Björn Kolbmüller, Lukasz Lazewski, Paul Schwarzenholz

“All these talents are coming to the city and money together with them … Within Europe, and even globally, Berlin will be the place to go if you want to work in tech.” – Founder of Zenloop, Paul Schwarzenholz

Zenloop founder Paul Schwarzenholz generously took some time to sit down with Silicon Allee’s team and give a glimpse into Zenloop’s unique origins and its business model. Paul gives his tips on how to get started in Berlin and to make it in the tech scene. As a successful serial entrepreneur he should know!

Paul, it’s great to meet you. Let’s start with your elevator pitch.

Zenloop is customer experience management platform that helps companies to improve the relationships they have with their customers. If you use it successfully, then you will reduce churn and you will improve recommendation rates from your customers. You will be able to bring more feedback from customers to your team especially those who are responsible for customer service.

In what year was Zenloop founded?

We were founded in July of 2016.

Did you start Zenloop by yourself, or do you have Co-founders?

There are three guys who founded Zenloop. They are Lukasz Lazewski, who was our technical co-founder and who is responsible for the product, Björn Kolbmüller, who is my former cofounder from Flaconi and he’s responsible for sales, marketing, and financing, and there’s myself. I am responsible for making it possible for the other guys to be able to do their jobs. So, I am in charge of all the operations and, ultimately, the backbone of the business.

So what actually inspired you to start Zenloop?

It came from an experience we had at our first company, Flaconi. We were using a method to collect customer feedback and analyze it. It’s called NPS – Net Promoter Score – we measured the entire customer journey with touch points. At the end we had roughly two thousand comments a day from our customers, which we tried to understand and analyze. But, there were just too many comments to do proper analysis with excel so we looked for a tool that could help us solve this issue. We thought it’s a great method, so let’s build a software around it and help others to do a better job on the customer side as well.

Tell us a bit about your competition and why you’re better.

There are two types of competitors. On the one hand, there are big, classic enterprise software solutions. They are big ones that cost a lot to setup – couple hundred thousand of Euro up to millions of Euro. It’s also expensive to run afterwards.

On the other hand, we have some smaller software service companies focusing on NPS with the difference being that they mainly focus on one way to ask for feedback. They are focused on asking via email or via the browser, but not caring for the entire customer journey and not focusing on analyzing the data that’s coming back. That’s a big difference between big enterprise solutions and even our software service product.   

With us you can login, open an account and use it without any setup fees. It requires practically no effort to use it. We built a more holistic solution compared to using just NPS. We want to improve the customer experience.

What advice would you have for entrepreneurs just starting out in Berlin?

Try to connect as early as possible with other founders here, because people here in Berlin are extremely accessible. Everybody wants to share knowledge and they want to help. The earlier you can start to connect, the earlier you have people who want to support you and to help you.

You’re with us here on campus. What’s your favorite spot in the neighborhood?

My most favorite spot in Berlin is the Soho House rooftop terrace because it has an amazing view and it’s beautiful.

Where do you see Berlin 5 years from now? And in 10 years?

Berlin is developing right now. It’s like a magnet. Many people come to Berlin, especially international people who want to live here and work here. Five years ago it was not possible to work here without being able to speak German, but now it’s absolutely possible. I think in five or ten years it will be even more international, probably not only in Mitte, but also in other parts of Berlin. Everyone will speak English. The tech scene, even now, is becoming more and more important, and it’s already the most important industry in the city. All these talents are coming to the city and money together with them. I think it will be even more dynamic and technical. Within Europe, and even globally, Berlin will be the place to go if you want to work in tech.

What one group/individual/project has been the most influential to you during your time as an entrepreneur in Berlin?

On the one hand, one of the most important people in my development was my former mentor at my first company, Bain & Company. His name is Stefan Smalla and is a founder of Westwing – an extremely successful founder – and I learned a lot from him.

In a broader sense, the people that work here in the tech scene are so inspirational for me because these people like to share knowledge and you can contact somebody you don’t know and tell them, “Hey, I’m interested in what you are doing; let’s meetup for coffee!” Then, you meet for a coffee and both sides benefit from the exchange. I’m not sure if this is unique to Berlin, but in Europe it’s pretty unique.

Can you name one particular moment that has been pivotal during your time in business?

This company came up in the exact moment when we were sitting at a meeting and one of my colleagues, who was responsible for the NPS, told me that the excel sheet where she loads the new comments had 270 megabytes and it was simply just too big to work with it. That was the moment where we thought that we need a software for it. So, this moment was indeed pivotal because we built an entire new company around this need. I looked at Björn and we thought that it could also be something for after Flaconi.

Has Berlin’s informal nature and unique history been a positive aspect of your time in the city?

For me, it’s inspiring as well. I’m interested in history and architecture and to see how Berlin had its first founders time. It started in the 1850’s and went to roughly the 1920’s/1930’s. The city exploded and lots of factories were built in that time, especially huge ones. 50,000 people began working in factories that didn’t exist even twenty years before and this is inspiring for me, because this boom has already happened. And now it’s happening again.

Finally, Coffee, Tea, or Club Mate?

Half Coffee, half Club-Mate.