Katrin Alberding is co-founder & co-CEO of our portfolio company Kenbi. The company develops software to empower nurses and fill the gaps in the healthcare system and outpatient care. We found Kenbi in 2019 through our good friends at Heartcore Capital (thanks Max & Levin!). What stopped us in our tracks was Katrin’s, Clemens’, and Bruno’s intrinsic motivation to solve the care market for the better. We hope that through their work, the world will gain a different perception of caregivers and nurses.
What’s something your parents told you that still influences you today?
If you never leave the beaten path, you never leave noticeable footprints. I was seven: At school, we made one of these booklets where you add stickers and poems. At home, I handed it over to my dad. He wrote this in and it has stayed in my head since. Now that you ask me, I just discovered it was a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry!
Few people know this about you but...
I regularly saw Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, in a speedo. Turns out, we were in the same water polo club at university. And you might not guess it, but I have ridden motorcycles since I was 16, am a certified lifesaver, and completed an Ironman Triathlon. I used to pilot helicopters, too!
How would your worst enemy describe you?
As too intense. There’s a certain persistence about me that can be very annoying. I constantly ask: What else? I want to know: Why? I just don’t let go. It can be a great character trait to get stuff done. But also stresses the hell out of those around me.
And I annoyingly need to be right. I’ll research my bones out to prove my point.
What’s something you are trying to learn?
First: Focus. My co-founder Clemens just gifted me a book on the art of not getting distracted. It talks about setting blocks to concentrate, but also deliberate times to shut off. You need to master that to preserve your energy and get through the day-to-day. Thinking that multitasking is a good skill is a trap. Second: To listen more and assume less. Jumping to conclusions can be highly destructive. Listening is a skill one can train and develop.
Fill in the blank: Because of Kenbi, you will never___ again.
Be employable. I thought about it when we filed for our business name. I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to a state where I put so much energy in place in someone else's dream. I would still double down and want to do it myself.
What’s your strangest memory of founding?
Stealing toilet paper. Our co-founder Bruno lives in Porto, Portugal. One time he came over, we couldn’t afford hotels. So we rented a cheap AirBnB. That didn’t have toilet paper. Everything was closed and we were in a rush. So I went to a bar and took a roll of toilet paper from the restroom. I felt so terrible about it that I left a €10 tip.
Tell us about your worst investor pitch and why you're still cringing.
I give you both sides of the table! Clemens and I did a pitch competition in business school. An investor asked this very long and convoluted question: I lost track of it. Surely, Clemens was listening more attentively and would answer it? He wasn’t. We had this back and forth where we kept inviting each other to answer. And it was clear we had no idea what the question was.
Another time, we sort of got kicked out of a VC meeting. Our pre-seed was based on the idea. We didn’t have a company yet. Our point of contact couldn’t make it and another partner stepped in for them. He was very blunt in telling us how we knew nothing of the outpatient care business. That we were riding on the usual story of “my grandmother needed care”. I was furious about that comment. First of all, I grew up with a disabled brother: Care was an integrated part of our daily family life. Secondly: I don’t believe you need to be an expert in a certain industry to change it. The fact everyone has a “grandmother story” is the point we are trying to make: You don’t need to be a medical professional to be affected by it! I couldn’t take it. We parted feeling thoroughly misunderstood and more fired up than ever. A year on (after our rebrand) that same VC contacted us again, asking to get to know us. We politely declined.
The one business question you hate getting.
“What’s your business model?” It’s a super relevant one, but phrased this way is just not targeted enough. It’s like asking “What’s your strategy”. It’s not targeted enough: It takes context to give a meaningful answer.
What’s something you were wrong about when you started Kenbi?
When we started enrolling nurses, we would award successful referrals with €1000. It made absolutely no difference. Especially in the care sector, money is not the only motivation. People are driven by relationships and the impact they can have.
What does no one tell you about being an entrepreneur?
How, as you grow, you cannot get to know everyone as much as you used to. You start to become more of an “entity” and less of an actual person in some people’s eyes. Now it’s over 150 of us in 15+ independent teams. It’s getting tougher to make personal connections with everyone and stay accessible to all needs and questions. It’s an active struggle I feel.
If you were asked to write a book tomorrow, what would it be about?
I think about organizational structures a lot. How do we get each team to be more self-managed? What structures motivate them? What drives them on an emotional level? There’s a lot of good theory books on the topic, but I haven’t found one that teaches you the actionable steps to make it work in practice. Once I figure that out, I’ll write it myself.
Growing. Continuing to digitize our processes and back office, to give everyone the tools to work independently. We are expanding our products beyond physical care. We are building a digital campus. We start with an online educational course for nurses and will continue with a marketplace with products relevant to them and patient treatment. Many patients cannot be easily transported to their doctor’s offices. We will innovate by becoming the extended arm allowing doctors to visit and treat patients remotely through the expert care of nurses.