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"MCEI served as a launch pad for us" - interview with Bacchus co-founder Julian

"MCEI served as a launch pad for us" - interview with Bacchus co-founder Julian Bacchus Software

In the following interview we asked Julian from Bacchus Software about their founder story, his perception of MCEI courses and their most important experiences, to gain some takeaways for future founders. Bacchus Software provides a software for professional winegrowers to organize their tasks and improve their business. In case you would like to learn out more about Bacchus see their page https://www.bacchus-software.de/

 

What is the founding story behind Bacchus Software?

The project was born in the course Creativity and Entrepreneurship in Practice, offered by MCEI. There, Philipp was able to concretize his idea for a software for winemakers and wine-growing businesses for the first time. At the end of the course we had a business model with partially validated assumptions about the needs, desires and problems of regional winemakers. In addition, we developed a battle plan, a rough sketch of the product, but most importantly: the vision of the digitization of vineculture, which convinced Max and me to join.

Bacchus, that's us three today: Philipp Bletzer, Maximilian Dick and me, Julian Herrlich. Philipp and Max are studying business informatics at the University of Mannheim and the Technical University of Kaiserslautern. It is them who program our software and build up the digital infrastructure. They also take care of the further development of the software's functional scope. In doing so, they benefit from their experience from the family background of winegrowers. I myself am studying in the Master in Management at the University of Mannheim. Through my professional experience in wineries in Germany and California I am able to bring in, in addition to my business knowledge, practical advice and insights to the software development.

How much did MCEI courses help you with your venture? How did students from MCEI inside the venture projects perform in your company? What were their tasks?

Without MCEI, we would probably never have come together in this constellation. Even though Philipp was keen to implement the idea anyway, the MAN 631 course served as a launch pad for what was later to become Bacchus. When Philipp and Max sought support in the Entrepreneurial Spirit course in FSS 2020, it was not yet foreseeable that they would not be able to get rid of the student advisor after the Inside the Venture project was completed. Since that time, I have also been part of the then three-person founding team. MCEI had successfully brought together three wine-loving students with complementary skills who might otherwise never have met.

In the following semester, we were also able to make great progress in the detailed development of our business model with the help of a student advisor. MMM student Kourosh conducted customer interviews, reviewed selected previous assumptions of our business model, and independently researched the feasibility of feature ideas.  We are now entering the third round of participation with the MAN 633 in FSS 2021. This time, we were even able to convince three highly motivated students from various disciplines of our vision and are now looking forward to working together.

Are you all crazy about wine?

The fact that we want to develop a software for regional winemakers is not the result of an extensive market and niche attractiveness analysis. It is an affair of the heart. It is the desire to contribute a small part in the process of adding value to German quality wines. When we once again open a bottle from the vintner in the neighboring village at dinner and enjoy it with the knowledge that Bacchus was able to assist in the production of this wine - then we have achieved our goal. In the end, it is the regional connection and the joy of drinking wine that unites and drives the three of us.

How would you explain your product to someone who never heard of it?

If you only know wine from the supermarket shelf, you first have to understand how much work is involved in cultivating and caring for vines and what coordination effort is involved for the vintner. We then describe our vision of an all-encompassing digital solution in viticulture as follows: "And now we are bringing all the relevant vineyard information onto the computer. The winemaker no longer has to go out, he no longer has to distribute handwritten notes in heavy binders. He sees everything on his computer: the weather, the development of his vines, the work of his employees. And then he plans where, what, when and by whom is done without leaving the house. In addition, the German government wants to keep an eye on when the vintner handles pesticides and fertilizers. So we document this information for him right away when the relevant activities are done."

How is the acceptance among potential clients? Aren't winegrowers too conservative for using a software/an app?

Young winemakers who have taken over their family's winery in recent years are naturally our next target group as early adopters. They are well educated, have grown up with the digital world, and are often naturally eager to break down and change old processes and thought patterns. There are a few of them, and these young winemakers are enormously helpful for us, because they already have an understanding of technology and sometimes have precise ideas and good ideas about how software can be used in viticulture.
At the other extreme, of course, are the "we've always done it this way!" winegrowers who describe themselves as "analogous dinosaurs". We see this scepticism as a challenge: What functions do we need to develop so that even the field manager who still swears by his keypad cell phone decides to use IT to reorganize, improve and make his employees' work processes more efficient? As the next generation, it is our task to tell German winegrowers about the possibilities of digitization and to credibly present the advantages of digital processes. That is our contribution to the further development of German viticulture.

What are you biggest challenges right now?

We have been working on the development of our software since the end of 2019. Since March, our MVP is ready to be implemented by wineries. More features are already in the pipeline, but first our task is to show Palatinate winemakers that we exist and what we can offer them. The point of this launch phase is to find development partners among the wineries who share our vision and recognize the benefits of the software.

How come you aren't in Berlin? How have you perceived the startup ecosystem at the University of Mannheim?

What do we want in Berlin? In principle, we belong in San Francisco, directly in the Salesforce Tower. Because from there it's only about an hour's drive to California's superstar wine-growing region, Napa Valley. There are some world-class wineries there, and the weather is better, too. All kidding aside, here's the thing: One of the most important aspects of our business model is customer-focused development and personal support. Everything is done in collaboration with the winemakers. No decision is made without us getting the opinion of those who will end up using the software. Apart from the fact that two of us are native and convinced Palatines anyway, Mannheim offers the perfect location: a livable big city with proximity to industry and research. Two of Germany's largest and most renowned wine-growing regions, the Palatinate and Rheinhessen, are right outside the city gates. So if not San Francisco, then at least Mannheim.

What advice would you give to other students thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?

Whether we are really qualified to give advice is questionable. Every day we know even better that we know nothing. Nonetheless, here are two things that come to mind off the top of my head: Try to solve problems for your customers that you really care about and that you genuinely enjoy solving. If we were three beer drinkers who didn't care about German viticulture, we would have given up three times already and scrapped the project. Even if our project wasn't crowned with success in the end, we learned an incredible amount along the way and had a lot of fun together.

Another practical tip that we had to learn the hard way: Identifying and validating the customer's problems is one thing, but developing functions that the customer really wants to use is another. Ideas and concepts must be discussed persistently and concretely with potential users. A continuous exchange with customers - "co-creation" should be what startups are seeking for.

Julian, thanks for your time!

 

 

 

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  • As part of the MAN 633 Entrepreneurial Spirit course in spring 2020 Julian Herrlich supported Bacchus Software. His main task was to revise and improve the company´s business...

Sponsors

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  • Institut für Mittelstandsforschung
  • Gründerverbund
  • ESF
  • Europäische Union
  • Baden-Württemberg - Ministerium für Finanzen und Wirtschaft
  • Absolventum