There are, as it turns out, quite a few twists and turns taken to move from mergers and acquisitions to bicycle helmets. Thomas Schirmer, entrepreneur and ambassador for Talmix, talks to Rob Sandall about finding the right path.
While ultimately a world away from the space he exists in now, Thomas Schirmer’s story starts simply enough:
“After university, I started with Deloitte corporate finance, specifically the M&A advisory arm, working on processes, financial modelling, data etc,” he says.
“I did that for two-and-a-half years, and got to be a part of four or five complete acquisitions and mergers from beginning to end. A lot of my junior peers didn’t get to have that kind of experience, which was great for me, but in terms of workload I felt royally screwed.”
He decided that while the role had presented great learning opportunities, it was time for a change, specifically a full-time MBA program in Spanish business school IESE.
“I briefly returned to banking upon graduation, purely because I was good at it. And actually the hours and the money were great – it was all going well,” says Schirmer, “except that the bank I’d joined was Lehman Brothers, during that summer, and things went belly-up soon after.”
He notes that this somewhat forced his hand – while becoming a successful entrepreneur had been on the “list of things to do”, Schirmer had been in no rush. However, with the banking world in flux and an angel willing to finance his first startup Kunesto – a retirement networking club – he saw little reason to wait.
“It was a year getting the the first project financed, which took me to 2009, and I sold that at the end of 2012,” he says.
“It was a project that I enjoyed working on, but to be honest it didn’t quite continue to interest me as it initially had – the development path was there and I’d enjoyed heading that up, but as my motivation waned it was the right moment to exit.”
I want to ride my bicycle
He had, however, caught the entrepreneurial bug, and within the year had alighted on a new idea.
“I stumbled across my co-founder, who had a bike helmet she wanted to produce,” says Schirmer.
“It was just something completely different, and a cause I could relate to – I’m a ski instructor with the German Ski Association, which has made us all wear helmets from 2004, and there really hadn’t been any major developments in that field for 30 years.
“There were performance-orientated improvements, sure, but apart from getting time down in a wind tunnel, people weren’t innovating.
“So we created Rockwell, and hired product designers that had never done anything in this area before, as we didn’t want to run down the exact same path, and from initial ideas created a multi-purpose product range focussed around head safety.
“Now, there’s a line of visors on the way, sunglasses etc, and all of this is interchangeable depending on the sport, all to EU regulations.”
Schirmer’s next steps will be expansion outside of Germany and Austria, and firming up a supply chain to push the quality of the product. While pressing on with Rockwell, he has taken on an ambassadorial role with Talmix, noting that on the whole, German businesses are receptive to the on-demand workforce model.
“The private equity sector in particular has always had needs of a specialist nature and has therefore understood the potential immediately,” he says.
“I think the bigger consultancies have approached the idea with caution, but as with any network it’s about trust – as more consultants sign up within Germany it will be more commonplace to find talent using businesses like Talmix.”
Watch our live broadcast for independent consultants hosted by Thomas today at 4.30pm BST on Negotiating the Brokerage.
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