[quote style=”boxed”]It’s important that you feel good when doing things. Watch out that you be faithful to yourself and never bend yourself![/quote]
With a clear conscience alugha founder Bernd Korz can be called a Jack of all trades. Already during his education as master concrete worker and master mason as well as certified building engineer he steps up in the management. At yellowTab, a german software company from Mannheim, he finally swaps trowel and level with computer keyboard and executive chair. At this time he is responsible CEO and CVO for the development of the ZETA OS as well as the global expansion of the company. On top of that but in a different spotlight he manages various music projects and works with well-known artists between 2006 and 2013.
Innovative video techniques are fascinating him even before founding alugha. As founder and CEO of the hoTodi.tv video portal he produced more than 500 teaching videos with more than 2.6 million clicks since 2008. In 2012 when he coincidently bumped into the fact that especially big companies produce a high number of videos in different languages and upload them on various video platforms he knows: This has to be more efficient! Together with his 15 years old son Niklas he is developing the first alugha prototype in 2012 and for the first time enables worldwide operating companies to only upload one video instead of various separate videos in different languages. As CEO, but also as “Chief Visionary Officer” (CVO), he pushes the development of his idea and the company even further.
Where did the idea for alugha come from?
I’ve been making free YouTube video tutorials for years. On my channel (hoTodi) I produce videos concerning all possible topics, which generated millions of clicks. After more and more people asked for English videos, I started to build in subtitles – a lot of effort for the benefit! So why not just produce a second audio track and integrate it into the video? – That’s what I thought. But as easy as this sounded, there was no solution for my problem other than producing the video a second time (this time in English) and also uploading it to YouTube. That was how the idea for alugha was born. I started to further develop my vision, I wanted an easier solution to meet the demands of video producers like myself, trying to make videos in different languages. Soon I realized that the positive aspects of alugha summed up and that alugha was not only functional but could also have an ecological impact. I analyzed and calculated and was surprised by the current number of needed traffic and storage space for one single video. That’s when I knew I had to change something.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Having two children who are obliged to go to school and being lucky enough to be part of a very nice family, my day starts (nearly) always with a family breakfast. After that, I take about half an hour to inform myself about the news around the world, before I start my business day. As soon as I checked my mails and wrote a new blog post for alugha I’m on my way to the office. The first thing I do there is greeting my team and checking if everything is ok. Although a lot of tasks need my full attention, it is important to me to know that everything and everyone else is ok. In general I am not a guy who rigidly works on only one thing. I like the variety and therefore I got well trained in multi-tasking over the years, I just love it! One of my goals is to always be approachable. I like to have an open ear for my colleagues to solve problems quickly or in best case not to let problems develop in the first place. Because of this I have regular feedback meetings with my team, to discuss To Do’s, open issues, present new ideas and collect other opinions. All of this makes a day productive tome. But I also do need some “me time”, to evolve and to develop more challenging ideas for alugha. That’s why I am working from home on Fridays and I am only reachable online. My colleagues can contact me and I answer when I have a clear head for that. Fridays are also the prelude to “Crazy Saturday” on which I like to work physically on our house. This is how I clear my head. I get the best ideas on those Saturdays or while walking the dogs with my wife.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Usually an idea is developed in my head to a tangible state. First of all I share it with my family to get a first feedback. After that I write down tags in an empty document, sort them and write first explanations until I have a detailed text in front of me. Little by little I prepare the document until I think others can also retrace my idea and reduce the whole pamphlet to the essentials to discuss it with the colleagues. My son Niklas and Ithamar are my main developers and have a good feeling of how much work the implementation if an idea will be. With our design-boss Arthur I then exchange details on a whiteboard and work through the Interface and possible interactions with users. If all needs are drafted and a first mock up is produced I create a roadmap for the development. Together as a team we decide about further proceedings, resources and the possible start of the project. During the development process I am always involved and stay constantly in the loop concerning the status. Now and then I compile things and have a look on my own, checking if the idea is heading in the direction I imagined. I don’t like planning a project to the smallest part I prefer getting the team involved that shares my love for details. This way everyone can develop himself. At a certain point I also include other colleagues, so that my sales and support knows what’s coming up and how they can deal with it.
