Transcript: E106 – Georg Petschnigg – 6 of 6 – Perpetually Meaningful Movement
Georg Petschnigg: Start with the team. Like, if you …. just really start with the team. Because like, who knows? …. Entrepreneurship and venture … where are things gonna go? Like, you want to be with people you like .. that you learn from, right? Because there will be highs, there will be lows. And there might not even be light at the end of the tunnel. But you will enjoy the journey if you enjoy the people that you’re with. So it’s like you’re already a winner no matter what happens if, you know, if you have the right team. And then, you know, of course, have a great idea, and have the skills and all of this too … but always start with the team. It’s also one of those things when people ask me like advice around how do I get investors? “I need investment so I can hire the team.” And I was like, “You’ve got it wrong. You get the team. And then the investors will give you money.”
Stephen Cummins: Welcome to 14 minutes of SaaS! The show where you can listen to the stories and opinions of founders of the world’s most remarkable SaaS scale-ups!
Stephen Cummins: Welcome to episode 106 of 14 Minutes of SaaS, the final instalment of a series of 6 with Georg Petschnigg. We learn about the immense influence of dance, and seeing falling as a source of momentum, on so much of what he does. We also hear moleskin notebooks described as books waiting to be written. He may be an entrepreneur in the land of digital, but Georg derives his inspiration from the real world. As a result, waxing lyrical on analog experience is never too far away from the conversation. Georg also deconstructs his defining characteristics and motivations, and offers some sage advice for other adventurous entrepreneurs out there.
The reason, like, Moleskin was so successful, right? Maria Sebregondi, when she created that brand … she recognized that at that time she would talk about the digital nomads, right? That with the rise of technology, people are just valuing that quiet space to think and they place a premium on… you know, they place a premium on their time, on their thinking time, right? And that’s so … if your paper is three dollars or nineteen dollars, right … I mean, for a certain type of worker, the time is the limiting factors, right? And you know … and then she also is quite genius in terms of positioning where she would say like, “This is not a Moleskin , it’s a book that has yet to be written.” Right. “It’s not paper, it’s a book that has to be written.”
Stephen Cummins: That’s beautiful.
Georg Petschnigg: It’s ingenious. But the Italians are ingenious in that way.
Stephen Cummins: Yeah.
Georg Petschnigg: But that was like sort of the, you know, that was actually a huge impetus. Like, seeing sort of the rise of Moleskin… in terms of like .. “What is Moleskin doing that like technology is not?” And actually that led to then many answers … we’re like, “Hang on. We didn’t design actually for creativity.” Creativity has different demands. It has demands for thinking, for seeing … for, you know, showing, for delivering. Not, like, how quickly can I get from A to B.
Stephen Cummins: And when did you build Collect? … When did that happen?
Georg Petschnigg: So that was under… that was very much under development and then had just shipped shortly before we then joined through the acquisition. And then most recently we then actually added then the subscription component in. The SaaS component to Collect as well. So Collect is about, like, you know … there’s an increase of, you know, just the vastness of information that we encounter today. It has, of course, dramatically increased . But also the shapes and forms in which you encounter information; could be a tweet, a podcast, a collection of files, a link and Collect is this. You know, super powerful shoe box in which you can collect any type of inspiration that you see. You can organise that, and then make more use of it. So it’s been dubbed the introvert version of Pinterest.
Stephen Cummins: I actually thought of Pinterest when you said it.
Georg Petschnigg: Yeah, yeah. So. But, you know, where Pinterest is like a great social discovery tool.
Stephen Cummins: Yeah.
Georg Petschnigg: Like, you know, Collect is sort of that quiet place where you get to gather like the stuff that’s … and then reuse and repurpose the digital files and assets in your workflow then, right? So Collect sort of sits between Paper, and connects them to Paste. And connects them to other workflows, right? So that’s sort where Collect is.
Stephen Cummins: Now, for any listeners who can’t see Georg right now, because I have this thing about audio to the world … Georg is a very fluid mover, and when he’s speaking to me, he’s at his most comfortable. When he’s expressing himself with his hands, his shoulders, his torso, his face, everything. You are almost at rest when you move.
Georg Petschnigg: Yeah.
Stephen Cummins: And I sometimes wonder, you know, you’re about being behind the movement of ideas. How connected are they? And I do know that you love the art of dance …
Georg Petschnigg: Yeah.
Stephen Cummins: Could you tell us a little bit about the influence that it’s had in your life, and how it continues to influence your life?
