A market for children from 8 years old playing with apps was already in existence, but apps with which children could safely be introduced to the digital world were missing.
In 2012, in Berlin, Germany, Moritz and Verena founded their company Fox & Sheep, a start-up that develops pedagogic, gaming apps for children, which was then largely sold to the toy manufacturer HABA for a double-digit million amount in 2014.
The following interview is a short extract from the interview in “The Female Founders Book”, originally published in German.
Where does your personal enthusiasm for entrepreneurship come from?
For one, it comes from my upbringing, but also importantly it comes from my personality. I constantly need new challenges and want to fill my days with tasks that I enjoy and that have a purpose. At 80 years old, I would prefer to be exhausted from everything I’ve done, rather than having been bored my whole life.
Tell us a bit about how you founded Fox & Sheep after Goodbeans (and your divorce) – what were your first steps back then?
From 2010 to 2013, I worked at Goodbeans, but with the permission of investors, I could start Fox & Sheep from 2012. A market for children from 8 years old playing with apps was already in existence, but apps with which children could safely be introduced to the digital world were missing. That’s the concept behind Fox & Sheep.
Are you a creative person?
For me, it is a curiosity rather than creativity. For a long time, I believed that one was only a creative person if one had studied, for example, Graphic Design or Illustration. But creativity is also having ideas and putting those ideas into action. My creativity comes from my fascination with anything new and original. This is also how we came to Fox & Sheep, a digital platform where children could learn to programme did not exist. No one before me had done this and for this reason, I wanted to be the one to try it. In this sense, I definitely possess a pioneering spirit. My motto is, “Just try it!”
You are notably very open about failure. Are you ever anxious that this makes you more vulnerable?
Even in the hardest times, I stayed true to myself. I don’t have time for people who are not real. It’s a waste of time, because what good is a straightforward and corrected story? I have always been more fascinated by the people who stand on stage and make themselves vulnerable because I can better identify with them. Everyone will at some point hit a rough patch and everyone has self-doubt.
When my husband left me, whilst I was still working at Goodbeans, I went into the office the next day and told my co-founder that right then I couldn’t keep going. I also wanted to tell my colleagues what had happened so that they didn’t have to misinterpret my decisions. I practiced not crying in front of the mirror, but of course, I broke down in tears at the meeting. All my colleagues understood and no one thought I was a weak boss. Instead, everyone simply saw me as human. I have always done very well with my honesty. And people, who do not like you, will take advantage of this. But these people just won’t like you whatever you do. You can’t be everyone’s darling!
You are also a mother to two sons. Do you have a message for other aspiring entrepreneurs with children?
My message is composure. I always wanted and hoped for children, and believed that life is still possible, in all its variety, even with a family. Having this hope has also made it work out. As a mother and an entrepreneur, you need a high tolerance against frustration, for when things don’t always work out as you would wish them to, but you also need composure, so that you don’t feel the pressure that everything needs to be done perfectly. I am very straightforward and level-headed, I don’t shout around. You can talk about everything. My children know that they can trust me and because of this, we are very close. I have always tried to do everything as best I can, whilst not following conventions and giving in to pressures. My children are happy and that is the most important thing.
How important is it for you to be a role-model to others?
I feel as though I am an ambassador for entrepreneurship and want to be a good role model for women. This creates the danger of appearing as though you only want to distinguish yourself, but you have to simply keep yourself above that rhetoric. I myself, don’t really like being a poster-girl, but what’s far more important is to inspire other women and to bring young talent into the industry.
How important do you think it is in one’s entrepreneurial ventures?
Passion is the most important thing and a key entrepreneurial characteristic. It would be unthinkable for me to run my businesses without passion. Passion is also closely tied to courage because to stay true to your ideas and beliefs does not always mean taking the rationally best way. There are so many peaks and troughs; so, you have to have an inner fire for your business, otherwise one would just give up. When you do what is important to you, then you will stay at it.
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