also there are high levels of trust between businesses and customers, so if you can get your product out then it’s a good place to be.
If you could have one additional skill in your team, who would get it, what would it be and why?
I think at this point the best skill-set to bring on board would someone who could do mobile app development. We have some good ideas to add useful features for bluetooth and wifi on our products but we don’t have anyone on the team with that experience.
What do you want to achieve with your startup?
For me it is really rewarding to be working together with a team on projects that can have a positive environmental impact. We are making some products now for the marine and outdoor market that allow people to use electric power where they would have used diesel or benzine previously, so we are already achieving this and can really push this a lot further in the next few years.
What was your biggest fuck up during your startup career?
Probably starting in parallel a second startup with friends as co-founders when I should have been 100% focused on my own startup, and then also hiring friends or friends of friends has usually been a really bad decision.
Which is the part of running a startup, that scares you the most and which is most fun?
Definitely the most scary thing about making energy and mobility products is that people could be injured or die from using them if they fail catastrophically. The most fun thing has been travelling a lot in China to meet suppliers and develop our products.
Would you rather have one real get out of jail free card or a key that opens any door?
A key that opens any door
When was the last time you really celebrated a success and what was it about?
I don’t remember, we should celebrate more.
Why are you at MotionLab.Berlin?
We were renting a large industrial space nearby to MotionLab.Berlin in the last years and subletting the excess space to visual artists and a video advertising company. Our rental agreement ran out and we needed to find a new space, I’m happy we are at MotionLab.Berlin right now, I’ve met some great people doing interesting things and I’ve had some good feedback on our projects and I hope to be able to collaborate in the future on some projects with some of the people there.
Would you rather have the skills to see 10 minutes into your future or to reset what happened in the last 10 minutes?
Reset what happened in the last 10 minutes, of course.
What is your favorite song, that motivates you and brings you through a tough working day?
What is the current status quo of your project?
We have had an interesting year, our main product line was 220v-110v voltage converters, that was our bread and butter, but it was very dependent on transcontinental travels and so a big part of that market evaporated overnight with the pandemic, but shortly after that we have had a big success with our new line of lithium batteries for powering electric boats – we sold out of our MVP version of the product very quickly and had really positive customer reviews so we are now well positioned to expand off this and grow quickly into these lithium boat battery products.
Are you currently looking for something specific? Investors, specific knowledge or positions?
We need to hire a mobile app developer and a production manager as soon as possible, and an inhouse electrical engineer who is good with electrical motors and battery systems. There will be a moment very soon where we will need to raise equity investment, but since the company is profitable we can keep boot strapping a bit longer.
If the 14 year old you would read this interview, what is the one thing you want him to know?
Yeah I would tell myself not to worry too much about what other people are saying and thinking and not to stress out about fitting in and just trust my own ideas and intuition – I kind of did that anyway but there was a time when I really had no idea what I would end up doing for a career and that was a bit stressful – also I would tell myself to try to learn Chinese.
Who is probably the proudest person in your circle of what you have achieved in the last years?
Me, for sure, because most of my friends don’t really know that much about what I actually do since I don’t talk about the particular details of what I do that much, and also because I live in a fantasy where I am projecting out several years ahead of where I actually am so that I feel much more successful than I really am objectively in the present moment.
When was the last time you got really sick of what you are doing and why?
I get burned out all the time, I get overwhelmed when things become more complicated than I can manage, I always take on projects that later become more difficult than what I had anticipated, then I need to find someone who can manage it or else let the project drop.
If someone invested 1 million euro in your startup tomorrow, what would you use the money for?
I would hire an engineering team who could develop our own marine propulsion systems, that’s on the roadmap but it will need some investment to make that happen.