An internship at Groupon became his proving ground.
“Day two of that internship, somebody said to me, ‘Your manager is burned out. Can you take over?’ Suddenly I was responsible for 20 salespeople, and nobody was telling me how to do that job. I went to a friend in HR and said, ‘What should I do? Nobody’s telling me what to do.’ And they just said, ‘Hey, just go for it. Just jump in and do things.’ So I starting writing all of these messages to the sales people, telling them what to do. Then a manager above me comes and says, ‘You’ve created the most chaos possible. Everyone is just completely confused,’” Julian recalls.
But apparently that confusion also netted some favorable results.
“When he left, he said, ‘Keep it up,’” Julian says. “That was a huge lesson for me. I think it was by design—just throw people into cold water and see if they could swim.”
Within six months, his team was outpacing its sales projections and he discovered he had a gift for leadership. He quickly became an international sales manager with the company and then left to create shopping platform DeinDeal, the first of his successful startups. When he sold it to Swiss media and ecommerce group Ringier in 2015, DeinDeal had about $100 million in annual revenue. Since then, in addition to being founder and CEO of wefox, he has helped launch companies like HeartSpace for remote work, Doctorly for healthcare, and Kenjo for human resources, plus an umbrella investment firm Force Ventures. All are focused in one way or another on reimagining our world.
wefox parses consumer data to increase its customers’ awareness of their risks, betting that such knowledge will lower the individual’s risk and the company’s overall exposure, thus allowing it to offer insurance at lower costs. The business grew by 600% in 2020 and has its sights set on the US and Asian markets. Teicke’s goal is to dominate the insurance market, simultaneously bettering the lives of customers.
That combination of ambition, innovation and social impact is at the heart of Teicke’s mission, as Brunswick’s Niels Schlesier discovered when he sat down to interview him in April. It’s a strategy that puts wefox at the center of what Teicke sees as the “next wave” of the internet data revolution, and he is vocal about the company taking a leading role in creating “a new ethical standard.”
The conversation ranges from Europe’s growth as a tech hub to his evolving views on holacracy—a philosophy of management that relies on the autonomy of individual teams and management approaches. Through it all, the theme of redefining business remains constant.
Entrepreneurial success stories are nothing new to Germany—the Siemenses, the Bosches, the old industry. But there are few younger tech companies, if you compare it with the US, China or Israel. Why do you think that is?
The biggest reason is the availability of capital. It’s also cultural of course. But both of those conditions are changing.
What we’re seeing now is the first wave of people who have made a lot of money—founders, entrepreneurs, investors. They’re reinvesting that money in tech startups, similar to what happened in Silicon Valley. We’re also going to hopefully see more capital from the government, which played a huge role in the US and in China, particularly with regard to innovation. I think politicians here are more open to that now.
The culture piece is a deep-rooted issue in Europe, especially Germany, that we need to overcome. We need to shift to the idea of allowing
mistakes to happen, of taking risks. I see that mindset growing.
The next wave of the internet data revolution will involve a new ethical standard regarding handling personal data. Europe—Germany, especially—is an ideal place to develop a business model around that new standard.
Consciousness about data is high here. The percentage of people paying with credit card or Apple Pay is significantly lower than anywhere in the world. People pay with cash here. Many people here have seen two terror regimes, each with its secret police, where talking to your neighbor about things in your life could land you in prison. People know how valuable it is to have privacy. That’s deeply rooted in our culture.
I think Europe will be the winner of the next data revolution. We lost the last 20 years, but we will be the winners of the next 20 years.