Meet the Team: Klaus H. Wilch (CEO)

Get to know our team better. First up, Klaus Wilch.

Also next up the Founder Interview (Video Release), where lots of tough “business questions” will be asked.

I. The starter

One to two paragraphs per answer

Who are you and what do you at Black One?

My name is Klaus and I am co-founder and CEO here at Black One. I was born in 88 (age 31), in January, am an Aquarius and a dragon by the Chinese zodiac. :)

At Black One I am in charge of the overall strategy, operations and together with my co-founder Maxim Boelter in charge of “executive production”, meaning bringing together all needed resources, creatives, and talent and giving the master direction of what will be produced till when and keeping check of all costs and timelines.

What is our personal and professional background?

Born in Seoul/South Korea to a Korean mother and German father. Grew up in Africa (Douala), Switzerland (Basel), and Germany (Frankfurt am Main). Speaking German, English, Korean fluently and a bit of French. Goal is to learn next Spanish.

Studied Business Administration & Economics at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main with an exchange year at Korea Business School (one of the top business schools in Asia).

During my exchange year in South Korea, I got a full-time job offer from Hyundai Card which is deemed to be the American Express of South Korea and famous for its ultra-premium, flashy and unconventional marketing and branding. I worked in the brand strategy & new initiative team which was reporting directly to the CEO (a famous workaholic choleric branding genius). During my time there I learned much about branding/cultural/concert/product marketing, VVIP branding, collaborated also with a major K-Pop company and brought with several teams in a coordinated effort a massive Music Library, a Travel Library and Design Library to life. Hyundai Card has been awarded with many international awards for their (product) marketing and corporate as well product branding.

After learning the gist of branding/marketing, I wanted to learn something else and I got into the startup world when a friend asked me if I wanted to help out a small startup of a friend in business development/strategy/fundraising and I started working with a small IoT startup and got to explore and live in Silicon Valley and the US for shorter stays and that also led in the next step to getting to know Fenox Venture Capital, a Silicon Valley VC company, for which I helped then to build up Korea and Asia VC operations together with the Korea Venture Partner. During that time I could pick up and develop my financial skills further and my goal was to become a well-rounded generalist who knows and understands all vital functions of a business. Any entrepreneur at the end has to a specialist but also generalist, so my time at the VC company was a very good training for it.

And as a nice side effect, I got to know so many companies during my tenure there and I started doing consulting on the side since so much demand came in and I accepted only the most interesting projects from startups as well as bigger companies, where I could also learn the most. During that time I got to meet the whole bandwidth from very good to very bad entrepreneurs, and you slowly start to see also patterns of successful vs non-successful companies.

Networking and analyzing hundreds of business plans, numbers and financials was my daily business while helping portfolio companies / consulting clients scale with introductions and specific action recommendations/tweaks to their operations/sales/strategy etc.

And after seven insightful but also competitive years abroad it was time to come back to Germany and fresh to Berlin I got to work for Startupbootcamp and then Richmond View Ventures as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence and also on the side till now have managed different consulting projects for clients like Amazon etc. And one coincidence led to the other and I run into my now co-founder Maxim Boelter and we bonded over the question “Why is there nothing interesting coming out of the West in terms of music, content & media anymore” and “Where are the real popstars like in the glorious 90s and 2000s?” and the rest is so far history.

See more in detail on my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/klaushw/

What is the background of your family?

My father was an accounting/controlling team lead at a big German chemical company called Hoechst and did oversee accounting at different subsidiaries throughout the world hence the extensive traveling. My mother was an international business / foreign language secretary and they met at a mountain hiking club in the company. I have one younger brother who started out as a banker and now works in E-Commerce for a startup. We are a middle-class family and never lacked anything basic but also never enjoyed huge luxuries. My father is quite old and retired some 20 years ago and turned last year to an elderly foster case and is taken care of by my mother and we also help whenever we can. Life is short and one should better do what you like and also help others wherever you can.

What are your passions and hobbies outside of work?

Psychology: I love reading psychology and self-development related works and research that help also in daily management and care of people

Art: reading about famous works, and my daily art calendar is always a good source of inspiration. BTW I also had a part-time gig/project at the Modern Museum in Berlin, working in the technical administration for a half a year at the beginning of 2019 to make extra money for Black One.

Martial Arts: Traditional Taekwon-Do till injury and lots of surgery in 2012

Countryside: new found love and a good contrast to hectic Berlin city life, my current GF lives on the countryside near Berlin with a “horse ranch” and I help there out on the weekends, quite “meditative” taking care of animals (horses, dogs, cats, chicken, rabbits) and gardens

Health: Growing interest for this field and nutrition, since I ended up in hospital in 2018 for working too much, sleeping too little and eating too unhealthy, luckily my co-founder Maxim Boelter knows a lot about this field

What was the hardest so far while building/working at Black One?

As any entrepreneur will know: Making enough (side) income to sustain your own life with the least amount of hours possible (meaning less than 20hr /week) and to have enough money to invest in the business during the extreme hard starting off phase.

It is normal that the first 2 years you will be investing high amounts into your business besides all that work, energy and also opportunity costs. Cutting into your own savings for years is unstainable, limited, dangerous and my savings also have seen better days already :) Maxing out your credit cards and being in the negative at times / having literally no money left is often the reality of entrepreneurship in the beginning.

What are your goals in 2020?

Getting the seed round done and executing along with the plan. Staying positive and healthy (not overworking). Staying patient. Getting to know even more interesting and talented people and spending time with family and friends. Starting to do sports again, no time and “no money” was 2019 (I know kind of an excuse). Try out and stick with a new fun sport e.g. so far I found near my home: Badminton, Fencing or Judo.

