Dominic Scherz, COO at Gentoo App, lives in Switzerland, where he pursues his Master's degree at the University of Zurich. Cathrine Schermann interviewed the 25-year-old over Skype.
Cathrine: Dominic, you just got back from TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco! How was it? Any favourite memories you would like to share with us?
Dominic: San Francisco was absolutely amazing! The energy at TechCrunch Disrupt was really inspiring: The amount of interesting and driven people in such a small space was overwhelming. Looking back now the week we spent in San Francisco feels like much more than just seven days, it was so packed with experiences. It's difficult to pick a single favourite moment but exhibiting in the Startup Alley in our bright orange T-shirts on Tuesday was definitively one of the highlights.
Cathrine: Nice! So, tell us about your role at Gentoo App!
Dominic: William and I have known each other for quite some time, we met at a Model United Nations conference in Nottingham. We've grown to be really close friends, despite the distance between London and Zurich. As such, we would often go to each other for advice, and when William founded Gentoo App, it naturally became a large topic in our frequent conversations. When he had to write texts related to Gentoo App, he would come to me for feedback and I soon became the content manager for Gentoo App. As time went on, I officially became the COO, essentially the right hand of the CEO.
Cathrine: What does a Chief Operating Officer exactly do?
Dominic: As the Chief Operations Officer of COO, my role is to support William in everything he does. This ranges from organising meetings, discussing new strategies and giving feedback on various matters to making sure he gets his morning coffee at conferences we attend together (laughs).
Cathrine: What did you do before joining the Gentoo App team?
Dominic: I have recently graduated from the University of Zurich with a bachelor's degree in English literature and language, Chinese (sinology) and political sciences. Next to my studies, I worked 60% as a shift supervisor at Starbucks for four years, where I learned to organise large teams, handled HR as well as sales. During my semester breaks, I also completed two internships, one as a translation manager and the other in marketing and communications.
Cathrine: What would you say makes you good at your job?
Dominic: I'd like to think of myself as a thoughtful and organised person with a critical mind. I can work independently and rely on few support structures, but I am also a great team-player who likes to coordinate and collaborate. My communication skills are my key asset in all of this; I believe listening to people and understanding their concerns before speaking is crucial for seeing the whole picture and making informed comments. I think this is why people value my constructive criticism.
Cathrine: What are your biggest challenges as a COO?
Dominic: Sometimes there's a lot happening all at once and I need to stay on top of it, getting the information I need to ensure productive communication and enable solid decision-making. That's not always easy, but my organisational skills really help me out there.
Cathrine: What do most people misunderstand about your occupation/field?
Dominic: Sometimes it is rather difficult to pin down what a COO does exactly because the tasks vary so greatly. I am here to ensure that things run smoothly. Sometimes that does take larger and more visible actions, but most of the time it's the small things that really make the difference in the end.
Cathrine: Why do you believe in Gentoo App as a product?
Dominic: It addresses some of the most basic problems that exist with the native contacts manager we have on our devices today. What's not to love?
Cathrine: You've know William for quite some time now, tell us something about him that nobody knows!
Dominic: I'm pretty sure some other people know this too but... When William swears, which he does rarely, he swears in Danish. I think that's pretty funny (laughs).
Cathrine: Finally, what is a fun fact about you?
Dominic: English is actually only my fourth language, I only started learning it in school at the age of 12 or so... that didn't stop me from taking it as a major at university though (laughs).
Here at Gentoo, we are aware of the importance of networking - after all, it is what drove us to develop a smart contacts manager that is easy for everyone to use. Unfortunately, networking is often looked upon as something tedious and inconvenient – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and sometimes even associated with a negative connotation. Nonetheless, networking is extemely important. To show you why, we have come up with our top 5 reasons why networking is crucial for everyone’s growth and everyday lives.
1. Weak ties matter
Why network with someone you barely know, you might wonder. After all, it is the people we are closest with, who elevate our careers. Actually, according to research, quite the opposite is true!
Mark Granovetter of John Hopkins University, who wrote a highly regarded research paper in 1973, states that it is the weak ties, the brief encounters and acquaintances we make throughout our lives, that further our careers. That’s right, next time you are chatting to someone you have not met before, do exchange contact details and maybe even send a follow-up email the next day. You never know where this brief encounter might lead you.
2. Learn about yourself
Perfecting your elevator pitch and meeting new people is always a good idea in order to grow and learn more about yourself. What are you proud of? Where do you want your career to go? What are your goals in life? That isn’t just small talk, but questions that matter. Reflect on them and get to know yourself a little better. After all, you might meet that perfect person who could help you land your dream job, or even be the one...
