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A place of peace

Interview with Dr. Jens Wohltorf, Co-Founder and CEO of Blacklane

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European Business: What values are particularly important to you in terms of your corporate culture?

Dr. Jens Wohltorf: Our aim and goal is to provide our guests with a relaxed travel experience. That's why our central office staff and our chauffeurs on the road are acting according to some key values:

  • To strive for improvements all the time
  • ‘Go the extra mile’
  • To adhere to respect and integrity
  • Reliability
  • Attention – towards our clients, our drivers and among each other

European Business: What was the first 'initial spark' for you, your personal motivation for starting your business?

Dr. Jens Wohltorf: In my previous professional life I worked as a business consultant and traveled a lot. At that time, it took considerable effort in a city that you did not know to find a suitable pick-up service to and from the airport, et cetera and book it. Sometimes you had to write tons of emails back and forth, until finally everything was confirmed. When my friend and later co-founder Frank Steuer visited me once in the USA, the idea popped up: a platform and a brand, through which one can book professional travel services worldwide, which reduces the travel stress and offers high-quality, yet compatible-priced services.

European Business: The general definition for start-ups – an innovative business model, less than ten years on the market, significant employee and revenue growth – applies to your company too. Would you like to add more aspects that differentiate your company from the rest of the start-up scene?

Dr. Jens Wohltorf: Taking a business perspective into account, I think it is characteristic for us that we represent a 'constructive disruption' of our sector. An established sector has not been destroyed, but has rather changed step-by-step, benefiting many sides. Professional chauffeur services worldwide can increase their capacity utilization and increase their turnover. Travel services can be offered at attractive prices, making them accessible to a wider audience. Finally, the frequent travelers of this world can access a mobility service that offers consistently high-quality chauffeur services all around the globe.

European Business: You experienced success and failure alike in your career as entrepreneur and company founder. How did the latter personally shape you as founder and what did you learn for the future?

Dr. Jens Wohltorf: We've done at least as much wrong as right in the past few years. All in all, the attitude towards failures is the deciding factor because we can learn from mistakes much faster than from successes. It is important to create a culture of constructive criticism, make mistakes quickly and even 'celebrate' them. You cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs. This attitude is one of the central characteristics that distinguishes us from large corporations and makes us so fast – and from that you can learn for all sorts of situations.

European Business: Which decisive and/or surprising events have accompanied and shaped your corporate development up to this day?

Dr. Jens Wohltorf: For me, these are the three strategic decisions we have made over the last few years:

  • Our 'Mission 100' between 2013 and 2014, when we added 100 new cities to our portfolio in just 100 days.
  • The decision to focus on the needs of travelers and not to be a general provider for mobility.
  • The acquisition of Solve, a US start-up last year, and the associated decision to expand our portfolio and systematically remove the restrictions of travel for the busy traveler.

European Business: Where do you see the most important success in your entrepreneurial development so far, and what small adjustments would you like to make in the future in order to further expand your business model?

Dr. Jens Wohltorf: Our roadmap for the future is pretty clear: for people who travel a lot, we want to be the service provider that reduces the associated travel stress and gives them the good feeling that all the details of the journey are already taken care of. For example, we recently expanded our portfolio by implementing an airport concierge service called Blacklane PASS. So we close the chain in the course of the travel: you drive to the airport with Blacklane, where someone picks you up at the car, takes care of your check-in, brings you to the fastlane security and finally directly to the aircraft door. And at your destination, you will be picked up directly from the plane and assisted with efficient entry. But one has to say very clearly: These projects are not just small adjustments, but really big steps to take.

European Business: Your industry is in constant change. If you look into the future, where do you see your company in five to ten years?

Dr. Jens Wohltorf: Blacklane will continue to follow the path to take the stress out of the travel process and offer the traveler a place of peace. Although this claim is very individual and personal, much of it can be supported perfectly by technology. However, the human factor will never be lost and even gain in importance. Thus Blacklane becomes a personal assistant with hundreds of thousands of crewmembers ready to assist the traveler in the best possible, personalized way.

European Business: Which topic we have not addressed yet and which you would like to discuss in relation to yourself, your team or your company is close to your heart?

Dr. Jens Wohltorf: Blacklane employs more than 300 people from almost 60 countries. This diversity is part of our corporate culture and enriches it. In the past year, I have seen how difficult it can be for new employees who come to us from abroad to even find a suitable apartment in Berlin. I think we should always be aware that, as a society in general, we welcome people from other countries and cultures. Otherwise, we will risk our future economic success not only with regards to the ubiquitous shortage of skilled workers.