Blending an ecletic range of skills from design thinking and innovation consultancy to brand and design leadership in a whirlwind career, Philipp is best described as an integrative thinker who loves to create, facilitate and curate beautiful alternatives to the status quo.
A colourful melange of east and west with an infectiously optimistic vision of the future, Philipp nurtures a passion for transforming people’s perspectives of the everyday, turning complex realities into intriguingly simple and intuitive solutions through the alchemy of brand and business innovation.
An avid design thinker, Philipp enjoys galvanising teams and nurturing vibrant innovation cultures, translating creativity and vision into sustainable business and social impact. Inspired by the Bauhaus school of thought and his early-age exposure to Asian culture and heritage, he loves to invent better and sustainable models of value creation that elegantly fuse simplicity and functionality with beauty, poetic value and cultural relevance.
Advising SMEs, blue-chip clients and the public sector in various capacities, he has had the chance to impact diverse industries, including healthcare, travel management, professional services, hospitality, events, software, telecommunications and real estate. Driving change as a management consultant, entrepreneur, brand strategist, lecturer and innovation facilitator in Singapore, Germany, Netherlands and France, Philipp is an explorer at heart: A continual source of novel methodology, his contributions challenge industry practice with more effective alternatives.
What exactly is Drinkentrepreneurs and what is its objective?
DrinkEntrepreneurs is the world’s largest startup networking event organized 100% by volunteers. Entrepreneurship is the single most accessible form of economic empowerment. We’re dedicated to spread the word and share our passion for entrepreneurial ways of life, linking people from various stages of the entrepreneurial journey, all industries and all walks of life. Our events are co-created by an eclectic bunch of people who learn, laugh and enrich each others’ perspective in a relaxed atmosphere accompanied by a drink or two.
Could you walk us through the process of starting up Drinkentrepreneurs in Europe and Singapore?
DrinkEntrepreneurs is spread by a growing group of organisers and supporters. In 2013, my friend Pol Maire went on exchange to Singapore and hosted the very first de in Singapore. We decided to find a way of keep the event alive together, and as he left for France a couple of months later, I took over. Thanks to some luck and a great crowd, we’re now looking back on a formidable year and, very recently, a nomination by I-S magazine as a contender for best creative networking event of the year. Without Pol, we wouldn’t be here today.
How has it been like managing the organization since?
It’s fantastic to be working with close to a hundred passionate volunteer organisers around the globe. That said, rolling out initiatives internationally is a challenge, as we are extremely organic and coordination is challenging given multiple time zones and interfering day jobs. That said the culture and spirit of our events is really what matters most, so it’s remarkable and surprising that we somehow manage to spread it around the globe with minimal overhead in managing the organization itself.
Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup? How did you overcome it?
It’s tempting to take up sponsorship offers, but until recently we have been very restrictive as regards that. Only in 2014 did de globally begin to open up and endorse a more commercial perspective, as we started to realise that our network offered immense value to companies and that it would be great for top brands to amplify our cause. We’re quite proud that we build de to its considerable size without any investment or sponsorship, but now it’s time to enter a new stage, in which we focus more on nurturing the right regional partnerships.
How was the initial reaction towards DrinkEntrepreneurs. Were there different responses in Europe vs. Singapore?
In Singapore, people weren’t used to the type of relaxed, laid-back networking event that de is, and to our great delight it was received very positively from the start. Little is as motivating as doing something you know people are looking for. I like to think we owe it to our awesome crowd that we’ve become a key element in the startup ecosystem here in Singapore.
How did you guys build traction for the events at your respective locations?
Things started rolling quickly – apart from submissions to the list, e27 and a few other start-up calendars in initial month, we relied on word-of-mouth and organic spread. Within three months, the average crowd stabilized around 50-70, which was just right for me to still get a chance to speak with everyone as a host. This is the personal touch we’re keen to retain in all our events.
What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?
