Meet the Talent: Toni Barthel, CEO

Age: 33 years

Place of residence: Giessen near Frankfurt am Main in Germany, the region is called Mittelhessen, maybe only a few people know the region, but it is a perfect place to be and an excellent area for young start-ups with a robust support system and great infrastructure ( I don’t have to say that, but I would love to be the next official promoter of the region. Hopefully I’ll get money for this …).

Position: CEO or”internal firefighter,” at We are Group as I sometimes like to call it

Please describe a day in your life

Wake up around 8 am, lots of coffee to get things started, and daily Stand-Up Meetings between 9 and 10:30 am. I am afterward, checking e-mails and asana boards, answering questions from team members about basically everything you can imagine, around 1 pm lunch break, and riding my bike to the office. During the afternoon, I mostly have meetings. If there are no meetings, I work on development tasks or drive internal non-dev projects like data security or business process tasks forwards, coming back home and having dinner between 07 and 08 pm.

After dinner, I mostly work until midnight to bring the team and company forward. During the quiet evening hours, I find room for new ideas – which is not always possible during the busy daytime.

 How many projects are you currently working on? Please describe them

Too many regularly, our company is working on around 25 projects in the media & design department and around five projects in digital product development.

Media & design: in this department, the team works on everything from logo design through social media up to UI/UX design, online shops, and corporate websites

Technology & delivery: we build identity, payment, and planning software. Generally speaking, all kinds of digital products our clients want to have

In general, I try to support the team where ever they need my assistance, so I jump from one topic to the next.

My biggest project daily is to improve how we can design and build better software & digital products for our clients.

In your opinion, who is the most influential person/company in the world of technology these days?

In my opinion, Elon Musk has been influential with all his business ideas like the boring company, tesla, space x, Starlink, and so on → he seems to be a smart (business) person.

The most influential company is Apple for sure → most valuable company, everybody knows it, and they have a great design, ecosystem, and excellent software → they know how to build products to meet customer needs.

If you can pick one app/product/project existing now that you wish you were involved in, what would it be

Asana, the project management tool, a cool tech stack, is used behind the scenes, translates a fabulous process, and has a really good design.

How do you see technology evolving in the next ten years?

Technology is changing our everyday life daily, and the analog and digital world will merge more than we currently can; imaging topics like metaverse in combination with AR and VR will change how we live, communicate and work together.

What would you like the industry to look like in ten years?

More integration for people with disorders or disabilities in a purely digital world, more human-centered, optimistic and democratic in all perspectives (less hate speech). Digital products and software will take over most of the service work. I believe this is nothing that we can stop. It will happen anyway because software is cheaper and more efficient than humans.

The tech industry should help to make all people live an easier life without taking away their life existence —> however, this is not a general question that the industry has to solve. It’s rather a question that society has to find answers to

What are the three characteristics you have that make you successful in tech?

  • Curiosity
  • Thirst for research
  • Ambition & visions

What is the most difficult thing you had to deal with during your career?

Older folks without respect for young businesses (maybe they are envious or have fear?) Most older folks in business think entrepreneurs and young teams are people they can cheat on or buy them. Disrespect towards employees

What is your greatest achievement up until today?

Building a company with currently 20 employees from nothing. That means without banks, venture capital, or similar things. I started with empty pockets and met wonderful people along the way for a short or a long period who supported my dream of reinventing how to work with software companies.

What do you wish yourself with respect to your career?

To make myself superfluous as a CEO. I want to build a strong team that takes the vision and builds it further with their ideas and dreams.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully a bit more relaxed than now. I want to grow the company to around 100 people who help our customers to be more innovative than their competitors.

What is your next goal?

Building a better AI into our client portal together with the team. This AI 2.0 should analyze the task and give some tips and adjustments to improve the ticket descriptions so that our developers can start working on tickets more easily.

What tip do you have for people who want to start out in the tech world?

  • Organize your self
  • Use your own good judgment
  • Be friendly

If you could say something to your younger self what would it be?

Don’t be that much pushy, and always rethink your business model. Visit informatics courses instead of electronic courses.

What do you think non-tech people around (family, friends) think you do?

Running busily from one person to another and talking in a language only insiders understand doing crazy things that always mean trouble and more work.

What is the invention of the century in your eyes?

Blockchain and AI

What can’t you do without? (app/product…)

Listing to music, without Spotify or apple music, my life would be really quiet. Of course, there is live music, but I can’t always have a band with me.

Which famous person would you like to have dinner with and why?

Maybe it is nice to meet famous people but what should I talk about with them? Hard question, because from a famous person, you can read the most things on social media. I’m out of their bubble, so it is more like an interview and not a relaxing dinner. For me, it is more important to spend dinner in my spare time with my girlfriend.

Where would you like to travel next?

Hawaii or Australia. It depends on what is allowed and feasible with the ongoing pandemic.

If you were asked to stay on a deserted island for 6 months, what 3 things would you take with you?

  • MacBook
  • Solar power system
  • Starlink satellite adapter

Do you have a person who influences or motivates you?

Just my girlfriend

Last thing regarding which you told yourself, “how come no one has ever thought of it”?

This happens not that often as a software developer, so I can not imagine when this happened last time. I often think, “there must be another way” That’s why I’m rarely satisfied with a solution I created. I always want to improve it.

Last thing regarding which you told yourself, “how come I haven’t thought of it”?

Stream technologies are great, but I learned too late that this is something people need. I was working on a close topic in my bachelor thesis by reading data from a ventilation machine. While reading data from an old RS232 interface and pushing it into a clinical information system, it was necessary to build a data stream from one system to another. It was designed as a distributed system with reset points at different times. In doing so, I used the same concepts you find these days in modern data streaming technologies. I was too young to understand how to do business with such ideas.

What is the greatest miss? (you thought it will never work, but it turned out to be a great success)

Think a software agency can work in the same way an advertising agency can work. They are two completely different businesses.

What did you dream of creating/inventing/doing as a child?

Nothing specifically, during my childhood, I was mostly bounded to play with lego bricks, and my initial dream was to work as a pilot. After getting older, I got in touch with computers, and a new world was opened. I was intrigued by the possibilities, what to learn, and how all this informatics stuff works.

How did covid-19 change the way people view technological development?

Digital companies like us were no longer colorful outsiders. Covid-19 was the enabler to work closer with digital tools than ever before. From one moment to the next, all companies used the same tools we had already worked with for years, and it was cool to see that our clients no longer ask why they have to sign contracts via Adobe Sign or why we have many meetings online. Suddenly it was the usual thing → another piece of information: for us as a team, and the only change was to not come into the office. The rest was already normal.

Nobody said that digital tools could not help in our daily business covid-time helped to teach us that no work must be done in an office. Work can be done from everywhere.

Andriani has been working in Publishing Industry since 2010. She has worked in major Publishing Houses in UK and Greece, such as Cambridge University Press and ProQuest. She gained experience in different departments in Publishing, including editing, sales, marketing, research and book launch (event planning). She started as Social Media Manager in 4i magazine, but very quickly became the Editor in Chief. At the moment, she lives in Greece, where she is mentoring women with job and education matters; and she is the mother of 3 boys.