Munich Startup: When we first spoke in 2019, you still had to explain Air Up to everyone because no one had heard of it. Has that changed now?
Lena Jüngst, Air Up: It definitely has! We’re extremely proud of the fact that more than five million customers are now excited about our fragrance-based drinking system! That’s probably also because our product is now available in eleven countries. But despite the increased brand awareness, we do still have to explain our product from time to time, but that’s just in the nature of things when you launch an innovative product and open up a whole new category. That’s also why our job is to use our communication specifically to raise awareness about this new form of daily hydration. And that’s the intention of our new “This is not a water bottle” advertising campaign.
Air Up: Rapid growth was challenging
Munich Startup: What obstacles have you encountered along the way since then?
Lena Jüngst: I would actually call them challenges rather than of obstacles. After all, every path, every decision we’ve made so far led us here – to our new 3,600 square meter office in the wonderful Werksviertel. Rapid growth was definitely challenging for us as a company. Just four years after our founding, we already employ more than 300 Air Uppies – who are all remote-first and located across Europe and the US.
Balancing the needs of all of our employees as best we can, building a positive corporate culture, efficient processes and the right technical set-up demanded a lot from our team. Not least because sustainable growth has always been dear to our hearts and we wanted to make the “right” decisions for our young company and also for our employees. Maybe we just think a little more conservatively than other startups.
Munich Startup: How has your solution evolved?
Lena Jüngst: We’re constantly working on developing ourselves and our product. That starts with the use of new materials with our stainless steel bottle launched in 2022 and continues on with the development of exciting new flavors and with the relocation of our production to Europe. We already manufacture the majority of our products in Austria and the Netherlands – which makes us incredibly proud. Further production facilities in Germahttps://www.munich-startup.de/65774/lena-juengst-air-up-die-beste-entscheidung/ny are to follow later this year.
Profitable business: Sales increased by 75 percent
Munich Startup: And how are things looking for you financially?
Lena Jüngst: After closing 2021 with sales amounting to 90 million euros, we closed 2022 with 159 million euros. That’s a 75 percent increase in just one year! We’re particularly pleased about that because despite expanding into other markets and investing in the relocation of production and in the new office, we’ve still managed to grow sustainably the whole time. We’ve been profitable since the end of 2020 – which means Air Up only spends available money.
Munich Startup: What lessons have you learned so far in the founding team?
Lena Jüngst: If we had to start all over again, we would probably rely on our own online shop from the beginning for selling our products. During the founding phase, however, we still felt the only way we could be successful was if people could find and test our product in as many places as possible. That meant our team ended up standing in hardware stores in the beginning to sell our product right at the POS (Point of Sale, note from editor). What we then quickly realized, however, was that you can end up losing a lot of control over the positioning and price of your own product, among other things. That was something we absolutely didn’t want to risk, so we quickly made a change in strategy that paid off. We now focus our communication on digital marketing and only go into offline retail after achieving broad brand awareness in markets.
“We’re bringing the cool kids to Munich”
Munich Startup: What role has the Munich ecosystem played on your path so far?
Lena Jüngst: The decision to choose Munich as the new anchor point for our 300 teamies was no coincidence. Going to Berlin or any other city was never an option for us – we were born and raised here and want to grow old here. Munich is our home. As we grow and expand our business, we’re going to do it where it all started. By moving into the Werksviertel, we want to give something back to the city, to show our deep connection and gratitude. And to be honest, the Werksviertel can definitely keep up with Berlin as a work-life balancing district. We’re bringing the cool kids to Munich.
Munich Startup: What milestones are you working towards next?
Where should I start? A special project that’s dear to our hearts is the successful and complete relocation of our production to Europe – we’re working on that at full speed right now. Then there’s our “sustainability by design” approach. With it, we’ve set ourselves the goal to constantly work on further product improvements: from reducing our packaging to using new materials and to our digital product, our online shop. We definitely have a lot in the pipeline that existing and future Air Up fans can look forward to!