aboalarm (literally: “subscription alarm”) gives consumers a fast, easy and legally secure way to manage, cancel and terminate contracts for everything from mobile phones to fitness studios to car insurance. The web portal also reminds users of deadlines by which notice must be served and supplies the necessary documentary evidence and templates to allow contracts to be terminated. The aboalarm database contains lawyer-approved letters of termination as well as the contact data for more than 16,500 providers in Germany.
Since 2011, aboalarm has also been sending letters of termination using TÜV-approved aboalarm apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone and Amazon Kindle Fire. The apps have since been downloaded more than a million times.
Since Dr. Bernd Storm van’s Gravesande and Stefan Neubig founded the company in 2008, notice has been served on more than 2 million contracts with the aid of aboalarm’s immediate dispatch function. In addition, 6 million exhaustive letters of termination have been produced and downloaded.
Before launching aboalarm, Storm van’s Gravesande worked for more than two years as Director Product Management at Experteer GmbH. Prior to this appointment, he had gained initial experience as a Startup entrepreneur with andUNITE.com, beginning in 2007. He has also served as Director Strategy Consumer & Devices at Fujitsu Siemens Computers and as Business & IT Consultant at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, where he advised global mobile communication providers.
In October 2013, Storm van’s Gravesande also launched “Bits & Pretzels” in Munich, the world’s biggest gathering of company founders at which several thousand entrepreneurs meet regularly to discuss Startup issues.
Interview with Bernd Storm
In an interview with Munich Startup, Bernd Storm told us what makes him so fond of Munich and why he sees the Bavarian capital as the ideal place to launch Startups in Germany. The founder of aboalarm also has a few hints up his sleeve for young entrepreneurs.
What made you choose Munich as your home base? What advantages do you think Munich gives you over other cities?
Storm: We chose Munich as our home base because it has everything a Startup needs. A large number of very good universities are situated in and around Munich, and they are a source of well educated and highly motivated staff. And finding good people who don’t have a nine-to-five mentality is crucial to the success of any company. Munich is also home to the head offices of many established corporate groups. Three of aboalarm’s most important corporate customers, for example, are headquartered in Munich, as we ourselves are. Such close proximity makes collaboration and the sharing of experience much simpler and more effective. Alongside the presence of established companies, Munich also has a lot of investors, key media partners and a high level of creativity.
Unlike in Berlin, high rents and the high cost of living obviously put you under severe pressure to perform. If you start a business and don’t quickly achieve success, you very soon find that you can no longer afford to live here. That might put some people off to begin with, but I see it as a positive: As we all know, diamonds are only created under pressure.
Factors that lead to success
What obstacles and setbacks did you have to deal with after starting the business – or do you still have to deal with? How did you overcome them?
Storm: In the early days of aboalarm, I was still working full time by Experteer GmbH. Doing two jobs at once during this phase was extremely strenuous. Most weeks I worked more than 100 hours. It was literally a 24/7 commitment. Finding the time to fit everything in – aboalarm, my work at Experteer and my family – was a huge challenge. It was a very intensive time for me. But it was also a very helpful time. My work with Experteer forced me again and again to stop thinking about aboalarm. Regarding a number of difficult decisions, that gave me the breathing space I needed to see things from a different perspective. That is something that doesn’t always work when you are focused solely on a single topic. Doing two jobs also meant that I gained twice as much experience and that in a very short space of time. Then, when aboalarm grew and I needed to make more and more decisions at ever shorter intervals, I gave up my job at Experteer. By that time, we already had five people working for aboalarm.
What would you say is the secret of your success?
Storm: There is no real secret, but there are factors that, when you take them together, lead to success. One is that aboalarm co-founder Stefan Neubig and I complement each other perfectly. I was the business economist, so I was and still am responsible for commercial matters. And while I did that, Stefan was in charge of technology and design at aboalarm. Again and again, his creativity has contributed fresh aspects and new ideas. I think that is one factor which many founders often forget: You need someone to compensate for your own weaknesses, not someone who can do exactly the same as you can. Of course, that presupposes that you know your own weaknesses and can admit them to yourself.
Another factor that contributes to our success is our uncompromising customer orientation. Everything we do is focused on the needs of our customers. Our users know that and appreciate it.
Last, but not least, the success of a company always hinges on its people. Everyone who works for us, be they permanently employed or freelancers, works on aboalarm very hard and with a passion for detail.
“Never stop learning!”
Do you have any advice for Startup entrepreneurs in Munich about the best way to successfully implement ideas?
Storm: The first and most important piece of advice is simply to make a start and try to shake off the fear of failure. If you never get around to starting, you will never know whether your idea works. In other words, Startup entrepreneurs shouldn’t miss the point at which it is time to stop planning and start doing. Yet at the same time, they shouldn’t be afraid of abandoning an idea if they discover that it won’t work. In the long run, clinging to a bad idea will block your path to new ideas and further development. Lastly – and this goes not just for Startup entrepreneurs: Never stop learning! You can often learn so much more from failure than from a successful idea, so do not be discouraged.
What are your plans for the future of the company?
Storm: Besides continuing to develop and improve aboalarm, we also want our new app kontoalarm (literally: “account alarm”) to give our customers the most consumer-friendly current account in Germany. Right now, the project is still at an embryonic stage, but it is moving along very well and we also have a number of further ideas at the back of our mind.
We are also constantly working on new products to make life easier for consumers. So it will be a long time before things start to get boring at aboalarm!