Five Questions for … Fabian Höhne
Our alumnus Fabian Höhne is barely 26 years old. However, his age and lack of years of business experience have not stopped him from successfully founding the company Flyla.com, which sells unsold flight tickets to students. We talked to him about what kind of role the University and the TUM Management Alumni e.V. played in his exciting development as an entrepreneur and how he’s made a habit of thanking us – with parties.
How did you end up founding your own company at age 26?
It all started with me completing my bachelor’s degree and starting my master’s degree at the TUM School of Management. The entrepreneurial spirit is ever-present at this university – something that I experienced time and time again during the course of my studies, for example at the Entrepreneurship Center or in seminars. Therefore, my peers and I were almost subconsciously prepared for starting our own businesses. What ultimately triggered my own launch into the startup world was a vacation that I wanted to take with my co-founder Frederic. Our idea was to drive to the airport and buy a last-minute ticket. It seemed like the perfect way to have a cheap vacation and get to a surprising destination. Unfortunately, we soon came to realize that such tickets did not exist at the time. This is ridiculous, as over a billion flight tickets go unsold every year. Shortly after that, our idea to start a business that sells these tickets to students, at a low price, was born, and we founded Flyla.com.
How did the university help you with realizing your idea?
During the foundational phase, we got a lot of support from the TUM School of Management. Part of that was receiving the EXIST scholarship. Without that we would not have been able to build up a business.
However, the most valuable thing the university gave me was a large network. Looking back on it, my studies led to the fact that I now have friends all over the world. The time we spent together at the university was essential for building strong bonds. And all these relationships are extremely valuable to me today. That’s why I feel like studying at the TUM School of Management gave me so much more than lectures, papers and grades. Plus, the alumni association makes it easy to stay in contact for years to come.
What kind of experiences do you associate with the TUM Management Alumni e.V.?
My fellow students and I registered in the second semester and then went to the Vorhoelzer Forum at the summer party. The event showed me what my studies could lead to – if I was able to take full advantage of the opportunities that were right in front of me. Occasions like that first one put you in position to chat chat with a McKinsey partner and then with a founder of a successful company during the course of the same evening. Needless to say, this provides an incredible breeding ground for thinking about which path you want to take after graduation. Since then, the summer party has become something of a tradition for me. Now I also meet former fellow students there. We reminisce together and exchange ideas. It’s always exciting to see what everyone has been doing in the meantime!
Are you still participating in the association’s activities?
While still studying I began to organize end-of-semester events with my best friend from the university. When it finally became time to hand in our bachelor’s thesis, the TUM School of Management asked us if we wanted to organize the graduate dinner. Of course, we were happy to do that – and the party was a complete success. Two years later the university approached me again, and since then I have kept on organizing the festive dinner with speeches by the dean and student representatives, as well as the afterparty. This has become very important to me because it allows me to give something back to the university that offered me so much.
I am sure there are many students who are currently thinking about starting their own businesses. Which skills do you need to bring along?
For me personally, the most important thing for a founder is to know what problem he or she wants to solve. In order to do so, one should ask oneself: Is that really a problem that customers have? Many founders get lost in working on ideas for which there are hardly any target groups. Then, the whole business idea is doomed to fail.
Once you have identified a real problem, the right focus becomes the most essential thing in my opinion – the focus of concentrating on what is important to your success. You will always be facing distractions, no matter at which stage. These are the biggest risks for the success of your project. If you constantly minimize these risks and do not allow yourself to be distracted, you are already one step closer to success.
During the pandemic, Fabian and his team wanted to make a difference. They founded the platform CleverAckern where they connect students with farmers who have problems with their harvest because of the missing workers. Over 40.000 seasonal helper registered to help.
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