Georg Petschnigg: Yeah, there’s so, my gosh …. there’s well …
First one. As you’re talking about the movement of ideas, what I really like to think about now is like ‘How does each …What is the spin … What is each movement that each product enables, right? And that’s sort of like … these are like gestures! And how do they connect, right? So there is actually that movement piece.
I started dancing during my college years because I, you know, used to play a lot of music. And I knew my dorm mates would not appreciate me practicing the trumpet for two to three hours everyday. So I still wanted that connection. And thats sort of like where dance came into play. And you know, I didn’t quite know what to get from it. It was one of those things where it’s like, you know, karate, martial arts, is too aggressive. I didn’t want to do that anymore. Yoga … that wasn’t quite … that was too far … the yoga piece was too far from my culture at that time.
And then I learned about Martha Graham who had essentially incorporated every … like she’s actually studied a lot of her movements, and took like a lot of inspiration from, you know … from the martial arts, from yoga, from, of course the repertoire of dance at that time. And actually translated that into a technique. And so that’s what I ended up studying for about seven years. But in dance you spend a lot of time actually working with a feeling of falling, right? Or building up momentum. And, you know, progressively through your practice, as you’re moving and re-moving, it is actually this. You really start learning that this feeling of falling is very similar to building up momentum to reach that next level, right? And sometimes many moves or movements in dance, like, require that momentum to reach there. And at some moment like my mind really … something in my mind clicked … where I then became very comfortable with the ambiguity of “Are you falling or are you just building up momentum?”
You start realising that they’re actually the same, right? It is the same. And once you allow for that, you realise that, you know, your capacity of sit or deal with that ambiguity … it becomes, actually, a tremendous creative act. Because you then … you like one, you know, you actually realize that before you truly fall, there is usually a long distance to go. And even if you do fall, like, there’s usually, you know, other dancers around that, that you know will lend a hand. You know. And that in the end has like served me in the most unexpected ways in my life. The first one is about, you know, as you would grow and rise through a career, like, you have to do a lot of speaking and public speaking. Which in itself is sometimes a terrifying experience. But actually doing a dance performance in front of, like, a bunch of dancers that dance much better than you – and you’re out there making fool of yourself is a great for having to do public speaking later on.
But also you very quickly then realise that that feeling of unease, of discomfort. Standing at a podium or wherever … is again just that feeling of falling. Or, you know, you’re entering a dance with the audience, right? And you start feeling like the ground shift, right? As you’re speaking. And it becomes like you know, more of a ritual or movement. You start being able to … another one of those things as the dancer … you can actually breathe through your lungs like through contractions. You actually can make yourself breathe. It’s really .. that’s a very Martha Graham type thing. She really would work with like contractions and releases, right? But why is this really important? Because if you have to steady your breath, right? I can lower my pulse by just physical body movement that will change my breath, and calm the body back down, right? So it is so connected to …
Stephen Cummins: When I used to time-trial on a bike, I could just think… I could just with my mind sit down ans lower my pulse. I always remember that.
Georg Petschnigg: Yeah!
Stephen Cummins: But what you’re talking about is another level altogether.
Georg Petschnigg: Well no … it’s like … if you have sort of a repertoire movement … I’m sure with yoga meditations its a very similar thing. You put your body into a certain position and then your body remembers, right? The physiology, then controls the psychology. Right. That’s how this works. Physiology. How does the body feel? And then the mind recognizes how the body is feeling. Right. So this is, I mean … in theater, people know that very well. Dancers of course know that really well. And so that was like a really huge learning.
And then the other thing is actually … I then ended up in dance class out on the West Coast, ended up finding like my… just also wondering about a serendipitous connection … but I ended up finding, like, you know, Professor Faste [Rolf Arne Faste]. My design professor. Like he was there because he was constantly trying to expand different modes of thinking. So that’s why it was in a dance class. And, you know, I remember him, like, introducing himself, you know, with … This was a funny silly exercise in dance class, but you essentially had to dance your way as an introduction. So that assignment was like, you know, dance to introduce yourself.
And what he ended up doing is actually dancing … he was a very funny man … he looked like Papa Smurf with a big white beard. He started moving like, somewhat like a quirky robot, but he was spelling out his name like a plotter or spelling out the letters R-O-L-F. And when I saw that I just burst out laughing because it was just so funny. And yeah, we got into a conversation and I told him what I was doing. And then he told me like “I think what you’re doing is design.” And I was like, “I have no idea what this is.” And so, you know, then he basically told me like, “No, no, I mean, it’s stuff that you’ve been doing on the software side. And what you’ve been building and engineering, it’s actually all design. You should learn more about it”.
