Tobias Rasche is co-founder and CEO of the company YPTOKEY, a solution for decentralized digital access to objects. Until 2016, he studied at HHL a part-time M.Sc. on the Cologne campus and this year he took the plunge into self-employment. In the interview he talks about his startup, the founding process and how his degree and HHL’s alumni network helped him.
Our vision: One key for everything
I already worked for the automotive supplier Hella during the Part-time M.Sc. and last year I switched to the internal incubator, where I also met my co-founder Nikolay Manchovski. Hella itself manufactures car keys and everything related to the Passive Car Entry System. Even though this may already be very convenient, you still need a different key for each Car2Go or DriveNow and you always have to authenticate yourself again.
We thought it could also be easier to do this. We have therefore developed a software solution for digital, decentralized access in which all partners have equal rights.The whole thing works by making use of blockchain technology. In our view, the information about the objects to be opened should not be located on a central platform. Instead, all transactions involving the sending of information should be transparent and unchangeable, so that the user always has his information locally with him and it is not stored in a database.
With technology, we have come up with the idea that users can use their own identity not only for cars, but also for other things, such as opening front doors. Our vision: One key for everything! That’s how this idea has always evolved. We first built a small prototype and then approached customers in the automotive and non-automotive sectors to get feedback. That turned out to be very positive. Accordingly, it was slowly time to move away from the incubator. With the registration of a GmbH it came to the spin-off of YPTOKEY in April of this year.
I had initially completed a dual Bachelor’s degree at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University. I really wanted to do a master’s degree, but I was also tempted to gain experience in the job market. I therefore took a closer look at both options. At Hella, there was the opportunity of a responsible job in the sales area. That’s why I decided on this alternative, but with the clear intention of still wanting to do my Master’s, which I also communicated to my boss.
But as it is then, you don’t leave the job after one year and I became aware of HHL’s Part-time M.Sc. at a “Master and More” fair in Cologne. It soon became clear that HHL’s offer was quite a perfect match for what I was looking for: I could continue my job and do my Master’s in Cologne at the same time. That was a good decision, a good program and I can say afterwards that I was very satisfied.
On the employer side, I basically had more leave during the semester, which was a general offer from Hella to all part-time students. Otherwise, I took care of the compatibility myself. Of course, I always kept this very transparent for my boss, so that here and there consideration could also be given to my workload.
…this has opened my eyes to new possibilities
First and foremost, this is HHL’s culture, which is strongly lived by the students but also by the staff: on the one hand very down-to-earth, on the other very ambitious. I personally liked this mixture because I can identify myself well with these values.
I once had the founder of trivago, Rolf Schrömgens, with us in a lecture. His greatest learning at HHL, as he told us, was that anything is possible and that you can do what you want. In retrospect, I have to admit that this has opened my eyes to new possibilities and evoke my courage to simply do something.
A general management course gives you an insight into every area of entrepreneurship and, above all, as the founder of a start-up, you have to do everything yourself, from accounting to innovation management. It’s not just an empty phrase that entrepreneurship and the spirit of reasoning is something you take into your own hands and do; and that’s something you live and breathe in all lectures at HHL. This helps you, especially in your personal development, to gain confidence in yourself and to simply try things out.
During my studies, it was especially exciting to see who HHL alumni are, what they do today – there were many exciting stories. After graduating, there was an incredible willingness on the alumni side to talk to HHL graduates if you want to get an impression of potential employers.
In the run-up to my founding, I also got to know a lot of alumni in Berlin who recommended me to others, made contacts and gave me tips; the network actually works very well.
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Photo (c) HHL