If there’s anyone we should chat with about setting priorities, it’s entrepreneur Eve Büchner. As founder and CEO of refund.me, a passenger rights specialist company that aims to make passenger rights more transparent and easily enforceable on a worldwide scale, Büchner is already setting her sights on starting her fourth company and turning refund.me into a goldmine.
Created in 2012, refund.me assists passengers with claiming compensation from airlines under European Union regulation (EC) 261/2004. The regulation establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellations, or long delays of flights. Its proprietary Advanced Business Logic (ABL) technology enables passengers to file claims directly from the refund.me website or via a free app. Depending on the nature and duration of the delay, cancellation or re-routing passengers can claim up to €600 ($670 in USD) per flight. Headquarted in Potsdam, Germany, the company is backed by initial funding of $5 million in angel investment and is currently in its first funding round (Series A).
She’s no newbie to the startup world. After beginning her career in journalism, Büchner gained recognition as an accomplished television host and anchor on numerous business, world news and lifestyle television programs in her native Germany. In 2007, she founded
her first company switch.me, a business model to interactively connect television to the Internet. She followed that up by founding the venture capital firm quantumReality Ltd in 2011. The company provides seed investments and supports startups in the fields of e-commerce, e-strategy, software development and IPR in the form of patents.
Since launch, refund.me has already attracted clients from over 125 countries across five continents, assisting them in filing claims against more than 350 airlines. In addition to winning numerous tech and startup awards, in 2014 the Financial Times commended refund.me as the “legal industry pioneer” in its Innovative Lawyers Report.
Her latest venture, Remote Feelings, is a bracelet that transmits the heartbeat of a loved one and creates a feeling of closeness over large distances. And with the rise of refund.me, Büchner has no plans on slowing down.
The mother of three sons splits her time between Germany and Palo Alto, Calif. We caught with the ambitious serial entrepreneur to find out how she juggles it all internationally and what advice she would give to her fellow women entrepreneurs.
Lioness Magazine: How would you gauge your work life balance since becoming a mother?
Büchner: The great thing about running a company that is almost completely cloud-based is that it allows all staff – not just me – to have a relatively flexible work schedule. Each person is able to plan around their private life, whether they’re an early bird or a night owl. In the end it’s the results that count. In my case the flexible work schedule allows me to take my two sons to school in the morning, and to pick them up later in the day.
From 4 p.m. I devote my time to my boys. Since October 2013 I’ve planned my schedule around my youngest son, because I wanted to eat lunch with him and
take him on walks. Now that he’s one year old, he goes to kindergarten. After four months I was back at my desk or flying to meetings, often taking him along. From 9 p.m., when my children are asleep, I’m back at my computer communicating with colleagues in other time zones. It’s of enormous benefit to work with an exceptional and professional team.
Lioness: Have you adapted your private and professional life, respectively, to successfully fill both roles?
Büchner: Of course. The first step to being successful as a working mother is to pinpoint top priorities and specific efficiencies for oneself, one’s family and the job. I asked myself questions such as: what are the key factors holding my family together? How do I set up my team most effectively? What is the most efficient way to communicate? How can I integrate my sons’ lives into my work demands? They, too, profit from this flexibility.
Often my one year old is under my desk playing. My five year old plays with Lego. The oldest, my nine year old, does his homework. They’re growing up with the fact that they have a working mom. It will surely have an influence on them. My own mother is my idol. She frequently took us to the office where she was managing a mid-sized company.
Lioness: What are your passions in life?
Büchner: I have over ten years of experience running start ups, building up companies and selecting and setting up a talented team of coworkers. I have good eye for talent and an intuition for good ideas and have a passion for helping skilled people and brilliant ideas blossom. I manage my companies with respect and appreciation for my coworkers. I always aspire to improve society and make the world a better place.
I believe people should work in order to live, not the other way around. This is why I’ve set up companies with international teams, where harmonious and respectful cooperation takes center stage. This is also why I believe in a management approach that allows for flexible work schedules and cloud-based working from anywhere on the globe, and one that provides rewarding salaries. I make sure my projects are profitable to my staff and in line with their own goals, to ensure that we grow as team.
Lioness: What advice would you give to women seeking to combine and balance their family and work lives?
Büchner: It is crucial to set priorities. They should carefully consider what is most important to their private and professional life, and what they can then do to strike a balance between both worlds.
In order to react calmly and rationally to unforeseen circumstances it’s important to be flexible in all life situations. Being flexible helps more easily adapt to changes. Creating small highlights from time to time helps keep it together. This could be a morning jog around the lake or simply taking half an hour out of the day to come down a little.
If at all possible they should create the conditions for a flexible work schedule, so that they can react to any eventualities in their private life.
Lioness: What advice would you give to women who want to take the leap to being self-employed?
Büchner: A good dose of courage goes a long way in realizing one’s ideas! Yet I advise others not to try and tackle all steps at once.
Having a professional partner with similar goals for setting up a company is of tremendous
assistance. Goals are much more quickly met with everyone rowing in the same direction.
Setbacks and missteps are part of the game. The important thing is learning from such instances and doing things better the second time around. The ability to adapt to constant change is crucial to success.
The path never leads in a straight direction. Seeming detours often result in valuable experience gained. One should never allow oneself to be pushed aside or put down, since critical voices are to be found everywhere. Being able to clearly distinguish destructive from constructive criticism is a necessity, since sometimes criticism does not stem from bad intentions.
Photos courtesy of Steve Bergmann