How does a brand and innovation consultant for global B2C brands end up in a startup that digitizes the air freight market? Laura Weritz studied the Executive Master in Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership (EMDIEL) at ESCP Europe in 2016/2017 – and, in the course of it, changed from her consultancy job to an early stage startup. Today, cargo.one is in business since approximately a year, until the end of December the team of 16 wants to double. Hence, they are looking for ambitious people, who want to make a difference in the logistics industry.
How can transformation be a success?
Laura is one of the pioneers of the Executive Master in Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership (EMDIEL), a part-time master program, which prepares executives in 5 modules in Berlin, Shanghai, Paris, London and San Francisco for tomorrow’s challenges. In 2016, the first cohort took off on the adventure. Before that, Laura had already worked in brand consulting for four years, but wanted develop in the areas of transformation and innovation management. In her job, she was continuously confronted with how difficult transformation processes are for companies, and how many of them fail.
„Originally, I wanted to get a traditional MBA, but then decided for EMDIEL, because the innovative capability and the digitization of businesses were of great relevance in my work routine. In a world that is increasingly rapidly changing and that entails great uncertainty, the classic management style is neither up-to-date nor sufficient to successfully lead businesses. I wanted to learn additional techniques, which would help me to consult businesses in terms of transformation and innovation more holistically and, at the same time, collaborate more with startups”, she said in cargo.one’s office in Berlin-Mitte. She asked herself how she could support companies to design their transformation processes more effectively and to implement innovations faster.
Fascinated by startups
In the program, Laura had many touch points with the world of startups, which increasingly fascinated her. Moreover, after graduating she was still in active exchange with her EMDIEL colleague Oliver T. Neumann, who had already founded multiple businesses before the master’s and was looking for new ideas. Laura was torn. She was very happy in her consulting job and had great clients, with whom she could apply skills from her studies, such as Google Design-Sprints.
However, she could not get the desire to tackle projects herself out of her head: “After 5 years in consulting, in which I have mostly worked strategically, I noticed that I was more and more excited to put things into action myself.” But when Oliver asked her, if she wants to join his new startup, she was unsure: “It wasn’t the career path I had envisioned. Until then, I had never been in touch with the logistics industry.”
The deep end
Finally, she took a leap, initially part-time – one month after the product was on the market, when the team was super small. Was it possible to balance the old and the new job? “Both jobs were not 9-5. Both jobs demanded and deserved my full attention. So I had to decide and thought, if not now, when? Pivotal for me was that I completely believed in the idea and in the team. Building up the team together, bringing the idea to life and learning new things in this environment, was what convinced me to take this step.”
Laura quit her consulting job, fully committed to cargo.one and is since then primarily responsible for its brand strategy, marketing and public relations. “Building a brand from scratch is an amazing opportunity. Watching our team grow and experiencing the team spirit, that is created by a strong shared vision, is a unique experience”, she reflects on her choice. “Of course it’s a big challenge, but that is exactly why I have chosen this path.”
The EMDIEL mindset
The question whether EMDIEL prepared her for working in a startup, makes her think for a while. “The Effectuation Principles, such as means orientation instead of goals orientation or using the unexpected rather than avoiding it, are omnipresent in our startup routine. There surely were a lot of methods in EMDIEL that are now part of my daily business.” Moreover, she internalized the ‘total customer focus’ mindset and for example started the project Co-Working at cargo.one. Freight forwarders work in their office for one to two weeks, so that the team is able to understand all of their steps, in order to identify their needs and to develop the best product for them.
Laura would advise prospective EMDIEL students to embrace the experiment and expand their network: “Building your network and being open for modules which are beyond traditional management programs is invaluable.” The program has made her braver: “All the points of contact and discussions with founders and investors surely have sparked something in me. In general, I love throwing myself into new challenges and trying new things! A lot of EMDIEL experiences were very inspirational and encouraged me in taking the leap from a secure job in a consultancy to an early stage startup.”
cargo.one is a market place for air freight capacity that connects airlines with freight forwarders and digitizes the entire booking process. Using a great business idea, the international team wants to transform air freight and make a difference in a conservative market. However, they do not see themselves as disruptors of the industry, but cooperate with airlines and freight forwarders on equal terms in order to promote digitization. cargo.one is growing rapidly and is looking for ambitious people, who want to push this vision and the amazing team spirit.