II. Work & Character

Answer within only one to three lines.

What energizes you at work?

Coffee (even though I believe it is more placebo). Playing ping-pong between long work sessions.

Your main principles?

Integrity. Do not lie. Do not harm others. Do not do illegal things. There is something like Karma in this world. Empathy.

Your main piece of wisdom

  • Everything has advantages and disadvantages = there are always two sides of a coin. → (actually want to write later an entire book about this)#
  • Stay calm and think first (whatever the situation).
  • Never lose your inner child and curiosity!

Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

Strengths: Curiosity. Good Memory. High Energy to spread thoughts, ideas, knowledge and wanting to convince. Think three steps ahead. Attention for detail. Good manners (have been told so many times in “impolite” Berlin).

Weaknesses: High Energy can sometimes over-run some people. Being over-optimistic at times. Sometimes being intimidating / looking too sincere to approach/to ask for help?

What makes you angry?

Team members/people not taking written notes of things. There is no one who can remember everything said.

Non-curious minds. Heuristic behavior and pre-judicial human behavior: “It can’t work because xyz” “It will be like this because xyz”. “This person must be like that”

People negating simple facts & numbers. Sometimes also investors → then rather falling for an outright scam (ICOs beware!) or herd psychology.

Read more on heuristics here and also in my Year-End Learnings!

Optimist, Realist or Pessimist?

Absolute optimist and believer in our own ability for change and taking things / also fate to a big extent into your own hand.

What’s one totally irrational/daily fear that you have?

Being run over by a car out of nowhere. Therefore always checking twice before crossing the streets. Car traffic is dangerous so maybe not so irrational.

Your Biggest Fear?

Not doing something I wanted / not trying and regretting later. Time and opportunity do not come back.

Role models?

Anyone who is willing to take personal and financial risks to create new things that will create a profit, innovation and new workplaces: (private) investors and entrepreneurs.

What’s one thing about you that surprises people?

My age, 31 (many think I look still some university student) and my very German name.

For what are you most grateful today?

That I was so determined or even stubborn and left to live abroad for almost 7 years, learning fluent Korean and reconciling with my past, present and both cultural sides within me, gaining all that knowledge that also enables Black One. In general, for all experiences, bad or good I have made so far, that made me who I am today.

What does success mean to you?

Financial and personal freedom. Ability to use capital, knowledge and networks to build new things that:

a) either make people happy

b) make the environment & society (objectively) a better place. Not the Silicon Valley pseudo “make the world a better place” :)

As a side gig, I am supporting the idea of a universal basic income (UBI), because the world will not have enough well-paid work for everyone and social injustice and poverty are the roots for so many problems, the UBI will become a simply needed measure, not a choice. Many billionaires and Nobel prize economists even support it and have run the numbers. Y-Combinator is running an experiment in it. Otherwise, I do not see myself very much political and believe innovation and entrepreneurship can bring faster solutions to humanity's biggest challenges.

III. The fun & embarrassing

Any nicknames?

When I was young → Harry Potter, looked very alike. Bruce Lee.
Nowadays, just self-proclaimed “The K”

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Night owl for a long time but changed to be half an early bird and half a night owl. Being in the office from 10 am to 8 pm works with me best.

All-Time Favorite Books you would recommend?

The Culture Code — The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, How to make friends and influence people (Dale Carnegie). Rich Dad, Poor Dad, The Millionaire Fastlane

TV shows/films you would recommend?

  • HBO Silicon Valley (so true and funny), just ended
  • Young Sheldon
  • Parasite (2019 Korean movie, Cannes Golden Award)
  • Want to start Entourage, Empire or Dynasty, if time allows (I like business or politics related plots)
  • Open to your recommendations

When you are online just for fun, what’s interesting to you in terms of content and sites?

  • Youtube (the ultimate love-hate time killing/knowledge machine number one), turn off Autoplay otherwise it is even crazier
  • News Sites, Quora, sometimes for fun 9gag

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Perhaps moving abroad for a long time and traveling around at times with little to no money. Also a two-month backpacking tour of Europe right after high school graduation.

What is on your bucket list?

  • Grammys (winning with our team and artists)
  • Billboard №1 Single and Album
  • Touring the world along with artists for the first world tour
  • And for the above business visiting many countries and cities which I have not visited before
  • Producing a hit TV format
  • Producing a hit musical
  • Starting a family down the road
  • Starting a VC fund for sustainable innovation later → early project name SFH Group

What don’t you give a damn about?

Things that waste too much time, money and are bad for your health. Negative people. Naysayers.

What do you give a damn about?

Environment. Mental health. Happiness. Purpose. Common Sense. Common Good.

What kind of music do you listen to?

Everything that makes happy and passes the “danceable test”. We jokingly sometimes say internally, if it passes the “Twerk Test” it is good.

Songs that you listen to at the moment / come to your mind right now?

The Score — Revolution (motivating, feels like what we are doing here)

Hmm what you say — Imogen Heap (good on infinite loop), some earworm

Deep House Work Remixes (Nico Push good DJ from Berlin)

K-Pop and K-Rap (mainly for monitoring, seeing what trends they work into their content)

What fictional place would you most like to visit?

Planet Naboo from the Star Wars universe. Beautiful nature and modern technology. Earth should look like this perhaps. (last Star Wars though kind of disappointment even though Disney is one of the best companies on earth in terms of business model, marketing and strategy!)

If you could hang out with any cartoon character, who would you choose and why?

Darkwing Duck

If someone were to play you in a movie, who would you want it to be?

Keanu Reeves. Been told I look some 85% similar to him in some online celebrity tests some friends made me do.

Any last words?

Make every day count. Stay healthy. Be friendly.

More pictures?
https://www.instagram.com/k.icecream/

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