Executive MBA HSG News
The Global Executive MBA being a business incubator
Timo Hahn and Matthias Dörner want to democratise the art market all over Europe with their app called wydr. It's a kind of Tinder for Art - using "swipe to like" for paintings, wydr connects artists and art lovers in a new way. Wydr was ultimately born as one of the assignments for Timo's and Matthias' Global Executive MBA at the University of St.Gallen, where the two founders met.
We met Timo and Matthias at the IMPACT HUB in Zurich and could ask them some questions about their idea, the app and their experiences in the start up environment:
EMBA: What is the idea of wydr?
Timo & Matthias: Wydr is an open market space that connects young artists and art lovers in a fast and easy way. The artist are able to upload their art onto the platform with only a few clicks. The users on the other hand, can look at the picture like on tinder: if they like a painting they simply swipe right and it will be added to their personal gallery. In a second step the painting can be bought directly within the app. Artists benefit from an increase in reach and new customers. Art lovers have access to a very broad variety of art, which they could only discover with a lot of expenditure of time. Furthermore, shipping is free worldwide. Currently we do have approximately 700 paintings from 170 artists on our platform.
Where does the name wydr come from?
Wydr is a mix of "white wall" and "tinder". There is also a nice association for the name: "We make the art world wider" - as we open up the limited view of a gallery.
Who is behind wydr?
Timo Hahn and Matthias Dörner, two engineers that met during their Omnium Global Executive MBA studies at the University of St.Gallen.
Matthias, born and raised in the Rheinland (Germany), studied textile and production engineering at the ETH in Zurich. After graduating he worked for eight years in the medical industry. Currently he works full-time for wydr.
Timo, originally from near Stuttgart (Germany), studied mathematics and computer sciences. After finishing his studies he started working in the financial industry. Today he is a project manager risk management security in the IT department of UBS.
Wydr is a two-man show and the two founders complement each other very well with their skills. However, they are both involved in all tasks of their start-up.
Where did the idea for your start-up come from?
For the MBA class "Capstone - Applied Innovation" every student had to generate 50 ideas. In a second step and in order to determine the idea with the highest potential, the best ideas were evaluated with various tests and experiments. Each team of six students finally had to decide on one idea, which they wanted to work on further - for our group it was wydr.
Furthermore, in various classes we had to use our own business for project tasks. We always used wydr and for example that is how we developed our first marketing plan. So throughout our executive MBA we were working on our idea.
Matthias, why did you always wanted to found your own company? Did that influence your start-up in any way?
When I was 14 I asked my father, if he would like to build up a business with me. Since then that urge never disappeared. Together with Timo it finally was very easy to say "yes, let's do it".
When did the idea become a start-up?
That was after we nearly failed the "Entrepreneurship" class with our idea. We thought now more than ever and could not understand why others did not see the potential of our idea. Shortly after, we both quit our jobs and as a high point eventually won the start-up weekend in Zurich.
What were the biggest challenges for wydr?
Probably to have the necessary patience and stamina. Normally everything that you want to do takes more time than you would like it to. Additionally, if you really want to change something and not simply copy other ideas, you encounter a lot of resistance. But in the end it works, sometimes even better that you would have thought.
Timo, is your life comparable with the one of Elon Musk (no breaks, no holiday, no lunch breaks - only work) - or how do you manage a full-time job, wydr and your family at the same time?
Family is not work, but relaxation. I was never afraid of too much work and one of the biggest learnings during my executive MBA was time management. If you believe in your idea you will always find time for it.
What's the interesting part of working for your start-up?
No day is like the next one, new surprises are always waiting. What gives us the energy from one day to the next is all the positive feedback that we get from our users.
When founding wydr, where did you have the biggest gap of knowledge and how did you overcome it?
Well, as an MBA student you know everything and nothing. We had to learn a lot in all areas. The main topic was to prioritize. We are only two persons and supposed to do everything at once. In that regard, the Lean Start-Up Methods helped us a lot. For example the Lean Meetup, as well as the start-up weekend in Zurich showed us that an idea does not have to be perfect, but should be tested and developed further based on user feedback. This sounds very simple, however is a big hurdle for many start-ups. Furthermore, we were lucky to have a big network. We are not shy and many of our friends also work in the start-up environment. If we need help, people are around to support us.
Since the graduation of the Omnium GEMBA HSG a year already passed. What insights from the programme help you the most for you daily work?
We learned to quickly and effectively familiarize ourselves with a new topics. Without being afraid of new territory, to work everywhere and anytime and to always work on and finish things. Furthermore, we learned how to effectively use our network.
What remained in good memory of the Omnium GEMBA HSG and what rather not?
Our fellow students - people that share the same mind-set but come from all over the world. We bonded very quickly and became friends with many of the students. It's like in the military; even if your first sceptical about each other, you have to work together and reach the goal.
What were the reasons to apply for the Omnium GEMBA HSG programme?
Mainly the will to pursue our corporate career. As an engineer you are not taken seriously in some areas, before you can show an additional diploma. So the MBA was meant to be a booster for our career.
Matthias, you are colour-blind nevertheless an art lover. How come?
Any form of creativity fascinates me. I also did my bachelor degree in textile engineering and my first business ideas were all related to some form of creativity. For example, between 2006 and 2007 I had the idea to build up a social network for artists or to create a marketspace for young fashion designer.
My colour asthenopia allows me a different and a very personal connection with art. When I was little, in the museum I was always told to let the colours sink in. During my teenage years I encountered graffiti for the first time, which was something I quickly found a connection to with its very clear lines and bright colours. That was the beginning of my interest in art. My understanding of art is also in line with wydr's principle: "Art is in the eye of the beholder." That is why we are an open platform that has no regulation regarding what is considered art.
Where does your fascination for art come from, Timo?
I am a typical user of wydr. I like art and love getting inspired. However, I rarely visit galleries. It's just not my environment. If I go to an art gallery it's when I am abroad, that is also where I bought the paintings for my apartment. With using wydr I have exactly this selection of worldwide artists and can ship them to my living room free of charge.
How did the art scene react to you app?
Very positive! Actually we thought that we won't be recognized. But the opposite happened: also well-established players do like our idea and we often hear that experts talk about us.
What advice would you give to future start-up founders?
Just do it. As long as you do not have any real customer feedback you don't know anything anyway.
We started talking about our idea right from to start to everyone. On one hand we put ourselves on the spot, but on the other hand we received early feedback. Based on that we were able to continuously improve our idea. Thus, we recommend everyone to tell people about their idea from the beginning on. The chance that somebody will copy your idea is small - except in the Medtech-/Biotech-area.
Any plans for future for wydr?
Currently we are preparing to enter Germany. We are available worldwide, but PR actions need to be done separately for every market. Right now our aim is to grow sustainably and built up the structure necessary for that. How the app will be refined content-wise depends on the behaviour of our customers. We do have many new ideas for features.
Thank you very much for your time and the friendly talk.
We wish you good luck with your project,
the Executive EMBA HSG Team.