“An Intuitive Feel for Future Opportunities”: Christina Polleti of Cluno

The mobility startup Cluno was founded by Christina Polleti and her husband Nico along with their long-time friend Andreas Schuierer – after they sold their first team founding, Easyautosale, to Autoscout24 in 2015. Founded in 2017, Cluno is now financed with 36 million US dollars.

We spoke with founder Christina Polleti to learn more about what motivates her, and what prejudices and inconsistent expectations she has faced. We also talk about fast exits, exploitation and comfort zones.

Munich Startup: What motivated you to found a company?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: Freedom and independence are my biggest motivators. I want to decide what I work on and with whom. On top of that, I had always been driven by the desire to gather as much experience as possible as early on as possible to be able to draw from that rich wealth of experience for the rest of my life. I think the earlier you have an experience, the better. In my eyes, there’s no steeper learning curve than founding your own company. It challenges you in all professional and personal spheres. The experience you gain and challenges you overcome contribute to your freedom and independence. You know how to deal with all kinds of situations and responsibilities. That is the best kind of freedom ever!

Christina Polleti: “Founding a company is very personal”

Munich Startup: Did you have role models when starting the company?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: No, I don’t have any role models. In my opinion, founding is very personal, every person has their own path. I’ve always concentrated on myself. 

Munich Startup: When and where do you have the best ideas?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: While talking with others, while jogging…the plan for Easyautosale developed during a conversation with my husband. We remembered the idea for Cluno while talking with a Munich-based VC

Munich Startup: What’s your biggest talent?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: Recognizing trends and relevant developments at an early stage. In our founding team, I’m the one who intuitively puts together all of the small mosaic stones to create a bigger picture, which gives me a good intuitive feel for both future opportunities and challenges. I launch measures and initiatives at an early stage that prove to be important later on. 

Focus on what you can influence

Munich Startup: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: Thinking lots of communication always leads to a solution. I thought that you just have to talk long enough to understand a subject the same way, eliminate misunderstandings and find a common approach. I had to learn that every person lives in their own reality that can be just as right or wrong as my own. And that’s why at a certain point, even the best communication won’t get you any further. That was hard to accept. You have to let some things run their course and see what happens. I don’t fight battles that I can’t win, but instead focus on what I can influence. 

Munich Startup: What’s your secret networking weapon?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: Probably that I’ve never viewed networking as crucial for making progress. Networking for networking’s sake bores me to tears. I can’t take more than ten minutes of it. I think that approach helps me be relaxed and open when talking with people, which then leads to honest and interesting conversations. 

“I don’t fight battles that I can’t win,” said Christina Polleti of Cluno.

Inconsistent expectations

Munich Startup: Was being a female founder an advantage or disadvantage for you? What was easier, what was more difficult?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: Both. But generally speaking, I would say it’s more difficult for female founders. What’s expected from a woman is very multifaceted and, most particularly, very inconsistent. That’s why I’ve stopped trying to fulfill others’ expectations or wearing myself out when it comes to gender issues. I want to go my own way, that’s what is most important to me. You become successful by offering a great product that customers are excited about, not by pleasing particular individuals. 

Munich Startup: What are the three most offensive prejudices you’ve encountered in everyday startup life?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: That you only founded your own company to a) sell it as quickly as possible, and b) lie in the sun all day.

Regarding a): Building a company can be an arduous and long process. You have to be motivated by something far beyond money. Watching a company grow and seeing it mature is a beautiful thing.

Regarding b): A real entrepreneur wouldn’t simply abandon their major passion. Yes, you might end up lying in the sun, but with a computer on your lap so you can work.

And there’s a third prejudice: That employees are exploited in terms of vacation, salary, etc. in startups. I heard that from a family member who didn’t know how we handle HR policies in our company. I’ve been working independently in Munich for more than ten years. The salaries and benefits have increased sharply in that time. A startup simply can’t afford to pay less than market value anymore. Moreover, a business model that only works when the employees earn very little or work unpaid overtime isn’t sustainable. That is something I already realized ten years ago. If that’s the case, you should choose a different business model. 

Munich Startup: What’s on top of your desk at the moment?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: Right now, I’m working a lot on developing of the Cluno pricing model. It’s interesting because it is, in a sense, the core of every company. What service do you offer at what price? The question obviously has to be answered so that pricing focuses on the most essential KPIs like growth, retention, margin and unit economics. What’s great about this subject: the cross-functional collaboration with many different teams.

Munich Startup: What have you always wanted to say to Munich residents?

Christina Polleti, Cluno: The city has everything you need to be a successful professional. Whether you want to found your own company or work for a great company, all options are open.

I often see young individuals head towards the comfort zone much too quickly, where they end up getting stuck. You might say they give in to the luxury of the city. They pull the emergency brake before ever really hitting the gas. That’s a pity – take advantage of the city’s opportunities!