Image of Role Model Carolin Maier

Role Model: Carolin Maier

Role Model: Carolin Maier

Every month we ask one individual in our network a few questions about their way into tech, their motivation and their lessons learned.

Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about where you’re from!

I grew up in a town next to the lake of Zurich and it was lovely to always have the lake and the mountains around me. Then, I moved to St. Gallen to study business administration. Studying in a city like this, with great fellow students, a strong practical focus and cooperation with companies was inspiring.

During this time, I pursued two professional directions. Firstly, I gained valuable insights into the world of investors while working for a private equity firm. And secondly, I got in touch with the design thinking methodology and did some very interesting consulting projects.

What valuable advice did you get from your parents?

There is not a single advice that stands out, but rather a full backpack of values that my parents lived by and passed on to me, e.g.:

Be happy!

Work for your goals and pursue them.

Be curious, reliable, and empathetic towards others!

Build and cherish relationships with those around you.

This positive and optimistic, hands-on mentality combined with a lot of dedication and perseverance has always been a good advisor to me so far and helped me navigate through life!

How did you become interested in tech?

During my Master in Business Innovation studies at the University of St. Gallen, I had the opportunity to explore the intersection of business and technology. Through numerous projects with industrial companies, I gained hands-on experience in how different types of technology can improve people’s lives, streamline business operations, and much more.

This exposure to a future-oriented, solution-focused approach to problem-solving ignited my passion for technology and fueled my desire to learn more. Since then, my interest in tech has only continued to grow.

You are the founder of an industrial tech startup, how did you and your co-founders meet and how did you come up with the idea?

Prodlane originally emerged from a joint master thesis at the University of St. Gallen and the Hasso-Plattner Institute, where we researched the question of how a software solution can support design thinking. During the thesis, we conducted numerous interviews with product managers and discovered that there was so much untapped potential in this area.

Although I had not intended to found a startup, I was very intrigued by the opportunity to solve the pain points of users. It was during this time that I met my two co-founders. Mathias and Moritz recognized the same potential, and so the idea for Prodlane was born. We started an evaluation phase to gain an understanding of the market and the challenges that product managers face today. And two years later, Prodlane has become the digital workspace for industrial product management!

Your startup Prodlane is based in Germany. How is the tech ecosystem in Germany different compared to Switzerland?

Overall, both Germany and Switzerland have strong tech startup ecosystems. As we three founders have our network in both countries, we have been able, we have been able to tap into the advantages of both countries. We had the opportunity to meet outstanding people and leverage the benefits of each ecosystem to grow Prodlane.

For example, Germany was a big chance for us regarding the talent pool. Germany has a larger population, bigger cities and the living expenses are lower. This enabled us to build an exceptional team.

In terms of customers, Germany’s strong and large industrial sector is a great market for our products. However, Switzerland seems to have more companies willing to try and invest in new and innovative solutions. This has made it an attractive environment for us to collaborate with early adopters since the very beginning.

So yes, as a founder you need to be aware of the key differences in terms of size, funding, culture, industry focus, and regulatory environment. However, my advice to anyone starting a business in these countries would be to look for hands-on, innovation-driven individuals, accelerators, team members, customers, and investors in both countries to maximize your startup’s potential.

What advice would you give to people who want to start their own startup in the industrial tech space?

Launching a startup in the industrial tech sector can be a challenging yet rewarding endeavor. In my opinion, the area faces many complex challenges which are difficult but definitely worth solving.

It is important to keep in mind that customers in this industry may be difficult to persuade, and it may take time to gain their trust. However, this challenge can also be a powerful motivator. With hard work and perseverance, a startup can make a significant impact in a massive industry. It is very important to identify early adopters as customers and establish great partnerships. These collaborations can help refine your ideas and products while also expanding your startup’s reach.

A very crucial success factor and motivation especially in this area is having great co-founders with a diverse background. Combining expertise in technology, business, and industrial engineering can help you develop comprehensive solutions that meet customer needs. Such diversity can also provide the motivation and drive needed to tackle this challenging field and make an impact.

Have you ever had a role model that inspired you on your path?

I am convinced that the people closest to us can serve as the most impactful role models, as they are the most tangible.
Square Image of Carolin Maier, role model
Carolin Maier

For me, this has included my parents and sister, as well as friends, fellow students, professors, coworkers, and many others!

What aspects of your work are you proudest of?

I am very proud that together with the people around me I just take action and make things happen. Because as a founder, you are responsible for so many areas and have to get everything off the ground yourself. It is challenging but also deeply rewarding to see the company grow and evolve each day.

In addition, I believe that building a great team and fostering a positive team spirit is key to the long-term success of any company, and it brings me great pride that this seems to be working out so far 😉.

What drives you at work?

My curiosity, the steep learning curve and especially the great people around me!

What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech?

In my experience so far, the toughest challenges do not actually relate to the technology itself, but rather to the customers. Specifically, understanding their true needs, identifying the right problem-solution fit, introducing innovations to the market, convincing all the stakeholders and so on. Successfully navigating these challenges requires a highly customer-centric mind-set, as well as perseverance.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast?

There is not really “the one” – but what has helped me a lot on my journey is the design thinking mentality. I recommend everyone to explore this approach, not just as a toolbox of techniques, but also as a set of values that can have a profound impact on both your work and life.

What advice would you give other women in tech?

Just continue doing what you are doing 😉. By pursuing your passions and interests, you can inspire other women to do the same. Because I am convinced that real and tangible role models help the most.

And what advice would you give women not yet working in tech that want to enter the field?

I would say to them: Just do it! Like in any other field, it is crucial to find great co-founders and team members. Together, you can overcome any challenges and bring innovations to the field.

Remember that diverse teams are better equipped to make informed and inclusive decisions, as they bring different experiences and backgrounds to the table.
Square Image of Carolin Maier, role model
Carolin Maier

So you are a great chance for each table! Tech is a great industry to work in if you want to be part of a dynamic, agile, fast-paced, motivated, and hard-working environment. Also, keep in mind that a tech startup is not just about coding. There are endless job opportunities in sales, marketing, strategy, finance, and more, all while being part of a vibrant and ever-changing environment.


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