Reevaluate. Whether in life or in business, one thing stays the same: nothing stands still.
Eve Buechner is a broadcast personality, Entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of refund.me
In a few short years since 2011, Eve Buechner has launched and led the development of refund.me from a consumer-facing passenger rights technology company to a global fintech group that now includes a business-to-business (B2B) offering for Travel Management Companies and corporate travel buyers and ‘Travel Notes’, a division which helps banks and other financial institutions improve their cardholders’ travel experience.
Throughout Eve’s early career as an accomplished television host and anchor on numerous business, world news, and lifestyle television programmes in her native Germany she has sought to combine her love of communications and technology with entrepreneurship.
In 2007, Eve launched her first entrepreneurial venture with ‘switch.me’ a business model to interactively connect television to the internet.
Following this, in 2011 Eve founded the venture capital firm quantumReality Ltd., which provides seed investments and supports start-ups in the fields of e-commerce, e-strategy, software development and IPR in the form of patents. Supporting ambitious and talented people and helping their ideas come to fruition – is just one of Eve’s passions.
In 2012, Eve founded refund.me – a passenger rights travel technology company that makes passenger rights more transparent and easily enforceable on a worldwide scale. Refund.me assists passengers with claiming compensation from airlines under European Union regulation (EC) 261/2004. The company’s proprietary Advanced Business Logic (ABL) technology enables passengers to file claims directly from the refund.me website or via a free app. Depending on the nature and duration of the delay, cancellation or re-routing passengers can claim up to €600 (about US $675) per flight.
In addition to helping passengers claim under EU law, refund.me recently launched a dedicated service to assist air passengers in India affected by delays, cancellations and over-bookings covered by India DGCA legislation. Refund.me also provides an app for travel agents via the Sabre Red App Centre which automatically monitors thousands of bookings, detecting delays and cancellations eligible for compensation. When a qualifying reservation is detected, the travel agent is notified and can then efficiently pass on this information and a claim form to the passenger with just a few clicks.
Refund.me expanded into the B2B sector in early 2016 with the launch of Business Solutions — a B2B offering which provides worldwide automatic processing of business air travel compensation claims for Travel Management Companies and corporate travel buyers.
Under Eve’s stewardship, refund.me is now one of the industry’s leading international service providers for air passengers affected by travel disruptions, serving both consumer and corporate clients.
Where did the idea for refund.me come from?
Throughout my career, whether as a television reporter or in the early days of setting up my first company, I travelled a great deal. I still do – more than ever! Like many passengers my travels have all too often featured being stuck in airports due to lengthy delays or being bumped off flights due to over-booking. After one particularly frustrating delay in Sardinia due to an aircraft mechanical issue, I decided to file a compensation claim with the airline. The process of filing the claim and fighting for compensation was difficult and a real eye-opener. After six months it became apparent that unless I hired a lawyer, at great cost, I wouldn’t win. So I gave up that particular fight and decided to bring to market a service that would make a difference and help air passengers easily secure the compensation they are entitled to by law.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m a very early riser and find mornings a very productive time for me. I work for a few hours before my three young sons awaken. I plan the day, respond to emails from the global team, and then tend to my sons’ breakfasts, get them ready for school, drop them off and then either head back home to work or to my offices, depending on scheduled meetings. While I work until my sons return from school I do block out an hour in the morning for the gym and to walk the dogs. Once my boys are home it’s their time and the household is devoted to homework, dinner, and the general hubbub of family life. From about 9:00 PM, once they are settled, it’s back to work until around midnight, communicating with colleagues in other time zones and planning for the day ahead.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I love solving problems and going down new paths. The will to push projects forward to their successful completion drives me every day and gives me the necessary energy to keep going. I think it’s important for one’s personal development to leave one’s comfort zone and overcome perceived limitations.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
3D printing. While the technology has been in existence for some years now, the range of applications that the technology is being applied to is rapidly expanding and evolving, and truly disruptive to many industries. It’s reported that more than 20% of the output of 3D printers is now final products, rather than prototypes, and we’re now seeing the technology transform not only manufacturing processes but also impacting the medical and dental sectors, food production and architecture. I find it incredibly exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’d have to say there are two habits of mine which, when combined, serve to make me more productive. Firstly, I make lists and commit myself to prioritizing and completing the tasks on those lists on a daily basis. My second habit is to only check emails at the beginning and end of each day. The sheer volume of emails I receive means if I were to respond to each email as it arrives I would never accomplish anything. So to concentrate on the tasks at hand, I turn off push notifications. My team knows that if they urgently need me to respond to something they can send me a WhatsApp or Skype message.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
While a student at University I lived with four other students in a very small flat at the top of a building. On the ground floor was a lively Mexican restaurant. So I applied for a waitress job, and got it. From a location perspective it couldn’t have been any more convenient. But the work was exceptionally hard, and thoroughly exhausting. And the pay was really very poor. I’m afraid that I didn’t last long in that role. I believe you need to work hard in life to get ahead – but what I learned from that job was that you need to balance the pressures and pleasures you get from work, with the pay you receive. Whenever possible you need to find a job where you work hard but are compensated fairly for the effort and value you bring to a business.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would definitely never under-estimate the value and power of SEO.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Reevaluate. Whether in life or in business, one thing stays the same: nothing stands still. I believe it’s vital to constantly reappraise what’s working and what isn’t and respond rapidly to changing market conditions, along with always being on the lookout for new opportunities.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Embracing a cloud working model. refund.me is an international business that spans three continents with specialist teams serving clients across 150 countries. Not only do we need to cater to the need for our team to work effectively across time zones, I also firmly believe that allowing team members flexibility to work from anywhere and at times when they are most productive has been crucial to our success in terms of attracting and retaining the right people to enable us to successfully grow our business.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers? (this should be an actual idea for a business, not business advice)
I believe there is still a missing link in terms of education. I read a striking news item recently that mentioned there are now approximately 60 million refugees fleeing wars, civil unrest and economic hardship. Germany, as an example, has the largest number of refugees since the last World War. We need to invest in education – and develop educational apps that provide accessibility to persons who either are refugees or living in less developed countries where education is not accessible to all citizens. Countries where people might well have access to internet and computers, tablets or mobile phones – but not to traditional learning facilities.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)
It cost a bit more than $100 but it would have to be the Neato Botvac. Two lovely little Pomeranian dogs recently joined our family and this robotic vacuum keeps on top of pet hair.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
In addition to standard productivity suites I rely quite heavily on Skype, Zoho, WhatsApp, and Slack. Our team of 40 is spread across Europe, North America and India. These tools provide us with flexible, instant communication channels to connect with colleagues spanning numerous time zones.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel, one of PayPal’s founders. In what is actually a very short book of 200 pages or so he gives incredible insight and an alternative view into what is needed to build a successful ‘game-changing’ company.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I admire Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, even though she is currently rather unpopular.
An entrepreneur that I find interesting and inspiring is Jo Malone – who founded the eponymous fragrance house in London, which went on to become a global presence and was ultimately acquired by Estee Lauder. Her journey as an entrepreneur and personal life circumstances have not always been rosy. But despite illness and five years of enforced ‘gardening leave’ following the acquisition by Estee Lauder, she has recently launched a fabulous new brand.
And being in technology I absolutely have to include Steve Jobs in terms of influence. What he accomplished in terms of thinking differently, seemingly having no fear – being bold, daring – and design-obsessed – strikes a particular chord with me!