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Franz-Josef Schrepf: 'I figured everybody needs marketing'

Alumni in the spotlight

This months' alumnus in the spotlight is Franz-Josef Schrepf, he finished his BSc Economics and Business at the UvA in 2016 and did a MSc in Marketing Management after. Now he is Co-founder & CEO of Tick Done., a venture-backed instant knowledge sharing platform. Check out how he got there in the following interview!

Alumnus in the spotlight
Franz-Josef Schrepf

What was your dream job as a child? And what is your dream job now?
As a child, I always wanted to learn everything, which explains why I changed my choice of dream job every time I watched TV. Astrologist, programmer, comedian, author, banker, the list goes on and on. This pattern continued until university where I decided to specialize in marketing because I figured 'everybody needs marketing'. This endless thirst for knowledge ultimately led me to the belief that becoming an entrepreneur would be the right career choice for me since it will allow me to use all my different skills and learn about different areas I’m curious about.

Considering this, my current job is definitely my dream job right now. As the CEO of a learning startup in London, I spent my entire day building a platform and community which helps people around the world to teach and learn from each other, including myself! It also gives me the freedom to pursue some of my childhood dream jobs as a side hustle. I’m currently publishing a book on personal branding for young professionals based on the TEDx talk There is no Luck. Only Good Marketing which I gave back in Amsterdam. So who knows, maybe I will become a proper author one day.

What do you do at work?
Around 9 am I cycle to our office in the heart of London. We start every day with a short stand up meeting to ensure that all of our team members are aware of what everybody is working on. While I am still fresh, I spend most of my time on product, branding, or strategic decisions which require more effort and creativity.

​After a quick lunchtime meditation session (highly recommended!), I catch up on emails and spend time in meetings, either internally with the team or externally with partners or investors. Since we are still expanding the team we are also regularly scouting and interviewing candidates.

As an entrepreneur, and especially CEO, every day is different and each one of the challenges we face will require me to apply or learn a different skillset. Not all tasks are fun though. I spend a good amount of time getting my hands dirty in the legal and accounting documents, even though we hired lawyers and accountants.

What do you like the most about your job?
I absolutely love the mission-driven aspect of our business: together with our team, we embarked on a mission to empower a billion people with a million new skills. Doing good while doing business, attaching a purpose to your work, that is the single biggest hack I have encountered to date. Knowing that we help people around the world acquire knowledge and skills is something which really gets me out of bed every morning.

Apart from that, I truly appreciate the autonomy and flexibility my work provides me. A start-up is an incredibly agile environment so any decision, idea, or learning the team has, can be implemented almost instantly. Our community can often provide us with feedback on the same day. This is especially fun because we are fortunate enough to surround ourselves with a brilliant team and community which is bubbling full of ideas.

Knowing that we help people around the world acquire knowledge and skills is something which really gets me out of bed every morning.

What do you find the most difficult about your job?
Unfortunately, the hard things about my job are the exact same things which make this job great. Being fully autonomous means there are a few people who hold me accountable or provide guidance. I have to seek out mentors for advice and guidance actively. While we are flexible with our workload and hours, at the end of the day, we still have to deliver our community and investors. This pressure to perform ultimately cost me countless evenings and weekends and time away from friends and loved ones.

However, the long and hard working hours are nothing compared to the burden of responsibility and the hard, often even painful, decisions we have to make. We often need to set our emotions aside and decide what is best for the business, even if everything inside you stems against the decision. This is especially tough when you have to e.g. let a team member go or turn down a client. The emotional burden is something you have to carry for a long time.

Can you apply the knowledge that you have gained during your study in your work?
The biggest take away from my studies was meta-skills, such as learning to apply the scientific method in order to test hypothesis (yes, sounds boring but it's super important!), research methodologies and how to apply them in real-world scenarios, and the extreme work ethics that come with working while being an honors’ student.

As an entrepreneur, it is your job to explore new, repeatable, and scalable business models. Which means your entire job is to do literally research. However, unlike academia, this research is happening in real-time and not published in a scientific journal but rather turned into actionable steps which inform your business strategy. Entrepreneurship is the science of innovation and lies perfectly between academia and a regular job, which is just about executing what is already known. This is also why students actually have an advantage in entrepreneurship because they are less biased when evaluating new ideas than people who have several years of experience in any given industry.

On a practical level, I am using the marketing knowledge I acquired during my bachelor’s specialization and master’s degree on a daily basis. After all, everybody needs marketing.

Entrepreneurship students actually have an advantage, because they are less biased when evaluating new ideas than people who have several years of experience in any given industry.

How did you get this job? Did you have to search for a long time?
I did not. I had already prepared myself for a career as an entrepreneur through a student part-time job in a growth hacking agency, countless hours of entrepreneurship content and hackathons, and by participating in the Startup Bootcamp Amsterdam with my first company already during my studies.

After graduation, I realized that I wanted to refocus myself on founding a business with a clear social mission and impact. Fortunately, a friend whom I’ve met at the St. Gallen Symposium (highly recommend the essay competition!) during my masters shared a link to apply for Zinc VC, a mission-driven startup incubator program.

Luckily, I got accepted to Zinc due to my work experience mentioned above. I moved to London where I participated in their nine-month program to find co-founders, an idea, and build a business, all while being paid a salary.

There are actually several pre-team, pre-idea incubators like Entrepreneur First, Zinc, and Antler in London, and Amsterdam also has several accelerators (already need a team and idea) which make it far easier to kickstart your career as an entrepreneur! If you’re thinking about applying just hit me up, always happy to chat! 

Tip: Get as much experience as possible while you are still studying to avoid a cold start and hit the ground running.

What tip would you give students at the start of their career path?
Your career starts long before you leave university. Once I graduated, I realized people and companies are caring far more about your work experience and the things you can do for them. Get as much experience as possible while you are still studying to avoid a cold start and hit the ground running.

After your graduation, I think the best advice is to take large amounts of calculated risks. Calculated ones, not the stupid kind. Make bold, ambitious career decisions. When you are young, you can still afford to fail. And just like investments, the riskiest career moves often yield the highest reward.  

When making career choices, focus on people. Not money, benefits, or prestige. Surround yourself with the best people and learn from them. I have always tried to find situations where I was the dumbest person in the room. It might feel bad at the beginning, but you can succeed in those places if you make up for it with superior work ethics, a humble attitude, and an extreme eagerness to learn.

Lastly, always remember that we most often regret the things didn’t do, not the things we did. Ask yourself what bold move would make your future-self proud. Then do it.

Want to know more?
You are welcome to approach Franz via email in case you have questions. Get in touch with the EB Career Centre for his contact details. We hope this month’s alumnus was an inspiration for your own career journey. What kind of Economics and Business career path would you like to know more about? Let us know, and we will try to arrange an interview with alumni who have this experience for next month’s column!