Hitting The Mark

Hitting The Mark

Conversations with founders and investors about the intersection of brand clarity and startup success with your host, brand strategist and author Fabian Geyrhalter.

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EP054 – Bernd Roggendorf, Founder & CEO, EIDU

Strategic Clarity + Verbal Clarity

Bernd Roggendorf is known as the Co-Founder of Ableton, the tremendously popular software that helps millions of musicians unleash their creative potential. But today we are talking about EIDU, the social enterprise Bernd founded 5 years ago to improve education standards for the 800 million children who live on $2 or less per day.

 

We are chatting about how he took his entire family around the world, trying to live as closely as possible like people in poverty so he could understand his future audience’s needs, on what role branding played within the organization, the meaning of brand purpose, and the surprising story behind the brand name. Plus, Bernd takes us on his journey of pivot after pivot on his great mission to bring better education to those who need it the most.

 

A delightful conversation that will make you quickly understand how his passion is contagious.

Notes

Learn more about EIDU

Catch Bernd’s TEDx Talk

Support the show

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Fabian Geyrhalter:

Welcome to the show Bernd.

Bernd Roggendorf:

Thank you very much for inviting me.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Well, it’s really, really good to have you here. It’s funny how you actually ended up on hitting the mark. Just to give my listeners a bit of background. I was invited to speak at Harvard Business School back in March of this year, which was really exciting and I very much looked forward to it. And this was just when COVID started to emerge in the Western world and I remember I was the only one at my gate at LAX Airport actually wearing a mask and people were just staring at me and they were laughing at me.

And so during the flight over to Boston, I get a message from the CEO of your organization, Arne, who was also supposed to speak at the same event. And we decided we should meet up the next day, but that never happened since the event got rightfully canceled that very night because of COVID fears. So in a way, the one thing I get out of Harvard was this episode with you Bernd. So here you are. It all happened for a reason after all.

So you co-founded Ableton, the tremendously popular and important software that helps millions of musicians, especially electronic music producers, unleash their creative potential. One of your other co-founders is Robert Henke of Monolake, who did a fantastic Depeche Mode remix a couple of years back. I feel required to mention this because a lot of my listeners know that I’m a total music nut and I’m a Depeche Mode vinyl collector who also toys in music as a hobby.

So I would love to talk about the Ableton for the next half hour, but as hard as it is to believe you have been off to do more important things, which we will focus on today. You’re you still changing the world of software, but now in a much different and tremendously meaningful way. Five years ago, you founded the education social enterprise, EIDU to improve education standards for 800 million children who live in $2 or less per day. How did this come about? How did you leave Ableton? Give us a little bit of that backstory.

Bernd Roggendorf:

Well, that’s a funny story. It all started in 2010 I think, if I remember correctly or ’09. Several things came together; one of global things were the financial crisis which somehow got me thinking a lot about the world but more personally, I was diagnosed with having a tumor in my spine. It all went well, but I was confronted with death and thought about that.

And then on the other side, Ableton was already developing super well and it was so well set up. And I said it’s my baby and in some point those babies you’re at the position where you think that work it needs to grow on its own, and it needs to walk on its own. And I had the feeling with Ableton it’s so well set up, I would be able to leave without destroying it.

And so all these things together got me thinking was, I noticed there’s something in me that I couldn’t fulfill within Ableton or something else. And I’m not this guy that can do a lot of things together at the same time. So like if I do one thing, then I need to let go all the others. And so I had to say goodbye to Ableton which was super hard. I was crying, thinking about that. But at some point I realized that I have to do it because there was something I wanted to… I had this very naive idea of like the word is so unequal and so unfair, and I wanted to use my time and my money and my skills to help to get rid of these extreme inequalities.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And so then you went on a pretty extreme trip yourself to witness how world is on the other side, right?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Can you tell us a little bit about that? And you took your entire family with you, which must’ve been a crazy experience.

Bernd Roggendorf:

Absolutely. Well, it was like this. I was reading a lot after quitting Ableton, I didn’t have any idea of what to do exactly. I felt like a teenager. I was very naively, “I want to help the world,” but had no idea how. And so I read a lot of books and talked to a lot of smart people. But at some point I felt like this is all way too theoretical and way too second hand, I wanted to understand how poor people are really thinking and living and what do they need? And do they need any help from us? And if so, what kind of help do they need? And I will experience that firsthand.

