Interview with Ben Unterkofler
"Have the courage to try things, especially if they deviate from the traditional career path!"
Our alumnus Ben Unterkofler is a former actor and co-founder of the start-up share. With the slogan "Sharing makes the world a better place", they want to give everyone access to food, drink and hygiene.
We look back with Ben Unterkofler on his time as a student at the WiSo faculty and on his career as a co-founder of the company share.
Dear Ben, you are very transparent in your company presentation and are a pioneer in the areas of sustainability, environmental protection and social commitment. How do you reconcile all this?
When we founded share, it was clear that we didn't just want to be a social company, but also a role model in the consumer goods market. Our team of founders put this into practice right from the start, and even today, one year after the market launch, we still benefit from the advantages of a young company: speed, flexibility, but also courage and high demands on ourselves are really important here. Of course, things can get chaotic in everyday life, especially because the processes are not yet 100 percent up and running. But this is exactly what we use as a strength and so far we have managed quite well to be a few steps ahead of the "big ones" in terms of social and ecological sustainability in some aspects.
I mean, after all, last year we built 51 wells and distributed 2 million meals and 550,000 soaps. And we launched the first water bottle made entirely of recycled plastic. That's kind of rad!
How did you get together with your founding partners and how are your responsibilities within the company?
We founded share with four founding partners. Sebastian and I have known each other for about 6 years, back then I volunteered as Speaker Assistant at the World Business Dialogue at the University of Cologne. I looked after Sebastian when he was a speaker there. At that time he pitched the idea of the donation app ShareTheMeal...I was so enthusiastic about it that I directly offered my cooperation. After that I took care of the marketing.
After my Master in London, we met for breakfast in Berlin and decided that share should be the next logical step to the app.
We asked ourselves: How can the idea of sharing be integrated even more easily into everyday life? After a few months our co-founders Iris and Tobias joined us.
Since then, Sebastian has been our CEO, I'm in charge of marketing, Iris is responsible for product and social impact, and Tobias is responsible for the partnerships with our great trading partners REWE and dm - without whom share would not exist in this form.
What was the relationship between chance or luck and hard work on the way to your successful start-up?
The last year before the launch was one of the most intense times I have ever experienced. We practically lived in the office. Although the work-life balance was not the best during this time, I wouldn't want to miss this time for anything. It was precisely here that we learned the most about ourselves and our self-image as entrepreneurs
Chance and luck have definitely played a big role. But so did hard work.
If you were a student at the WiSo faculty again - what would you do differently and what would you do again?
I would definitely get involved earlier in the university environment. The WBD was incredibly important for my later career. I would also choose politics as my second specialization again.
Is there a funny anecdote that links your acting career with your current position?
I'm actually in an incredibly close exchange with the old industry. For example, share is the first start-up to become an exclusive partner of the German Film Award and is allowed to join big companies like BMW. We also actually get a lot of support from actors: Even before the actual start of share, some old "colleagues" gave us massive support and made a film with us in which they explained the 1+1 principle: For every product we make, we make a donation of an equivalent product. With this film we were able to generate a lot of attention at the sales launch. That was great!
The saying - you always see each other twice in life - I can definitely sign.
Finally, do you have 3 tips for prospective founders and something you would like to share with the students?
Two years ago I was allowed to give the alumni speech for business administration bachelor graduates at the University of Cologne. Back then I said that three things in particular helped me tremendously:
1. courage "have the courage to try things out, especially when they deviate from the traditional career path".
2. network "build a network - this is much more important than stations in your CV"
3. mentors "find the people who inspire you and learn as much as you can from them
I would still sign these three tips today. This is especially true for prospective founders.
Thank you very much for the interview!
Interview: Vanessa Bierhaus Master student in Supply Chain Management