Every employee is beta tester at alugha. They can call me directly, show problems, and discuss understanding issues. This feedback can then be processed directly by the developers involved. Although we are such a small team we have short ways and work very efficiently together. Already within the development phase I discuss things with our PR team and explain what we want to gain with it. This gives everyone a good basis for a communication strategy. Parallel to that and after our internal tests I start looking for a small group of beta users. In my opinion this is much more efficient than 1000 testers who don’t give any real feedback.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
That’s a difficult choice for me. On one hand Occulus Rift is very exciting and a real asset for the future. My head already starts spinning when thinking of what I could do with it. Childhood dreams come true here! But the trend that’s impressing me most and will be a real big innovation for masses, are Chromebooks. I am not even talking about the Chromebook itself, mostly I like the fact that we can get rid of unnecessary ballast and that we can work efficiently with these small little wonder machines. The operating system does not matter anymore, the browser takes on all important functions and the developer can concentrate more efficiently on special functionality. It’s not necessary anymore to write everything from scratch, Chrome supplies a lot by default and this substantially speeds up everything. If I look at the Chrome store I feel vindicated, there are new and exciting tools added daily. As of today you can already do almost everything within the browser. The trend is leaving the clock delusion and incredibly large amounts of needed storage space. Thanks to Chrome OS and Chromebooks developers get practically asked to write small programs that work quickly.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I can imagine things very well in my head and form a lot of my ideas. I don’t really need much time to get myself into something and easily understand what others like. I am very open towards myself and I don’t mind admitting mistakes or changing things to stay on the right path. I don’t invest a lot of energy in people who behave like idiots. Fairness is very important to me and it is not important to me what others say or think about me. It’s my head, my ideas and this is what’s making me productive because I can concentrate and focus on it. I have no problem to shield myself from the outer world to play my brain games.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
To be honest, I had a hell of a lot of jobs in my life and a very turbulent vita. I was a waiter, DJ, concrete worker, harvesting helper, fair support, window cleaner, floor layer, insurance broker, assistant cook… Of course some things were more fun than others but I learned from every job and also enjoyed all of them at some point. To me everything in life was and is an enrichment and especially physical and craft work can ground a human. If you have ever cleaned a very dirty courtyard and get the chance to see the results afterwards, if you worked very hard physically (I did that for a lot of years in my life) and you feel every bone and muscle when lying in bed, you fall asleep with a smile on your face, because you know that you moved something that day. No matter how bad a job was, in the end it was always somehow positive, because I could see my roots and learned a lesson.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If this question is aiming to my “alugha” project… hmmm, the truth? I think I would nearly do it the same way. Initially I started to negotiate with possible investors and everything took far too much time. At the end we did not come together but my philosophy got confirmed. Everything happens for a reason. Due to the extended waiting period I could work on alugha further and refine the idea. If we would have had an invest from start a lot of things would not have happened as positively as they did. Next time I would stop these negotiations with “possible” investors earlier to quicker focus on my intuition. And even if I would speak to investors in such early stages, I would communicate clear ambitions for the investment sum, the cooperation, the share and the possible exit. The better you are prepared and the clearer your target is defined, the stronger is your negotiation position.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I don’t stop working on my goals and try to achieve them. I take nothing for granted and I am a thankful person. I always expect that I can deliver at least as much as I expect of my colleagues. If I have a Hangover Day, I don’t try to push myself through the day. This doesn’t help anyone, I take my dogs for a very long walk. It’s important that you feel good when doing things. Watch out that you be faithful to yourself and never bend yourself!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
If I have an idea, I think in big dimensions. It can be something genius and even change the world a little. By thinking big, you get the best overview of what the final goal is – At least that’s how it’s like for me. Once I created the big picture I split it up in as many small (self-sufficient) elements and steps as possible to start working vigorously on reaching my big goal. I manage to transfer this vigor and spirit nearly 1:1 to my colleagues. The most important thing is: I am always grounded and thankful for every step we achieve – even if it’s a small one. I don’t leave the final goal out of sight. Every milestone counts and is special. I am the head, the thinker and steerer, everything sums up on my end and I have to make decisions. But I am still only one part of this conglomerate full of great people around me. I don’t feel too good to do any of the work required in this company and I am not better or worse, not more important or less important than my colleagues. I love what I do and I do what I love. I stopped listening to bad talks and envious people a long time ago. If you talk to 10 people you will get 11 opinions. That’s why you should always choose wisely whom you listen to when it comes to criticism. The criticism of the ones you do let close is really valuable and should be taken seriously. You can be sure: Everyone thinks they know it better than you. This is a matter of fact you have to learn to live with. I think it is important to make your own mistakes and learn from them and not only trust in others to correct the course you’re on. I discuss my ideas with my colleagues and then decide if it makes sense or not. Always let others take part in order to prevent you from going the wrong way. You don’t have to carry everything on your shoulders alone.