And so I talked to my wife and she fell in love directly, more than me even. I just sat there and was like, “Should we go?” “Yes, we need to go. Let’s do that.” “Okay. So let’s do it.” And then our children at that time was three and five. And we said, “Okay. Let’s take this trip and let’s take them on the trip. It will be like the greatest experience they will ever have in their life.” And so we did and traveled around the world for eight months and tried to live as close as possible to very poor people.

It started already with the most extreme part of the whole trip because for three months we went to Kibera, which is one of the biggest slams in Africa, in Nairobi. And we went there with a small organization called Manager Without Borders, it’s a German organization. Very tiny, and they try to find companies around the world in low-income countries that need support. Companies here when they go to Ernst & Young or any other [inaudible 00:06:42] company, but tiny companies and of course, with no money at all. And they try to find on the other side managers, who are willing to support those companies.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Amazing.

Bernd Roggendorf:

-organization and went for two months. We actually at the end stayed three months to help in a project in Kibera. It’s funny because they thought, I’m coming from the music field so it was a company that focused on theater and dance and so on and stuff. Well, probably a band can help them. I’m a programmer. And I did my best. And I’m not sure if I really helped them. I probably didn’t hurt them. When it comes to developing aid, you need to be careful to not even hurt because it’s so tricky. And so I hope I didn’t do that. I’m not sure if I really helped them and that’s so unfair.

I did it because I really wanted to help, but probably I learned and I gained much, much more than anybody I tried to help as well because I learned so much about how life is in the poor areas of the world and really their thinking and what is going wrong and all these things. And it was totally amazing experience for me and for my wife as well and for my kids. Of course, it’s probably like completely changing. It was funny because at the beginning when we saw them, you couldn’t see any difference. You couldn’t see that they were actually in any way thinking, “Okay. This is crazy what we are doing here.” It all looks the same. It’s all people around the world. And yes, it’s a lot more crowded and it’s a bit more dirty and they all are black, but who cares, right?

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah.

Bernd Roggendorf:

That’s the funniest thing. For them, it was totally easy. And it was like an amazing experience. I learned so much.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And so when did that idea of EIDU come about? Did that happen during the trip or did it happen at a much later stage?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Pretty much when I returned. So I returned from the trip and with all this experience. And mostly I was thinking, “It’s just way too complicated.” I was like naively thinking, “Okay. I want to help the world, fix the world.” And then I realized it’s so amazingly complicated to help something. Typically, what you experience, you try to do something at one corner of the problem space and then the next problem comes up and this, and this and this. It gets so complicated and you never find a good way of really entering this problem space, because it’s so complicated.

So I was thinking, “Okay. I need to start smaller.” And I was thinking about, “Okay. I do something in Berlin, helping the people here that’s what I know more.” What I thought is, if I want to help really the poor, I need to live there. And that was just not an option from our family point of view, was that we wanted to go back to Berlin, not stay forever. And so it was pretty clear I cannot do this.

And then my daughter came to school, she was then six. And pretty much from the first day she was using learning software and I watched over her shoulder because well, first I’m her father and second, I’m a software developer so I want to understand software and how it’s working. So it was super interesting to see that and how she can interact with the software.

And what I realized it was like the software’s typically done, it’s a lot of repetition and practicing of exercises or of principles you have learned already in the school. Was like, so you learnt how to addition and subtract two numbers and then you do that at home and practice that. Which is good and it’s definitely helping, but this is not enough for countries in Africa. Because typically, the teachers are not able to provide this basic knowledge of how numbers work and like very basic things.

But what I saw sometimes it was Lara, my daughter, she was able to grasp a new concept just by interacting with the software. Almost never it worked, but sometimes it worked. And when I saw that I thought, “Well, when it’s sometimes working why shouldn’t it work always.” It’s pretty much a question of good software, of great software. She was like, it’s probably a super tricky problem but it’s a solvable problem. And if that’s the only thing that hinders us from educating the whole world, well then we should try it.

