At Helvengo we value people over positions. To kick off this interview, please answer these either or questions with what first comes to mind!
- Mountains or Sea? No doubt: mountains! Growing up in the beautiful “Berchtesgadener Land”, surrounded by the most beautiful mountain scenery of the Eastern Alps, I stood on skis for the first time at the age of two. Since then, mountains have been an integral part of my life. Between November and June you can find me at the weekends mostly on ski tours, whereas in summer I like to go alpine touring, alpine climbing, mountain biking and road biking. As a trained mountain rescuer back home and a competitive ski tourer in my younger years, alpine sports have always been more than just a hobby to me.
- Podcast, Movie or Book? Podcast. It is something you can also listen to while doing sports. I’m really into these remarkable stories from the Tech & Startup scene.
- Make plans or spontaneous? I am on the spontaneous side. Especially following my wife’s or friends’ ideas – they are mostly good.
- Early or late? Late.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
First of all, I think we are infinitely privileged to live in Europe. We are particularly privileged in Switzerland. Within a few hours you can escape to one of the most beautiful natural regions of the world. No matter if you’re looking for palm trees and dolce vita in Ticino, glacier regions in Valais or untouched lonely nature in Grisons – everything is reachable even for a weekend trip only. In this respect, I am not thinking too much about moving. If I were to retire, I would probably move to Engadin or Berchtesgaden.
Okay, so you would definitely not join Bene if one day he would emigrate to Australia 😉 Next question: What food or drink reminds you of home?
Germknödel with Almdudler
[I just googled what a Germknödel is. For those of you, dear readers, who do not know either: «Germknödel is a fluffy yeast dough dumpling, filled with spiced plum jam and served with melted butter and a mix of poppy seeds and sugar on top.»]
Tell us about your strategy to relax after a hard day of work?
Yes. I love running on the top of Üetliberg or bicycling with the Helvengo team across the beautiful Zurich Oberland. Sometimes we even catch the sunset. All that rounds off a working day very well and makes it really special.
A bit more philosophical: What risks are worth taking?
I think all non-existential risks with the potential to move you forward are worth taking. (By the way: For the existential risks of entrepreneurs there is Helvengo to mitigate!). I think many people tend to be too risk-averse. I am convinced that you only feel really alive when you leave (at least to some degree) your comfort zone. That probably also explains my fascination for sports that include a degree of risk – whether it’s climbing walls or skiing out of steep couloirs – you get to experience a rush of adrenaline and you are rewarded by an indescribable feeling of happiness/accomplishment after the exertion.
I see it in a similar way for my professional life. I consciously decided against the security that a large corporation could offer. Of course, a startup like Helvengo involves risk – but that’s what makes entrepreneurship so appealing. And I want everyone of our employees to be able to participate in this journey of entrepreneurship. All of our team takes entrepreneurial risk by investing part of our compensation in company shares. That keeps it exciting!
You have already briefly touched on Helvengo – so what made you decide to become a founder? And how do you maintain the giving 100% mentality?
In my previous professional positions, I sometimes had the feeling of not being able to make enough of a difference. As a founder, you have it in your own hands and you can’t blame anyone else for success, failure or lack of inspirational goals. That was the ultimate attraction for me to the entrepreneurial world. I can hardly imagine anything more fulfilling than building an organization that grows in resilience with the challenges of the market and intentionally creating a team culture in which employees feel well taken care of and engaged. Of course, you don’t succeed in every aspect and you can’t live up to a 100% mentality every day. But you certainly always have the power to reflect and make decisions to adjust when needed.
What makes you excited about Mondays?
To meet awesome colleagues who are looking forward to a new week full of challenges, fun, hard but also fulfilling work.
How do you handle things being different than expected?
Keep calm. It is a fact that in a startup environment, things often go differently than expected. What I have learned from my working experience so far is that even though you sometimes have the feeling things could go south, there is a way out. Resilience is one of the most important skills if you want to work in an entrepreneurial environment and one of our core values.
Let me ask you one final question: According to you, how did you come up with the name of your startup?
Well, just before we started with Helvengo, Vedi was in Switzerland and I was enjoying some time off in Japan. Thus, during a call we were screening Japanese words and trying to combine them with expressions that imply “Swissness”. Helvengo is the outcome of our brainstorming. “Engo» means support, protection and safety in Japanese – combined with the first part of “Helvetia” – here we go!