Thema: Digitalisierung | Sprache: Englisch | Startup: Packwise
How three entrepreneurs revolutionize a traditional business niche (Part 2)
...back to Interview-Part 1
Q: Last week we talked about the beginning of Packwise. How exactly did your team grow from two to three cofounders?
Gesche: When we started we didn’t even know the name of the company yet, but we already knew that we needed a third person to do the IT-related tasks. We knew that finding someone was going to be a challenge because we didn't have a decent network here in Dresden yet. At first we were thinking about working with agencies to fill that gap, but we were lucky to find someone to join the team as the third co-founder.
René: We didn’t know each other until we started chatting one Tuesday we at Impact Hub’s Cake Tuesday event. Even then, we didn’t know that simple advice and some IT tips and hints could develop into long-term co-founding relationship. After some time, I realized that the project we were discussing couldn’t be outsourced to an external agency because it would limit Felix and Gesche’s ability to make the project into what they wanted. Outsourcing meant that they’d just get a finished product that they wouldn’t be able to change or adjust, and that's where I stepped in.
Felix: Everybody at Hub told us that René was very involved in projects and events there and always provided a lot of input on meetings and discussions. Those recommendations were very important to us and allowed us to better get to know René.
„When you want to invite somebody into your team, you actually want to know who you’re going to work with.“
Q: Do you think that Hub makes a difference for your business?
Felix: Yes, for sure. It starts with the “plug & play” approach of the Hub, which significantly reduces the risks and costs of getting started. With the whole infrastructure in place we only had to chose a desk, connect our laptops to the internet, and we were ready to go. The three of us are open-minded people and we like to socialize during the many different occasions like cake time, lunch, just hanging out in the kitchen, Friday breakfasts, etc. There’s always someone who can give valuable advice, not matter what you have on your mind.
„The Impact Hub bundles so much expertise and people with different ages and backgrounds together.“
If you don’t manage to find the right person straight away, the Impact Hub team or some other Hub member will make sure you do. We feel lucky to be able to exchange with startups that have already gone through the stages we are going through now and to learn from them how to best tackle certain issues. We stopped counting how many times the Impact Hub team or members have introduced us to potential investors, potential team members, freelancers, people in academia, agencies, lawyers, consultants, etc. Obviously such introductions are extremely helpful. Last but not least, we profit from the exclusive contracts the Hub has arranged with numerous suppliers, like Hubspot.
Q: How advanced is your project and what are your next steps?
Felix: For the last six months, we’ve been focusing on writing our business plan, preparing our financial planning, applying for funding, creating our Packwise brand and of course building the product. René has done a fantastic job here. Currently the Makers Club guys are making sure to give René’s work a very appealing design. We’re also starting to test the Packwise platform with clients. Our aim is to get real client feedback that we will then implement for the product’s launch. We did a first financing round and were lucky to receive EU funding via the SAB Technologiegründerstipendium. Within the next few months, we plan to fill a marketing and a sales position and start another round of funding.
Q: What are your biggest concerns at this stage?
Felix: One of our biggest challenges is finding the right people for jobs in fields we’re not experts in. We’re also putting a lot of effort into finding the right way to communicate our USPs to our customers in an understandable way. We need to make the rather complex topic easy to grasp within a few seconds. It’s surprising how difficult it can be to do that.
Q: Speaking about technicalities, are there any tools you could recommend to other startups?
Felix: We currently use Google Drive & Docs because it makes teamwork really easy and it’s free. In addition, we use Trello to keep track of our to do lists, we communicate mostly via Slack and we built and manage our mail campaign with the help of Mailchimp.
Q: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about creating a startup?
Gesche: I think that once you decide to start, you need to be prepared to just dive in and not question yourself along the way. We decided that we wanted to give it a go and that we wouldn’t be discouraged by people who aren’t as excited about the idea as we are.
Felix: At the beginning we also had this idea from traditional industry that you have to be very secretive about your plans and only discuss the product externally once it’s fully developed. We learned rather quickly that this strategy wasn’t an option for us. We needed external input right away so we talked about it with a lot of people. If we hadn’t done this, we wouldn’t have met René.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Felix: We actually received a lot of varying advice when we started. In the startup industry, there is a certain set of rules that some people think are always true. That you have to provide an MVP, for example, and you have to grow fast, and it’s impossible to avoid making mistakes, and so on. Oh, and that all corporations are evil [he laughed]. It occurred to me that it’s very difficult to distinguish between good and bad advice. I think you have to find your own approach because some things might be good for some people, but might not work for you.
Gesche: On one of my first days at Impact Hub, I met Lars. We briefly discussed the Packwise idea and what we do and he asked who my advisor was. I was a bit puzzled because we got help from different sources, but had never really thought about getting a business advisor. He put me in contact with a trusted consultant, Roman Schwarz of Bergmeyster, who helped us a lot in the early stages of our business. We created new connections, found out about the scholarship, and just generally got our feet on the ground. That was really valuable piece of advice.
René: It was a tough decision for us to choose if we should write a proper business plan or not. But with the right approach, it seemed to be a quick process, especially when we used Business Model Canvas. The model was very helpful and required a lot of market research - that really gave us a proper guide for the next steps.
Gesche: Yes, creating a business plan forces you to put a lot of thinking into everything.
Q: Is there something you wish you had known before starting PackWise?
Gesche: If I had to start Packwise again, I would definitively want to know that writing our business plan would not take 4 weeks. It took us almost half a year to complete it.
Q: Enough about work and business, let’s talk about leisure. What’s your favourite thing in Impact Hub Dresden?
René: I’m fan of Cake Tuesdays. And our new favourite is the ping-pong table; we play a lot.
Felix: I think that the relaxing area is really nice, but also very dangerous. It’s easy to fall asleep during work!
René: We also spend some free time together outside of work. Our first corporate event was paragliding and I love spending holidays in mountains. Actually, if I had to choose one superpower, it would be flying.
Q: If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Gesche: I wish we could use more sustainable solutions in the world. And my dream is to get rid of all the suffering and unhappiness in the world.
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I am 34 years old and from Munich. I studied Economics with a focus on capital markets in Regensburg and Barcelona. After working for two years in a consultancy firm focused on Supply Chain Management, I became a general manager for a leading manufacturer of industrial packaging in Manchester and Dresden.
I started my career as a an Ecomonist at UBS in Zurich. I studied Economics at Universität Regensburg, Trinity College Dublin and Freie Universität Berlin. After finishing my masters, I spent a year studying and doing research at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
I am 39 years old and I come from a village around 60km west of Dresden. Now I live together with my wife and our 3 kids on a farm in a little village just outside of Dresden. I studied computer science at the Technische Universität Dresden and Middlesex University London.
Numbers & Facts
The Packwise business model directly caters to the UN Goal of “Responsible Consumption and Reduction.” Packwise Loopz enables companies to organise their packaging in closed loops, promoting the benefits of the circular economy. It helps to extend the life cycle of packaging while reducing the down time during which packaging drums are sit empty in warehouses. Packwise Platform enables businesses to manage their loops and makes resource reuse as profitable as it is practical. As long as their packaging is fit for purpose, buyers will reuse it and, when they are done, recycle it. These are big changes inspired by a simple idea.
Amount of CO2eq savings new vs. refurbished IBC
Amount of CO2eq savings new vs. refurbished steel drum
Number of units of IBCs being emptied in Germany
Number of units of drums being emptied in Germany
Length of time to start an auction on Packwise