And then the other part that brought me thinking, and that was experienced from my trip around the world, that pretty much everywhere we were; we were like at the most rural areas of the world and most isolated islands and still, if you took out your smartphone and hold it in the air you had a great signal. It’s so extreme. It’s like you go to the poorest areas and the people are constantly thinking about how do they get enough money to pay for the food for the next day but they all have a mobile phone in their pocket. Not yet a smartphone, but a mobile phone. It was pretty clear. And that’s what all the numbers are showing. It’s like smartphones will be everywhere, it’s just a question of time. The prices are so low now and all the forecasts are saying it will grow within the next 10 years to almost every corner of the world.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

You basically bring learning to smartphones for schools around the world?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Exactly.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And who creates the content?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Well, that was a long journey. So we started on our own. That’s when I thought, “Okay, let’s try it.” I couldn’t find a good software that worked out of the box, so I thought “Well, then we need to create this content ourselves.” And we started with it and it worked quite okay. And it’s just at some point I realized, to teach all the different subjects to all the different grades and then with the local specifics and with the few languages. The space of content that is required is so gigantic. I realized okay, I will never do that. I was like, “I need to get partners on board and need to do that together with others.” And it’s not so long ago.

Pretty much just this year, we actually invested heavily in that to get partners on board. And now it’s like we are constantly integrating big content providers who actually build most… We have some that are especially designed for African contexts. But we also work, for example, [Anton 00:15:08] is the leading software in Germany and we are just incorporating that content. We would talk to all big companies around the world that create these type of content and ask them to allow us to use their content. It’s rather easy to sell because basically what we say is this market doesn’t exist.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Of course, yeah.

Bernd Roggendorf:

You have no way of reaching them and you have the content, it’s ready. You don’t have to do anything, just give it to us and we will help hundreds of millions of children. That’s rather easy to-

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And so for them it’s hopefully I assume not about monetizing but instead it is about basically giving back, right? For them it’s a great part of the brand.

Bernd Roggendorf:

Absolutely. And that’s how the whole company is built. It’s like we do all this for helping the world, perhaps at some point we might be able to make a business out of that mostly to make it sustainable. Not even to think about making profit, but to make it so that we don’t need to rely on external funding. And at some point, we might also create a business model or more money than that and we might also be able to pay back a bit to the content providers. But that’s very, very far away and that’s not part of why we are doing it.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

So you’re running like a nonprofit but you legally are not a nonprofit entity, right?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Yes.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Okay.

Bernd Roggendorf:

And I like to see us as a for-profit, not because I want to make profit. Honestly, I earned enough money with Abelton and I don’t need any more. Currently, we are even changing the company to rather go be a nonprofit like Abelton itself. I’m not in the thing for money but there are so many people around in the ecosystem, being it funding people or employees who all need to make money somehow. And thinking about having this business mindset thinking, how can you create value that people actually would be willing to pay for it? It’s so good that they are willing to pay. And even asking the poorest of, would you be willing to give us a dollar per child per year? Which pretty much everybody in the world could do. But if you do that for hundreds of millions of children, it’s a lot of money. And you can create great products with that. I would never say we are nonprofit, I want to stick to it as well.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Well, I like that. Some of the listeners heard the episode with Scott Harrison of Charity: Water, and he’s got a very, very smart way of how to divide those two. Here’s a nonprofit part and here’s actually how we need to make money, because we need to feed our own people too, right?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Yeah.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

So I would encourage anyone who finds this conversation interesting to also go back to that episode. But let’s talk about the big pivot that happened this year to becoming this platform that’s a little bit like the Apple store, where everyone can kind of like plug in. Did that have to do with COVID? Was your company affected by all of that school closures, et cetera? I assume it was.

Bernd Roggendorf:

It was dramatically. Actually, the change came beforehand because what we did is last year we thought, “Well, can we actually ask the schools to pay for the service?” And we did that and we saw it’s like we actually get 20% of the market to pay for it. In this amount, I think on average they paid €1.5. So roughly $1.70 per child per year, which would already finance quite a bit of what we are doing if you scale it up. But what we saw is that we only get 20% of the market to do that. And at least at that point what we were offering we couldn’t convince bigger parts of the market basically, of the schools that were existing and we were inviting. And the funny thing is, just because we were getting to just the small part of the market, our costs went crazy because it was pretty much to acquire… If you anyway invite 100% of the schools to your meetings and show what they do and give them devices and explain them how we do it and all this, then pretty much your costs are already gone.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah, huge.

