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Silvan Krähenbühl, managing director Swisspreneur, Swisspreneur Podcast

EP #269 - Silvan Krähenbühl: Silvan Takes A Back Seat

Silvan Krähenbühl

October 20, 2022

10:10 - The Gymhopper story

22:00 - Stepping down from the CEO role

25:47 - How Silvan met Christian Hirsig

30:28 - Juggling two jobs plus Swisspreneur

36:52 - Where the Swiss ecosystem is headed

About Silvan Krähenbühl:

Silvan Krähenbühl is the host and managing director at Swisspreneur and current CEO at Rentouch, a Swiss enterprise software company developing products geared towards e-collaboration, and best known for the PIplanning app. He holds a BA in Business Administration from the University of St Gallen.

Silvan grew up in the Emmental valley with parents who ran a veterinary clinic, but he soon realized that looking after animals wasn’t really his thing, and that he was more interested in gadgets and business. During highschool, he participated in Young Enterprise Switzerland, and “founded” a company (not legally, but just as a project) which imported a cell phone holder from China and sold it in Switzerland.

After his bachelors at HSG, Silvan created Gymhopper, a B2B SaaS startup which gives individual gyms the network of a big chain, together with his co-founder Louis, whom he had met at HSG’s Young Entrepreneurs Club. This partnership turned out to be an unfortunate one, since Louis and Silvan did not have shared values. But this realization would come later – in the meantime, Gymhopper hired its CTO, João Sobral, in Lisbon, and grew within the span of 6 months to be the biggest gym network in Switzerland. 

Investors then wanted them to expand and become the biggest network in all of Europe, but the Gymhopper team soon realized that their business model was Swiss-specific and would not work in other countries, because abroad there is often a legal preference for monthly gym memberships (in contrast to the Swiss annual membership model). Their expansion to Denmark and Austria was therefore not very fruitful. They tried to counteract this through a corporate fitness model, which not only brought in more revenue but also attracted the attention of the Austrian company myclubs, who wished to expand their corporate fitness offering in Switzerland.  Gymhopper was acquired by myclubs in 2018 and Silvan stepped down from the CEO role, switching to a part-time Head Of Business Development position at myclubs.

It was also in 2018 that Silvan joined Swisspreneur. One of the startup coaches that he’d met while building Gymhopper was Christian Hirsig, a serial entrepreneur and former Swisspreneur host, who invited Silvan to take over from him as host. Silvan was at first quite hesitant about being on camera and taking on such a large role, but was eventually convinced by Chris and nowadays feels very thankful for having made this decision. From 2018 to 2022, Silvan and his team grew Swisspreneur from a show with 16 published episodes to the biggest Apple Podcasts business podcast in Switzerland, with its own coaching service, masterclasses and syndicate. Silvan credits the success of Swisspreneur to his amazing team.

Throughout 250+ episodes, 2 lessons stand out to Silvan:

  • Businesses are often built when people try to find a way to solve their own problems. That doesn’t mean you should always do this, or that it always goes well (it’s important to confirm that it isn’t just your problem you’re solving), but it’s usually a good place to start.
  • Timing is not something you can influence, but you can and should make an effort to understand how the markets are shifting, how the world is changing, and how you can be a part of this change. 

In Silvan’s opinion, a founder should be able to:

  • Sell everything and anything: themselves, the business, etc.
  • Be self-reflective: this is crucial to making the right decisions and staying down-to-earth and approachable. Make it a habit of disregarding your own ego.
  • Be good at taking care of themselves: it’s very important to know how to relax and have fun, otherwise you will burn out, sooner or later.

In 2020 Silvan started working at Rentouch as Enterprise Account Director. In 2021 he left his position at myclubs and started working full time for Rentouch, and in 2022 he became the new Rentouch CEO. Ansuya Ahwalia, founder of Anamii and host of this episode, will be joining Silvan in the host team, occasionally interviewing guests. 

Memorable Quotes:

"Most founders are actually unhappy. As companies grow, they can get bogged down by the workload and feel like they’re being stretched too thin."

"There’s a big momentum developing in the Swiss ecosystem right now. The big US VCs are starting to invest here."

Recommended Resources:

Oura Ring

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

If you'd like to listen to Silvan's interview with Chris Hirsig, check out episode 17.

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