For those who don't know you yet: what is your specific role at KoRo and within the management?
Kosta: "I am the founder of the first hour — there was also a second hour. I am part-name giver of KoRo (Kosta + Robert) was the founding name. I co-founded the company and helped to build it up. Until Piran came along. Then we built it up again together. I am responsible for all the internal, operative business. I try to automate and structure everything in the operative business as much as possible, but also to support it in terms of content."
Piran: "I joined a little later. I studied mathematics before that and I continued to study mathematics while I started at KoRo. I was a KoRo customer before that. During that time I did a lot of fitness. I met Kosta through writing to him and saying, "Hey, give me a commission please, I'll recommend you and then I'll get some money off it."
So you were an influencer, Piran?
Piran: "I was actually a small affiliate. And I also found the concept very exciting, I thought it was cool that you always had very good prices. There was always very sharp calculation, from the very first hour. I was the first working student, alongside the three founders Kosta, Robert and Michi (Kosta's wife, Head of Operations). We also count Michi among them a bit because a) she was the idea generator for the food division and b) she actually helped finance the whole thing from the very beginning."
Flo, you are now a new official member of the management team. Congratulations first of all!
Flo: "Thank you! I've been with KoRo for a year now. What's quite funny is that I met Piran through a mutual friend, with whom Piran was studying maths at the time. Then we did our first project together and saw how we could work together. Actually, the idea was that we would found something new out of KoRo. But then we all got along great and somehow it turned out... (looks at Kosta and Piran, who are both smiling and fooling around) Hey, you two, what are you looking at?"
Piran and Kosta laugh.
Kosta: "Yeah, go on Flo."
Flo: "And then it was clear that it made sense to do something together. And then I joined last year, from the beginning in my current role, now also officially. I take care of business development, expansion, sales, retail - and together with Piran also IT issues."
Question to Kosta and Piran: What does Flo bring to the table that was missing before? Also in soft skills?
Piran: "Flo is simply incredibly strong technically, he sometimes doesn't like to admit that, but that's a fact. And the second thing is that Flo is simply tireless in pushing things forward. He takes responsibility from the get go, already gets more emails than Kosta or me. And I think Flo would never have ended up here if it hadn't been for his own network, he would never have applied for a job in the food start-up. Before that, he was talking to large corporations, companies and start-ups that are already at a completely different level of expansion. And we somehow managed to win him over. I don't know myself how it worked out, but somehow I seem to be quite good at convincing people."
Flo: "Funny story about that: I was in Israel, it was New Year's Eve and Piran kept calling me and trying to persuade me. It ended up being very expensive because of the high phone costs, but Piran was really very persuasive!"
In the image search you see Kosta on a motorbike. Does that characterise you, Kosta?
Kosta: "I'm a little crazy about vehicles. I love cars more than anything, I love motorbikes more than anything. That was ingrained in me from an early age. I've recently started riding a motorbike, and I always come to the office on it, it's always in front of the door. My monster machine."
Piran, there is a story circulating about you that you were featured on front pages of some newspapers as the "Pòkemon trickster". How did that come about?
Piran "I was managing director at KoRo from 2016 on and we had absolutely no money and we had to somehow gain reach to further market our products. So we were always coming up with crazy things. And then Pòkemon Go just came out. I wanted to make a PR stunt out of it with the support of some friends. And I was actually the first one to collect all the Pòkemon. And then they portrayed me as the "greatest Pòkemon trickster". There are some Pòkemon that only exist in Japan, only in the USA or Australia. And I couldn't fly there in a hurry, so I gave the account data to friends who were there. That's why I called myself a 'trickster'."
Kosta: "I didn't know anything about it and then I was totally surprised. And I thought to myself: How cool is that now? That was definitely a funny gag for me, too."
Flo, people say about you that they usually see you writing emails and talking on the phone at the same time. Would you say that fits?
Flo: "All three of us are extremely driven and want to get something done! I am very efficient in the way I work. But I would say that's true for all of us."
Does that also describe your management style?
Flo: "In terms of management style, the three of us are quite different. I would say that we each have our own style. Piran I would describe as an authoritarian manager (sorry Piran!), Kosta has a very inclusive management style that is not authoritarian but rather tries to empower people to solve things themselves. I I try to drive a mixture of both."
Piran: "I always imagine a teacher who was really strict, but from whom you learned a lot. I think all of us had that one teacher. And this style is called Tough Love. That's what I try to do. From the beginning, we worked a lot with trainees who were simply inexperienced and you had to make the best of it and I think that's how it developed. In the end, we had to learn it all ourselves from the beginning."
You started out, completely inexperienced in management and then suddenly you had so many staff under you. What was that like for you?
Kosta: "Managing staff is one of the most difficult tasks. On the one hand it is an experience issue, on the other hand it is a personality development, also for yourself. And we both - Piran and I - had to learn that quite quickly. In the beginning, we simply hired people without really knowing what we were hiring them for. Who is that person and what do we need them for? We didn't ask ourselves these questions seriously and then quickly realised: we are doing everything wrong! We let our employees go and they don't do what we want. But now we have a different skillset and can deal with it differently than we did at the beginning."
Piran: "It was all a process. These days however, the employees are not only more responsibility for us, but also a newly acquired freedom. There are a lot of people who also take responsibility for the development of their areas, which is then also perceived as a strong relief from our side. I remember the time when things were quite different. I was in the office from 8 o'clock in the morning and finished at 2 o'clock at night. That was really tough. It was fun, but it's not healthy in the long run!"
Speaking of the long term, what's in store for the future, what are you planning as a management team?
Flo: "We've grown so much this year. We're on a good path and we have a lot planned for 2021: we want to continue to grow very strongly, we want to open up more countries. But we also want to be more strongly represented offline in retail, we want to try out new themes, try out new marketing campaigns and want to position ourselves much more broadly in terms of our product range. Overall, we want to grow very strongly in every direction! And Piran, maybe you can tell us something else about the exciting new investment threads?"
Piran: "Two bigger themes that we are building right now: one is a nut butter manufacturing business and the second big thing is an ice cream parlour. That idea came about partly for opportunistic reasons and partly because it just makes sense to have an offline store, which again builds more trust. And with ice cream, we happened to find someone, Hannah, who is incredibly strong in ice cream production, who is super knowledgeable and also has an edge that we believe in: chunks! Ice cream with an extremely large number of chunks, that hasn't existed so far in the ice cream parlour concept in such a pronounced way. There are shops that offer ice cream with chunks, but you won't find that many chunks in the American style in any German ice cream parlour. And Hannah is just damn good at it. We tried the ice cream and were blown away. Of course, we will also sell KoRo products in the ice cream parlour, but it was important for us to have a concept with which we can compete."