Bernd Roggendorf:

And so we said, “Okay.” We calculated it through and we saw it doesn’t work, which is not very rare because pretty much nobody finds a way of a business model with the very poor. It’s really, really hard to do that. It was tried all over the world. I would say there are two main examples who made that work, and that’s Coca-Cola. You can get Coca-Cola everywhere around the world. But that’s almost the only brand that you really see around the world all over the place. And then what you see is all over the place is mobile. Every place in the world has mobile in there, you can buy phones and smartphones and mobile services.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And are there any lessons you can take from those two companies and apply it to your company?

Bernd Roggendorf:

For sure we tried a lot, but what we saw is we cannot get it to… At least at that point I was always thinking, at some point we probably might have enough product value it provides so much value for the users that they need to continue and that they are willing to even give us a bit of money. But at that point we were just there.

But on the other side, I was always thinking… And that’s also a tricky thing of like, if you try to make it with a business then you typically have the business mechanics at work. Which means, you usually easier get the ones who have more money. When it comes to education, that’s definitely it’s the wrong thing. Who needs the biggest support? The poorest. The danger was way too big from my point of view that we will at the end would end up with something that we just cater for. Still within those poor, more the [inaudible 00:22:55] ones and more the better-educated ones. And so I thought, there will be enough companies and there will be enough tries in this direction but I want to try to find something that really can reach the very, very poor.

And that’s why I thought because what we also did in this testing, at some point we did give out phones for free. To explain that a bit, so what we have in mind is in the long run everybody will have a smartphone, that’s our assumptions. So at the end, we only need to provide software which is free and we could scale that up for the whole world pretty much for no money. So the devices is the tricky part in the game.

But right now they don’t smart phones, so what we do we provide the teacher with just one smartphone. So we simulate what will happen in 10 years from now, basically. And once we do that we say, “Okay. We put our platform on it and then use it in your classrooms like you think makes sense.” We give them some training what makes sense, but we saw different ways of using that that’s why we… It’s pretty much the teacher is in control in the classroom. They are the masters and you cannot do it besides them. If you do something besides the teacher, you typically end up dying very hard in terms of usage because the teachers are the ones who constantly push for. Well, it’s like we are here to learn and to get the kids all over. And that’s why I also I didn’t want to think about a parent app, for example, that focus on parents which is also very common. Again, you will not reach the poor, the people in total need. So we said, “Okay. We bring one phone to the teacher, explain them shortly how to use that and then they are starting it right away.”

When we do that for free, then we have activation rates higher than 95%, so pretty much everybody. We get all the schools to participate. And through that we can reach so many children, even the poorest ones. And the funny thing is, as we just take one device and share that in the… So the app works like this; on the one side there’s teacher content for the teacher to be a better teacher, so giving them teaching materials and explain them how to do better lessons and prepare for them better. And on the other side there’s self-learning on it so for the children, for the students.

You don’t need to do anything, because at the beginning you just take photos of all the children which is basically setting up all the accounts for the children. And then we only show the picture of the first child, the teacher gives it to this child and then the child clicks on his picture and does exercises typically for 10 minutes. And then the picture of the next child appears and then this child gives the phone to the next child. And we teach that to three-year-olds and they learn it, after three days they know it by heart.

So we have a system where the teacher can introduce this platform without doing anything basically, besides charging the phone in the night. They don’t have to do anything. It’s so easy for them to get into the system. I would say that’s our main point is, we make it so easy to get started so that they actually try it. And then after some time they see, “Okay. This is actually helping my children.” They actually learn those concepts better and they get more attentive. And actually what the schools are reporting, kids are coming earlier to school and leave the school later and parents are bringing their kids to our schools and things like that because it’s very attractive for the children and the teachers see the value as well.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

It’s amazing. I mean, I hope that some executives of T-Mobile are listening to this because what a great way for them that would be, to have a partnership to give away phones with your software on it. That seems like the next iteration of the TOMS model of a one-for-one model. If I actually spent $800 or some insanely silly amount of money on a new iPhone, that I would know that one phone ends up in a school in Nairobi that actually touches 40 kids. I’m sure you already went down that aisle, but it seems like a very obvious direction to go, right?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Yeah, and it’s like we are always playing around with this idea. Should we ask for charity? Should we get the world to finance that? Perhaps at some point we will do it. I’m hoping that we can fund it through other channels because we see that we can grow this so fast. We have now the ability.

