uberall Co-Founder Florian Hübner On The Potential Of Local Markets

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uberall co-founder Florian Hübner talks about local marketing's importance for businesses and upcoming trends that will influence everyday life:

Describe yourself in 50 words or less.

Part-entrepreneur, part-nerd, I’m enthusiastic about everything I’m engaged in, and about so much that I’m not. I love the company I co-founded, uberall; I’m an evangelist for computer science and tech; I am an avid runner and I proudly follow Hannover 96!

How did you get involved with the entrepreneurial scene?

My educational background is in theoretical computer science, avoiding economics as much as I could. But after university I spent about 3.5 years as a strategy consultant working for McKinsey. During that time it dawned on me that there is so much more to business than accounting and balance sheets, and how much fun it is to try to crack the algorithm that ultimately drives a company.

At the end of that time I went back to university to pursue the PhD I always thought I needed for a career in academia. In Germany, it’s normal to spend around 3-5 years doing so, while a majority of that time goes into university projects and teaching. Though the setup should have been great, I was really unhappy about the slow-paced environment and politics, and also felt academia would probably always be like that. So within one day, I quit my job there and also my job at McKinsey. The funny thing is that I would never describe myself to be a risk-taker – it just felt right.

It was not only serendipity that my co-founder David Federhen was about to leave his post as the CEO of his first startup around the same time. You have to know, he is also my oldest friend and it must have been around the age of 15 that we first said we’d work together at some point in time. I could talk a lot about the topic of getting into business with a good friend, but I will just state that I knew upfront that we would be very productive together. So, that point in time had actually come!

What are you currently working on?

We’re working on some really big additions to the uberall platform. I can’t actually reveal what, but you’ll be sure to know in a few months’ time. But suffice it to say that uberall as a product has really grown into something pretty amazing over the past few years.

At first, it was simply a listings tool – something that helped local businesses actively manage their information across all online directories, social media sites, navigation systems etc., making them easy to find and at the same time boosting their search engine ranking. We’ve had that nailed for a long time, and now uberall does so much more. Now the product not only lists, but promotes those business locations through creating web pages for local businesses. It also allows business owners to remain in contact with their customers, and manage their businesses’ reputation by listening to their online reviews. It’s had measurable success for a number of global brands, and with the addition of our up’n’coming surprise, we’re sure to see even more growth for our clients.

How did you discover the need for your current project?

It was just after the first Groupon wave had left a lot of local businesses puzzled. On the one hand they felt they had to do something online, but on the other the vast majority of them made a loss on giving out their goods at highly reduced prices, and the marketing effect couldn’t outweigh that at all.

At the same time, David and I were both living in Berlin for only few years, but already had fallen in love with the vibrant scene of small businesses that are so definitive for various parts of the city. We knew a lot of business owners (mostly bars and restaurants) and hence learned about their challenges. Well, that is where we saw a huge opportunity!

Why is local marketing important?

The ways in which local economies are changing is incredible – and it’s mostly down to mobile. More than 80% of all consumer searches on mobile are about businesses and services ‘near me’ – restaurants, bars, shoe shops, florists, supermarkets – you name it, people want it near them. Once they’ve identified the nearest shop they wanted, almost 40% of those searches results in a purchase. This is creating an enormous shift to micro-economies, where even global brands are changing tactics to capture and retain the attention of customers in their local store area.

Local marketing not only helps businesses capture new customers, but it helps find out who those customers are and what they want, by keeping in touch with them through social media and review sites. Local marketing is really necessary in a world of increased regional segmentation, and I reiterate – mobile search.

What drives you?

There’s many things that drive me. But I believe the single most important thing is that I get very enthusiastic about the people I work with, the products we build, the clients we work for, and also the code that I write.

Over the last few years, the job that I have had has changed a number of times. Building the first prototype is so much different from ensuring enterprise-grade quality of service, getting the first customer is so much different from scaling our platform to accommodate the next 100k businesses, convincing the first people to join our team is very different from setting up an in-house recruiting team to fill positions in development, marketing, sales, support etc. all at the same time. I sometimes compare all this to Super Mario World, where every level has its own challenges and end bosses. And another one after it.

All of this is very exciting for us!

7 years from now: Where do you see yourself?

Hopefully, we will have made an online marketing solution available to a majority of local businesses – be it large ones or the small ones around the corner. We will have turned it into a natural way of interaction between businesses and their clients, they will be doing online right. Personally, I also hope, secretly, that Hannover 96 are able to emulate the great success of Leicester City and win a major trophy – 7 years is a long time after all.

What trends would you bet your money on? And how will they influence everyday life?

Again, I am enthusiastic about a ton of topics. I really want to see user interfaces change to more natural interaction via conversations that I can have with machines. How awesome is it going to be when computers adapt to us and we don’t have to learn to get them to do what we want for every single thing?

It’s also amazing to see how alternative transport concepts – electric vehicles, shared resources, autonomous driving, hyperloops etc. – will shape urban lives in the next 20 years. I am of course not sure what’s going to come, but I am sure that you will not recognize our streets in 30 years from now!

Do you have a “hero”? If so, who and why / why not?

Does Batman count? Ok, for real. I know that it’s not crazy popular, but I really admire the work of Bill Gates. When I grew up to be a little hacker, he was changing the world big time. And he has been doing to continuously for decades and way beyond the successes of Microsoft. Of course he has the advantage of being insanely rich, but using this so wisely: Being this entrepreneurial and philanthropic is unprecedented.

I also find the work of Anonymous interesting – not heroic necessarily, but interesting. They’ve done more to get the wider public to focus on technology, hacking and the interconnectedness of our information in a way not many other people or groups have.

What advice would you give first time entrepreneurs?

Just get started already. If you’re good at the core of what you’re doing, there will be something coming out of it. It might look different from what you were originally aiming for. I learned through a ton of experiences that you can only bend reality so far – sometimes you just have to adapt. I’m afraid the old wisdom is right – there’s not much point in dawdling – you simply have to take a risk. This also means not worrying about failure – once you start working, you’ll fail for sure. Then you’ll try again and it will be better.



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