Today's Entrepreneur: Martin Heibel

Kristin Karaoglu · September 17, 2019 · Short URL:

It's always the team's success

Today's entrepreneur is Martin Heibel is the founder of Ciara. Ciara is designed for motivated salespeople, the platform allows users to focus on talking to customers and closing more deals. Users are guided through the calls with access to winning playbooks and equipped with context-aware, real-time objection handling.  

Martin has been a technology entrepreneur since starting his career in 2004. First serving as the general manager at the LMU Entrepreneurship Center while earning his Ph.D. in entrepreneurship from Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München.

After immersing himself around entrepreneurs he founded IntraWorlds in 2008, a global provider of innovative cloud-based talent relationship and corporate alumni solutions. He served as managing director for nine years and was able to garner top US based customers such as KPMG, AT Kearney, Davis Polk, and PWC. He currently still serves on the IntraWorlds advisory board.

To continue on his entrepreneurial journey, he founded XPRENEURS, an incubator for high-tech startups at UnternehmerTUM, one of the largest centers for innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe, founded by Susanne Klatten. Most recently, he co-founded Ciara in 2019.

Martin received his Master's Degree from WHU, focusing on Entrepreneurship and Finance; gained his PhD in Entrepreneurship from Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München and attended Harvard Business School as a visiting researcher.

Find more about martin below. 

Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur?

For me, there’s one main reason why I chose to be an entrepreneur: autonomy. I always want to be in charge of what I do, how I do it, and who I work with. Entrepreneurship also means responsibility - for the team and for the personal development of each talent I work with. I enjoy building teams of people that get a thrill out of excellent work. This is an opportunity you have especially as an entrepreneur.

My favorite startups:

Salesforce for reinventing an existing global software market; Slack for their compelling customer value and growth model; Patagonia for their long-term management based on strong core values.

Why did you start your current company?

Martin was a teaching assistant at a university. From my days as both a university professor and a sales leader at my former startup, I came to believe that there is a huge disconnect between how thoughtfully we teach and train people, and then how poor we are at providing tools to make that knowledge readily available to them when it’s needed.
At the same time, I see personal digital assistants emerging everywhere in our lives - in our cars, in our home, in the gym...

There is a window of opportunity opening up for companies like us that provide personal assistants for professional conversations. For me, there is no doubt that such assistants have huge benefits and will change the way hundreds of millions of people do their jobs every day.

What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?

What I find the most rewarding is to see how things come together and how small successes can add up to bigger ones. Build the product, convince investors, win customers, have great people join the team, etc.. Every step is a success and what really excites me is how very quickly all these little pieces start forming a much bigger picture, with much bigger potential.

After being an entrepreneur for almost all of my career, I am perfectly fine having a rather high personal failure rate. I don’t get frustrated from trying and not succeeding right away. I will just try again and keep in mind that one little success usually comes at the expense of many more smaller failures - think of how many people you interview before making one offer, how many sales calls you make before winning one deal, etc.

However, what I personally find frustrating is wasting time and fighting innovation inertia. Though it’s a fact in human nature that a very large majority doesn’t want to change the status quo, people avoiding or even fighting change can be very frustrating for me as an entrepreneur.

What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs make?

I have worked with dozens of startup founders and I believe there is no one most common mistake - just because every startup is so different. I have seen teams fail because of the personalities involved, and have seen entrepreneurs fail because of bad investor choices. Also, no startup breaks because of one mistake, it’s usually a set of topics that don’t work. Finally, I would advise any founder to seek regular advice from people they can learn from and draw their own conclusions from other peoples’ perspectives. I think it’s natural and a part of the entrepreneurial journey to be wrong and make mistakes. Founders should try to identify their own mistakes as early as possible and take a clear stance on how to move forward.

What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?

1. Strive for your big, long-term vision, and make sure to take care of operational excellence at the same time.
2. Be a servant leader and stay out of your best people’s way.
3. It's the team's success.

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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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Ciara, your personal assistant, has your back. Designed for motivated salespeople, Ciara allows you to focus on what you do best - talking to customers and closing more deals. You are guided through your calls with access to winning playbooks and equipped with context-aware, real-time objection handling. After your call, Ciara removes the monotony of note-taking by having already transcribed everything for you. Then, with a click of a button, automatically updates everything in your CRM. By combining all of these features, Ciara, for the first time, lets you achieve a true all-in-one conversation. Level up your sales game. With Ciara.


Martin Heibel

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Founder & Managing Director at Ciara

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