Get to know our CEO

This week, the website deutsche startups published an article featuring our CEO and co-founder, Simon Bungers. The original version is in German and is available to read here, but now you can read an English version!

What does it mean to you to be your own boss?

Of course, it’s great to be your own boss. You have so many possibilities to create, to take risks, to drive ideas through. But with everything comes responsibility and obligation – with customers, colleagues, shareholders, stakeholders. They expect you to be properly organized, to get things going, to bet on the right things.

How did this idea for your startup come about?

I was working on my PhD in the lab at the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine and I thought: “How is it possible that I have to redo an entire method for an experiment, just because my colleagues’ documentation is inaccessible, misplaced or inadequate”. It wasn’t the colleagues’ fault, but the fact that all the documentation in the lab was still on paper and there was no digital system to help out with the organization of data, of the team, of resources etc. And the idea of labfolder was born!

Where did the capital come from for your company?

Initially from an Exist-Gründerstipendium (a German funding program for graduates). At the end of 2013, we did our first financing round and back in July 2015, we did our second one.

When your startup was first established, what were the biggest obstacles?

To be completely honest, I could now pick at the bureaucracy and lack of risk taking etc. in Germany. But ultimately, it’s the team and you, yourself, that puts the most obstacles in your way. Establishing structures and making yourself more professional and focused, I think, were the biggest challenges, and, perhaps, are and always will be for all startups!

Looking back, what would you do differently when you first founded the company?

  1. To start with sales earlier, to really generate a cash inflow – that’s what makes you independent from investors and funding programs etc.
  2. To care more about team building – you can’t only work hard together, you have to have some fun together too.
  3. To never think that you can do something “afterward”. Whenever “afterward” is (financing rounds, trade shows etc.) and whenever a quiet period is. But it doesn’t work like that. Establishing and starting up a company is not about taking the plunge.  It’s taking the plunge, then taking the plunge into deeper water and then another plunge in even colder and deeper water.

Every startup has to be well known. Which marketing strategy is particularly important to you?

We are actually really lucky that our market (laboratory) in a niche market with it comes to people but a mega market regarding money – you only need to think of the pharmacy industry. That means, however, that because laboratory people know each other worldwide, advertising works on a recommendation basis. These recommendations can spread and grow, which is what we are working on over everything.

Which particular person helped you out at the start?

There are so many, that it would be presumptuous to only name one mentor. Michael Brehm definitely opened lots of doors to me. Victor Henning, from Mendeley, was and is big supporter and mentor. My student friend, Johannes Bankwitz from BurgerMe, was and still is psychological support. And, of course, my co-founder, Florian Hauer, who’s been there through thick and thin!

What piece of advice would you give to other founders?

Pick a good team! I don’t know any startups on the way to success, that haven’t encountered problems with their team. These difficulties shouldn’t be a problem to the co-founders – you can’t imagine at the start where you’ll be in the future, and the hard times you’ll have to get through. But a good assortment of “stress tests” help with the selection process.

If you were to meet the German Minister of Economic Affairs, what would you ask him to change in regards to Germany’s stance towards startups?

  1. I wouldn’t ask for more funding programs or state grants for innovation, but more venture capital relief. That means new venture capital sources, for example, pension funds. The fact that in the USA also pension offices and state insurance companies can invest in VC funds, means that there is an unbelievable amount of capital available and innovation is the core focus. All the other ways of investing (e.g. bonds) don’t generate any value, but an extortionate amount of value is produced from innovation. Concrete example: After the dot-com bubble in 2001, the USA was happily invested in the digital economy, while Germany moved backward. This means that the USA is currently dominating the digital industry with Apple, Google and Co., in fact worldwide.
  2. Just the possibility for employees to enlist in companies without complications. It really is a joke that employees who take out shares in a company are charged a crazy amount of tax. This is because Germany uses a virtual equity model and not the traditional option pool, like in the US.

What would you do professionally if you hadn’t found a startup?

Professional skateboarding. Or professional sailing. Jokes aside: I really don’t know.

Which startup would you like to have a sneak peek into?

ResearchGate – with them you only ever get something when they do another big financing round –  I would really like to know what they drive for in the time between.

You can travel in time: which period of time would you travel to?

In the future: I would find it really interesting to see how the world would be in 200, 500, 1000 years time! If I could only go back in time: to the Romans, at the end of the republic/start of the imperial age – would be very interesting!

If you had a million euros, what would you spend it on?

I’d invest in cool startups. Apart from that, maybe a holiday, something that, unfortunately, is quite rare in entrepreneurial life.

How do you spend a great Sunday?

Morning: Go skateboarding in a small skatepark in the neighborhood. Afterward, brunch with my family, then sailing with family and friends at Müggelsee or Wannsee (Berlin lakes). In the evening: prepare for Monday.

Who would you love to drink a coffee or beer with one time?

Titus Dittmann (Skateboarder and entrepreneur) or Larry Ellison (sailor and entrepreneur).

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