Dominik Birgelen is the co-founder and CEO of oneclick AG, a Workspace Provisioning and Streaming Platform. He started his career at KPMG performing due diligence in M&A. He then became an entrepreneur and founded IT outsourcer Segmenta Transplan AG. He studied business administration at University of Zurich and has an MBA in project and process management from the University of Salzburg.
Steve Brooks: Who is your inspiration
Dominik Birgelen: I am inspired by people that were able to build large organisations, which influenced a lot of people in a positive way. I would say Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook.
Steve Brooks: How would you describe your leadership style?
Dominik Birgelen: It’s very cooperative, but I also look for results. Not in a way that I just say “You do this and that”, but I also try to support, as best I can. It’s always teamwork that leads to the best sort of results nowadays.
Steve Brooks: What was your darkest business day, and how did you overcome it?
Dominik Birgelen: I’m an entrepreneur and things sometimes go well, and sometimes they don’t. With one of my previous companies, I had a very large customer, an outsourcing company. More than 800 people on my payroll worked for this large customer who wasn’t able to pay his bill. I had to file for bankruptcy. I think any entrepreneur who has to go through this process might have thought that as his darkest hour. Being an entrepreneur means there are a lot of positive things and a lot of bad things. You have to overcome the bad things and just start up again. That is technically how I managed to get through it.
It’s important to really live for today and don’t look too far into the future. That’s something that day-to-day I work with and as time goes by things start looking better. If I look back, I think it was chance that it was my business just before oneclick, otherwise oneclick wouldn’t have been created. After more than four years, I’m also quite happy that it happened, because in every dark moment there is also a chance for change, and that happened in my case.
Steve Brooks: What was your proudest moment?
Dominik Birgelen: I definitely have to reach, in this case, back to oneclick. The proudest moment was the first international group using our platform because that definitely meant a huge success. We knew that all the efforts we put into our platform over the recent years paid off. It passed very intensive information security examinations by that company and a lot of examinations regarding functionality. Once you have the first large international group, the next will follow. That happened in our case. Many large-scale companies are now using our product.
It’s important to say that we don’t only target large companies. Oneclick makes sense with two to three users. That definitely was the proudest moment, business wise. Private wise, I will say the birth or my children.
Steve Brooks: Can you share a tip for new start up CEOs?
Dominik Birgelen: First, there has to be an idea or vision. Then you have to be very engaged to follow that vision. One of the most important things in the beginning is financing. You need to have enough funds to seed the first two years. If you develop something, it’s a lot of time that goes by until you have a minimum viable product. With which you can confront your first potential client. Then it takes time until your first client has evaluated the product and you are able to scale your business model.
What I’m always saying, the early bird gets the worm. Being responsible for a start-up definitely is not the time for a lot of spare time or freedom. It means a lot of engagement, getting up early, getting to bed late, and really investing all the time you have into the start-up.
Steve Brooks: What was the latest business book you’ve read, your favourite book or podcast?
Dominik Birgelen: I used to read a lot, but in the last couple of months I really put a lot of time into the company. So, I would say, Peter Drucker, Management, that’s something I could highly recommend, and that’s also one of the latest business books I read.
Steve Brooks: What’s the worst and best decision you’ve made as a CEO?
Dominik Birgelen: Best decision is empowering my core senior people to take decisions and turn these decisions into action. In a start-up it’s the absolute wrong way to have everything very CEO-centric, but it’s more of a highly connected team. They also must be reliant both ways, must be able to work together, but also be able to try out new things.
Worst decision? There’s a lot of minor not-so-good decisions, but I just try to find a good example.
Steve Brooks: Relying on a single company for most or the majority of your income?
Dominik Birgelen: Yeah, with my previous company, I was thinking about something with oneclick. But that’s my lessons learned, you’re right.
Steve Brooks: Simon Sinek talks about start with why. What is your why?
Dominik Birgelen: Oneclick started from a real pain point. In my previous company I was responsible for people at twelve different locations across the whole world. We were able to work productively and effectively with specific software applications and data, and we always had a huge hassle to realise that. We just said at those times that there must be an easier way than with the technology at hand at that time. That’s really why we three founders of oneclick came together and realised what’s there today.
Steve Brooks: What’s your vision for oneclick?
