I am happy that Richard Koeppe, had the time to answer our questions.
Have fun reading and leave a comment if you have feedback or questions.
Give us your 30 seconds elevator pitch. What is it that you are working on? And who are the masterminds behind your company?
We are the guys, who are crazy enough to build autonomous race cars – every year again! To be more specific: we are researching for the future to find a great solution to transform manually driven formula students race cars into autonomous race cars. Our team consists of software, electrical, mechanical, and many other engineering students!
How did you find each other and what was the final moment, when you decided you’re going to found a company together?
We are less a startup, more of a student team competing in an international construction competition. The team already exists since 2005 and has built manually driven combustion and electric race cars. But some team members were very interested in autonomous driving. Due to the possibility to build an autonomous system onto an existing race car we immediately got engaged with the project.
Why did you decide to start working on a hardware idea?
We liked the challenge and we know that we can grow with it! Studying can be really theoretical, therefore we wanted to get closer to real world engineering.
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?
We are not a company, even if we all work as much! Maybe even a little bit more depends on the company. I didn’t found it, I joined the team. I’ve been living in Berlin for 14 years now. Therefore, studying at the TU Berlin guided me to this project. Berlin is always a nice benefit, especially for startups and projects like ours.
If you could have one additional skill in your team, who would get it, what would it be and why?
Experience. We are all students and therefore we don’t have much experience when it comes to the whole tool chain of autonomous driving. Hence, we have to figure out a lot of things by ourselves. Having a team member already knowing the path to go alongside the needed solutions for this way would save us a lot of time. On the other hand, it would not be the same this way! Because FaSTTUBe is all about gaining experience by solving problems and overcoming challenges on your own.
What do you want to achieve with your startup?
We want to develop an easy solution, hardware, and software, to transform a manually driven formula student car into an autonomously driven car. Afterwards we are going to take part in the competition and challenge other universities worldwide.
What was your biggest fuck up during your startup career?
Definitely trying to plan further than a few weeks, while it always came down to reacting immediately to the biggest „burning“ part on your car. A lot of things went wrong on the first try. Obviously, this is part of a new development. Nevertheless, it is difficult to stay motivated if your team faces a lot more issues than successes.
Which is the part of running a startup, that scares you the most and which is most fun?
I love to be involved in technical things. Being part of as much design processes as possible and give hints to different solutions is one of my favorite things. Implementing a code that is actually controlling the car was one of the most exciting things in the last year. I don’t really like the organizational part that much. Of course it is important to keep the team together and set up everything in time, but the more organizational tasks I do, the more I get away from the technical parts.
When was the last time you really celebrated a success and what was it about?
The time we actually got things to work, such as controlling the steering system or start driving autonomously. Seeing the whole car “becoming alive” is a huge success and feels really rewarding.
If you could change your life with every person in the world right now - would you do it? And if yes, with whom?
I would like to change for a single day with Elon Musk. I know he works on a lot of things simultaneously – his daily life must be really stressful. But his mindset motivates me and therefore I would like to know how it feels like to be him for one day.
Why are you at MotionLab.Berlin?
Community, atmosphere, support – there is more than enough at MotionLab.Berlin. It is an awesome place to develop something new, which is a perfect fit for us. The private garage that feels like your own pit for developing feels great too.
Would you rather have the skills to see 10 minutes into your future or to reset what happened in the last 10 minutes?
I would like to reset what happened 10 minutes in the past because seeing into the future does not give you the possibility to make some mistakes. Making mistakes builds up knowledge and is therefore a key part of developing.
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?
Currently, we are starting into a new season. Some members left and a lot of new members joined our autonomous project. We evaluated the last season, developed new ideas, and are now about to build and implement the newly decided concepts.
Are you currently looking for something specific? Investors, specific knowledge or positions?
If the 14 year old you would read this interview, what is the one thing you want him to know?
Start now and don’t wait until “you have the knowledge you need”. There are a lot of other people out there interested in similar technical things, talk to them, and start little projects with them! Working in a team on a big project is way more exciting than you might think.
Who is probably the proudest person in your circle of what you have achieved in the last years?
My parents. I can’t really say who’s prouder.
When was the last time you got really sick of what you are doing and why?
I measured the voltage outputs on our autonomous control unit (it’s a self-designed printed circuit board) and I accidentally shortened two pins. A semiconductor started to burn. Thankfully not the whole board caught fire. The sad thing is that we were about to be able to steer the whole system via this single board. I broke it and was really sad about it for maybe a week.
If someone invested 1 million euro in your startup tomorrow, what would you use the money for?
Difficult question, since we are more of a student team than a startup. Due to the fact that we currently rely a lot on sponsorships, money issues would no longer be the case. We would have enough money to develop a lot of things for the next years and we could easily afford products we currently can’t – like LIDAR and hydraulic systems. Maybe I would start to think about paying some members because we are doing a lot of work alongside the university stuff. Getting some sort of support in that way would be really great.