As the successful founder of Justaloud and RegioHelden, Feliks Eyser knows what is especially important for startups. In an interview with Oliver Gassner, he explains what really matters to him as the Managing Director of RegioHelden, outlines his experiences with startup contests, and reveals how his company is most successful at trade shows.
Feliks Eyser: Feliks Eyser, business IT specialist, founder and Managing Director of RegioHelden GmbH.
OG: What exactly does RegioHelden do?
FE: RegioHelden is a specialist service provider for local Internet advertising. In other words, we help lawyers, dentists and craftsmen gain new customers via the Internet.
OG: And you do that primarily with Adwords? Or what else do you use?
OG: If I understand correctly, things are going really well for you at the moment. How many employees are you adding per month, and at how many locations?
FE: We currently operate four locations with a staff of around 45. We’ll be adding about another 15 by March. New locations are slated for the summer.
OG: How do you manage that kind of growth? Huge enterprises like SAP are geared for it, but you?
FE: Learning by doing. The most important aspect from the organizational perspective is a strong middle management consisting of people that each supervise teams of three to ten.
OG: And how is the quality of the applicants? Are you satisfied with them, or do they need a huge amount of training? Startups with a strong development orientation have real bottlenecks to contend with.
FE: Well, the nice thing about us is that we’re not that strongly development-driven. We’re more about sales. The quantity of applications is no problem (several hundred per month). The bottleneck is in fact one of quality. As a rule, we seek out applicants who have the right spirit and who we can train for the specifics. Basically, we hire for attitude and train for skill.
OG: Sounds like a good tactic.
CODE_n is a contest for founders in the mobile sector. How important are contests and prizes for business founders?
FE: If the prize money is high enough, it’s an interesting way to finance your activities while in bootstrapping mode. That’s what we did at my previous project, Justaloud. The publicity and the contacts that are always touted as an incentive didn’t really help us that much back then, however. At RegioHelden, we don’t participate in contests for lack of time.
OG: If you were on the jury of a startup contest, what would you look for in a company to put it at the top of your list?
FE: A strong team, a sustainable revenue model, and a clear marketing and sales strategy.
OG: Among business founders, there are the serial founder types and the execution types. Serial founders often go into VC or become active as a business angel. Execution types tend to become CEOs of something big. What will you be in five years? On your fourth startup, a business angel, CEO of XING, or on an extended vacation?
FE: To be honest, I’m not giving that much thought at the moment. But I don’t really see myself as the CEO of a big company that I didn’t found.
OG: Well put. What do startups really need – assuming they have developers and an alpha: connections, good advice, money?
FE: Good advice certainly helped me the most. I can only recommend that founders actively seek contact to experienced mentors and constantly get input about their own business model and development. I see many founders who are bogged down in details or prioritize the wrong tasks and strategies. That’s where an experienced outside perspective can help keep things on track.
OG: The prize for the CODE_n contest is the opportunity to exhibit at CeBIT together with other winners in a special CODE_n exhibition space. What’s your killer tip for startups on how to make the most of such an opportunity?
FE: Be aggressive. When we started exhibiting at trade shows, we were very passive and took few leads home with us. These days, we really lay it on: magicians at the booth, contests, all kinds of goodies, lots of staff (up to six people at a stand of four square meters) and the mindset that we’re going to approach everyone. Using those tactics at your average SMB trade fair, we convert up to ten percent of visitors into leads who give us their contact information. When we started, that figure was less than one percent.
OG: What are you doing at CeBIT? Is that even your target audience? I can’t really imagine finding dentists or craftsmen there.
FE: Right, and that’s why we’re not exhibiting there. The trade fairs we take part in are relatively small and not very well-known, but focus tightly on our SMB target group.
OG: If you could name a startup (in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, but not Stuttgart ) that we should interview, who would it be and why?
FE: Have a word with the guys at sofatutor in Berlin: they’re a really nice team with a cool, useful product.
OG: Thanks for the interview and your time.