We started our first event business nearly a decade ago, and I’ve always loved pioneering events that become cultural formats and serve as a watering hold for like-minded but diverse crowds. Events are nothing but experiences – as organisers, we simply allow them to happen in a way that delights attendees. I like to think that, to create a great event, your objective cannot be commercial. Recall for once the best ones you’ve been to – probably private parties, corporate anniversaries, or nightlife events celebrating an occasion or lifestyle. Notice how the primary objective of such events is to celebrate the moment – that’s what exceptional events do extremely well. A word of advice – if you want to make a lot of money in events, there are two options: Create amazing events with no agenda and keep people coming back for more, or go for low-key events that lure in the masses. As an attendee, I encourage you to mingle with the right people and show up at the right events – I’ve not had to pay for any single one I frequented in the past year.
How have you managed to stay relevant in this industry?
People enjoy our events, and they’re free. We have recruiters, VCs, start-ups, corporate crowd and visitors from the region joining us, who together make for a truly interesting bunch. People take initiative to say (and compliment us) that we’re very different from the rest of events out there. That’s all there is to it, really. (A big thanks to everyone supporting us, btw.)
What are your future plans for Drinkentrepreneurs?
Globally, we’re working on a novel platform allowing entrepreneurs to connect internationally to offline networks and resources. Regionally, we’re building partnerships with corporates that agree to support our vision for a new generation of networking events. At the same time, we’re expanding our network, and if all goes well will be launching soon in Tokyo, Japan, and other APAC cities.
If you could start all over again, would you change anything about your approach? If so, what?
Loads. Our name may be catchy, but not everyone understands why we’d call ourselves that way. In fact, it just so happened. While people may endearingly give us nicknames (my favourite one was ‘DrunkEntrepreneurs’), our event crowd is without exception polite, cheerful and moderate in their drinking habits. That said, we’ve run events that nearly turned into a party (for example, brimming the second floor of Maison Ikkoku with nearly 65 people).
What do you think about startups in Asia vs Europe?
Singapore is trying hard to incentivize entrepreneurship, but I feel people here aren’t the born new generation of entrepreneurs quite yet. Many businesses here feel much more focused on bottom line and ‘just starting something’ than really going for radical new ideas and impactful challenger value propositions. I’d like to see the scene have more faith in doing the outlandish stuff. Why rely on the US to supply it to the world when in fact we have a perfect playing ground here in Southeast Asia?
What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?
My life revolves around existential philosophy, faith and a healthy dose of childish playfulness and imagination. Respect for etiquette and tradition matter greatly, but so do highly innovative thought and deed. Above all, I hold extremely high standards against myself and others, while I’d call my self highly compassionate at the same time; counting my blessings and upkeeping and unwavering determination to make the world fairer and motivate humans to be good in all senses of the word.
As Hermann Hesse said, every individual must find their perfect spot on the continuum of individualism and conformity. A friend once called me an ‘eloquent rebel’, and I find that befits my description rather well.
What is your definition of success?
Doing good and doing well at the same time, and having due influence to spread a culture of empathy, mutual understanding and flourishing creativity wherever you are. It’s an exacting balance of adding value to other people’s lives and enjoying life to the fullest – in ways that are faithful to your sense of personal identity.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I was born the only son in an entrepreneurial family… my dad runs a German technology and management consultancy. I’m grateful for never having another perspective growing up. There’s immense joy to be derived out of the freedom of running your own business, and I’m extremely keen to return in full fledge to the start-up world sooner or later.
What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
In my eyes, a big challenge is keeping one’s ego in check while being super-confident at the same time. And being sure to remember that good intent and purposeful business practice is extremely important (at least if you want to derive ongoing satisfaction from your work). Plus, accept that your product/service will be perpetually flawed, and that you’ll have to keep refining. Complacency and arrogance are perhaps part of the reason why the user interfaces of most major internet start-ups are terrible, and far behind industry best practice.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
I’d love to say great ideas, but the reality is single-minded focus and extreme dedication. Second, a team unifying two skills – creative genius and determined execution. Usually, these will be two different people, but those who have both are enviably the real heros of the startup world. Oh, and did I mention unwavering optimism?
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?
Three things.nChance favours the happy (and connected) mind. Hard work needs soft skills. Not judging a book by its cover is only possible if you are willing to read. People judge you not by who you are, but by how you tell your story.
Personal Website: www.philippkristian.com