Interview with Dave Hengartner
Exciting things are happening here as we launch our new brand rready! We thought this would be a perfect opportunity to speak to co-founder David Hengartner about the journey up to this point. Read on to find out about our evolution from side hustle to corporation-wide program to an independent startup.
From Swisscom Kickbox to GETKICKBOX to rready – An evolution
The past few months have been particularly exciting here, with preparations for the spin-out and launch of our new branding in full swing. But the truth is, there has barely been a dull moment from day one. Today, we spoke to co-founder David Hengartnerabout the journey that brought him from a side project within Swisscom to the independent startup rready is today.
An opportunity to create something out of nothing
It all began almost six years ago when David was scouting for startups to collaborate with, together with Swisscom. Coming from a startup background, the former founder had a foot in both worlds. After attending a talk on the Kickbox methodology by Mark Randall, he became fascinated by Kickbox and what it had to offer. He started building up a pilot program around the methodology alongside his full-time role on a small budget – just as most Kickboxers do! David admits, “I had always been put off of large corporations because I thought I would just be a small cog in a huge machine where you can’t really change anything. So, you can imagine how stoked I was when I got this opportunity to build something from scratch/ make something from nothing. The fact that it was so radically bottom-up, so radically non-hierarchical motivated me even more.”
With some persuasion, management increased David’s budget from 5,000 to 150,000 Swiss Francs so he could continue validating and developing his ideas and make his own way through the RedBox stage. At the end of it, he proved the concept’s valueand was granted the funds for a full roll-out within Swisscom. At this point, David had been working on the project for almost a year and was looking for support: “That is when I met Reto Wenger, who had just joined Swisscom as a trainee. In fact, Reto was supposed to rotate through different stations during his traineeship, but in the end, he stuck with me.” So, after a year, Swisscom Kickbox went from a one-person show to a duo, and the implementation could begin.
Building up a team
Now that the project was up on its feet, the second year was about building up a small initial team. David and Reto received support from various trainees and apprentices who were able to get stuck in. “This way, we could run the program internally, not only proving the value behind the concept but also making a real difference and shaking things up,” David recalls. The team continued to grow as Ralph Hartmeier, who had founded a startup with Reto in the past, joined. Vinzenz Leuenberger then joined as a summer intern. During this second year, Swisscom Kickbox had on average six to eight people in the team.
The next big step: Commercialization
Following the success of the internal Kickbox program, the team convinced management to open up the program up to external partners and commercialize. “Eventually, my boss agreed to a trial. But he said, while he nonetheless added that I shouldn’t don’t commit to anything long-term so that you’re I wouldn’t be not stuck if things don’t didn’t work out,” David remembers with a smile on his face. But shifting the focus towards B2B meant that they were forced to optimize the internal program making it even more streamlined to focus their energy on building up these new B2B partnerships. This is one reason the solution we know today is highly automated, scalable, and efficient – it all stems from this time where they just didn’t have the capacity to run a program with so much overhead. As David describes it, “this is where the shift occurred – both in terms of our mindset and our workload – moving further away from the internal to the external business.”
After this initial year of working on building up the B2B business, management recognized GETKICKBOX’s potential and made it a full, independent business unit within Swisscom. “It was like being given our own section of a garden to take care of,” recalls David. However, it was also becoming more apparent that GETKICKBOX would probably never be part of Swisscom’s core business: It wasn’t strategically beneficial for the telecommunications business, it was very international, and honestly, it was too small to move the needle for a large corporation like Swisscom. At this point, we assigned one member of the team to focus on the internal Swisscom Kickbox program so that the rest could place their full attention on the B2B business, which in fact led to something of a renaissance for the internal Kickbox program at Swisscom. David explains, “this allowed us to start looking for ways to spin out. We had a great entrepreneurial spirit and had already experienced success, but we knew it just wasn’t the right fit for Swisscom long term.” The search for fundraising began around nine months ago and resulted in funding to spin out the business and ensure new growth.
On to new horizons – rready
Once it was clear they were going to spin out; it was time to talk strategy. The first question: Would the business continue as a single-solution provider or fan out with different solutions for other innovation methods? Ideas were soon flying around, and the decision was made to add another solution to the portfolio to cover the next steps in the innovation process – improvement and further development. As David says, the way they wanted to work was clear from the start, “we knew we wanted to use the same strategy as with KICKBOX to create a well-designed, out-of-the-box solution, based on an existing, proven methodology, where you’re given everything, you need. Kind of like the Apple approach for innovation solutions.” And so, the discovery process began to create a new brand for this multi-product strategy. What are the driving values? What will be on offer? It didn’t take long until they’d nailed it – rready. David proudly explains, “rready encompasses so many facets of the brand. We provide ready-to-use solutions to make companies ready for the future with innovation and future-proof their employees by giving them new skills. It resonated with the whole team, so that’s what we went for.”
As we said, there’s not been a dull moment from the start! David concludes: “It’s been such a fascinating journey. Moving from the realization that I could make a real difference in a large corporation to rolling the program out and seeing its impact to experimenting with B2B and running the independent business unit and now fundraising and spinning out as a real startup. But this is just the start of the next phase of our adventure with rready.”
So, keep your eyes peeled; there’s much more to come!