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From agency to start up

December 3, 2014 at 8:01 by Tim Comments

Everywhere I turn I see digital agency folk leaving their salary jobs to create start ups. And why shouldn’t they? They got the skills to create a digital product or service. So if they are willing to shoulder the risk, there’s not much stopping them. Two ex-colleagues from my Razorfish days are about to bet it all on connected devices and bicycle riding. Read their story and please help them get their fabulous idea produced for the real world!

Firstly, check the Kickstarter video and page here, and don’t forget to pitch in if you want a COBI (Connected Bike) in the near future.

Heiko Schweickhardt and Carsten Lindstedt both studied creative media and felt comfortable with visual design as well as code early on. Follow our interview with Heiko and Carsten below, you might discover to have a lot in common with them.

Adverblog (Tim Buesing): What sort of agency career did you go through, anything you’re most proud of during that time?

Heiko: I started at Razorfish in Germany as a Junior Developer and stayed for 10 years – eventually responsible for technology-driven innovation as a Technical Director. During all these years I’ve moved between the offices in Frankfurt, Sydney and Berlin. I secretly think that one of our very first Microsoft Surface applications partly inspired Audi to launch their Audi City locations around the world. In any case, successfully blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds was always my goal – for our own experimental ideas as well as for our clients’ actual business challenges.

Carsten: After freelancing during my studies I started developing interactive concepts for Porsche’s digital agency BB&K. I then followed the call of Razorfish Germany to work on Volkswagen’s SEAT brand. When I became Creative Director on the Audi account, I worked on projects like the Audi RS Models platform, Audi #onemillionreasons (a real-time social monument based on WebGL) and their self service platform “myAudi”. I’ve always felt drawn to emerging technologies, e.g. Augmented Reality, and loved internal prototyping projects. One example was our Digital Gum Goods (posted here on Adverblog),

Adverblog: What motivated you to switch sides and go start up?

Heiko & Carsten: We always love working on meaningful marketing projects. Projects that make a difference in people’s lives - but that’s often frustrating if you’re not the client yourself. At an agency you’re exposed to a rich diversity of projects and that’s great for dipping your toes into all sorts of topics. But often the real-world impact isn’t there, due to a lack of time, depth or a perspective that is kept too narrow. We finally wanted to find out what happens when you take on an real-world problem that’s currently unsolved. And then build an actual solution, a product totally from scratch – with all the bells (!) and whistles.

Adverblog: What’s different about working at a start up?

Heiko & Carsten: The ups and downs are more intense and the responsibilities are much broader. You keep juggling unproven ideas for many months while you build a team, talk to investors and do the dishes, all in parallel. Ultimately, we wouldn’t be able to push through all this without a deeply held belief in the big picture. Equally important is maintaining a very positive and productive spirit within our team. We’ve never been happier and more fulfilled in our day-to-day work.

Adverblog: What are you creating now?

Heiko & Carsten: Our elevator pitch could be that we create the ‘Apple CarPlay for bikes and e-bikes’. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, because our COBI is much more than that. COBI upgrades your bike with smart mobility features, for an easier, safer and more enjoyable ride. And your smartphone is front and center.

Cycling itself hasn’t changed much over the last decade, but our lives have. We’re tracking our fitness, stay connected with friends, enjoy streaming music like Spotify on-the-go. We’ve also come to enjoy technology-driven improvements in cars that keep us safer on the road, help us navigate through traffic and reduce emissions. We’re ultimately getting smarter about mobility. With COBI the bicycle not only catches up with that trend, but even leaps ahead in some respect. We want the bike to be a first-class citizen in our connected everyday lifestyle.

Adverblog: Where to from here?

Heiko & Carsten: Right now COBI is our first take on a vision that can carry us for decades. There are many ways to improve the cycling experience with electronics and software, building smooth transitions between cars, bikes and public transport. We want to reinvigorate the love of cycling and get more people to enjoy life outside their cars. This is where we keep exploring the possibilities.

Adverblog: Thanks heaps for your answers, Heiko and Carsten, always good to see people finding the courage to strike out on their own. Especially when it’s for such a good cause.

Here’s the link to their Kickstarter page again and you can stay in touch with their progress on COBI’s official website.

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