Holger Weiss

Talk often about your ideas and get feedback from as many people as possible.


Holger G. Weiss is Managing Director and CEO of German Autolabs. He has over 15 years of experience managing and building technology-driven companies with innovative business models in the Future Mobility sector. He has extensive experience and expertise in the field of connected mobility. He played a vital role in the navigation software startup gate5 in Berlin, from its genesis up to its acquisition by Nokia in 2006. Gate5 was the forerunner for HERE – a map and content provider recently bought by three German car makers at a price of close to three billion Euros.

Before founding German Autolabs, Holger G. Weiss was managing director and CEO of Aupeo. Under his leadership, this music streaming startup developed into one of the leading providers of internet-based audio content for the Automotive Industry. In 2013 Aupeo was acquired by Panasonic Automotive Systems of North America.

Holger G. Weiss is a board member of various technology companies and also Venture Partner at Target Partners – one of the leading VC companies in Europe. Besides his business activities, he is also an enthusiastic mentor and business angel for young aspiring founders. He consults medium-sized companies as well as tech and industry related associations.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

As so often, it was from personal experience: I was on the highway and my phone vibrated with new messages. But while driving around 140km per hour I was unable to check or answer the messages. And then at a red traffic light, I tried to catch up, check messages etc. even though I knew it was dangerous.

As I have been working in the automotive tech field for years with gate5/Nokia and then with Aupeo/Panasonic Automotive North America I thought there must be a solution to my problem. But there wasn’t.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I usually try to get to the office early. I like the mood in the morning when no one is there and I can get things done. I also like to have meetings in the morning, so my co-founder and I often use this time to discuss many things. Since I am responsible for representing the company outside and also investor relations, I have a lot of external meetings and presentations. Many of my days are also taken up by travel.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It’s interesting: ideas are for me like a flash of genius. They don’t develop slowly, suddenly they just appear. So, I have this idea and based on that I start to plan. This plan is usually very rough but I directly start to discuss it with my co-founder, management team etc. It happens that after that, I realize that my idea is not worth continuing with. If we decide to continue, we start a work on a more detailed plan and according to the area the idea is related to – this plan will be implemented in the workflow or roadmap.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Naturally, it’s the massive shift in our personal mobility today. Autonomous driving, electrification, the sharing economy etc. will lead to a completely different mobile behavior and ecosystem than we have today.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Getting up early.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Read more.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

It will take another 30 years until we will have autonomous fleets as a mass market standard.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Talking often and much about your ideas and getting feedback from as many people as possible.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

We are working in the automotive industry, an industry that traditionally moves very slowly. A car still needs 3-5 years to be planned and another 2 years before it hits the road. This environment makes it very difficult to develop software with outstanding user experience – it’s simply not possible to develop on an iterative level. We have decided therefore to start with the installed base, those millions of cars that are out there in the streets. So we developed a product that retrofits in every car, allows us to update and iterate often and ultimately will train the underlying AI to be embedded in new cars later one.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I trusted people and was disappointed. This happened with peers but as well with people in my team. It was mainly because I expected behavior that I shouldn’t have expected. Or – people behave sometimes differently than you would do or you would believe you do. I changed in parts the way I deal with people on a professional level.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Building a birthday wishes bot to reply all birthday reminders on social media. 😉

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I spent a bit more for a dinner with my wife in Paris last week. We haven’t had much time together because I was there to give a speech at a conference. But we enjoyed the free time and had a great evening together.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

It’s probably Slack – but mainly because all our company communications runs there. I am biased with Slack otherwise. It’s a great real-time tool, but very difficult to catch up if you were off for travels etc. I still really like emails.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Hard to say. I learned that everyone has a very own view on books and what they mean to them. I am currently reading a book from a famous German journalist who passed away a few years ago, Peter Scholl Latour. He was an excellent political analyst and predicted things years ago that we see happening today.

What is your favorite quote?

There actually two:

“Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” (Broadly attributed to Churchill, but found nowhere in his canon.)

“It always takes longer than you think…”
(From myself.)

Key learnings:

  • Talk as often and much about your ideas and getting feedback from as many people as possible.
  • Ideas don’t develop slowly, suddenly they just appear. Draft a rough plan immediately and then start to discuss it right away with your co-founder or your management team. Fast feedback will show you if it is worth following this idea
  • Keep in mind: It always takes longer than you think…