We are continuing with our Co-Founder’s Corner interview series. This time we met with Vincenz Dölle, one of the two managing directors at SimScale to get inspiration and learn his secrets to juggling all different responsibilities that his position entails, from HR and finance to legal, web development and team management. All of this while driving SimScale towards becoming the world’s largest cloud-based simulation platform.
Vincenz graduated from Bavarian Elite Academy (Bayerische EliteAkademie), together with David Heiny, Johannes Probst, and Alexander Fischer, where they focused on topics such as leadership, business management, entrepreneurship, ethics and social responsibility.
Beginnings are always nice to remember, and I’ll admit that I am very interested in knowing this, Vincenz: How did it all start with SimScale?
Vincenz:Indeed, it is always nice to look back and see how much you’ve accomplished and how much there is yet to come.Four of the founders, David, Johannes, Alexander and I, did an extracurricular study program called Bavarian Elite Academy. David approached me and told me that he thought we—being only students at that time—learned quite a lot about engineering simulation, so we might be ready to bring some added value to companies in other industries, and that we should consider creating a small business to offer consulting services for engineering simulation. He sparked my interest, and we asked Johannes and Alexander whether they would like to join us in this kind of project. I knew Anatol—the fifth founder—from the university. He had been interested in working in a startup and liked our idea, so I asked him if he would like to join. He quickly got on board.
Then we started with a small team and did some simulation projects for customers with our fresh new company, SimAcc Engineering. However, doing large simulation projects used to require costly hardware and software, which we couldn’t afford. So, what we used was powerful open-source software and proven scientific software from academia combined with cloud computing, which, without knowing it at the time, set the foundation for SimScale.
However, using cloud computing didn’t give us the chance to deliver a full on-premises solution to customers who were interested in proceeding with our simulation results themselves. So, we needed to come up with a different concept and this is how the idea of building a web interface was born. With a web interface, we could give access to simulation software to anyone from anywhere.
Pursuing this idea, we somehow naturally shifted from consulting to product development. That was a pretty tough time because we were also approaching the end of our studies and had to finish our Master’s and also to keep up with our business. We were lucky to find Bayern Kapital, High-Tech Gründerfonds, and three business angels. All five investors supported SimScale’s initial launch and helped us grow the company. Last year, we also received support from Earlybird Venture Capital. Since then, things have been moving forward very fast.
What, in your opinion, makes SimScale unique?
V: The idea and vision we have. It’s unique that we have the chance to change the way people use engineering simulation.
How does your day at SimScale look like?
V: Things are different every day—you never really know what will happen. I cannot do much of coding, mostly there are many people asking a lot of things. I have to be in various small meetings to add my input. I geta great deal of emails, which I have to be able to reply to, give a lot of calls to external parties, but if I’m lucky [he laughs], I also find time to help to improve our simulation platform. If so, I mostly focus on the front-end.
But you are also involved in HR, finance, legal…
V: Yes, all of these things. The accounting is also due soon again, so I have to take care of it in the next few days. Regularly, new applicants need to be interviewed and assessed, new team members need to be on-boarded. You never know what happens because there are so many things and so many side projects. There isn’t a standard day. Usually, I try to do creative tasks in the morning but I’m not always successful [laughing].
You mean software development?
V: Coding, yes. After 10 a.m. it gets crowded. Everybody’s here and we have our daily Scrum meeting.
It seems to me that you are doing a five-man job. How are you able to organize all of these tasks across the day?
V: Good question. I maintain four to five different to-do lists for all various kinds of tasks with different priorities. They are all prioritized by short-term, mid-term, long-term respectively, importance and urgency. So, whenever I feel I can now spend some time on something, I check what needs to be done next and I do it. The key is to not miss things if they are important. If you don’t write it down, you might forget it. Also, you are busy remembering to not forget. Having a free mind and being disciplined makes things a lot easier.
With so many tasks, your day-to-day life at SimScale must be very stressful, but you actually never stop smiling and being positive. What’s your secret?
V: I stop smiling, you know. It’s true. Sometimes it happens. [He grins]. But, being positive, things are much easier in my opinion. My basic “secret” is to just do things. Step by step, step by step… you get used to it and manage to do a lot over time. That’s how I think it works.
What would you recommend to other people who are dealing with different workloads to help them organize their time better?
V: Note down everything that is important but cannot be done immediately, every task that comes up during the day. Note it down, don’t necessarily do it immediately, but otherwise, you tend to forget it. And remain calm, you shouldn’t be stressed by it, although it’s not so easy. You have to accept that not everything can be done right now and done perfectly, but if you organize your work, it will be very helpful. Keep your mind clear and don’t get crazy. Focusing on trying to remember what to do will make you even busier.
Which are the must-have qualities of a good manager, in your opinion?
V: Oh, gosh. I have no perfect idea. Being patient and showing interest in people. The third quality, I would say, is being well organized.
What are the three main qualities that you look for in potential candidates?
V: They should be really motivated, driven, and very good at something. They simply need to fit into the team—you feel it. You should want to drink a beer with them in the evening.