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empower® wins Bootstrapper Award 2020

Theresa Spiller
January 21, 2021

We are pleased to announce that empower® has been awarded the Software Bootstrap Award. FLEX Capital, has named us together with two other companies as winners of the Bootstrapper Award for 2020. In this interview, Kathleen Goy and Peter Waleczek from FLEX Capital talk to one of the empower® founders, Stephan Kuhnert, about bootstrapping, the success story of empower®, and tips for founders. You can read a summary of the interview below or watch the whole interview as a video.

Software Bootstrapper Winner 2020

Software Bootstrapper Award 2020


What is Bootstrapping?

Bootstrapping means starting and growing a company without any form of external capital. The term bootstrapping derives from the English idiom "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" – pulling your own boots on using their bootstraps, instead of relying on someone else to put them on for you (like a servant). Bootstrapping founders don't take out loans, accept donations, or the like to start their business. The company finances everything out of its own pocket. This approach means that any growth is the result of its own energy.


What was empower®'s motivation to be apply for the award?

Stephan Kuhnert: At empower® we wanted to focus more public attention on the topic of bootstrapping. The emphasis is often about cool start-ups in the media, but never about how they did it. Since bootstrapping is also part of empower®'s identity, the topic is especially interesting for us. 


empower®’s development and success story 

empower®'s story began with my co-founder Fabian Willebrand and I working on our idea for three years, evenings and weekends in addition to our full-time jobs. Our idea was that companies and people can save a lot more time when working with documents and PowerPoint presentations and also present themselves in the best possible way. Fortunately, empower® was able to finance itself through its own revenue stream in the early stages. With a major order from the Boston Consulting Group in 2008, empower® picked up speed. Since then, empower® has grown by 40-50% a year and now employs 75 people. All developments have evolved in a natural way using the bootstrapping method. We just never gave up.  


Where did you develop orientation and leadership as a founder? 

We didn't have a mentor who stood by us. It's more like my co-founder Fabian and I were our own mentors. Through give and take with each other, we’ve always come to good decisions. In addition, communication with customers was a very important guide to making decisions. I would say that by talking to customers, listening to them and uncovering problems, we’ve been able to identify some problem patterns and be guided by them.  


What top 3 tips would you give to other founders? 

  1. If you have an idea, try working on it on the side. Take the time to implement your idea after work and on weekends.    
  2. Don't think too much. In order to get financial support from banks, a precise business plan usually has to be produced. For many, this leads to some issues being reconsidered far too often. With the bootstrapping method, this isn’t necessary. You don't have to present anything to anyone. Of course, you can create a business plan, but you don't have to reconsider it several times and can start implementing it directly. As I said, I would always learn from interacting with clients.  
  3. Create your business based on a passion, not a potential market advantage. If you start your own company in addition to your work, you should be able to have enough passion for the cause, so that you can survive difficult days.  


The interview with FLEX Capital and empower® founder Stephan Kuhnert   


We would like to thank all those involved

We would like to thank FLEX Capital for this special award and look forward to inspiring you with our history in the future. Many thanks especially to the two interview partners Cathleen and Peter, who took the time to listen to our story and make it public. We would also like to thank the co-operators Bits & Pretzels, DUB Entrepreneurs' Exchange, and the Entrepreneurs Academy.  

empower® empowers people around the world to create professional and brand-compliant presentations, documents, and emails more easily and efficiently. So everyone has more time for what really drives them, and can get the best out of themselves and for the company. Learn more about our Office add-in empower® on our homepage. 

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