30 May 2017
How did you get your idea/concept for your business?
Niklas: The idea came up in a guest lecture at Business School about Frugal Innovation, where existing resources are used more efficiently. With a b2b online marketplace in mind I approached my friend Tobias, a sports scientist who faced limited access himself during his bachelor thesis in collaboration with Bayer. This is how the initial idea was born, which is now a marketplace for scientific equipment and services.
What is unique about your business?
Tobias: So far, scientists like myself had to buy the technology or look for the resources manually, by leveraging a network which can be quite limited. Once the resource is found, the terms need to be negotiated and a contract has to be set up, which can take several months. This is a costly and time intensive process that often results in a delay or the end of a project in the worst case. Now, scientists can easily find and request the resources in a transparent process via the platform.
How do you distinguish from your competitors?
Johannes: We see ourselves as the one stop shop for scientists and most of our competitors focus either on internal sharing or equipment or service sharing. We offer the whole package which creates valuable synergies not only for the customers but also for the providers. We give them more flexibility about how they can collaborate in the most convenient way for both parties.
What is the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Johannes: After graduating we were at a point where we had a good idea and team with some potential customers, but no prototype nor proper funding. So we decided that Tobias and Niklas would take another job and together with Giovanni finance me to work on Clustermarket full time. This was crucial for Clustermarket and not easy for all of us but we had to start somehow. After receiving some funding from Merck they both finally joined me full time.
If you could time travel back in to day one of your company, and have 15min with your former self, what would you say?
Niklas: Trust is one of the most important aspects when it comes to building a team and business. Skills can be picked up or bought when times are good however, the beginning is rough and it’s more about surviving than anything else. Do not worry too much about uncertain decisions; trust your instincts and common sense and it will pay off. Do not become afraid of competition, because every business must compete sooner or later, rather learn from them, but at the same time walk a new path and do things differently. Everything takes more time than anticipated and take nothing for granted.
Do you have any tips on how to manage work life balance. Do you have any hobbies that help you switch off?
Tobias: We do a lot of sports, go running and play football but we don’t have any general tips. We just try to have a lot of fun in the office and at work. Sometimes we also agree to take some time off in the evening or during weekends to do something completely non-work related.
If you had one piece of great advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Johannes: Don’t focus all of your activities on fundraising – which we did in the very beginning. It is a time consuming process, especially if you are doing it for the first time. There are many other ways how you can fund yourself and have more time for the actual business. The general focus should be more on operational success and the validation of the business model.
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most?
Johannes: Reed Hastings (CEO and co-founder of Netflix) because he successfully keeps disrupting not only industries but also their own business model.
Tobias: My dad, who I look up to as a human and as a business man. He managed to build a successful business with little resources and even more important, besides work, he is a wonderful dad.
Niklas: It is hard for me to pick one individual entrepreneur. I learn from many people who have been very successful – each in their own way. If I must pick someone though, I would go for Warren Buffett, because he has stayed very humble despite his achievements and loves Coca-Cola like me.