Europe, Interviews

Janina Mütze – Co-Founder and CEO at Civey

I didn’t learn any tech at school, I did some statistical programming at university, but that was it. And in my opinion, this is an absolute deficit, especially if we want to get women interested in the industry or even at all.

Janina Mütze is Founder and CEO of Civey, a Berlin-based company that collects polling data in real-time. With its software implemented in thousands of websites, Civey reaches its participants and creates the biggest panel of survey respondents.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

Four years ago, I co-founded Civey, a startup based in Berlin with today almost 60 employees. We do market and opinion research in an innovative way. By implementing traditional survey methods in machine learning algorithms, we have automated the entire value chain of market research. With our product, you can target new clients, understand who they are and what they expect from your product as well as monitor market forecasts or the impact of your marketing campaigns.

Technology plays a very large role in our business, since we founded the company in order to solve a problem market research has with latest technology. This mindset manifests in our corporate structure: half of our employees actually work in the Tech Department – on the product, the product concept, both in the backend or frontend of our platform. Or they are statisticians – working from conception to development.

What made you start your own tech-company?

It was rather an accident that I thought about co-founding my own startup. I’ve never developed a product myself before and I’ve never had anything to do with tech before, either. I grew up with a rather security-oriented background. When I moved to Berlin, I was already considered a “wild child” but luckily – for my family – I studied economics.

I worked in the French Embassy and then for an association doing public relations. When I was promoted, I realized this wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I was a personal assistant at the time and that just wasn’t the right job for me. But it was very important to me at that time – especially for my own self-confidence – that I had my first job in order to have a chance on the job market.

It was this inner security that gave me the self-confidence to talk to my co-founder about starting our own company in more detail. We both wondered why we didn’t use professional opinion or market research in our jobs in order to make the right decision. The answer: It is simply too expensive, too complicated and the data isn’t always trustworthy. We decided: Let’s just do this online and do it better. And we started with this idea – surely naively because both of us have never developed anything similar before. And what can I say – we made every mistake you can make as a founder along the way.

We first developed a business plan and then applied successfully for subsidies. But there were about 400 features in this plan, which we all wanted to develop at the same time, and then we realized that this was not possible. We focused on this and built an MVP – these are all practical topics that founders are familiar with. And we first had to learn all that because we approached the topic completely naively.

What was the biggest learning during that first period?

From a founder’s perspective, we have often encountered financial challenges. Sometimes the question arose how to continue now. But in general, the initial phase of building Civey was also so incredibly hard. You’re always faced with challenges, but you have to find solutions if you want to continue. And you do find them!

This solution-oriented competence constantly grows with you. At some point you will simply no longer be afraid of problems. That was and is definitely a learning from that time. You just have to develop a very strong self-confidence that you can manage to solve problems if you really want to. 

This entrepreneurial mindset has definitely become a valuable asset for me, i.e. identifying what you can do, what you have to learn and that you just have to carry on.

What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the actual tech skills)?

From a mindset point of view, you should definitely be interested in new things. The exciting challenge is: As a tech company we live in a bubble. If you want to be successful you have to leave your peer groups and the city to find out that many have no understanding or know-how for tech at all. It might be helpful to just raise these topics at a family celebration to get a feeling of the general understanding of tech in society.

In Berlin, we are basically just waiting for air taxis to fly through the city and we use services here in Berlin that are not available at all in other parts of the country. And we believe in technology.  We believe that technology is evolving and that great things are coming. We have a positive mindset. That’s a minimum requirement for working in tech.

And I think one needs an intercultural openness, because only looking at our tech team, it consists for the most part of international employees. One thing that I really love about being a founder is to foster this open culture.

Women in the field of technology are definitely in the minority. What steps should be taken to attract more women to tech?

This year, I co-wrote the Female Founders Monitor of the German Startup Association and Google, which focuses – as the name says – on female founders, but also reflects the tech area in parts. And yes, there is a deficit of women.

For me, it actually starts with education. I’m a big advocate for bringing tech to schools first. We can see from the statistics that women do better at school, women do better at university, and what is offered in schools is also used by women. And very few women really learn tech skills in schools.

I didn’t learn any tech at school, I did some statistical programming at university, but that was it. And in my opinion, this is an absolute deficit, especially if we want to get women interested in the industry or even at all.

What is the greatest development in tech you have witnessed in your career so far?

Everything to do with shared mobility, which is of course also due to the fact that I live in Berlin and we are flooded here with shared mobility. The sharing economy inspires me very much. Especially when I see the speed at which it is evolving and entering the breadth of society.

I’m happy to see how this will develop, because technology can have a very great impact, especially with regard to the urgent topic of climate change. And it is a very consumer-oriented topic.

What has been the greatest piece of advice you have received in your career so far?

If I had to summarize it in one sentence,it would be the advice that has been coming up throughout my professional career:

“Don’t be satisfied with where you stand now, just keep going. “

I have experienced a lot of empowerment from many sides. Starting with my co-founder, who is a bit older than me and therefore had more professional experience when we started. As a co-founder, I was always able to grow alongside him very well and also copy a few things from him. And he always gives me the opportunity to develop my strengths so I can thrive.

And beyond that, I always try to strengthen my network. I am Vice Chairwoman of the German Startup Association that represents more than 1,000 startups operating in Germany. I have experienced many times how helpful networks are. Recently I was offered a role on the supervisory board and I was immediately backed by various women who declared their support. With these new playgrounds you grow and you find new role models. But most important: You learn something new every day.

If you could host a dinner party with 3 influential people in tech, who would you invite and why?

As my career and interests comprehends two worlds, I always try to be a bridge-builder between these areas: Technology and Politics. My dinner party would include influential people from the political and technological fields to overcome the gap of each bubble. The bubble of true believers in tech and of those who might sometimes fear new digital developments. Both still lack mutual knowledge and trust in each other. I always try to destroy barriers and enhance dialogue for a better understanding. Apart from conferences and panel discussions a private dinner party with good food, ideas and private atmosphere will probably help a lot with this challenge.

Janina Mütze is Founder and CEO of Civey, a Berlin-based company that collects polling data in real-time. With its software implemented in thousand of websites, Civey reaches its participants and creates the biggest panel of survey respondents. The company was founded in 2015 and has 60 employees. Before she founded her own startup, Janina worked for the German Private Equity and Venture Capital Association. She studied Economics at Freie Universtität Berlin.

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