Already during his A-levels at school, TUM School of Management alumnus Felix Harteneck began to develop solutions for cost control related issues in his family business. Accordingly, it was clear that his studies should take place at a founder-friendly university, as this would certainly not be his last project. The entrepreneur decided to study Management & Technology at the TUM School of Management. In fact, not long after enrolling, Felix met his two co-founders Clemens Techmer and Jakob Sturm, who were studying Electrical and Computer Engineering. Together, they started ParkHere, which is now a multi-award-winning, leading high-tech provider of smart parking and mobility solutions for companies such as BMW, Giesecke+Devrient, and Telefónica all over Europe.
How did the idea for ParkHere come about
Felix met his two co-founders during the Manage&More program at UnternehmerTUM. „We just brainstormed a bit about the major challenges in the world and got stuck on the banal topic of finding a parking space. Studies showed that a significant part of inner-city traffic results from not finding parking, causing high levels of pollution, noise, and wasted time,“ he says. The founders wondered why there was no solution to this problem. From this moment on, they worked on the first concepts for ParkHere.
Building a start-up while studying
Turning an idea into a business – while studying – is no easy task, as Felix knows. With the help of UnternehmerTUM, however, the founders quickly became known for their sensor technology, which detects vacant parking spaces without a connected energy supply. Felix recalls, „I think the most important thing that TUM and UnternehmerTUM gave us was simply the network and access.“ This, he says, ranged from getting to know co-founders and the first employees to the first pilot customers.
„We would not have been able to do that so easily and so quickly on our own,“ Felix says. Prize money and financial support from the university were also crucial for the project. To this day, the founders continue to enjoy recruiting graduates from the Manage&More program.
From start-up to scale-up
Competitive pressure, a shift in target groups and high costs resulted in the strong development of the company's products. Today, ParkHere offers a complete parking management service, especially for companies. While the goal back then was to implement the product in cities, the founders were able to identify companies as a new target group.
Through UnternehmerTUM, Felix and his co-founders had close contact with companies such as BMW, which were very interested in the technology. Thanks to this support, the founders were able to „offer a complete product, a complete solution much faster,“ says Felix. Moreover, this circumstance naturally made it easier to leave the status of a pilot project behind and become a scale-up that is sustainably profitable today.
The courage to reshape your company
As for many other companies, the Corona pandemic also challenged the founders to rethink their business. The system of work and the workplace changed dramatically during the crisis. Fortunately, „the crisis gave us a lot of opportunities,“ Felix says. At times, the founder explains, they also offered office solutions. Alongside ParkHere, now there was WorkHere. In addition to booking a parking space, it was now possible to book a workspace and accurately document office occupancy to break contagion chains.
One of the biggest challenges that the three founders had to overcome was the extensive reconsideration and transition from parking sensors, for which ParkHere was known, to complete solutions for parking management. It was a challenging step, both for the entrepreneurs and the employees.
Tips from Felix to future entrepreneurs
TUM School of Management alumnus Felix Harteneck is convinced that studying is exactly the right time to start founding a company. He explains it this way: „You may lack professional experience, but you simply have the freedom and this light-heartedness that you also need to plunge into such a venture“.
However, his advice to students who also intend to start a business is not to lose sight of their studies. Starting a business is a very exciting time for founders. Felix admitted: „A start-up can grow very rapidly and take up a lot of time. Doing your degree at the same time can be very challenging“.
One more thing is particularly important to an entrepreneur: Felix recommends starting to build a network while you’re still studying. To this day, he has plenty of contacts from that time and has benefited from it by sharing experiences with other founders or turning former fellow students into employees.