On focus: A completely digital wallet
Is someone going to beat apple and google in the race towards developing the perfect mobile wallet? Right at the forefront: Stocard, a startup from Mannheim. The three founders David Handlos, Björn Goß and Florian Barth are currently working in the creative business center C-HUB on taking the next step with their globally successful customer card app.
David, you guys want to get rid of the traditional wallet?
David Handlos: A completely digital wallet is what we are working towards. The technical infrastructure for mobile transactions has improved significantly, and the idea of creating a future where shopping is even more easy and more convenient fascinates us. In general, though we are still working on optimizing the whole shopping experience. This includes features such as integrating all customer cards in one place and allowing for an index of all virtual point accounts and special offers.
Stocard was born in 2012 while by today you employ 25 people and the app is a global bestseller. Did you anticipate this rapid development?
Björn Goß: I was camping with David in Australia in 2011 and we spent a lot of time imagining the possibilities of smartphones. One day David remarked about the amount of customer cards his girlfriend had jammed into her purse. The idea of creating a card app fascinated us immediately. On the plane home, we were already making sketches on napkins. And when our fellow student Florian Barth was also gripped by the idea we knew it had the potential to become something big.
Were you well advised during the establishment phase?
Florian Barth: Mannheim University generally offers great support for founders, though we didn’t dwell too long on founding-related questions. A startup should always keep its focus on the product, and not be sidetracked by other issues. To this day, we are a product and process driven business – it defines us, if you so will.
How does a tech-startup quickly secure funds from investors?
Björn Goß: I studied business informatics in Mannheim, while David studied business administration and Florian was carrying out research at the Department of Computer Sciences. In the beginning our network was limited. Professor Woywode helped us out with some contacts, though in the end we had to jump in head first and knock on a lot of doors.
What is important when negotiating with investors?
David Handlos: We focused on investors that brought two different things to the table: know-how and experience in the startup field and retail networks. This brought us together with Alstin, an associated company of Carsten Maschmeyer, Shortcut Ventures, Gameforge founder Klaas Kersting, our Mannheim partner Engelhorn, or in the early phase of business, with the HTGF. Last year then Rocketship approached us, as they had become aware of our rapid growth.
How important is a personal link to investors?
Björn Goß: Very important, as many of them are members of the board and we are interested in maintaining a sustainable and successful cooperation. This was the reason Florian and David visited Rocketship on the occasion of a Google conference in Palo Alto and I myself dropped by when on vacation in California. One should be on the same wavelength – even amongst founders.
There is an old saying one should keep friendship and business separate. Is your key to success the opposite?
Florian Barth: I have nothing bad to report – we’re still the best of friends! Our team consists of great people and is a key factor in our success story. We nurture a relaxed and informal working atmosphere that allows everyone to weigh in and contribute their part to Stocard. Offering perks like free beverages, fresh fruit or sandwiches is great, and we’ve got all that, though you need the right spirit to make everything click just right. Our „home“ in C-HUB offers a modern and communicative atmosphere, has flair, a nice view over Mannheim and the great energy of the Jungbusch, which surely also contributes significantly.
What do you have to watch out for when growing fast and employing over 25 people?
David Handlos: It’s our job to look after the team. Everyone should be able to focus on their work and making the product better, while I take care of strategic of administrative concerns such as securing financing. We didn’t grow the way we did because we spent a lot on marketing, we grew by developing a great product. It is important to us to have measurable data and numbers to validate or invalidate our growth.
How are the roles divided?
Björn Goß: David was always an IT-nut but comes from a business administration background. He setup our first webpage and did some designs. Florian has always had the deepest technical knowledge and took care of the Android app. I was in charge of the iOS app which was really hard work. In the end, I reached a point where I had to admit that it wasn’t my strong suit. In a fast-growing business, new issues will constantly arise. At the moment, I am very invested in the Mobile Payment aspect of the app and am very tied up in negotiations with many contractual parties, which is not as much fun as the nights we spent coding, eating pizza and drinking mate tea.
What motivates you – and what should one believe in?
Björn Goß: Believe in what you enjoy! Doing countless hours of overtime for some corporation would not have been as fun. I always treasured the feeling of forming a product that would be used by millions of people. It was a special moment the first time I saw someone using the app in a store.
Is hard finding the right people for the team?
Florian Barth: It’s always a challenge. Though we have the great advantage of all the technical universities surrounding the city, with Darmstadt, Karlsruhe, Kaiserslautern, Heidelberg and Mannheim to choose from. On the other hand, the competition among young startups is still rather limited. For people from the region that are interested in working on a product that is utilized by millions of users worldwide and is rapidly growing, I feel we might be a good place to check out.
David Handlos: The most important thing is that potential employees are interested in working on a cool product – just as we are! Our team members enjoy participating and seeing direct results of their work. They want to further develop themselves, the business and Stocard.
Besides Stocard, what are your favorite apps?
Björn Goß: Interestingly we ask new employees the same thing. Personally, I use the camera app a lot, as I take many pictures with my iPhone. Aside from that I would say off-the-cuff: WhatsApp, Google Maps, Amazon and Spotify.
What role does Mannheim play for Stocard?
Florian Barth: The city is very involved in progressing the community through events and initiatives. We received a lot of help finding our workspaces in the startup center Altes Volksbad and later in C-HUB. The infrastructure for founders is great.
When not jetting around the globe, where would one find the Stocard guys?
Björn Goß: In the office with our team of course. Aside from that I spend a lot of time in Stuttgart at the moment for personal reasons. On the weekend, I spend quite some time between Heidelberg and Mannheim as I have a circle of friends here that I’m closely connected to. I love to be frequently on-the-go, whether during the week or on the weekend.
Florian Barth: When not in the “Stoffice” I like to visit tech-meetups and events in the region. I free my mind when on a board, be it on the water or in the snow.
David Handlos: If we aren’t setting up camp somewhere around the world I am usually in C-HUB and when not at work I like to spend time in a cafe in Neckarstadt Ost.
Interview: Ralf Laubscher / LA.MAG
Pictures: Daniel Lukac