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I had a software company which I started as a One-Man-Show. Little by little the company grew and there were about 50 fixed employees and about 100 independent contractors. We moved things, we reached a lot, but unfortunately had to file for insolvency at the end. I lost everything that I built up over 7 years. Financially it was my personal meltdown, I got thrown back years and lost everything I ever earned (before and during the time of this company), making me responsible for all the depts. But it was just money, a medium of exchange, and since I never was into money, I only worried a little that the world would change its direction. The worst thing for me was that my vision died and with it the wishes and dreams of everyone involved. They had goals, dreams, wishes and it was a hard thing to take. To overcome the financial worries in my head and get adjusted to the new situation was quickly done. But to chew mentally on what had happened to me and my colleagues, that took years. I never gave up positive thinking and stuck to my philosophy: Everything happens for a reason and we’ll realize the reason when it comes along.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Phew… this really is a difficult question. Every cell in my head is responsible for my ideas and is currently fully booked with alugha. I planned this project years ahead and have new ideas on a daily basis. Unfortunately these single ideas don’t help the readers, because the ideas only develop their strength while looking at them collectively. But I like to say one thing: I hear over and over again, there is nothing out there that hasn’t been already developed on the internet. Don’t let yourself be discouraged by this! On the one hand it doesn’t matter because you don’t have to be the first to do something, just look at MySpace and Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. On the other hand it can be really difficult to be the first, so maybe being second is not so bad. Moreover there are uncountable things that don’t exist yet. An idea has to be born out of a situation, and has to make life easier, then you just need the right timing and you can make it work.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I am a real fanatic about punctuality 😉 It’s really bad. My sister once wanted to pick me up on a rainy day and was delayed by 40 min. I shortly decided to walk. At some point she reached me and I simply said: “I prefer to walk – about 5 miles to go.” If my wife and I agree on a time and she is not ready by then, there will be about 20 min of silent treatment in the car 🙂 But I am not unforgiving; after some time I suck it up and the argument is past.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Now I have my coming out: Privately as well as business wise I count on Google. Google drive is just perfect for all our needs. No matter if presentations, conceptions, calculations or hangouts, everything works on any device. Neither Apple nor Microsoft provide this. I can use the MacBook, the iPad, my Android smartphone or a Linux-or Windows machine and get my work done. This makes my day very flexible. Especially on the Android Smartphone the combination of Google Mail, Google Now and the Google Launcher are perfectly matching each other. A lot of people dislike Google and demand alternatives, but there are none. Google knows how it needs to be and what I need, and my time is too valuable to waste it by using bad alternatives. I already said in 2001 that by 2015 we won’t use desktops anymore but solely net solutions. To me this is an important reason for doing everything possible online. The operating system itself with regards to the Office is so unimportant to me that it doesn’t matter anymore. The Google Chromebook will come out on top.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Oha, long answer first. There are a lot of books that are really worth reading out there and this is actually a question where there is no real answer. Every human is an absolute individual and has different life experience, knows different people and has a different basic knowledge, different hobbies, different likes…. THE book, you definitely have to read does not really exist! But! … Lee Iacocca was a real inspiration to me and I loved reading his books. During this time a lot of things changed in the world. But if I have to answer which book you should read as an entrepreneur than definitely: “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. It’s written so realisticly and does not whitewash or dramatize anything, he gets straight to the point. Of course there is no one who can give you a guideline on how to react in situation XY exactly, but Ben knows how to draw a complete picture and talks about his life in the computer business. He does not tell you what to do and how but he explains which decisions he had to make and why. In the end you have to decide what to learn from it and when and if to use it.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
On the one hand there are the people who a lot of others know as well, on the other hand there are the ones that only know me and my direct surroundings. But since the people surrounding me are not famous and therefore out of interest for others, I will concentrate on those who are known to a wider audience and that have influenced my thoughts. First of all Apple’s two Steves are very important persons, their ideas and vitas, words and doings influenced me a great deal. Our old German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who stood his man in all circumstances, a politician like no one we’ll have a second time in Germany. Nelson Mandela, an incredible man and silent fighter who understood how to unite people or draw ways of solutions. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, those two pushed their idea and changed the world with it. Oskar Schindler who proved real heroism and courage. Konrad Zuse, a visionary and maker. Jean-Louis Gassée (JLG) who, at the end, influenced my life more than the others I stated.
TED! This website is full of amazing knowledge and education, it is a must visit page for everyone!
alugha on Twitter: @alughaofficial
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.