3. It boosts your confidence
Going up to someone new and introducing yourself is intimidating. Hence, most people are not brave enough and will only talk to their coworkers at networking events. Be different! Be that brave person! People will appreciate your efforts and the fact that you show an interest in them. Over time, you will learn how to approach people and get better and better at it. Eventually, you will have perfected your elevator pitch and be comfortable attending events by yourself meeting new people everywhere you go.
4. Networking builds relationships
It does take some effort to stay in touch with people, but the ones that do it successfully, will eventually land a dream job. If you meet a hiring manager of an interesting company, don’t wait until the perfect position opens up to get back in touch with them. The most important thing is to build a relationship with that person before, so they remember you when that perfect job role arises. Do send that follow-up email, and always be nice, modest and kind - it will go a long way.
5. Networking can lead to something bigger
Some of the most beautiful friendships started from networking at work events. Because sometimes you might meet someone new through a work-related context, that you would actually enjoy meeting in your spare time as well. And after all, you already have the work background in common, so that is a great starting point for a successful relationship or friendship.
So there you have it! Hopefully we could encourage you to go out there and network. One of the reasons we created Gentoo was to help people connect and stay in touch, building longer-lasting relationships. With Gentoo App, you are only one tap away from connecting with another person forever – it’s that easy.
Time is flying by and it's almost time to start packing for TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco!
We can’t express enough how honoured and excited we are about attending TechCrunch Disrupt's flagship event in San Francisco this year. Not only are we looking forward to be reuniting with some of our favourite people in the startup and tech industry, but we will also be exhibiting Gentoo App on the second day of the event! That’s right, it’s almost time and we are making the final touches. On Tuesday September 19th you can find us in the 'Startup Alley' showcasing our new amazing app to investors, journalists and industry professionals from all over the world - and hopefully we will meet you there too!
So please do come by and say 'Hi'. It has been an extremely busy first year for everyone at Gentoo, so we would be over the moon to reconnect with our peers and friends and make new connections. And of course, we would love to introduce Gentoo to you in person.
To say the least, we are ready for you, San Francisco!
In the meantime, make sure to follow our journey on Facebook and Twitter at @Gentooapp - we will be tweeting along and sharing our favourite moments from TCD. Don't miss out!
At 23 years old, startup founder William Skannerup has singled out and tackled one of the main problems we face at some point in our lives – losing contact with important people in our lives.
Cathrine Schermann met the London based founder for an interview
Cathrine: William, it’s great to meet you. Briefly tell me about your app.
William: Gentoo is an improved contact book for both iOS and Android, which allows you to easily connect and stay connected to your contacts.
Cathrine: What lead you to create Gentoo?
William: Over the course of the last three years, I have become increasingly frustrated with the contact book solutions which currently exist. After talking to my friends about the trouble I was experiencing, I quickly noticed that they struggled with the same issues: sharing your contact details is clumsy and impractical, contact information is hard to find and often incomplete. Another problem is that email addresses and phone numbers change all the time. All of this makes it very difficult for people to stay in touch, especially in the long term. Because my personal connections matter to me, I have decided to come up with a solution: Gentoo App.
Cathrine: Sounds great in theory, but do we really need another app?
William: I think we can all agree that connections matter. Be it our friends, family, colleagues or work contacts. Everyone has a contact book in which they manage their contact details. Why not do it in a faster, smarter, more efficient way? Gentoo App will save you days of headaches! You'll never have to worry about old phone numbers or losing a contact. And the best thing is, it's free!
Cathrine: Privacy has become more and more relevant over the last decade. Why should I trust Gentoo with my personal details?
William: With Gentoo you will always own your data. The only information Gentoo App holds is directly entered into your own profile by you. It will never be shared with a third party without your consent. If you ever decide to delete your profile, your data will be deleted too.
Cathrine: How has the overall reception been so far?
William: Since starting Gentoo App, I've met individuals from Singapore to San Francisco doing amazing things! We've actually exhibited at a number of conferences and events and the response has been great! We've received a lot of support in return from fellow startups to well established companies that see the same problems and are waiting for us to solve it. I feel very lucky. I also attend meet-ups regularly and am constantly sharing my knowledge with other aspiring founders.
Cathrine: You sound really busy! What do you do in your free time?
William: I have to admit, I have spent a lot of time working on Gentoo App. Since January I have been putting together a talented team of people who are just as passionate about making connecting easier. They take some work off my hands and so I do get some leisure time now and then. When I do, I like to spend my time catching up with my friends over a pint, going to the gym, or skyping my family.
Cathrine: Lastly, would you share with us a fun fact about yourself?
William: I'm an avid rock climber, try and go bouldering at least once a month although I'm afraid of heights. I like to challenge myself (laughs).