The CEMS Global Alliance is a purpose led organization, powered by our beliefs that great leadership starts with self-leadership and societal progress requires continual exploration. In this series of interviews, we take a look at CEMS students and alumni that are contributing to make this world a more open, sustainable and inclusive world.
Today, in our Humans of CEMS series, we are happy to introduce you to Henry Hooper, founder and CEO of Metarina - A startup platform that allows sailors to spontaneously and digitally find a spot in a marina and winner of the CEMS Startup Challenge! In this interview, he explains how he balances being a founder and a student at the same time and some of the lessons he learned from the first two years at his startup!
1. How did you come up with the idea behind your startup?
In between all of my previous "chapters of life" I always sought an extraordinary experience to recalibrate my mind and body and to prepare my next steps. After working as a management consultant for just over two years, I took the plane on my last day and flew straight from a client’s office to the Mediterranean. Within a few hours, I swapped my suit and tie for the uniform of a deckhand - that’s the lowest ranking person on a 54m classical sailing yacht, responsible for executing captain’s orders and doing maintenance work (deck-scrubbing!). There I got to know the maritime industry and its challenges. Shortly before I disembarked from start my studies, I thought to myself: There must be a way to create a world where the marina (harbour) ecosystem and all boats are inter-connected. All related interactions and communication should be much easier. And how can I contribute to moving this industry forward?
2. How were you influenced by the CEMS environment and community? How did winning the CEMS Startup Challenge affect you?
CEMS gave me additional time to develop my business concept carefully. The proximity to universities and the ongoing transfer of knowledge have been immensely important in order to have various facets of the company examined by experts. Furthermore, I was able to achieve one of my biggest personal goals: As a German, I already knew Berlin very well. My home school is in Barcelona and I did my exchange in Stockholm. So, I was able to get to know the entrepreneurial epicentres of the South, Central Europe and Scandinavia thanks to CEMS.
And I'll never forget how the daily enthusiasm of my fellow students drove me on. When I was able to win the start-up challenge for us, it was shortly after a big milestone for our team. Winning gave us the final nudge to pursue this endeavour.
3. How do you balance the workload of managing a growing company and being a full-time CEMS student at the same time?
Luckily, I'm an early bird and many of my fellow students are night owls. That fits quite well because I can already get a lot done for my company before the typical group meetings and projects for university start. However, our clients in the Mediterranean also tend to start working later in the day. So sometimes meetings and deadlines overlap. Therefore, some days are a bit longer and since I don't drink coffee, I have to take the occasional power nap (or two) but please don't tell anyone about that!
4. What are the key learning lessons you took away from starting your own business?
Patience... a lot of patience and perseverance. For that, you have to have a lot of passion for the endeavour. Fortunately, we have a team that inspires me and that I look forward to working with every day. It's amazing what energy reserves you can release when you're so enthusiastic. However, that doesn't mean you don't have to be careful to really ration yourself consistently and take breaks. I have had to really learn to do that given the double workload with university. You also learn that you can't always do right by everyone - sometimes not even yourself. So, you learn to draw a lot of strength when you are confronted with self-doubt.
5. Do you have any recommendations for CEMSies who are thinking about setting up their own company?
Funnily enough, nowadays no one thinks that when they choose their first job it's meant to last forever. But when it comes to starting a company it always seems very terminal. It is often said that about 80% of start-ups do not survive and only 20% make it. If you rephrase this thought, it means that it is best to set yourself up to try 5 times from the beginning.
This realisation should not be sobering but should change your attitude towards the process. That process is what excites me! The most important thing to understand is that building a business is a skill that needs practice. That is, you have to train really hard to get better at it. So, with each attempt you improve your skill, the odds of success and you can avoid the previous mistakes. The sooner you start practicing, the sooner you become a pro. That's what I'm working towards.