From Chemnitz to the cloud
A visit to Hojoki gives a real sense of the entrepreneurial spirit prevailing in Silicon Valley.
In the beginning was the cloud, where data is stored on the Internet. “And a run-down building in eastern Chemnitz,” says Martin Böhringer. That was where the 29-year-old and his colleagues first found space when they set up Hojoki in January 2011. Austere traces of the building’s past as public authority offices were still much in evidence back then, but things are very different today. The company is now located at the opposite end of town in a grand late 19th century building in the elegant Kaßberg neighbourhood.
Böhringer works alongside co-founders Lutz Gerlach (40), Danilo Härtzer (36) and Thilo Schmalfuß (33) at the company’s new premises. All of them come from the region. They and eight employees focus on refining the services provided by Hojoki, which describes itself as a cloud aggregator. Böhringer and his team specialise in developing a central connection point (live stream) for a multitude of cloud apps, mainly for companies in the Internet-driven creative industries. “We make it possible to see the status of work projects in real time by displaying activities chronologically,” he explains. Documents, contacts and deadlines can all be incorporated. This allows employees to follow the progress of work tasks, comment on them and exchange information with colleagues. The aim, he says, is to coordinate different applications more quickly on a cloud basis. In order to do this, Hojoki programs web and smartphone applications that connect specific cloud apps – such as Dropbox and Evernote – via a user interface. There is both a free and a paid version, with the latter offering enhanced technical features.
Company philosophy from distant lands and times
When choosing a name for their company, Hojoki’s inventors took a Japanese book title from the 13th century as their inspiration. The philosophical content of the book was later linked with the ancient Greek principle that “everything flows”. Hojoki has recently developed CatchApp – an app that enables companies to do away with providing weekly update reports. Instead, managers are able to see in real time what progress has been made on a project and where the obstacles lie.
The team pursues unconventional options when it comes to financing. After receiving a set-up grant from Saxony’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, Böhringer proceeded to find new financial backing. Two external investors contributed sums totalling several millions. Product development has now been stepped up and at some point “there may be an IPO or a sale,” says Böhringer, hopefully. And that might not necessarily remain a pipe dream for long, as the case of American competitor Yammer shows. It was acquired by Microsoft in 2012, for 1.2 billion dollars.