I’m Martin, founder and CEO of Zenkit, AMA!

Martin Welker
20 replies
Ever since I discovered coding at age 13, I’ve been fascinated by how we can use technology to make the world a better place (cheesy, I know). I went on to study computer science and after a short stint working with startups in Silicon Valley, I returned to Germany to start my own company. Zenkit is the final result of years spent thinking about how to make knowledge accessible and impactful. Here to answer any questions about building a startup, bootstrapping, defining your vision, product development, SaaS, AI, and whatever else you throw at me! I will answer all questions on Monday, 23th, 17.00 CET.


What is you favourite tech stack and in which stack does zenkit is developed?
Martin Welker
@yoginth A bad stack can break your startup, but a good stack will not make your startup. At Zenkit, one of the most important aspects is long term maintenance. The simpler the better. A small stack, with easy building steps, helps. The fewer dependencies, the better. We don't do fancy stuff: JavaScript, Node.js, Angular. Stacks come and go ;) One of our other products, Lookeen, is written in pure .NET 2.0 with almost no libraries or other dependencies and with a very easy build process. That's the reason it is highly maintainable - even 14 years after initial release! During this time, Microsoft introduced a plenitude of languages and frameworks. Few survived.
Gabriel Birnbaum
What is your favorite thing about being based in Karlsruhe?
Martin Welker
@gavri_birnbaum Short routes: Everything is accessible within 15 min by bike. Karlsruhe is a 'minimum viable ecosystem'. You can find experts to help with nearly every aspect of the business, you have potential customers, even investors and 2 strong universities full of talented young people.
What does the Zenkit team look like in terms of roles and location, and how do you prioritize new features?
Martin Welker
@abadesi In any organization, there are things that have to be done once or the first time (projects), and there are things that need to be done many times (processes). As CEO I concentrate on the things that have to be done for the first time. Our COO Peter focuses on building processes and optimizing them. We have teams for marketing, customer support, sales, development, and back-office management; all pretty standard. Most of our team and all of our core members are based in our office here in Karlsruhe, however we do have some team members who work from wherever they are in the world. As for new features: We divide our feature list into 3 parts: A. strategic decisions, B. customer requirements, C. experimental features. A. We have a long-term plan to position Zenkit as the operating system for business apps. We build features that are not requested by users to head in this direction. B. Users and customers need functions and features to be more successful. So we build them - here we prioritize highly requested features, or requests from important customers. C. Sometimes we are just curious about certain things, so we build things to learn more about them.
Vineet Sinha
Love the happy alien theme!
Martin Welker
@vineet_sinha Great to hear that! We named the main character "Asmo". A little backstory about him: In the beginning, we were imaging the future. Not the future in 5 years, but in 500 years. The best we had: Star Trek. On the USS Enterprise, there is one system that is aware of all the information on board. Thinking backward from that system helped us to formulate our mission. One night I woke up and said: Let's just locate our whole brand into that future, and so our "happy alien" world was born.
Jay Kellett
I feel like your site is shooting for a very broad audience. What were the problems faced by your earliest customers?
Martin Welker
@bluebox You are exactly right, Zenkit is targeting a very broad group of users and use cases. The main problem that our users are facing is that there are just so many things you can build, so many different options. This is overwhelming sometimes, and we've had to do a lot of work trying to help them understand how it all works. Most of our users start with project management, so over the last 2 years we have been concentrating on this aspect of our app. However, in 2020 there will be a major change in how we address the different needs of our users. Interesting times are coming...
Ali Kamalizade
What is the thing you think you did that was crucial for your success?
Martin Welker
@aliworks Finding the right people and giving them a mission that is both challenging and fulfilling. So a crucial element was seeing the mission and formulating it before anything was built at all.
Binyamin Green
What crucial step in the startup process to people forget about most often?
Martin Welker
@binyamin_green You should fall in love with the problem before you even think of a solution. Especially for engineers like me, this is kind of challenging. We are trained to build things. So we build things ;) Understand the problem. Talk to customers. Come with empty hands and listen. If you already have a "solution", you are not listening, you are defending.
Brennon Denny
What is the number one thing you learned while working at startups before starting Zenkit?
Martin Welker
@brennon_denny It took me about 100 "NO's" to good looking ideas to arrive at Zenkit. We did about 5 products before. Some of them were successful, some of them were not. The problem is: It always took years to find out. So I would say: Its not enough if something looks good. Its not enough that it is hip, or fun or hyped. You will dedicate years to your startup. Choose wisely.