CARMUDI: THE WORLD’S FASTEST GROWING CAR WEBSITE
TD: Introduction, bio and link to your startup
I have always been an entrepreneur. If you ask, I did not exactly run a business at the age of 12 or invest as a teenager. But I am still convinced that I have always been an entrepreneur. Why? Well, I was quick to take on responsibility. I always showed curiosity in learning new things and I never did something half-heartedly. I put my heart and soul into it all, be it academic or sport.
In other words, I don’t think you have to be a business person or run a company to be an entrepreneur. You simply need to be actively involved in things.
I started my professional career as a consultant with Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. Here, I learnt the basic skillset to run a company and structure thoughts. My role with Roland Berger prepared me to start my own company, an ecommerce business in Munich, which caters to dogs and cats. The business grew so significantly in Germany that I was approached by Rocket Internet to basically replicate this success on a global level.
TD: Tell us a bit about your personal life. Where you’re from, where you live now, family situation and what motivates you?
I am from Jena, a small town on the Eastern side of the former Iron Curtain. I was raised as a very independent child and, at an early age, I learnt to take responsibility for my own actions. This is, for me, the essence of entrepreneurship. During my school years and later at University, I was elected to represent the voice of the entire student body. The ability to get people on board and add to the vision was my first step towards entrepreneurial leadership.
Besides, I was always driven by curiosity. At university I took two studies in parallel. I started a Master’s degree in Business Administration but quickly found out that there was more to learn. So I took up Philosophy, Political Science and Economics in parallel. I always like to overthrow the status quo. My studies led me to the US, Spain and different universities in Germany. I worked in Peru, Singapore and all over Europe. At present I am living in Munich with my wife and two children. You see, I’m always on the move, meaning I always feel the urge to discover new places or start new projects.
Even though I divided my attention during my studies, I had always been successful at what I did. I was a Fulbright scholar. I held scholarships at the German Bundestag/US Congress and at the prestigious Konrad Adenauer Foundation. During my time at Roland Berger, I was also a member of the Challenge Club, the 5% consultants globally.
TD: What is your present startup?
I am building up Carmudi. Carmudi is a car marketplace, currently active in 18 countries all over the world including Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. We help people to find their right transportation, be it a new Toyota Corolla or a used motorcycle. People can choose among several 100,000s of cars on our site and directly contact the seller, or even sell their car through us.
TD: What interests you about the travel/transport space?
I just love cars. What also interests me is that the concept for the business is simple, but at the same time, there is a great demand for it.
TD: What do you get out of it?
The fun of building something up from scratch and seeing that 10000s of people are using our platform. We are able to help them find and sell their cars. I can see, from the daily traffic on our platform, that people are really in need of such a service and that they are embracing our service in full swing.
TD: What problem are you trying to solve?
In all our existing countries, the car market is highly fragmented. Some are using classifieds in newspapers as a means to try and sell their cars (among other things, such as furniture, electronics etc.) This is a tedious process for buyers and sellers to filter the right kind of listings. In fact some of these listings read “Toyoto Corolla for sale, Call XXX”, which is highly unattractive for a buyer. You can also find a car through word of mouth or even buy it from a stranger at an uncertain price.
We, on the other hand, aggregate the whole market in one place and can thus guarantee the best prices. If a hundred cars of the same make and model are offered on our site for approximately the same price, you can assume that it is fair as it reflects the market.
In addition, users are able to compare cars down to the finest details through our search widgets. Also, not to mention the convenience of doing so. Whereas previously car buyers would have needed to run from one dealer to the next to compare prices and offerings, they now can get a full view of the market conveniently from the comfort of their own homes. Similarly, sellers will be able to present their offerings to a much wider audience – a benefit for both sides.
TD: Discuss a failure or setback that you’ve experienced and how you pulled through it. What’s the key lesson?
I believe that a start-up is a ‘community’ business without any structure and processes in place at the beginning. Every single person is a key knowledge carrier, success eventually depending on teamwork. My first business was an e-commerce one and I remember we had a marketing campaign that went viral. Within a day, we saw an increase in our orders by a factor of 100, which was a success and a great threat to our business. If we hadn’t delivered on time, we would have lost all our customers.
In a week’s time we set up a temporary warehouse in a self-storage facility and moved to a proper warehouse two weeks later. I spent weeks picking and packing until 2 a.m in the morning to make sure things got sent out. In the mornings, I picked up the phone and explained to customers why we had a short delay. From my experience it is good to be hands-on and understand your product in detail. You need to react fast and come up with solutions instantaneously and finally turn them into a success.
TD: Teaching topic: What do you want our audience to learn from you?
- Don’t try and master the art of entrepreneurship theoretically through reading books and articles. Get yourself out there. Take ownership even if it means putting yourself on the line or being financially at risk.
- Always show passion for what you do. Go in full force or leave it. It is the only way to differentiate yourself from the millions of other smart people who probably have similar ideas, if not better. Get involved, down to the last detail. Dare to be different and react fast.
- Be curious. Ask questions. Be receptive to change. However, have the courage to take a stance and stick to it until you know that there is a better alternative.
TD: Clear message for audience to take away and what’s the next step forward.
Entrepreneurship cannot be taught in classrooms. You either have it in you or don’t. There is no pre-designed path to entrepreneurship. Great entrepreneurs did not become entrepreneurs because they read a lot of books about it or were discussion leaders. They just hit upon an idea, took a risk, executed it at the right time and pace. That’s it.
I have never considered myself a trained entrepreneur. I have learnt it over time through experience. As for courage and confidence, you have to learn from life itself. My number one aim has always been to gain more responsibility. This is why I was well suited to start a career in politics, to become a political entrepreneur.
TD: What’s your best piece of entrepreneurial advice in one sentence?
Get involved in whatever you do. Be bold and react fast.