Gave Chegg money for wrong answers
interviewMaxim Nitsche on his first million
Lars Hinrichs, Jette Joop, Cornelia Funke and Christian Völkers - they all have one thing in common: They are millionaires. But was that even a goal in life for her? What role did luck and chance play in this? Can you learn how to handle money correctly or incorrectly? Well-known personalities from business and society provide answers to these and many other questions. A book full of stories and wisdom, an entertaining and informative read! More information here
Capital: Mr. Nitsche, you won chemistry Olympics and chess championships and then studied mathematics. How do you become such a genius?
Maxim Nitsche: I grew up in a family of mathematicians. My father made us kids do brain teasers when we were little.
They gave tutoring and at the age of 14 came up with the idea of digitizing explanations for curve discussions and integral calculus. Was your father excited?
He called it a crazy idea. It took my brother Raphael and I six months to convince him of this. We noticed that we can be uncomfortably persistent when we work as a team. At some point my father was so annoyed that he was ready to help us if we would provide facts, figures and a business plan. It's not that easy at 14.
And what did you deliver?
We showed him that math is a monster problem and the market is huge. In Germany, 1 billion euros are spent annually on tutoring, in South Korea eight times as much, and worldwide it is expected to be more than 100 billion dollars in 2021. My father said: "Okay, this is a big thing."
That was in 2009. Didn't anyone else get the idea?
Some had them, including Microsoft. But it is a highly complex task. We had the right nose at the right time and are the perfect team. My father, who programmed chess computers and search engines, provided the first draft. He and my brother then discarded it and rewrote it twice.
When looking for investors, you were blown away on the TV show "Höhle der Löwen". How did you make the breakthrough?
Many investors rejected us, with others we saw no point in their participation. In 2015, David Klett, the son of the schoolbook publisher, joined us with ten percent. That fit perfectly. So we came up with the idea of licensing our method to publishers and tech companies, and negotiated it with the US education group Chegg. At the same time, at a tech conference in Singapore, an American IT company and a Chinese company asked me if I could imagine selling.
Did you suspect that you would soon become a multimillionaire?
Yes, I thought: “Wow, now two are arriving at once!” We might have achieved a higher selling price with them. But Chegg shares our vision of changing society through education.
Chegg transferred EUR 20 million. What are you doing with the money?
Nothing big. I enjoy the fact that I don't have to worry about whether I can still order something in the café. My brother bought movie posters to paper his new apartment with.
Then there's still something left ...
We're just starting to think about an investment strategy. We are also planning to hold an international chess tournament in Berlin that will be different from anything that has existed in Germany so far.
What role did money play in your family in the past?
My father was always very open with all information - including money. When it got tight, he communicated it. As children, we knew that certain things weren't bought. Twice it was pretty tight, including when my father needed funds for a company in 2006 that he wanted to pull up. The acceptance came on my birthday.
You have brought Math42 to a mature start-up over eight years from your school desk. Did you miss anything during that time?
We worked a lot on it. But I still played tennis and basketball, and we also liked going out in the evening. I also still play chess with my brother every day.
Do you now have more time for this after the sale?
We are well connected. My father, Raphael, and I are now among the 700 Chegg employees, running the math division of the California company. We're in the process of building a team and we're looking for good people around the world. I love traveling and now I am regularly out and about in Santa Clara, Israel and India. I enjoy working on a major project with such brilliant people.
What are you working on now?
We want to make learning easy and efficient. Every pupil and student should be able to understand and solve any problem as quickly as possible with our programs. We are changing the paradigm, and one day when the market is ready we can revolutionize education.
You still have to solve one riddle: Why did you name your learning app "Math42" and not "Math24" like the many companies that want to suggest round-the-clock service? Is this a reference to Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?
Exactly. When we were looking for a name for our app, our stepmother Oxana said: “You keep talking about this being the answer to all math questions. Call it Math42 and you will have the answer to all your questions. ”It is the number that Douglas Adams' supercomputer spits out when asked about life, the universe and all the rest.
Maxim Nitsche, 22, invented the tutoring app Math 42 with his brother Raphael and his father Thomas, which solves and explains mathematical tasks. More than three million people worldwide use the system. In October 2017, the US group Chegg took over the Berlin family business for EUR 20 million.
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