Meet a Founder: Henrik Roth
Today we interview Henrik Roth, a 27 years old entrepreneur with over 10 years of experience in digital marketing, entrepreneurship & growth strategies for start-ups. After earning his first income with a self-coded website for his classmates in the 8th grade, He co-founded BeWooden (now with over 150.000 customers worldwide) and advised some start-ups on their early marketing and sales strategy. After leaving BeWooden operationally in 2020, he knew he wanted to solve problems with innovative technology and found: Neuro Flash⚡ More about him bellow ⚡
Henrik, tell us a bit about yourself, your story, What do you do?
Sure, let us do a quick journey through time.
Long story short, I love to build things with people together, grow every day and experience unforgettable moments. I believe you can reach everything, as long as you are passionate about it.
How would you describe your journey as a Founder and now as a serial Entrepreneur?
Not sure if I would call myself a serial entrepreneur. :-)
My journey as a founder started already during my school time. Some weeks ago I realized that I have never received a pay-check from another company than from one of which I own shares (except for two internships, where I received little student money). With being so young, naive, and inexperienced, I made many mistakes. This is probably the most valuable thing I took away from my 6,5 years working on BeWooden. All those learnings we made, building an e-commerce business from 0 to 2,5 Mio € yearly net turnover, is much more worth than any high corporate wage. I realized that investment in your own human capital and strong commitment always pays off. Gained experience, network, and skills are the basis for everything else, what comes next.
We went through many phases with BeWooden. From having the very little budget to raising an investment of around €400.000 and having a budget to scale faster with our product portfolio and marketing budgets. Three of my co-founders are from the Czech Republic. So we were pretty internationally (right from the start) and always saw that as an advantage. We founded BeWooden in early 2014 with the vision of making craftsmanship stylish and cool. We started to make wooden bow ties in our own regional workshop in small series. Looking back now, we have managed to form out of this completely unknown fashion accessory a new niche segment, which you can find now in many gentlemen or wedding stores. Many more product categories followed (now around 30). When I’m looking back, I am very grateful to have gone this way. This year then came Covid-19 and all the challenges and weaknesses of the last 6.5 years suddenly became our strengths. Czech Republic was 1–2 weeks ahead of the German market with many regulations and general development. Thus, we recognized that the cotton face will become a big topic. Within one week we pivoted our workshop completely towards fashion masks. At that time we saw declining turnover, closing retail stores, and changed to selling masks because we had to. We would have never thought that this would be the most successful campaign ever. Within one month we had more customers walking around with our masks than customers with wooden accessories from the past 6 years.
Through experience and previously built up production capacities in the Czech Republic, we were one of the first to offer cotton masks on the German market. Within 30 days we sold over 100,000 masks and donated 25,000 masks. In April, we made almost as much turnover as in the whole 2019. We were lucky, we did not have to apply for any state aid and could protect BeWooden from the threat of its existence. But much more important: we were able to support many people in need.
You support multiple platforms like EO or Startup Teens. How do you see the development of our startup ecosystem in the region compared to the country level?
That is a good question. Somehow, I was in a tunnel in the past months and have not visited any networking or start-up events in our region. Maybe this is also due to Covid-19. I think we have many great supporters and active people in our region to support the start-up culture, which is great! Nevertheless, what Covid-19 also shows us, is that we are very much interconnected. With EO I can participate virtually now in learning events from around the globe. So I see here big value and also an opportunity to not only see each eco-system separately but also as one community, which supports each other and which learns from each other.
Can you tell us a bit about your new project Neuro Flash?
After leaving BeWooden, I have done some founder shadowings. I visited 5 founders and followed them for one or two days. I loved it so much that I will actually continue doing at least one per month.
One of my shadow partners was Jonathan. He founded Neuro Flash 3 years ago. I was so fascinated by their technology and himself, that we started working together on a freelance basis. Some weeks later I decided to jump on board and become Neuro Flash’s CMO. We are a team of 9 working completely remote (also before Covid-19 already). The team around Neuro Flash created the world’s first AI that combines implicit psychology research with big data for predicting what people think & feel. Our AI opens a new world to instant and unbiased understanding optimizing marketing content and brand strategy.
We’re working with marketing leaders from companies such as Beiersdorf, Microsoft, Mediamarkt & Saturn, and Volkswagen. People who love using data for making bold and creative marketing decisions, with confidence.
What are your visions for the rest of 2020 and 2021?
After a few weeks at Neuro Flash, I figured in which comfort zone I have been in the past 3 years with BeWooden. Even though we also had hard times. Learning about a new market segment, doing enterprise sales, working with deep tech, and steering our software towards product-market-fit is a huge challenge for me at the moment. We definitely want to raise a business angel round at the start of the next year and then scale and grow much quicker. I think this will be the biggest milestone in 2021. On the private side: Using my gravel bike more often I just bought, hopefully traveling again and renovating an old farmhouse in Austria.
What is the best lesson that COVID-19 brought you so far?
Over the last 6.5 years I have been very focused on the growth of BeWooden and very limited in looking for other opportunities as I was in a comfortable situation. I received my monthly salary and felt comfortable in my role. There was no exogenous pressure. I can still remember in mid-March when we realized that the demand for our wooden accessories was decreasing and our retail partners had to close down. At the same time, we saw the
demand for masks growing and growing. At the same time, we could not imagine that cotton masks would fit our brand’s philosophy. All products around Corona were generally negative.
But after donating 200 masks and one social media post later we had companies calling and asking for over 150,000 masks. At that time we could sew 200 masks per day.
Out of an emergency situation, we had recognized a new opportunity and executed quickly and successfully. After our launch, we often had to read comments such as “crisis profiteers”, “rip-offs” and others. That showed me how different we as founders think: opportunities oriented. Nevertheless, if we would have not been in an emergency situation, would we have executed on this opportunity? Are there may e any more opportunities out there that I did not see while focusing on growing BeWooden for seven years? I believe that now is the right time to answer those questions. It is still unclear how and when things will improve. In this respect, I understand a certain fear of the future of many young people. But fear does not help here. We need a positive picture of the future, otherwise, we will not have the energy to build creative and constructive solutions. We, as digital affine and digital thinking
generation, we can shape the future right now.