From Talent to Founder #1 - Yannik Mack & oculai
by Paula Kopp
When we first started pondering with the idea of setting up a program that is dedicated to students who want to learn how to tackle business challenges like a startup we immediately dreamt big. We knew we wanted to spark so much excitement for entrepreneurship that many Talent Program alumni would either stay within our ecosystem or found their very own businesses. Fast forward 4 years, there are 15 founders amongst the 125 Talents that went through the program.
In our Blog Series: From Talent to Founder we are catching up with some of the ZOHO founders to find out about their unique entrepreneurial story. Let’s start with Yannik (Co-Founder of oculai) who was basically born as a startupper.
Developing a business model selling fish on vacation is one of Yannik’s earliest childhood memories. In school he took part in programs like Jugend forscht or Business at School and has been fascinated by innovation processes really early on. After finishing his bachelor’s degree in International Business at FAU he participated in the ZOLLHOF Talent Program to get more insights into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As he took part between two batches he didn’t have one project and a set team partner but he supported 2 smaller projects and then worked for 2 early stage startups. He gained insights in many areas of the founding process which now proves beneficial for him.
For Yannik the Talent Program was the first opportunity to take responsibility, work independently and build a network. He gained a better understanding of the startup scene and witnessed various startup journeys — from success stories to others who had to say goodbye to their baby.
If you are a curious mind with drive and an intrinsic motivation to take responsibility, Yannik would warmly recommend the Talent Program:
“It’s an insanely good experience that pushes you forward personally and professionally.”
Yannik’s Co-founders Constantin Kauffmann and Tim Sippl met during the FAU Digital Tech Academy where they were working on a project on computer vision on construction sites. Since both have a technical background they were looking for someone with business expertise to complement their team. Tim and Yannik have known each other from school and when he was asked to join the team he didn’t hesitate. That’s how oculai came to be.
Oculai is a solution for camera-based data collection on construction sites. Intelligent computer vision algorithms help automate time-consuming data documentation processes and reveal productivity deficits which eventually results in significant savings potential for construction companies.
From the first minute on the team got positive feedback for their idea and Yannik would suggest anyone to launch the product early on. “Even if you think your version is crap, bring it to the market and see what people think”. A feedback and customer oriented approach is crucial for the development of any product and it is also beneficial for oculai’s machine learning algorithms as they need to be fed with a lot of data. “It’s great to see that even our first, quick and dirty version was welcomed with open hands.”
Recently the team finished their pre-seed round and they’re looking for a developer to expand their team in order to accelerate product development. The team is located at ZOLLHOF and comes to the office as often as possible.
“For us as an early stage startup it is very valuable to have others around who experience similar things and exchange contacts because you do a lot of things for the first time, things you have never done before.”
In 2022 oculai is not only planning another investment round but they also want to launch their first finished, scalable product. Their goal is to be used in as many building sites as possible and they are also looking forward to some trips to Paris as part of an accelerator program.
“The best thing about being a founder is the adventure”, says Yannik who could hardly imagine working for a corporate company. He loves the roller coaster ride and the uncertainty as to what will happen next. It’s cool to do different tasks everyday and even if there’s a setback, the intrinsic motivation to improve the construction industry and the team spirit keep him going.
“Many think the life of an entrepreneur is super chill. People see the MacBooks and the ping pong table but they don’t see the effort that goes into a startup, there’s a whole iceberg underneath.”
Thank you Yannik for the interview!
Paula works in Marketing & Communications at ZOLLHOF and is studying International Cultural and Business Studies at the University of Passau. When she’s not writing blog or social media posts you’ll probably find her writing on her bachelor’s thesis in American Cultural and Media Studies