Founding a new company? Alumnus Jannes Dawe knows the ropes

Jannes Dawe’s goal is to help people save time with the aid of digitalization, because they can get things done faster and more easily. Accordingly, the KLU graduate (M.Sc. in Management, class of 2015) and two business partners founded Dreitausendsassa GmbH. The company helps firms develop, test and roll out digital business models. Jannes has been a passionate entrepreneur since his school days; new ideas pop into his head virtually every day. How do you turn ideas into business and what does it take to found a new company? We asked him.

Jannes, your company is called Dreitausendsassa (three jacks of all trades). To what extent are you a jack of all trades?

Jannes Dawe: Most likely, quite a bit. I’ve been active in a number of fields. I started creating websites back in the 11th grade. When I was 18, I registered a business to start making money off it, and my first customer hired me as a proxy holder. Before I had finished secondary school, I was marketing specially designed street lamps for them in South Africa and set up a company for this purpose. During my bachelor’s studies at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) and the Montpellier Business School in France, I purchased and revitalized some projects, and developed others on my own. For a time, I was the largest blog hoster in Germany. I created and later successfully sold a dating portal. After completing my master’s at KLU, I entered into a startup in the area of pricing. And in 2018, the other two jacks of all trades and I founded our company. We’re currently working on our next idea …

What matters most when it comes to starting a company?

Jannes Dawe: The makeup of the founding team is incredibly important. In our trio, we complement each other wonderfully. One of my co-founders is excellent when it comes to PR and sales; the other is our tech guru. And I cover eCommerce, analytics and finances. With this combination, we can run practically any company in the internet sector. In many cases, the members of founding teams all have the same background. That can easily go wrong, like when two tech experts have a great idea, but don’t know how to run a company. Or when two people who are brilliant at business administration want to make apps but aren’t remotely tech-savvy. If you’re going to be a founder, you absolutely need a firm grasp of your core product.

Is there something like a “startup personality?”

Jannes Dawe: I don’t think so. But that being said, there are some skills and character traits that can help founders succeed. Innovativeness is a big help. I constantly look at the world around me and ask myself: how could this or that be improved? Self-assessment is very important. I have to know what I’m capable of and – much more importantly – what I’m not capable of. If a business model isn’t working out, it takes flexibility and ideas on how to get the company headed back in the right direction. You also have to be able to make decisions without knowing whether they’re right or wrong. If you halfheartedly try to pursue two different directions at once, your company will stagnate.

In your view, what’s the biggest mistake you can make when launching a new company?

Jannes Dawe: When you have an idea, but don’t tell anyone about it because you’re afraid someone will steal it. When you do that, you can easily overlook flaws in your idea, which can cost you a lot of time in the best case and a lot of money in the worst. Being able to recognize and accept that there’s just no demand for something on the market, or that your idea won’t work for legal reasons, is very valuable. Accordingly, my credo is: when you have an idea, discuss it with as many people as possible, as soon as possible. I made some good friends during my studies and they still give me their honest feedback today.

What was the most important lesson you had to learn?

Jannes Dawe: Early on, I had a hard time handing off tasks that were beyond my core competencies to others. Even when it came to people who were much more qualified, I didn’t trust them to deliver good results. So I invested quite a bit of my own time. Or sometimes we wanted to save a few hundred euros and developed a project management tool on our own, for instance. But during the time it took us to do so, we could have created a product of our own. At some point, it dawned on me that it was the wrong way to go, because we couldn’t make any headway on projects that were important for the company’s growth.

What did you take away from your time at KLU?

Jannes Dawe: Life at KLU is highly intercultural – that’s a huge advantage. It teaches you to adapt, to change your perspective, and to grasp different approaches and attitudes. In addition, KLU offers plenty of real-world connections: many professors are working on cutting-edge topics, and there’s a great deal of support for students, both in the form of know-how and funding. That encourages them to experiment.

What piece of advice would you give young people who want to make a difference?

Jannes Dawe: Start trying things out as early as possible – ideally in your own field, where you think you’re better than the rest. Especially during your studies, you have a very comfortable time, because you can try things out without the risk of falling flat on your face. Or try (at first) an apprenticeship. Ideally in an area where you actually create things, like crafts. A few years from now, that area will likely offer the most fertile ground for startups.

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Cover Picture: Josefine Winkler Photography Berlin