food.de from Leipzig
Self-Employment means a lower quality of life as well as having more chances!
When talking to Karsten Schaal about the topic of founding an enterprise, there is a chance that you will never know whether it is a good idea in doing so, or if you should rather keep a certain distance to him. He himself would probably say: ‘It depends…'
For Karsten it almost seems like it has become a free time activity to start new businesses. That is because he has tried over three times and in various ways to start up a new business in the E-Commerce sector. It all started with his foundation of a multimedia agency. His clients at the time refused to make the company focus on online marketing but rather demanded multifunctional online shops. The expectations regarding proficiency of those online shops were just boundless and unlimited. All focused on the performance which was bought of the agency. In order to prove the fundamental error in that equation, Karsten found an Online shop for extreme sports. Against all odds, this one was doing quite well. However, Karsten did miss the chance to invest, expand and make his business grow sufficiently! Being low in stock and small storage rooms were reasons why he could not transform it into a multi-millionaire business. Therefore, Karsten came up with the new idea of building a sponsorship platform, in which clubs and different associations could advertise their specialty. Yet, also this idea had an imminent ending since the laws and obligations behind the sponsorship business were just too unique and not in Karsten's favour. Neither that did hold Karsten down. He was able to cope with the situation and looked for the next impossible thing he could turn into the possible! Despite all sceptics and heavy competitors, Karsten decided to bring an Online-Supermarket into being. Many other businesses around the world trying to establish Online-supermarkets failed miserably which is not surprising at all, considering that Online-supermarkets are one of the most difficult sectors to deal with in the E-Commerce-industry. He still believes in the idea, especially since he has learned much from his and others' mistakes. Plus, there are more than just one investor from Leipzig and Berlin who believe in the concept of food.de and therefore invest large amounts of money. After being only found in Berlin for a short while, food.de is finally back in Leipzig again and supplies 32 cities throughout the whole of Germany! With rising success, Karsten was almost able to fulfill his dream of early retirement: one company offered him 16 million Euro for his Online-Supermarket food.de but withdrew its offer within the last second. Thus, they might have missed their chance to enter the market. A supermarket chain on the other hand, had different ideas in mind: the ongoing cooperation between them and food.de seems to have a promising future. The major company and food.de complement and mutually reinforce each other in such a positive way that both can expand their local and online sales. More than they could ever do on their own, respectively! But what about the future and the potential of online-supermarkets? According to Karsten, numbers are rising but thinking in new ways will always be necessary. Especially, since the margin of selling food and goods is always limited. He thinks, that the demand of pre-gathered packages and a subscription system will increase within the next few years. He even goes so far and says that online-supermarkets could take individual nutrition plans into consideration. After being asked if he would ever create a business again, he answers affirmatively, "yes". However, he would do things differently. Since not only his gained experience in founding 4 startups is important to him changes in personal life have made him the man he is today as well. Father of a patchwork family of 5. Assurance, Safety and time and have gained in relevance to him. Things, that just make him behave differently. Decisions he had spontaneously and adventurously done in his past, he approaches differently today.
When founding a new company, he would always try to think big. Right next to hiring the best people he can find. However, he says, the time for todays’ startups seem tricky. Economy is just too strong. People have no need to be creative and think outside the box which is necessary. Yet, the next peak for startups will come. Whether you found a startup in Leipzig or in Berlin: both has its both sides of the coin. Although, the startup scene in Berlin seems to have slightly better image than the one Leipzig, Karsten feels that Berlins’ startup community is quite closed and not very welcoming to newbies. Leipzigs’ scene on the other hand seems more open and welcoming. Yet, financially not quite as strong. Leipzigs’ entrepreneurs seem to show much more solidarity and mutual support for each other. The strong focus on added value and reinvestment seem to be priority.
„Think big: Mistakes open the doors to growth “
The good thing to talk with Karsten about foundation is his honesty and openness. He points out a naked view to the topic and therefore he gives a good answer to the question to found or not to found. Either you find the motivation in yourself to push your idea to the limit or you leave it.
3 questions to Karsen Schaal, founder of food.de
How long have you been in Leipzig?
I was born in Leipzig.
The best thing is the size of the town. You will always meet friends on the street and you can have a chat.
Your insider tip of Leipzig?
When I get guests, I´ll do a small sightseeing-tour with them. Start is always at the Rosenthal viewing tower. I´ll also like to show the industrial buildings and the Grassi-Graveyard. In general, I can highly recommend the Spinnerei-Tour.