Holger G. Weiss (Co-Founder, CEO) and Patrick Weissert (Co-Founder, CPO) © Nils Lucas
What inspired you to found your startup?
I live in Berlin and traffic here is exhausting. There was this day when I realized that I was using my phone almost constantly while creeping from one red traffic light to another. And of course I knew it’s illegal and very dangerous. I was wondering why there was no real solution and started to dig deeper. Shortly after I met Patrick, a real product enthusiast. He had immediately a passion for solving the problem. From that time onwards we developed Chris together – the digital co-driver.
How do you define success for yourself and your company?
I think the ultimate success for a company is, if its product is commercially successful to fund the company and its growth. We are building Chris because we want to make driving smarter and safer in every car. In a first step it will mean that we want users to touch their phone less while driving. So, if one of our customers is coming to me next year and tells me, that he feels much better ever since Chris is around, because he is not using the phone anymore while driving, that’s a success.
Is there anything you’d do differently if you could do it again?
There are always things you would do differently, because you do them the first time and usually there is something that can be improved. But generally speaking, I don’t see that there is any big thing we would do differently so far.
What problem does your product solve?
It’s not allowed but everybody does it – using your smartphone while driving. We solved the problem by developing Chris – an intelligent, connected mobile device that enables drivers to send and receive messages or emails, listen to music, get the latest navigation updates, and make and receive phone calls using speech and gesture technology – all streaming through their car speakers.
Where do you see your company in 1/5/10 years?
In one year Chris has been launched in 2-3 markets, speaks 2 languages, company has 40 people. In five years Chris is way smarter, speaks more languages and more services are connected to the platform. More and more people using Chris as software-only as they have connected screens in their cars. Some carmakers planning to build Chris into their next serial cars. In 10 years the company has 150 people and could be part of a bigger corporation due to acquisition.
How are you different?
As I mentioned before – over 400 million cars in North America & Europe are 11 (US) and 9 (Germany) years old on average.The majority of people doesn’t drive a Tesla or the newest BMW. With Chris we offer a solution that makes every car to a connected one. What really makes us different is the team. You will barely find a startup team which understands automotive and mobility in our respective field better. Therefore we believe that our strategy and with it the value proposition is superior.
How often does your product/service show up in a user’s day or week?
As often as someone is sitting in the car.
Impact: how are you doing good and building a better future?
I think in our case that’s easy – short and mid term we will help to avoid accidents and casualties by making driving safer. Prospectively we want to become the assistance while being on the move that knows about your general condition, your cognitive status and helping you with everything which you need to stay well and organised.
How has the startup scene in Berlin changed?
It grew up. These days you have a lot of strong startups in the city. More and more startups working at real tech issues with bold, international visions. The number of investors being in Berlin or being in Berlin very often is steadily growing.
What are the pros and cons of launching your startup from Berlin?
The pros are clearly more than the cons. For building a software company in automotive, Germany is the right place. Berlin attracts a lot of people and connects various other spots just by being in between – Silicon Valley, London, Tel Aviv. For us personally it is very helpful having such a strong network here. As a con I only see the general funding situation. We secured solid funding early. However – big visions need a lot of money to get realized and that is simply still easier in the US.
German Autolabs was featured in “The Hundert Vol. 10 – Startups of Berlin“, October 2017.