Dominik Birgelen: The vision is making things easier for end-users. We call oneclick the end-user computing platform. In our eyes, most of the other ISVs or companies that offer platforms start from bottom-up, but we started top-down. Make it as easily accessible and as manageable as possible for the whole workspace provisioning and application of effort. Increase productivity, mobility, and security for companies and also users.
Steve Brooks: What are your business challenges for the next 12 months?
Dominik Birgelen: We have developed a great product and started in markets, such as the German speaking region in Central Europe and also the UK. My personal challenge with oneclick is developing international markets, to really become a global player. The next step for us will be the US and also Asian markets. I hope that we’re able to make a footprint in those areas.
Steve Brooks: What keeps you up at night?
Dominik Birgelen: Definitely all the questions around bringing our platform and oneclick to a successful project and making our customers happy. I think that’s most of the questions which keep me up at night.
Steve Brooks: What’s your end goal for oneclick?
Dominik Birgelen: I would like to say that it’s really a great honour to work for the company, and also work with a great team. I know we really created a great idea. Having said that, I definitely want to be part of the project for the next couple of years, because I see a huge potential.
Steve Brooks: How are you approaching the challenge of rapid growth, while maintaining your culture?
Dominik Birgelen: I think the biggest challenges are still ahead of us. Right now, we are a team of 25 employees, so that’s still manageable. I also have experience with large organisations. With my previous organisation I had more than a thousand employees in total. Definitely there are other management approaches as soon as an organisation gets bigger. From a start-up culture and organisation, you definitely head to more documented processes and more control instances which you have to implement. You also have to maintain the start-up culture, I think that’s very important. If you look at good examples for large multi-national companies, Microsoft still say “we are a start-up, and want to implement or set up a start-up culture.” I think that’s just part of digitalization times right now. You have to, on one hand, evolve your processes, but on the other hand you also have to be disruptive from time to time. Both approaches I think are very important to have as part of your culture.
Steve Brooks: What are the key challenges faced by your industry?
Dominik Birgelen: First, I would define the industry as being an ISV an Independent Software Vendor. It’s definitely creating a product that promises and turns into action a real benefit. I think there are a lot of ISVs around that developed products not with a real big advantage to other products. If you’re not able to convince your clients that there’s a huge impact that will really improve certain aspects of the company, then it will be very hard and tough to sell.
The second part is definitely international market development. It also becomes tougher and tougher to gain awareness. You have to be able to be good in a lot of different marketing channels in my eyes, and you have to follow a lot of different distribution and sales channels. If you just follow one, that’s definitely not enough. You have to be good in a very broad sales marketing approach, and that’s definitely a huge challenge for a lot of IT startups.
Steve Brooks: Just to clarify that, are you talking about being able to deliver inside sales, channel sales, to have a good relationship with distributors with System Integrators and others?
Dominik Birgelen: Exactly, yes. A lot of ISVs don’t work with the channel, I think that’s a huge opportunity. Having said that, it needs a lot of knowledge that is good enough for channels and good international marketing campaigns. That’s definitely not a one man show.
Steve Brooks: What does the competitive threat landscape look like?
Dominik Birgelen: We invented the platform to solve the problem of application provisioning and delivery in a new and more efficient way. Of course, there are established players with the old way. Obviously, the old, established players still have a huge stake in the market. That’s our challenge, to convince end-customers and also channel partners that our new way is better, a more future-oriented way. That’s how I see it.
Steve Brooks: What do you see as the future of work looking forward over the next five years?
Dominik Birgelen: That’s a really important issue for our vision. We think that the workspace, will shift to the browser so you don’t work on local environments anymore. There will still be local operating systems on end-user devices. One key requirement is reliable internet access and reasonable bandwidth, especially in very rural locations. Sometimes that’s still a challenge. Although in many countries, there are big efforts to increase bandwidth and get fibre cable access to companies and private households. I think in this regard, everything leads towards our approach.
Steve Brooks: What is the one question you’d like to ask another CEO to answer?
Dominik Birgelen: I’d always go for: “What’s your one thing that you really think made your company as successful as it is?” I’m always interested to learn this tip from other CEOs.
Steve Brooks: Can you ask that question yourself, regarding oneclick?
Dominik Birgelen: Yes, definitely I do. I think to be successful, you need to have a great product and whatever belongs to this. That’s the most important question you have to ask yourself. What does your product’s market look like? If you can answer this question in a positive way and get positive customer feedback, then that’s the core thing that makes your start-up successful.
Steve Brooks: Thank you Dominic.