Cyriac Roeding is a full cycle entrepreneur who has been launching his own ventures since he was a teenager. He sold one of his companies for $250M, and has since helped lead two new healthtech startups which have raised tens of millions of dollars.
During our interview on the DealMakers podcast, Cyriac Roeding shared his experiences as a young entrepreneur, making your own job obsolete with tech, working with Reid Hoffman, what it means to have a great board member, and helping to build two startups at once.
Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.
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Roeding was originally born in a tiny town in the south of Germany. When he was two years old his parents moved to a town of 5,000 people near Frankfurt. It was still a small village atmosphere, where he would go on his bicycle to pick up the milk from a local farmer.
It was a far cry from Silicon Valley, but that didn’t stop him from hustling, and ultimately working with some of the biggest brands in the world.
By 12 and 13 years old he was delivering newspapers and advertising flyers. Then he did a summer job in the advertising department of the newspaper, where he basically shuffled paper. He pitched the idea of replacing all that with software to his boss, who thought he was crazy (it had always been done this way, and computers were new). Six months later, they called him back, and Cyriac sold them his first computer program at age 15. He replaced his old summer job with software.
Eager to experience America for himself he applied for a student exchange program. He told them he wanted to be in the sunshine. So, they sent him to southeast Texas. He says that his first exchange family were alcoholics, but the second one was wonderful. There he attended high school at West Orange-Stark, and ended up as one of 7 male cheerleaders and 15 female cheerleaders. He ran the school flag during Friday Night football.
Back in Germany in high school, Cyriac began working in software in the afternoons after school. He split this time between advising an architectural firm and writing code for Hewlett-Packard.
In college, at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (“KIT,” Germany´s version of MIT), Roeding found himself working at night as a radio reporter and DJ for radio stations. While living in Tokyo to study Japanese management, he worked in consulting in the Japanese office of European consulting firm Roland Berger.
He then pursued his studies in industrial engineering, and ended up at McKinsey, where we also wrote his diploma thesis Creating Killer Ideas for Radical Business Growth, based on a new creativity framework developed by McKinsey that he describes as “much, much more efficient and effective than brainstorming.”
He ended up authoring a book for McKinsey called Secrets of Software Success based on interviews with 100 software companies around the world, which was published by Harvard Business School Press. That led him to Silicon Valley in the process. He says he fell in love with it from the moment he first landed. Yet, he ended up launching his first venture out of Munich, Germany.
Creating A New Industry
Everything aligned for Cyriac to launch his own venture, and he handed in his resignation to quit consulting, and throw himself into creating 12snap.
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He says his first experience with mobile phones was in Tokyo in 1994 when car phones began to emerge. The technology was still too big and heavy to carry around. So, cars essentially became mobile phones that you could drive around. By 1996 he had his first real mobile phone. By 1999 he had quit McKinsey to start a mobile marketing company, before the term even existed.
They pretty quickly found out that their timing was terrible, the business model didn’t work, and they were out of money.
The other two co-founders made it their job to go find fresh money to keep the company alive. Cyriac was tasked with finding a new business model.
He managed to sign up McDonalds, with a $250k a year mobile marketing deal. Then landed a deal with Coca-Cola. They set a new record for the largest mobile marketing campaign up to that point in history, integrated with unique download codes on 160 million Coca-Cola bottles.
Once An Entrepreneur, Always An Entrepreneur
After this first company Cyriac spent some time working with media giant CBS to build their mobile business from scratch, when CBS had zero people in mobile and mobile video and mobile television were just emerging. Then he was invited to become an Entrepreneur in Residence with Kleiner Perkins. His first day on the job also happened to be the day that Lehman Brothers collapsed.
VCs stopped funding companies. Though that still didn’t stop him. He stumbled on the idea for a new business of his own, and Kleiner Perkins funded it, with Reid Hoffman joining the board.
Shopkick rewarded shoppers simply for walking into a store with their shopkick app, without having to buy anything, earning them points that turned into gift cards. Partners were big retailers, including Target, Best Buy, TJ Maxx and Macy’s, as well as big brands like P&G and Unilever. They achieved 20M app downloads, driving over $1B in sales for their partners. South Korean giant SK Telecom bought them out for $250M.
Leading Two Companies At Once
After staying one more year and then a one year resting period, and spending time travelling the world with his wife and little children to China and Europe, Roeding launched two new ventures.
Today he is CEO of Earli, and co-founding Chairman of Rewind, with Peter Tulson as CEO.
Earli is focused on detecting cancer early, and then inducing it to kill itself. They’ve already raised almost $60M from great investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, life science hedge funds Perceptive Advisors and Casdin Capital, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Menlo Ventures, and ZhenFund from China.
Rewind is on a mission to reverse Type 2 diabetes in the more than 30 million affected patients in the U.S. alone.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Cyriac Roeding was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Cyriac’s top advice before starting a business
- Why it’s so important to fail fast
- How to face failure
- The advantage of international travel for entrepreneurs
- Working with Reid Hoffman
- What great board members are like
- Finding and filtering startup business ideas