In the latest of our occasional series of interviews with founders and CEOs – distributed each month through the Atomico newsletter, which you can sign up to here – we talk to Remo Gerber of Lilium

For those who may not be familiar, who is Remo Gerber? 

In July this year I joined Lilium as their Chief Commercial Officer (CCO). The role is a hybrid of CFO and COO, joining the team to build the world’s first electrical VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) Jet for commercial use.

Previously I was the Managing Director of Gett in the UK and Western Europe, and the COO of Northern Europe for Groupon. Before that I was at McKinsey, focusing on a mix of general strategy work and service operations across many different industries and geographies.

Lilium’s mission is to build an electric jet that can take off and land vertically (VTOL), and transition to horizontal flight. This will give us incredible efficiency, and enable us to commercialise globally, potentially at a price comparable to a road taxi.

My top three skills I “bring to the table” are, I would say:

  • I trained as a  physicist, studying at ETH Zurich; I then did  a PhD at the University of Oxford. So I am a scientist by training – even if I’m a little rusty! It is very useful, though, when being part of this incredibly skilled team of scientists and engineers, that I have the background that enables me to understand some if not all of the science behind the Jet.

  • Combined with this, I have  hands-on experience of both start-ups, and running a large European mobility company. This will be very useful for the global commercial launch of Lilium

  • Finally I will be able to  use my McKinsey and Groupon/Gett management experiences to drive our corporate structures so that we successfully execute a very complex engineering and manufacturing challenge, as well as launch a commercial operation

 

What are the three most important things a founder or CEO should interrogate / fix in their business?

Firstly, always start with people: get your core team right and don’t compromise. This is especially important in the early years when everything is at its hardest. Secondly, don’t over-complicate things. Enforce simplicity – it’s a great way (perhaps the only way) to drive true innovation. Thirdly, instill execution discipline in the team and model what you want from your team – so be on time for meetings, meet deadlines and never offer anyone less than you’d be happy with yourself.

 

Give us your best recent practical anecdote of a practical fix that you’ve seen deliver bottom-line business transformation?

I’ve seen organisations grow rapidly and have to develop a large service organisation. I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of investing early in a ‘closed loop’ ticketing system that will allow all your teams to manage the customer journey through genuine interaction and collaboration – rather than relying on email, messaging or tools like Slack. So your social media team is genuinely connected with customer service and finance, with the teams able to work together to solve customers’ problems. By building a structure like this I’ve seen organisations de-stress significantly, free up thinking time, and have more forward thrust. It’s much better to have this rather than be constantly fire fighting and working at one-step removed.

 

Who do you think is killing it right now?

Lilium of course! Joking aside, I think there are the obvious large tech players who have developed strong, strategic positions at global scale, both in Asia and the US; it’s interesting to see how far their hockey stick growth will go. Having said that, there is an interesting new generation of AI startups such as Drive.ai – although that world is currently too uncertain to predict who will emerge as winners.

 

What are the biggest problems ​CEOs​ have in 2017?

Throughout next year we will continue to see significant market uncertainty – much of which will be driven by the various challenges of global politics. The real task, however, is to try to see a 5-10 horizon (which CEOs need to do) in a world with increasingly rapid and global change.  Predicting outcomes right now is probably as hard as it’s ever been.

 

Make a prediction – by the end of 2017…WHAT?

Angela Merkel will be Chancellor of Germany once again, and Brexit will still be mired in uncertainty and confusion!

You can read more about Atomico’s investment in Lilium here!