- Tuesday, 02.03.21, 12:00 - 13:00 Uhr
- STARTPLATZ, Im Mediapark 5, 50670 Köln
Autor: Arne Gonschor
The tale of Andrea Massenz and his company TechMass is a textbook success story. The IoT Startup, which offers a data driven application to optimize the manufacturing process, was founded not too long ago in 2017. It’s cloud based MES (Manufacturing Execution System) drew a lot of attention in the industry 4.0 sector right from the start. From there on, TechMass grew exponentially and recently joined the italian giant TeamSystem on an undisclosed number. We met with CEO Andrea Massenz and talked about his ongoing exit and the future of TechMass, his time at STARTPLATZ and the best advice for young entrepreneurs.
STARTPLATZ: Andrea, why did you decide to exit your company TechMass and join TeamSystem?
Andrea: There are three different reasons. One reason why we exited was to give our mission a bigger chance to succeed. It wasn’t just a sale to anyone, the buyer was already established in the B2B sector selling software mainly to manufacturing companies. So they already had a big client portfolio and therefore we knew we could spread much broader and therefore get closer to our mission. This is reason number one.
Reason number two is speed, which is always important in an emerging market like industry 4.0. There are many companies who try to get in because they see the opportunity and like always, not everyone will make it. Some will be lucky and some will not have enough critical mass. So we knew that, by becoming part of a bigger group, we would gain access to the market in a much faster way.
Finally, from a business point of view, it made a lot of sense for TechMass. TeamSystem is so big because they developed a very big caterpillar network of partner system integrators and sales people over the years and therefore, by becoming part of the group, we would have access to these huge networks. With that in mind, we can focus on what we do best, which is the development of an innovative product.
TechMass’s Application and User Interface named Paul
Andrea: First of all you need to know that, when I started the company, I already had the idea of selling it. When you start off, the clearer idea you have about what you want to do the more chances you have to succeed. There is nothing wrong in starting a company saying: This is my passion and I want to do it because I love it. It’s a choice, and another choice is starting a company with the objective of selling it. I wanted to see how good I am in running a company and this is my first experience.That’s how I lived this journey and I got lucky. We had a good team, a good product strategy, but luck is always part of the picture.
For the next few years, during my exit, there’s a clear but very challenging objective, because my exit is dependent on the value of TechMass. For a company to have a high value, the goal is to grow exponentially up to a certain point. We already grew three and a half times this year and we expect to grow five times by the end of the year. This is the first step and I want to keep up the pace in the following years till my exit is final.
STARTPLATZ: You founded TechMass in 2017 and you were part of the STARTPLATZ accelerator batch #14. What did you learn during this time?
Andrea: I think accelerators are a great opportunity. When you start a company, you’re young and you’re not established as a person in the field. You don’t know where to start, so places like STARTPLATZ give you the opportunity to connect. First, you need to understand some basics and you need to see how the startup world works. It’s also a great and very cheap opportunity of exposure because you can join the Rhineland Pitch and participate in other events. I did join some events sponsored by STARTPLATZ and it’s a great opportunity to get to know the first few companies and customers.
Also, one of the most challenging things you have to deal with when you start a company is dealing with emotions. It’s hard, the fear of losing it, the fear of not being successful, feeling lonely. It’s a hard emotional journey and when you see other people going through the same kind of stuff you can help each other to make things better.
Andrea: Handling emotions, that’s the most difficult thing. Let’s say you have a good idea, people like it and you think it’s gonna succeed, but you need to prove it. I mean, it’s hard because you are alone and you need to prove it to the world. You see the competition, because there are no ideas that do not already exist, you are inexperienced and it’s hard, it’s emotionally hard.
Everyone has different fears, fear of losing money, fear of not being successful. If we were robots, starting a company is nothing more than solving a lot of different problems like: How am I going to sell it to? Who’s my target customer and how can I produce it? And every question has different answers, you might try one or another. What makes it so hard is that you don’t have a straightforward judgment because you’re afraid. So to be honest, the most difficult thing is always handling emotions.
STARTPLATZ: Andrea, you successfully build a company from scratch. Do you have any more tips for young entrepreneurs?
Andrea: First, if you have an idea, you need to give it a shot. Most of those ideas stay at the idea level. First you need to try, it’s as simple as it sounds and once you’re in the shit – because it’s a hard journey – you need to never give up. It sounds obvious, but to me, that’s the secret. Start, and when you’re there, keep pushing until you reach an objective.
You also want to solve real problems, because your customers grow because you’re solving a problem for them. It can be that you come up with a need people didn’t even know they have. Or you solve a problem that already exists and just come up with a better solution, like we did.
Further, you need to be sharp as hell in doing a MVP and be as pragmatic as you can. Do an MVP, do a front end and sell the product to your customers. Nobody will know that there is no algorithm and no artificial intelligence. It’s just you doing a lot of different jobs. You spend zero money for such a crucial step.
So, be very clear what problem you’re solving and very smart in doing an MVP. The only objective of these two elements is to answer the most important question: Are people willing to pay for what I did? Because finding paying customers should be the very first objective even before having the website or the product.