December 1, 2020

“I Make Sacrifices, but I Enjoy Making Them” – Julian Feser About His Tough First Years As a Founder

You are finally taking the leap to found the company you have been dreaming about? Get ready for exciting times and the challenge to balance many moving pieces! For our series The Tough First Years As a Founder, we have asked four different founders from the German Entrepreneurship network about their early days of establishing a business. In today’s episode, Julian Feser (28), Co-Founder and Head of Business Development of Einfach E-Auto, talks about his experiences with founding the startup in 2019 and shares some great advice.

What is Einfach E-Auto? Einfach E-Auto is an online platform that makes the transition to electric mobility as simple as booking a flight. Customers receive an individually tailored, all-inclusive package, consisting of an electric vehicle, a charging solution, green electricity, and more.

 

Founded in: May 2019 in Gauting
Founded by: Konstantin Dietzel, Dennis Lindauer, Sebastian Dietzel, Julian Feser

Julian, how and when did you start Einfach E-Auto?

 Three school friends and I came up with the idea for Einfach E-Auto in 2018. Within the following months, we thought about it together and made the plan more concrete. University helped a lot because I took the course Entrepreneurship in my Master’s program and planned my own startup with the help of a professor for the course of one semester. In addition to credit points, I gained a lot of knowledge about which steps should be considered when setting up a company. Officially, we founded the company Einfach E-Auto in May 2019.

When did you decide to work full-time for Einfach E-Auto?

 For me, it was clear from the very beginning that I would start working full-time for Einfach E-Auto after finishing University. However, at that time, the master’s thesis still stood between that dream and I. I was faced with the decision: Do I take a semester off, do I even drop out of my studies completely, or do I just finish my Master’s degree properly? I then wrote my master’s thesis and started full-time afterwards. That was definitely a good decision because once I went full-time, I wouldn’t have taken the step back to the Masters program.
 

How did your environment react to you founding a company?

 In the beginning, family and friends were rather skeptical and asked the typical questions; Is self-employment safe? Is it not too strenuous? Does e-mobility have a future? It was difficult to constantly argue against that. Now that e-mobility is everywhere, we are noticing a lot of encouragement from our friends. This makes me very happy and confirms that I have chosen the right path.
 

While you were deciding on a career as a founder, many of your fellow students started working for large corporations. How do you deal with the fact that founding a company brings financial restrictions?

 You definitely have to step back when you decide to found a company, at least in the short-term. Since I was a teenager, I always had a side job and I was a student employee during my time at University. I’m actually still drawing on that cushion at the moment. Of course, when I see that my fellow students take many vacation days and go out for dinner every evening, I do notice a difference. I make sacrifices, but I enjoy making them because I have the bigger goal in mind. I always compare this to becoming a parent and putting all my energy into my offspring. My baby is Einfach E-Auto.

What is it like to suddenly have lots of responsibility and make far-reaching decisions?

 I feel quite comfortable in this role and have a good and quick gut feeling, which is a good basis for making decisions. At our company, everyone has their own area of responsibility with all consequences. Every day we are thrown into the cold water and need to find our own solutions to problems, instead of creating Excel spreadsheets for someone else. That’s exactly what I find interesting about self-employment. I think that especially at the beginning, you just have to do it. As the saying goes: Only the decisions you don’t make are bad decisions.
 

You have three co-founders. Does that make the situation easier?

 That is definitely a huge advantage. Sometimes, I think about how challenging it would be to build all this up all by myself. It is easier with good friends. We all know each other from our school days, the team is always there for each other and in constant exchange. We also spend a lot of time together in Gauting, in our small office with three rooms, where we work together every day to promote e-mobility.
 

Meanwhile, you hired the first employees and are looking for even more staff. What is it like to be an employer?

 The responsibility is huge. On the one hand, the financial aspects that have to be covered, but on the other, also the people management aspect itself. I have experience in HR from previous jobs and I am very interested in a positive corporate culture in which employees can contribute and share their ideas. That is what I always try to implement. We are personally happy about everyone who helps to drive our project forward.

Do you remember the first moment when you wanted to give up everything?

 Just give it up? That has never happened so far. But we had a lot of ups and downs, downs mainly due to Corona. In April it was almost impossible to get customers into car dealerships and organize test drives.
 

Do you have mentors who help you in such difficult situations?

 Through mentor matching in the Accelerator of the LMU Entrepreneurship Center, we have been put in touch with great mentors, who we have been able to contact for any questions we may have. They have their own startup experience and are extremely helpful in discussing the next steps and additionally they give us access to their network. For example, we have a mentor with great experience in platform building, who in turn has connected us with his contacts in marketing.
 

As a young founder, what does your work-life balance look like?

 High on the work side. The stress level has definitely gone up quite a lot, now having responsibility for myself and others, as well as financial pressure, and I don’t want to disappoint partners and customers.
 

When meeting friends, is your business the No. 1 topic?

 I try to keep the topic out of conversations, but it is difficult. People are simply interested and they ask because they notice that a lot happens in my business. New customers, investors, or exciting events like CASHWALK, where we were able to pitch in front of more than 50 investors, I never run out of stories to tell. Sometimes I have the feeling that my friends who are employed in companies simply don’t have that much action at their jobs.
 

Do you wish that your friends would ask more often how you are doing as a person?

 Yes and no. It’s really weird that so much is about business. But my girlfriend works in education, takes care of me well, and asks a lot. So I’m in good hands.
 

How do you reduce all the stress that comes with being self-employed and working independently?

 I always make sure that I do an hour of sport before work, usually at the gym. I also play football at my home club together with Basti, one of my co-founders. It’s good to switch off for an hour without a mobile phone or thoughts about work. My tip is to make time for it in the morning. If work gets late in the evening, you often can’t make time for it after work. So I prefer to set an early alarm clock and enjoy sports to fuel up on feelings of happiness that will get me through the day productively.

Which 3 tips would you give to young founders who are just starting their journey?

 1. Do not Overthink.
It is easy to think too much and overthink every detail. The best thing to do is just start with an MVP and try to sell it.

 

2. Get Help!
We have participated in different accelerator programs which have helped us a lot. They approach things in a structured way and talk you through all areas from product, HR, finance, sales to marketing. That helps.

 

3. Set Yourself Goals.
Building a new business is a huge project that can seem overwhelming sometimes. The only thing that helps is to do it piece by piece. We work with Scrum and set ourselves 2-week goals. This sets the tasks for the next two weeks and afterwards we are proud of how much we have achieved as a team. And then, of course, just as important: Celebrate Your Successes!

Julian and his team are alumni of the LMU Entrepreneurship Center Accelerator program.

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