Written by Claudia May 23, 2024

Interview Certivity – Part 2 | About being a Founder

We want to know more about how to start a business, how to build a company and what milestones and hurdles you face on your way to entrepreneurship. So we spoke to Nico Wägerle from Certivity, who gave us some insights. In part 1 of the interview, we learned a lot about his company and how the entrepreneurial journey began. Today, we want to go deeper and look at the personal aspects of founding a company.

Nico from Certivity presentating something to his team

What was the most difficult hurdle you had to overcome in the beginning?

I worked in a corporate environment for more than seven years, right from the start and right after I graduated. So you get moulded into a kind of corporate mindset. I had to change that mindset to a start-up mindset, where you really think in faster cycles and think in product problems and really think about what the user needs from your software when you evaluate a problem. Especially in the beginning it was a huge and hard task to overcome that legacy and to drop the tools that I had learned for seven years and to start a completely new journey. I would say that was the most critical hurdle I had to overcome in the beginning.

If you could name one thing, what has changed the most for you personally since you
started your business?

Quite a lot. Because it is a completely different lifestyle to be the founder of a company, to be the CEO, to be responsible for people who trust you. But what has changed the most is actually my perception of work. I used to work in a corporate environment and I worked a lot, but my affection for work was somehow different. Now I work for my own company, I work for the success of the company and everything is in my hands. I do not work because I have to, I work because I want my business to succeed. And this change in attitude is the biggest change in my life compared to my previous job.

With now knowing how the founders lifestyle looks like, is there a tip you wish you
had received before starting your business?

Before I started a company, I was really influenced by the LinkedIn bubble and the founder bubble in my old job. Everything was super nice and shiny if you were a founder. Because you have a nice shiny life and everything is good. You scale and everyone is happy with your product. But that is not the truth. Forget what you see on LinkedIn or social media about starting a business. Actually it’s really hard, it’s really bloody hard to build a business from scratch. You start with nothing and you end up with a bunch of people backing you. And that is the advice I would have liked to have had before I started a company, because I was kind of influenced by that bubble. But now I know better.

Based on your experience as a founder over the past few years, what advice do you
have for others who dream of a founders’s live?

As a founder, you have fallen in love with your idea. That’s fine and good. But actually you should focus more on falling in love with the problem you are solving. And having an idea is cool, but finding out what the problem is behind your idea and trying to solve that and falling in love with the problem and then it’s not about the idea, it’s about the execution. You really have to execute and convince everybody that the problem you are solving is the right one. You have to convince your employees. You have to convince your customers, your investors. And that’s the most important thing. Forget about your idea, focus on the problem and the execution.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Difficult question. Of course, on the journey of being a founder and building a business, there are thousands of things you could do differently or would have done differently. But I think I’m here because I made those mistakes. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here right now with my team.
So I think everything happens for a reason and that is why I have no regrets. I actually celebrate every mistake I made in the past because it led me to the person that I am now and it led me to the organisation that we have now. So the journey’s been a lot of fun for me.I loved the journey.

And were there any mistakes that you made that helped you move forward?

The thing is that in the past we have grown a lot and we have added more resources to the development teams without focusing on how the organisation in the back needs to grow as well. For example, the processes of how to develop software. And that was in December of last year, we had a lot of stress with a lot of pressure from customers. The organisation was already about 18 people and the problem was that our processes were not at the same quality and at the same stage as the people in the company and that was the reason why it caused confusion for everyone. And it was a stressful moment for the whole organisation.
But looking forward, we have learnt a lot from this situation because we have analysed this situation, why we made these mistakes or what happened or what led to these mistakes. And now we have a much smoother organisation because we have looked at all these problems and found a solution. And everybody is super cool now when it comes to the problems we had in the past. It’s basically all from the past, but you have to improve a lot and you have to be self-reflective as an organisation to see what the problem was. That has helped us for the future.

For people planning to start their own business: What questions should they ask
themselves before starting a business?

To add a bit of context, starting and running a business means changing your life forever. And you have to ask yourself if you are ready for this step, if you have the personal background to do it. Am I the right person to really lead people to success? Am I the right person to convince someone of my product? Is my personal environment in which I am currently operating – my family, my friends – ready for this step? Because you need them to support you on your journey, because it will be hard. Are you financially equipped for this journey? Because at the beginning it could be dry, you could have no income. You have to survive for a certain period of time. So I would say ask yourself these four questions, then you are well prepared for this journey.

What are you most proud of when it comes to Certivity?

That is an easy question. I can honestly say that this is my team. We have brought together a super diverse and multicultural team from, I think, 15 different nations now. They all work mostly in Munich. And this is our family, this is the Certivity family. And I am super proud that we have been able to convince and find these like-minded people who are willing to put everything they have into Certivity to make our company a success. It opens my heart every day when I come into the office and see everyone – super friendly, super open, super transparent. And that is the most valuable thing: that we have a culture and a team that really opens your eyes and warms your heart when you come into the office. I love that.

To sum up, what has been your highlight as a founder so far?

I mean, on this journey you have multiple highlights. I can assure you that you will celebrate every single moment. There are a lot of highlights. But for me personally there is a story: We were founded in 2021. And in 2021 it was just us four founders and we had a Christmas party in December where we four founders sat together with the wifes and the partners actually and it was a super cozy environment. And Sami our co-founder from Finland, he was remote in this Christmas party. And last year, in December 2022, we already passed 18 people and for me it was like a kind of crazy moment, standing in front of 18 people, having a Christmas party and having the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the year 2022 with my team. And that was like one of my biggest highlights I would say.

About Certivity

Certivity is bringing together the legal world, which is mostely paperbased and not digitized with the engineering world which is already super digitized and on their platform both worlds come together in order to digitize the process of regulatory compliance.
Learn more about Certivity in our Blog-Post and on their website.