And, you know, that also then drastically changed my trajectory … because I then sort of learned more about the design process. And then also started realizing that design is something… or design and creativity … There is a process. It can be taught. And as a result, we can get better at it. And everyone can learn it. And that also was then a really big source of inspiration for the rest of my career.
Stephen Cummins: Yeah, before we bring it to a close, could I just ask you two questions? 1. What do you think are the one or two essential qualities … you’re quite self aware and probably touched on them … has allowed you to kind of continuously succeed in your career? And the other question really would be around, you know, what would you always say to an entrepreneur if an entrepreneur came to you? Like one or two things you’d say … just things that you feel will somebody should bring with them when they start up a business?
Georg Petschnigg: Yeah, I think for the entrepreneur, I mean, the main advice for people starting out is like start with the team. Like, if you …. just really start with the team. Because like, who knows? …. Entrepreneurship and venture … where are things gonna go? Like, you want to be with people you like .. that you learn from, right? Because there will be highs, there will be lows. And there might not even be light at the end of the tunnel. But you will enjoy the journey if you enjoy the people that you’re with. So it’s like you’re already a winner no matter what happens if, you know, if you have the right team. And then, you know, of course, have a great idea, and have the skills and all of this too … but always start with the team. It’s also one of those things when people ask me like advice around how do I get investors? “I need investment so I can hire the team.” And I was like, “You’ve got it wrong. You get the team. And then the investors will give you money.”
Like, if you, like, just really start with the team; because like, you know, you, who knows entrepreneurship and venture where things are gonna go. Like, you want to be with people like you like, that you learn from, right? Because like, you know, there will be highs, there will be lows, you know, and there might not even be light at the end of the tunnel, right? But you will enjoy the journey of, you enjoy the people that you’re with, right? So it’s like you’re already a winner no matter what happens if, you know, if you have the right team. And then, you know, of course, have a great idea and have the skills and all of this to but always start with the team. It’s also one of those things and people ask me like advice around like how do I get investors? And how do, you know, I need investment so I can hire a team. And I was, like. you’ve got it wrong. You get the team and then the investors will give you money. And give them the shares, right? I mean, that’s sort of like … that’s sort of the nice thing, right? It’s like… you know, it’s so that’s like … these are the things. Start with the team. And then the other question was about the…
Stephen Cummins: An inner quality that you besides, I mean, they’re many. But for, you … when you think about, you know, what’s helped carry you kinda from one thing to the next successfully. Yeah. What inner quality … ?
Georg Petschnigg: Yeah. So I think… this is so… I struggle with the idea of success … but I get what you’re saying… What has sort of fueled me and energized me? I hope it’s never gonna leave. But there’s this… there’s a huge curiosity and enthusiasm for what I do. And I don’t know why. Like I sometimes really feel like I haven’t advanced from my childhood.
Stephen Cummins: You know, you’ve always got this curiosity and you’ve always got this desire you, and you’ve got this love of what you do. But you’re also questioning… you’re also questioning …It’s like there’s almost a part of you that questioning whether that will always be there. Like, it’s like rediscovered every morning.
Georg Petschnigg: Yeah. No, I mean, it is like, I wonder why it is there, but in many ways like … I don’t know how much of it … it’s just innate in me? … Or I was able to always transform whatever I’m working on into something that seemed exciting… to me. And it turns out actually often times also it’s exciting for others, right? I mean … that’s one of the things that like “I enjoyed working with Georg, because these are always interesting projects”. And I think that’s the ultimate maybe… maybe it’s that. I always had the good fortune that I get to work on problems and questions that are really meaningful, you know, to me … and also to others. And a wise person said you can always, like, judge the quality of your life based on the quality of questions you get to solve. And if you can work on the type of questions that you really care about, you know, you do have a great life?
Stephen Cummins: Georg. It’s great to hear so much focus on bringing value into the world. And doing it with people you enjoy being with, and care about. Thanks a million for being on 14 Minutes of Saas.
Georg Petschnigg: Thank you.
For episode 107 of 14 Minutes of SaaS we will stay in the Web Summit in Lisbon, where I interviewed Ilan Twig, CTO and Cofounder of Tripactions, a corporate travel management company. Covid19 is obviously a major challenge to SaaS companies in that industry, but at the time of recording a few months ago, it was the fastest growing software company in history. And had just been valued at 4 billion USD after just 4 years in existence.
Stephen Cummins: You’ve been listening to 14 minutes of SaaS. Thanks to Mike Quill for his creativity and problem solving skills, to Ketsu for the music and to Anders Getz for the transcript. This episode was brought to you by me, Stephen Cummins. If you enjoyed the podcast, please don’t forget to share it with your network, subscribe to the series, and give the show a rating