What we do is we go to slums. And typically, that’s an important thing which many people don’t know. It’s estimated that more than 50% of the poorest third in the world, the vast majority go to school but the majority of those schools are not public but private. And then you say, private school for the very poor, what is that? We have millions and millions of extremely low cost schools around the world. For many, many decades were not known at all, but in those statistics they were shown and all this. It’s a recent trend that we get data about those schools.

For example in Lagos, a city of Nigeria. We will start operating very soon in a couple of weeks and they have I think 1,200 public schools or so, something like this, and 18,000 private schools. So the vast, vast majority in the city is going to private school. These low cost schools it’s really funny how they work, because they typically get fees from the parents around €5 to €10 per child, per month. So it’s tiny amounts.

If you think about it’s like, if you have a class of 30 people with €5, well, it’s €150. You need to make school with €150 euros per month, including everything; including the classroom, including the tables and the chairs and everything, books. So it ends up you don’t have anything, besides chairs you don’t have much in your classroom. Of course, you need to pay the teacher. So what can you pay with this amount of money? Pretty much teachers who are not educated themselves, who have very little pedagogical education themselves.

And so the funny thing as it is that even they are… And they have much less money than the public schools but as they are so near to the customer. Because if they don’t do well, the parents send their kids to the next school which is 100 meters from your school. So it’s like extreme competition there. And so it’s amazing how well they function.

There’s pretty good research, especially in India where we have the same situation, there are hundreds of millions who are really still very, very poor. Although we also see how the development of India but there’s still a huge part of the population is very, very poor. And in those poor areas, it’s like there’s many, many, many private schools.

We have pretty good data about their learning outcomes. They are not better, but they are pretty much the same as the public schools and they do that with like a 10th of the budget. It’s very interesting to see these two markets. Because when you go to the public schools they all say, “Well, talk to the government.” And then you talk to the government and they say, “Well, that sound’s interesting. Let’s do a pilot next year.” And so it takes forever and forever. Which we will do.

We said, let’s start with the private schools because it’s so much easier to talk to them. We can just invite 100 directors of those schools into a meeting, tell them what we do and if they like it they will start on the next day. And that’s actually what we do exactly that. We go to the slums, we invite these privates school owners and tell them what we do and offer them, “Well, you get your first smartphone right away. Send us the teacher of the early grades and we will give them a short training and then you get your first phone. If you use that to heavy extent like we say, we want to see at least 10 hours per week of usage.” The thing is, it’s every day, you need to do it for several hours to do that, to get to that amount. And that’s what we get, it’s like we get 95% of those schools right away, but in the first week they have more than 10 hours of usage.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

So currently, so you must have a lot of “boots on the ground,” in Nairobi and all over the place, who actually are working for your company to get the word out?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, it’s like we started heavily on the ground in Nairobi because that was our learning lab, to learn how to do all these things. And then came Corona, it’s like we have to do it very differently. In the beginning of the year, we were right at the point where we tried everything out and we were preparing everything to massive scale and then from one day to the other everything was shut down. All the schools in Africa were closed. All our schools were from one day to the other, not existing anymore because it’s private schools. We saw pictures now from our schools where in classrooms have chicken farms and stuff like that, but they have to make money somehow.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah.

Bernd Roggendorf:

So all our schools were gone, basically. And in Kenya, it’s still like they will start beginning of next year, that’s what they said so far. So once they open up, we will go back and start extending in Kenya as well. But thankfully it’s like there’s one country in Sub-Saharan Africa that had not closed the schools and that’s Ivory Coast.

And In Ivory Coast we just started because we found out very late in the process because it’s French and we didn’t have the software in French so we excluded those countries from [inaudible 00:36:31]. But at some point we said, “Okay. Let’s look at all the countries, perhaps we find something where we can actually operate now during Corona.” And then we found Ivory Coast and then within three weeks we translated everything into French.

