A beer with Sebastian



March 28, 2017

This is the second part in our article series “We are WATTx” in which we peel back the curtain and give you a sneak peek into how it is to work here.

For this article, we talked to Sebastian. Sebastian, or “Seb”, is one of three venture developers that work at WATTx. Having started as an intern when the company was first founded, he’s also one of the people that have been here for the longest. In this article he tells us how it is to work as a venture developer in a start-up environment and how WATTx has changed since he started.

What brought you to Berlin?

After finishing school, I decided to move to the great country outside of Germany called The Netherlands, and studied there for four years to get my Bachelors (International Business Administration) and my Masters (Marketing Management). In summer 2015, I finally ended up in Berlin.

How did you end up working for WATTx?

After finishing my Masters, I had the rough idea that I wanted to found my own company at one point in life. But I also knew that I had to go through a long learning curve in order to get there and to make it actually work. I needed to gain experience first.

In September 2015, I had applied succesfully to an internship with a business consultancy that would start in February 2016. So, I had about half a year to fill. As I wanted to get a lot of exposure to a lot of different areas, which startups supposedly give you more than corporate players - depending on what program you go through - Berlin, the startup capital of Germany, seemed to be a good place to start.

I started at a small Swedish startup right after I moved to Berlin. I couldn’t have known that my experience with a startup would be so fully encompassing as that the company I worked for had to shut down 6 weeks after I joined. I am not implying any correlation laughs. Our investor back then was kind enough to distribute my CV across different slack channels, and it got picked up by Bastian (CEO of WATTx).

I woke up one morning with Bastian’s email in my inbox asking me to come by for a talk. One or two days later, I met him. Funnily enough, he actually forgot about our interview, but after talking for about half an hour over a cup of coffee, he asked me whether I wanted to join the, back then, small team of him, Martin and Laure. And that’s how I ended up at WATTx.

What attracted you to WATTx?

We all know Bastian is a great salesman. And I really loved the vibe coming from the team, and the way they all were really engaged in and enthusiastic about their work.

You are not getting the opportunity to build a company builder from scratch every day, right?

Until today, there always has been and still is this enthusiasm in everything we do. There is this strong drive in all of us within the team. And this is what defines us; that we work really fast and really hard.

You’ve been working for WATTx for more than a year now. How have you grown both as an individual and as a professional?

I started as the first intern and quite early on, Bastian asked me to join full-time. I always wanted to have the opportunity to actually build something up from scratch, just like WATTx. And that’s where I saw the opportunity!

So, how did I grow? I definitely grew a lot personally over the last year. When you start your first job, you are very conscious about what it is you say, and how you raise your voice. Because you are unsure, and there are people around you that know way more than you do. But at one point, you start trusting yourself and get more confident with what you are saying. Once you get over that bridge, you experience a whole new level of respect.

I also grew my skillset, especially because Bastian gave me that great mentoring opportunity. I was able to get a great look behind the scenes as well as get in touch with amazing people to learn a lot and just soak it all up.

How would you describe WATTx first year?

On a formal side, we started of as an innovation hub, being a driving part of the digital transformation of Viessmann. Over time, we started to focus more on actually building ideas that were not entirely relevant for Viessmann’s core business and thus were better venture cases. With that in mind, we refocused on driving venture development and thus went from being an innovation hub to being a company builder.

On a more personal and team side, the change we went through was that we started of as this really colorful group of people in 2016, which we still are, but we also had to find a common ground and way of working. We found that quite quickly, and from there on it was really developing ourselves together. It’s pure joy working here because we are all on the same page.

How did your job as a venture developer change over the last year?

I started as one of the first four people at WATTx. That meant, we had to pick up every single task. As an example; I was responsible for HR for a very long period of time.

Of course, the more we professionalised over time the more I focused on my actual task of drafting business plans; meaning drafting everything from A to Z for our projects as well as our ventures. That’s extremely exciting because I can apply everything that I’ve learned during my prior internships and experiences in an entirety.

What is venture development, and how is it applied at WATTx?

What we do at WATTx is drafting and building entire ventures. Meaning: We validate market assumptions, work on the product development, draft business models, plan the marketing strategies as well as sales strategies, define revenue streams, build financial models; basically we write entire business plans from A to Z and try to answer every relevant question on the business side along the way.

In the end, what you bring to Business or Venture Development is a strategic, very organized and logical mindset. Being able to connect dots across a lot of different disciplines, while keeping an eye on the larger picture.

I would challenge anybody to tell me where else they would get this opportunity. I honestly don’t think that there are a lot of people that can do something as crazy as we are doing at WATTx. Because we get to learn while applying so many different skills all along the business value chain - that is an extremely exciting as well as extremely rewarding opportunity.

WATTx Venture Development Team: Damian, Sebastian, and Tristan (from left to right).

When it comes to developing a business plan, how much liberty do you have?

When you’re working on venture development at WATTx, you are responsible for creating the strategies and coming up with the content. But you are never alone. I often talk to Bastian, or other people in the team as it’s critical in order to validate what you came up with.

We are still a small team where everybody is very supportive. Each team member comes from a different background, which is extremely valuable when it comes to questions that are not in your domain of expertise.

What is your most memorable moment at WATTx?

The most memorable moment was when we got the go-ahead for our first venture. It was exciting for all of us. Together as a team we created a plan and a prototype for a venture, then we pitched it successfully. It meant that all the effort and work we put in actually paid off.

We’ve talked about failure before, but how do you fail at WATTx?

The cool thing at WATTx is that once we have an idea that makes sense and is related to technology, we get to work on it in dedicated teams, with at least one person from each of our disciplinary backgrounds (UX, Data Science, Tech, Venture development).

But we always stay realistic. If we like an idea but don’t have a market for it - as bad as it sounds - we kill the project. And it goes both ways: You can have a great market but if you don’t have the best product you won’t tap into that market. It’s really about getting those two together. If we are not getting there and not solving a real problem for people then we have to be honest with ourselves and understand that it doesn’t make sense to continue a project.

What I like about WATTx is that we are not afraid of making mistakes. That is part of our culture.

How do you do that in a concrete manner? How do you kill ideas?

That relates to our process. The way we work at WATTx is that we communicate a lot. We meet at least twice a month with the CEO and CTO to evaluate at what stage the project is, and if there is enough potential to continue. We call these sessions “do or die”.

If we kill a project, we take what we learned and translate it into something valuable for the team and following projects. We never allow anything to go to waste.

How will WATTx look in 5 years?

WATTx is probably going to be the most successful company builder focusing on technology in Europe. If we continue to work the way we do, we can actually do crazy stuff. If I only look at the last year and how much we’ve learned as a team, and if this learning curve continues for the next 5 years, what we’re going to create is going be amazing.

On a more personal level: What’s next for you? What do you want to learn at WATTx?

Two things: First, I want to challenge myself and everybody on the team to build even more innovative things. I think we have done a tremendous job over the last few months and had some very great ideas, but of course there is always room for improvement.

And second, this ties very much in with my first point, I want to gain a deeper understanding of technology and what we build.

Any concrete plans on how to do it? How does WATTx support you?

We have the opportunity to become project leads at WATTx, but we can also - and that aligns very well with my objective - join the ventures that we create. So, if I want to build something myself one day, WATTx gives me the best platform to do it.