Christoph Hechenblaikner is an Austrian entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of CrossCloud, a client application for multiple different cloud storage services (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) which allows users to easily use all their space and share data across different platforms in a seamless and secure way.
In today’s interview for Magazine MN, Christoph tells us about how he started his entrepreneurial journey and lessons learned along the way. Christoph also shares insights into his project CrossCloud and gives valuable bits of advice for the first-time entrepreneurs.
Magazine MN: Why did you choose an entrepreneurial journey?
Christoph: Well, to be honest, it wasn’t a very active decision to become an entrepreneur at first. I just saw a problem and couldn’t stand that nobody had found the right way (as we thought it was) to solve it. So we just started building a prototype of that solution. This was the time when me and my co-founders were still at university and didn’t think too much about what to do afterwards. Some time later, when we found ourselves looking back, we realised that this is exactly what we want to do.
Magazine MN: What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Christoph: Learning so much every day. I think that’s what having a start-up is all about. You can not prepare yourself for everything to come and I believe nobody is a good entrepreneur “by training”. The best entrepreneurs I’ve met are extremely good at learning about a problem they face and possible solutions extremely fast. I really like the analogy that having a startup is like being thrown off a cliff with everything it takes to build a helicopter. Once you are falling, the only thing that matters is if you can do or learn stuff fast and well enough. I can’t imagine that any regular job would allow you to learn as much as running a startup does.
Magazine MN: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Christoph: Running a startup is all about embracing uncertainty. Try to gain certainty for you and everyone around you with every step you take, no matter if you succeed or not. The important question after all has to be: ‘What did we learn and how does it affect what we are doing?’
Magazine MN: What is the greatest business lesson you’ve learned so far?
Christoph: The (founding) team is the most precious asset a startup can have. The journey will be hard enough anyway and there will be many ups and downs. So making sure that one has the right people for good and tough times is very important.
Magazine MN: Tell us more about CrossCloud. What is the mission of CrossCloud and what kind of problem does it solve?
Christoph: CrossCloud helps people to securely use multiple cloud storage services (such as Dropbox or Google Drive) in one application. Our focus here is to make it as easy as possible for users to share data with people around them across different services while being able to seamlessly protect their data stored in the cloud.
So users simply install CrossCloud on their devices, add their different accounts to it, and can seamlessly use all accounts and share data on all platforms. If users want to protect their files, they can simply activate encryption and CrossCloud seamlessly takes care of the protection of files for them.
The vision for CrossCloud is somewhat bigger and different. We want to give companies back control over how cloud storage is used in their organisations.
We see a big problem in how cloud storage is used in companies today. Cloud Storage is great and people love to use it to share data. But as soon as people start using this great technology to communicate in their workspace to share data with customers or partners, it becomes extremely problematic. This is mainly due to the fact, that companies have no control over how data is shared using those channels. This is a very dangerous situation and most CIOs decide to forbid the usage of cloud storage since they are not able to handle this appropriately. But in every company that we go to, we find people using cloud storage even though not allowed to. Our vision for CrossCloud is to create a “Bring-Your-Own-Cloud-Storage” like environment, were employees are allowed to use any cloud storage service they want to share data through the CrossCloud client application while enabling the IT to control sharing and protect data.
Magazine MN: What makes CrossCloud different from other cloud storage providers?
Christoph: CrossCloud is not a cloud storage provider and therefore does not offer any storage space. It is an independent client-application that can connect to various different services in the background. So rather than providing our own space, we simply allow users to use their existing accounts at other services together in a very secure and easy way.
Magazine MN: How did you come up with an idea of creating CrossCloud?
Christoph: We developed CrossCloud because we had the problem of having to manage multiple different cloud storage accounts to communicate with people around us ourselves. Using many different services requires users to install many different applications and learn various different ways of how their cloud storage works. Further, ensuring security of files on different clouds is very complicated.
After testing 27 products dealing with this problem, we realised that none of these solved our problem and had a pretty clear vision of what a perfect solution for us would look like. So we started exploring other people’s experiences and at some point started developing our solution for it.
Magazine MN: What is your favourite productivity hack?
Christoph: Distraction turned out to be one of the biggest enemies in our daily lives. There will always be great things happening around you (especially in an accelerator environment), but keeping your focus is the key. Our approach to handle this is extremely simple. We are three founders. So at the time when we need to have a deep focus on a certain topic, one of us becomes responsible for everything happening around us and shields the others from anything that might keep them from doing what they focus on. Very simple, but works for us.
Magazine MN: What is your best piece of advice for the first-time entrepreneur?
Christoph: Start building something simple (if you can). It is essential for a startup to be able to move and test things very fast. As simple as that sounds, some products are just not easy to build. And even though that’s a good thing in general, it can make your life very hard. Be aware of that and have a good plan for how to move fast even though your product might not be done yet. Being able to build a good MVP of your product within a few weeks is a strength not a weakness of your startup early on.
We made the mistake of treating CrossCloud as if it was such an easy product early on and didn’t plan for how to verify our hypothesis with something not done yet. This caused a lot of problems for us even though we had a very strong engineering team and were making great progress. On our way we met many founders with very interesting products we would have been able to build within a matter of weeks. And even though we loved what we were doing, being able to think in terms of weeks instead of months is a very nice spot to be on.
CrossCloud website: https://www.crosscloud.me/
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Christoph Hechenblaikner was interviewed by Natalie Myhalnytska