It all started with his parents’ company website. While still at school, Andreas Steinberger (23) from Munich developed the first websites for companies and quickly knew that this would be his future profession. Barely of age, the digital native founded the software studio STEINBERGER INNOVATION. In the coming years, he expanded his portfolio to include the digital process consultancy KEEN & CAN and the creative agency Dignity Digital. Currently, the creative head is putting out feelers for new markets and is working on the development of nutritional supplements to increase cognitive performance. Even experienced entrepreneurs can take a few things away from the spirit of the young talent.
How did your journey as an entrepreneur get started?
When I was about 14, I designed and implemented the website for my parents’ trucking company. Apparently, this first attempt was quite successful, because suddenly my parents’ business partners and customers asked me if I would realize their websites as well. I earned my own money very early on – but my own business had to wait a bit, not least because of the bureaucratic hurdles in Germany. First, I still completed my training as a forwarding agent and eagerly awaited my coming of age. On my 18th birthday, the first thing I did was to go to the trade licensing office and found my own company, STEINBERGER INNOVATION. At first, this was still going on alongside my permanent position, but the orders became more and more demanding and soon I concentrated on my own business and shifted the company’s focus to the development of complex software products and apps.
What did you take away from the beginnings of your business life?
Especially at the beginning, many things didn’t go smoothly, and I learned the hard way. I was far too gullible and was not yet able to properly implement my own conviction that only good quality pays off. As a result, I accepted orders contrary to my corporate philosophy and implemented them inadequately. But one grows with one’s tasks and the quality of my work, just like my attitude of expectation and that of my customers, has continuously increased since. I also learned that I can’t – and don’t have to – do everything on my own. Today I have a strong team and a reliable freelancer network from all over the world behind me and my work. The first years were exhausting, but they were also characterized by an extremely steep learning curve.
What would you say is the secret of your success?
It’s clearly the quality of my work. There are many companies working on projects similar to the ones my team and I do. But quality is the key factor why our clients come to us and then stay with us. When I have an idea, I try to validate it as soon as possible. If I’m sure it’s feasible, I consider whether we can implement everything in-house or involve partners from the network. Before a product leaves our house, it is put through its paces and tweaked until the very end. The result is organic customer growth, because satisfied customers keep coming back and in turn pass on their positive experiences to others.
What corporate culture do you follow and why?
We tried to organize ourselves according to “New Work” principles, i.e. purely flexible working hours, no hierarchical levels and everyone is completely responsible for carrying out their own work. To be honest, that pretty much backfired. Maybe because we are still a very young team, but mainly because no one really cared about enforcement. In the meantime, we have a clear team structure again. There is a fixed core working time around which the teams can organize themselves largely independently. However, the reporting on the projects is always available to everyone and we are very well structured via project management tools such as Notion. As a result, the projects are transparent for us and we still have sufficient freedom in their implementation. The most important guiding principle in our corporate culture is “exceptions prove the rule” (laughs). What we have learned: No matter what culture you want to establish in your company, the decisive factor is open communication at eye level with everyone involved. Only when you recognize the benefits of this for yourself are you really on board. I always like to give people the book “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie as a recommended read. Interpersonal communication is such an essential part of business and too often neglected.
You are a very creative company. How do you come up with new ideas?
Oh, that varies a lot! Sometimes I have the best ideas quite classic in the shower, but often they arise in conversation with employees or customers. We talk about a new challenge, listen to each other, ask questions – and suddenly the solution is crystal clear in front of you. I think we benefit a lot from the fact that as a young, agile startup company, we work together with very experienced entrepreneurs. Both sides can learn an extremely great deal from each other if they recognize and value the differences and sometimes opposing views. By the way, this approach is also reflected in the company name “Keen & Can”. Success comes where creative skills, new technologies and passionate start-up spirit meet experience and assertiveness. My motto “never give up” runs like a red thread through my entrepreneurial career. This phrase has been tattooed on my chest since my youth. Even back then I knew what counts for me in life.