The Beginnings

I was born in 1988 in a country that doesn’t exist anymore today: The Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic and moved at the age of 4 to Germany. 

Growing up in Hamburg I soon discovered my passion in trading and business: I kick-started my career selling products from local outlets on eBay (perfumes performed the best!) and on flea markets – be it summer or frosty german winter.

My first real business I eventually started with friends from high school at the age of 15: Importing wooden clocks from China, adding a nordic theme and selling them to local souvenir shops. The business wasn’t a success by any objective standards: We didn’t sell too many of those clocks and family & friends bought up the remaining products to allow us to recover at least our investment.

However: Those experiences had the great effect of teaching me the value of hard work and staying focused on the job, no matter how painful it may be. I eventually got hooked on doing business.

In 2010/2011 I graduated from WHU-Otto-Beisheim School of Management with a Bachelor of Science in Business and London School of Economics with a Master of Science in Accounting & Finance with Distinction.

More important than the studies was the time I was able to spent with the alumni of those universities who were spearheading the nascent tech scene in Berlin & London.

During my 4 years in university I interned and worked with several  entrepreneurs who became the initial success stories of the tech-industry several years later, learning plenty of the Do’s and Don’ts on how to build and scale companies on the way.

But above all realizing that all you need to get started is courage and a bit of luck. 

Life as Founder, CEO & Operator

After graduating from university there was no question what to do next: I moved straight to Berlin to start my first company, Casacanda, with my 2 fellow-students Sascha Weiler and Christian Tiessen as my Co-Founders.

Casacanda was a shopping club for furniture & home products that offered customers the chance to buy designer products at huge discounts. Brands loved us because they were able to reach new customers on the internet and sell-off their overstock.

In February 2012, only 7 months after incorporating our company and 5 months of operations, we were approached by US-company Fab.com with an acquisition over for a price in the low double digit millions. We decided to go for what must be one of the quickest exits ever,  and take over the world together.

At the age of 24 I was responsible for 150+ team members in Europe for a business valued at $1bn+ – the corporate role wasn’t for me though, so I left to continue doing what I do best: Understanding market trends and creating business opportunities.

Based on a few successful campaigns in the premium lingerie space I decided to co-found a premium, female-friendly brand for lingerie and love-toys. We worked on putting together the founding team and financed the seed round. Despite multiple challenges in that specific vertical the company pioneered in TV-marketing and created a true love brand – which eventually led to the acquisition by the European media holding Pro7Sat1 after less than 3 years. The company is profitable, still growing fast and valued at €100m+.

After furniture and love toys I was eager to go after the biggest segment in retail: fashion. The industry looked ripe for disruption and that’s what we aimed to go for with Lesara.

The idea was to automatically recognize trending fashion items and produce those popular styles in a handful of days, selling it for affordable prices. A next-generation H&M / Inditex model that we called “Agile Retail”.

Lesara has over the course of 5 years won multiple awards for outstanding company culture, innovations in supply chain (by Gartner), marketing (by Criteo) and technology. The company has been awarded as the fastest growing by revenues in Europe for two years in a row according to the Deloitte Fast 500 ranking. Challenges  in the late-stage funding environment for the e-commerce space and regulatory changes favoring Chinese marketplaces and retailers have prevented the company from fulfilling its full potential so that it’s assets were sold off to Axel Springer subsidiary Ladenzeile and the core business shut down in 2018.

The experiences of scaling businesses as an operator, raising financing rounds as well as managing exit transactions, leading through turnarounds and also working through critical times have been extremely humbling, rewarding & instrumental.

Rapid Pioneers Group: Founder, Investor & Builder

Over the past years I have built the Rapid Pioneers Group – a holding & company studio that co-founds, builds and invests into Consumer Internet businesses.

The first impetus came from my early investment and partnership with Sebastian Merkhoffer, the Founder & CEO of Fitvia and an ex-employee of my first business. Fitvia has been a pioneer in building digitally native, social media focused consumer brands.

The company has been profitable every single quarter since inception and growing like crazy across countries and verticals, becoming one of the leading healthy lifestyle brands in Europe. Stock-listed Dermapharm acquired the company in 2019, resulting in one of the biggest non-VC backed exits in Europe. 

Since then the Rapid Pioneers Group has been co-founding, building and investing into digitally native consumer brands in the health & beauty, apparel and food space.

This includes successful consumer brands such as everdrop (sustainable FMCG brand), Wild Cosmetics (eco-friendly personal hygiene brand), Yepoda (Korean Beauty brand), Lumaly (digital shopping assistant) or the Brandhouse Berlin Group (operating premium street wear brands such as Vertere Berlin or OnVacationClub).

The Group is also an early-stage, value-add, investor into Consumer internet businesses. 

The portfolio includes 25+ companies including tech unicorns such as enpal (solar energy provider), Animoca Brands (web3 game group), Bending Spoons (mobile apps group) or Casavo (real estate buyer and marketplace).

Fostering Entrepreneurship & In the Public

Besides my role as Founder, Builder and Operator I do enjoy nurturing the next generation of aspiring entrepreneurs. This allows me to give back as a mentor what I myself benefited tremendously from as a student.

Together with fellow entrepreneurs I am holding the Founders & Entrepreneurship lecture at my alma mater WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management and have been speaking at TEDx conferences about education and entrepreneurship.

I have been also fortunate enough to be part of a great class of people in the “Forbes 30 under 30” and the “Capital 40 under 40” list and am part of the YPO-network as well as the Global Shapers by the World Economic Forum.