1:45 - Co-founding START Global
09:17 - Turning btov into umantis
19:13 - Starting a company during the dot com bubble
23:14 - Switzerland is the most open of the DACH countries
41:02 - When a fuck-up turns out okay
START global, the (nowadays) international organization promoting entrepreneurship among young people, was co-founded by Hermann during his Zwischenjahr at HSG. The inspiration for it was actually another project of his: during this time Hermann also created a computing school for kids in his home country, Austria; he then felt it was necessary to create role models for these kids, so that they would feel they had more career options than going into banking or consulting. He himself comes from a family of entrepreneurs and feels this area is a much better use of great talent than areas like finance, seeing as they nowadays don’t provide much value to people, according to Hermann.
In 2000, after finishing his studies, he co-founded btov — brainstoventures, a matchmaking platform to connect great companies with great venture capital. The founding team, Hermann reflects, underestimated how difficult it would be to make money with their business model — they wanted to take a cut from the equity the way Y Combinator does, but after one year they realized this model wasn’t going to work for them and they had to pivot.
Coincidentally, companies had previously approached the btov team saying it would be great to have their matchmaking software to use with their own employees, as they had little clue about the skills their people had. And that’s how btov was pivoted into the HR software Umantis, one of the first Swiss Software as a Service companies. In 2014 Umantis merged with the Haufe group: after realizing that one of their competitors was going public in 2011 with 30M revenue, 45M losses and an evaluation of 1B (which were crazy numbers back then), the Umantis team knew it was their time to start actively pursuing an exit scenario.
"When doing business, you should always be very clear with your terms and write them down — especially if you’re doing business with friends."
"It’s hard to see your company go in a direction you don’t agree with."
If you would like to listen to a conversation with another co-founder of START Global, check out our episode with Bettina Hein.
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