Career Story: Matthias Heise, Level12

January 30, 2014

Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation alumnus

What stages in your life have had the greatest impact on you and why?
Two things immediately spring to mind. On a positive note, I have been shaped by moving from Germany to Austria. We all speak German, and yet we are different in so many ways. This fact continues to put a smile on my face each and every day. On a far less positive note, my excursions through the night-time streets of Tokyo have had a profound impact on me. There, I encountered capitalism at its worst: Prada and Gucci bags next to people who have nothing at all. Witnessing this type of capitalism, which is completely unknown in Europe, has been a life-changing experience for me.

Did you originally want to pursue a career in a different field? If so, why is it that nothing has come of your plans?
Although I am passionate about architecture, I chose not to make a living out of it because of the poor career prospects in this field. However, in my current job, too, I can bring my creativity to life on a daily basis.

How and why did you come to found Level12?
Studying for the MBA has profoundly shaped me. The topics and fellow students you encounter during the program give you a wealth of new perspectives. After graduating, I had the urge to start something new, and it was thanks to the MBA that I felt confident enough to actually take the plunge into self-employment.

What has been your biggest professional/personal success?
For all the difficulties along the way, becoming self-employed has been my biggest success. Pursuing your own idea, getting people excited about something, and seeing the product develop is fun.

What are your goals for the coming year? Your goals in general? Is there still something you absolutely want to do?
It felt incredibly good to get my co-founder enthusiasastic about Level12. Now, I am trying to get many others to embrace our idea and participate in our current crowd-investing campaign. Apart from that, I would like to do some traveling to get to know countries off the beaten path.

What do you consider a “great luxury”?
Being free to choose when my day starts and when it ends. Moreover, I consider it a great luxury not to have a thousand things on my mind at bedtime.

What was the last book/movie you really enjoyed?
Although I was somewhat skeptical about the book because of the publicity it received, I found "Steve Jobs" particularly riveting. This biography is no entirely positive tribute to Steve Jobs but also depicts the less favorable aspects of his character. It was great to read about how, with determination and assertiveness, you can make your dreams come true. In terms of movies, I was thrilled by "Gravity", a motion picture starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. The film has a very simple plot and only a small cast, but the camerawork and the music create an incredibly tense atmosphere.

How would you characterize your philosophy of leadership? Has it been influenced by a leadership role-model?
I have yet to get used to this role. Being a leader is harder and more difficult than I thought it would be. I try to give all my colleagues individual room for maneuver and do not interfere more than absolutely necessary. However, if something sticks in my craw, I get short-tempered and unfriendly, which is hard on my team, I know, but nobody's perfect.

How do you recharge your batteries when you are not pursuing your demanding career?
By spending time in nature—and Austria has a wealth of beautiful spots to enjoy. Other than that, I go running in the park or meet friends over a pint of beer.

If you could change places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
The Man in the Moon in order to be able to see the Earth in all its beauty from up there. Joking aside, Karl Lagerfeld would be an interesting candidate to consider. I admire him for his attitude towards life and his determination.

Why would you recommend the Professional MBA (Entrepreneurship & Innovation) of the WU Executive Academy? What did you like the most?
Because it is a challenge—the program is tough at times, but you can be sure that, at the end of the day, the gain will outweigh the pain. As a young university student, I did not like lectures. Sitting in lecture halls and listening to boring stuff for hours just was not my cup of tea. During the MBA, things were completely different, though. The selection of topics was excellent, and the lecturers knew how to present them in such a way that, even after several days of working on them, you could not help but be excited. What is more, the diverse professional backgrounds of my fellow students enriched the program. Many of my classmates have become good friends of mine, and I would not want to be without them. I have particularly vivid memories of the splendid halls at Vienna’s Museum of Young Art (MOYA), some professors and our study trip to Boston. WU Vienna’s advisers were extremely helpful throughout the program and have continued to be obliging to this day.


My motto in life:
"We are all corpses on holiday." This sounds very negative, but it reminds you that you should take life as it comes and live every day in a positive way.
I can laugh about:
… caustic black humour that denounces or transcends the boundaries of social values and norms.
Mistakes I am most likely willing to forgive:
... are forgetfulness and many other small imperfections that make humans human.
I would spend my last money on:
... a good cold beer.
In 20 years I will be:
... read my answers to these questions and have a good laugh.

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