And then last week, we did the first test meetings. Well, we invited I think they were like 35 or so schools there. And they are all starting to use the app now. We just heard last week that Nigeria is opening up, I think in two weeks from now, so we will start doing sales meetings in Lagos very soon.

And we do that and that’s the funny thing is, we have learned a lot how to do these meetings and how to do them effectively and fast and all these things. But as we couldn’t travel we said, “Okay. How can we do that? How can we do that remotely?” Actually what we did is, we hired people remotely, just through video calls and discuss the things. Then we did the training remotely of those things. Then we did tests town halls remotely. And now we are up to do pretty much everything completely remotely.

The great thing is, as all this is digital we can monitor everything. Every click of every child, we know. We see on our data. And typically, although we don’t rely on an internet connection, we provide internet connection to collect the data and to update the software. I think it’s something like 80% of the data we get within the first 10 minutes. So we are almost real time, but we are not relying on real time.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

It’s amazing, really amazing. What COVID took, COVID gave back from a business perspective, right, for you?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Yeah.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

I mean, there’s a lot of pivots that happened then a lot of streamlining operations, et cetera, et cetera. Pre-COVID, how many schools has EIDU been in or how many kids has it affected?

Bernd Roggendorf:

It was all testing, we were testing.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Okay.

Bernd Roggendorf:

I think we had 400 schools with roughly, what is that, roughly times 200.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Okay.

Bernd Roggendorf:

60,000 or something like that. I’d say 80,000 children.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah. It’s a good amount.

Bernd Roggendorf:

And it’s not like that all these kids were active at the same time. But what we know is we can reach those kids because they are in the school. So when we start with just a phone, we just provide the first class and then if they use it heavily, then we provide the second phone and the third phone and over time we reach all those kids over time.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Right. Let’s shift the conversation a little bit over to the EIDU brand. I mean, obviously Ableton is very much a brand, it’s a brand experience, musicians light up when you mention even the word because it just stands for so much in their lives. So when you think of a mission-driven organization like EIDU which almost classifies as a nonprofit brand usually gets all but forgotten about, yet it’s super crucial because there are so many stakeholders. I mean, we talked about it. The content providers, teachers, the kids and then there are many different languages. I mean, there’s just a lot of people involved that are exposed to the brand and then on top of it many different languages, like you just got French on board over the last couple of weeks. Many who will just judge the branding by its look alone because they don’t speak the language, how did you go about branding with EIDU? Did you see it as an important factor from day one?

Bernd Roggendorf:

To be honest, not really. Well, it’s like I know from Abelton experience how important it is, but probably my helping heart was just thinking, “Well, I just need to provide the right thing then it’s working.” We talked to some branding people and thought about these things. The tricky thing is, typically when you think about these branding aspects you directly think for yourself and people here and your future employees and funding people and all these things, what is the right branding?

Besides we need to find funding and we need to find employees, our customers are thinking very, very differently and looking at the world very, very differently. So we always thought well, let’s first see how we can really solve the problems. But that says, I think branding is super important for us. I think we are still very early in terms of really using what we think the brand is and how it’s positioned to use that for all kinds of things in terms of marketing and how we talk to the world. But it’s still early, but I’m sure it will be very important.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Right. And it seems to, when I get the message from Anna, your CEO and I quickly checked out the company to see if they’re legit, like who is EIDU? And I looked at the site which I think right now when we record this is down but it should be back up when this is airing, I was super impressed because it was very brand forward. I mean, the logo feels extremely likable, it’s very colorful. It feels like there was thought being put into it and to me that was very surprising because 99.9% of mission-driven nonprofits don’t care about branding, for exactly the same reasons that you just mentioned, right?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Yeah.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

But I do believe that it can actually be extremely important to convey a message and to get people to actually like the product and to associate themselves with it. I mean, just the two colors in the logo, they’re so vibrant and it feels like there’s something going on between color one and two. There is meaning in it. At some point when you actually went through that exercise, you did it in a meaningful way, I assume.

