JobTalk Germany: Entrepreneur series

‘You need to learn to manage emotions’

'You need to learn to manage emotions'
Photo courtesy Holger Weiss.
In a new feature, The Local will look into a successful entrepreneur's life each week - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed their life forever. Kicking things off from Berlin this week AUPEO! co-founder and CEO Holger Weiss.

Founded in Berlin in 2008, AUPEO! is a leading service provider for audio content streaming with a global reach. It provides personalized content for consumers on the go, learning their listening preferences and compiling individual radio programs for each user. For businesses, AUPEO! provides its streaming platform and technologies to be integrated with their own products.

How did you come up with this business idea?

The AUPEO! of today was developed over the last four years. We began as a music streaming service, offering radio service, like lastFM. I was one of the first angel investors and board members. In 2010, I became CEO. In 2008, digital content was on its way to the cloud and more devices started getting connected via the cloud. So, the idea was to offer a specialized service infrastructure to serve these devices.

AUPEO! started as a website, in technical parlance; a platform with an application programming interface (API). Through this API, we were integrated with millions of laptops and wi-fi radios within a short time.

At that time, we also saw the connected car as a strategic pillar of growth. The massive push to mobile service thanks to the success of smartphones brought us eventually to the automotive industry much faster than we had expected.

What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?

The fundamental difference between an established business and a start-up is that you have no comparison data, no experience, no market analysis. So, you start with a hypothesis and off you go. My personal experience from the two companies I helped build has been that as an entrepreneur, you have to remain very flexible. Business models don’t work, you could face distribution issues, legal issues or you suddenly realize that though your idea is great, the consumer doesn’t know why he would need it. Then there are other challenges like funding and building a stellar team.

There is no recipe for overcoming these. If you see there is need for a change, don’t wait. Time matters in a young company and that counts for the product as well as team.

How has the journey been so far?

It is indeed a journey. That is also the image I use when mentoring young founders. I also use the roller-coaster image. If I learned one important thing over the past 15 years, it’s that life as an entrepreneur is not linear, you will usually not arrive where you have planned to arrive, or at least not in the intended way.

The AUPEO! story is a success. We understood that building a music streaming service would require a complete different setup from the one we had at that time. Coping with heavyweights like Pandora or Spotify is not possible. We understood our strength in technology and we built excellent relationships with automotive manufacturers like BMW and Mercedes. Today AUPEO! is clearly the leading platform globally when it comes to in-car audio streaming. We will soon introduce our new offering, which will go beyond music and will revolutionize the way people are listening to radio in cars.

Of course, the greatest moment for an entrepreneur is a successful exit. In April 2013, AUPEO! got acquired by Panasonic Automotive Systems of America and we are glad to be a part of it.

Has becoming an entrepreneur changed you personally?

Apparently it has changed me, at least that's what my family and friends say. I have tried to separate professional life from private – as much as possible. It’s important to understand there are things other than your company. Having an intact family life is one of the most important values for an entrepreneur.

Any other personal reflections and/ or message to budding entrepreneurs?

As an entrepreneur, you will face many issues. There is a lot of responsibility and you need to learn to manage emotions. You are not supposed to take things personally but you do that as you develop a protective shield.

On the other hand, you become quicker in taking decisions, which helps in other areas of life. Also, always remember Winston Churchill's words: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

Sparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in the top Indian media companies, he decided to come to Denmark in the fall of 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local and blogging about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s
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