It all started with his parents’ company website. Even at school, Andreas Steinberger (23) from Munich developed the first websites for companies and quickly knew that this would be his future job. Barely of age, the digital native founded the software studio STEINBERGER INNOVATION. In the years to come, he expanded his portfolio to include the digital process consultancy KEEN & CAN and the creative agency Dignity Digital. The creative director is currently using feelers for new markets and working on the development of nutritional supplements to increase cognitive performance. Even experienced entrepreneurs can relieve the spirit of the young talent a lot.
How did your journey as an entrepreneur start?
When I was around 14 years old, I designed and implemented the website for my parents’ shipping company. Apparently this first attempt was quite successful, because suddenly my parents’ business partners and customers asked me if I would also implement their websites. I made my own money very early on – but my own business had to wait a bit, not least because of the bureaucratic hurdles in Germany. First of all, I finished my training as a freight forwarder and waited eagerly for me to grow up. On my 18th birthday, the first thing I did was go to the commercial licensing office and set up my own company, STEINBERGER INNOVATION. In the beginning it was still like that next to my permanent position, but the jobs became more and more demanding and soon I was concentrating on my own business and shifting the company’s focus to the development of complex software products and apps.
What did you take away from the beginning of your business life?
A lot of things didn’t go smoothly, especially in the beginning, and I learned the hard way. I was far too gullible and couldn’t really put my own conviction that only good quality pays off. As a result, contrary to my corporate philosophy, I accepted orders and implemented them inadequately. But you grow with your tasks and the quality of my work has increased continuously since then, as have my expectations and those of my customers. I’ve also learned that I can’t and don’t have to do everything by myself. Today I have a strong team and a reliable network of freelancers from all over the world behind me and my work. The first few years were exhausting, but they were also characterized by an extremely steep learning curve.
What do you think is the secret of success?
It is clearly the quality of my work. There are many companies working on similar projects as my team and me. However, quality is the key factor why our customers come to us and then stay with us. When I have an idea, I try to validate it as soon as possible. When I’m sure that this is feasible, I’ll consider whether we can implement everything internally or involve partners from the network. Before a product leaves our company, it is put through its paces and optimized through to the end. The result is organic customer growth as satisfied customers keep coming back and passing on their positive experiences to others.
What corporate culture do you have and why?
We have tried to organize ourselves according to the principles of the “new work”, that is, according to purely flexible working hours, without hierarchical levels, and everyone is fully responsible for the execution of their own work. To be honest, it pretty much backfired. Maybe because we’re still a very young team, but mostly because nobody really cared about enforcement. In the meantime we have a clear team structure again. There is a fixed core working time around which the teams can organize themselves largely independently. However, reporting on the projects is always available to everyone and we are very well structured via project management tools such as Notion. As a result, the projects are transparent to us and we still have enough freedom to implement them. The most important guiding principle in our corporate culture is “Exceptions prove the rule” (laughs). What we have learned: Regardless of which culture you want to establish in your company, the decisive factor is open communication on an equal footing with everyone involved. Only when you see the benefits for yourself are you really on board. I always like to give people “How to Make Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie as recommended reading. Interpersonal communication is an essential part of doing business and is too often neglected.
You are a very creative company. How do you come up with new ideas?
Oh that is very different! Sometimes I have the best ideas in the classic way in the shower, but they often arise in conversation with employees or customers. We talk about a new challenge, listen to each other, ask questions – and suddenly the solution is crystal clear in front of you. I think we benefit a lot from the fact that, as a young, agile startup company, we work with very experienced entrepreneurs. Both sides can learn a lot from each other if they recognize and appreciate the differences and sometimes opposing views. This approach is also reflected in the company name “Keen & Can”. Success arises where creative skills, new technologies and a passionate start-up spirit meet experience and assertiveness. My motto “never give up” runs like a red thread through my entrepreneurial career. This phrase has been tattooed on my chest since I was a teenager. Even then I knew what was important to me in life.