Being a digital nomad, does not only expose me to picturesque landscapes, but also enables me to look behind and reflect.

In 2012, I dipped my first toe into the fintech waters after working at Germany’s largest social network. I was accustomed to giving people shiny new things, so I decided to start my own startup. Sadly, it failed when the investor pulled out after signing the term sheet. But as fate would have it, I got a call to participate in the creation of an official bank. Little did I know that all the lessons I had learned would be necessary for finally co-founding my own fintech in 2016.

Now, I was in a completely different business— the business of taking away people’s pain. It was love at third sight, and I stayed in the field until a cold December day in 2020. That’s the day I fired myself. But don’t feel bad for me; it was actually the best thing that could have happened.

Why did I fire myself? Well, building a startup from 3 to 150 people had been a fun challenge, but it took over most parts of my life. As the CTO, I was capable of dealing with technological challenges, but I was ill-prepared for company politics. The worst thing about politics is that you just need to hire one person who is “good at it,” and it spreads like a virus. If this person hires more people, they will most likely choose individuals who think alike. Before you know it, the whole department is infected.

In the end, we had to let an entire department go to solve the issue. I have immense respect for my partners who helped resolve the problem, but we all paid the toll. I got sick, and I didn’t leave my bed for weeks, not knowing where the pain in my stomach came from. Later, I had to accept that it was a burn-out.

This experience taught me several valuable lessons. For one, it’s crucial to prioritize mental and physical health while building a business. Secondly, be mindful of the company culture you create and the people you bring on board. They can either make or break your organization.

Today, I’m grateful for the rollercoaster journey I’ve had as a co-founder in fintech. The failures, successes, and lessons learned along the way have shaped me into a stronger entrepreneur and a more resilient person. And the best part? My story isn’t over yet. There’s still so much more to come.

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