This is Matthew Wise with FounderLY. We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies. So, I’m very excited today because we have Christian Springub, who is the founder of Jimdo. Jimdo is one of the easiest ways to create a professional looking website online. Christian is originally from Germany, and he’s here with us today to share his story. With that said, Christian, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.
Christian: Thanks. I’m Christian from Germany, I’m 28 years old. I actually started my first business at the age of 13 or 14 selling Kinder surprises at flea markets. In Germany, people collect these little figures and spent a lot of money for them, so I collected them from people who found them at home, and sold them. I actually made a good amount of money at the age of 14 already.
Then, when my father bought the first computer, it was like this. So, I started to play with it, and by accident became addicted to programming. And then, I started to repair computers, and help people in my neighborhood with their computer problems. Through this, I met my first co-founder in school. So, we made a business together by repairing and selling computers in our home town.
Then, the Internet was coming out, and we were very excited and found this option on bidding websites, and basically it was like the first kite surf website which was available on the net for one guy in our hometown who builds custom made surfboards. From then on, we built websites for small businesses in our hometown and in our state. Basically, it’s the same as the U.S. The states are a little bit smaller in Germany than they are in the U.S.
We were really excited and then we finished high school but, we always wanted to build a product. We like to create websites for customers. We were always frustrated by hey, we build this great tool or this great website, but then we got the paycheck, and then we had to go to the next project and make everything again. So, we always wanted to have a product which we could continuously work on, and spread it out to our people using it, not only making one project after the other.
So, by one project for another customer, we came to an option for creating or editing landing pages, basically for restaurants and hotels. Making it very easy for them to edit their address and stuff. So, then we were like wow, this is so cool, we could build something out of it like a product where people can build websites with. So after high school we decided OK, no university, we’ll just start our first company. My co-founder, Fridtjof and me then started to build the product. Of course, we were so product focused, we needed someone to concentrate on telling the world that this product is here.
Otherwise, we will sit down and just make the product and no one will know about it. So, through Fridtjof’s brother we found our third co-founder, Matthias, who had just finished university and he joined our team, and then we started building this product and telling the word and offering this service to small business customers in Germany.
Matthew: So, what makes Jimdo unique, who’s it for, and why are you so passionate about it?
Christian: It’s for everyone really who wants to have a great looking website on the Internet. Anything you can imagine like dog home pages, home pages for parties, home pages for holidays and, of course, a lot of small businesses using it, like for restaurants, dentists, really everything, retail stores. So, it’s really a very easy way to set up a really good looking website and publishing any kind of content in it.
Matthew: What are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist, and where do you see things developing in the future for your space?
Christian: What we see is that through like Facebook and Twitter and the whole local advertising space, there’s a lot more engagement possible for customers on the web. We think a home page or a website is like the central place where people or companies should own and where they can express themselves however they want. So, of course, people have a Facebook profile, but if you have a hobby like kite surfing, you want to have a website where you show your videos, your images, and it shouldn’t be in one fixed space in a social network.
So, we think that the website will develop really as the central place for consumers and small businesses, but they will use all these tools out there to reach their audience and to make it possible to engage customers or friends and stuff. So, that’s what we see in the development of the space.
Matthew: We covered your background. We’d like to get more into the story of how you started Jimdo. You said it started out of doing consulting work for clients for websites.
Christian: We first started building websites for small businesses, and of course we did design, we did consulting. We had them on the phone and all that stuff. But all those people used our product to edit their website after that. So, we did that for three years for small businesses in Germany. And it developed very well, but then we were at the point where we looked at our product and looked to see what was available on the web to build a website for consumers and small business everywhere.
We really saw our product can easily compete or even be better than the tools out there. So, we were like OK, we will start Jimdo and offer it as a free version just like, “Pages to the people”, which is our slogan. And just spread it all over the world so that everyone can build their own website. So, that was the initial start for Jimdo and that’s now four years ago.
Matthew: Who are your co-founders? How did you meet? What qualities and skills were you looking for, and how did you know they would be a good fit?
Christian: So my first co-founder, I met him in school, and we did this whole computer thing together. I was more like the technical guy sitting down and developing source code basically. And Fridtjof, he was really into interface, concepts, how the product should look like, flows and design and all of that stuff. So, that was always a good fit because I could do the development, and he was doing the concepts and interfaces and stuff. Matthias studied economics, I think it’s called. So, he was in marketing, sales, telling the world that we are there. It was a perfect fit because we had everything we needed to really start this business.
Matthew: From idea to product launch, how long did it actually take?
Christian: It took about a year, and we actually… We came out of high school, and Matthias came out of university. Of course, we had no money, and we didn’t know about venture capital or something. I mean, we were in a small town in Germany. So, we moved into Fridtjof’s home, which was an old farm house. It was like, in nowhere. We moved in there for one year and just like worked all the time on this product like, usually until like 5:00, 6:00 a.m., then slept and then worked. Fridtjof’s mother was taking care of us, it was like a family and we were like her new sons.
So, we worked there for one year and then we got some customers. We got some traction, and then we won a local business plan competition, a local German one, which gave us at that time about 30,000 bucks in cash which was a lot at that time for us. So, that was like our starting point where we said, OK, we’ll go to Hamburg to the big city, rent an office, and start to hire the first people. But this time, sitting down in the farmhouse for a year and doing this stuff was really, of course, the best time we had. This is where the whole product was becoming what it is today, because you have so much creative energy if you like sit there, instead of being in an office.