Bernd Roggendorf:

Yeah. And we got support from branding people and the design people. I think that, that’s what I learned at Abelton was how important are these things, that you really should take the time. Not from this or it’s too far from the aesthetic point of view. But I actually like beautiful things and we want to see beautiful things. It’s nice to see beautiful things and make things look nice but the more important thing from my point of view is more the consistency with your thinking, why do you do all this? And what do you want to achieve with that? And all these things. If you do that consistently with the branding, then it helps to spread your message. Even if it’s subconscious, you feel all these things, people notice them and it’s important.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Absolutely. The name EIDU, it is so close to edu which obviously stands for education and is synonymous with it’s .edu the main extension for organizational entities around the world. What does the name stand for?

Bernd Roggendorf:

It’s not an abbreviation, what everybody asks us for.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Yeah, I thought so too.

Bernd Roggendorf:

No, it’s actually like it’s a synthetic word which we came up, because it has exactly this what you said. It has the education in it and on the other side when you speak it typically, it depends on where you are. But many people say EIDU and how we found ourselves. So and if you say, “I do,” it’s I do something.

And that’s pretty much what we think in terms of what we want to get the children to do. They need to get active because that’s the biggest problem in low-income education is that kids are just passive, they are just like this old picture. It’s like their head is open and stuff is pushed in there and they need to remember it and then it’s closed. And they need to get active, they need to do it on their own. They need to learn the things on their own. They need to experience it and try the things out and take a very active role in their learning. And that’s why EIDU makes us so much sense to us.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

That is such a fantastic story. I would have never in a million years guessed this and I’m a naming guy and that’s hilarious. But the idea that EIDU actually is one of the first things that they would learn, right?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Fabian Geyrhalter:

It’s the action that you want them to take, et cetera, et cetera. And did you test the word before in different languages to see if it’s easy for them to say or did you just know that based on your travels?

Bernd Roggendorf:

No, not really. We tested it. And it’s not super easy because especially the E-I is pronounced differently in different areas even in English speaking countries. It’s not totally clear if it’s EIDU or AIDU and so this wasn’t perfect for us. There are other awkward names in the word. We thought the ones who are using us, are using us so heavily we can easily train them in pronouncing it correctly. So we were very sure the name will stick and the people will understand that’s EIDU and will understand that and will use it. And in general, I think it’s easy to pronounce in all kinds of languages. So it’s working quite okay.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

And brand purpose became such a big buzz word, one that I myself am actually using quite a bit. But looking at Ableton and EIDU, both are actually very purpose driven companies. And I wonder, isn’t any company purposeful in a way. If there’s no purpose, what do you give to the world? I mean, even if it’s just a simple product or enhancement. So to me, purpose and mission are quite different. How do you see the difference from what you did with Ableton, to what you’re now doing with EIDU as it relates to brand purpose?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Well, it’s two fold. The difference is first of all I think we started not like… I think Gerhard and me founded Ableton, right from the very beginning we wanted to create the best product in the world. So we were driven by great products. But I would say the difference in EIDU it was very clearly we need to help people, we need to help and we need to support them that was more, more focused on. I think Ableton was from the beginning at least more product-driven and I think we are a bit more user-driven, which is definitely not true anymore. Ableton is super user-driven and thinking about the customers, it’s definitely. And the users, it’s totally in central. But it was a bit different.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

What is one word that can describe your brand? I call it your brand DNA. So for Everlane for instance, it would be transparency for Harley-Davidson it would be freedom. What would be one word that sums up EIDU?

Bernd Roggendorf:

That’s a tricky one.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

I know. I like putting people on the spot with that. Obviously-

Bernd Roggendorf:

I have one. It’s potential.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

That’s great.

Bernd Roggendorf:

And it’s two-fold. It’s the potential of every single child, which we need to unleash. And it’s so huge, the potential, in every single child. There’s so many possibilities that this kid could grow into, but on the other side it’s also like it’s such a huge potential when you look at the world. It can change everything, if we educate the poor.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Absolutely. As we come to a close, I would encourage everyone to listen to Bernd’s Ted talk, I will add the link to the podcast notes. Where else would you like people to go? How can they follow you? How can they get involved? What can they do to help your noble and really amazing mission?

Bernd Roggendorf:

Well, go to the website and contact us first, like writing us an email or send us any message. But go to the website, you will find the ways to contact us. But get in contact, please.

Fabian Geyrhalter:

Perfect, very good. Well, Bernd, I really appreciate your time. This was a really, really great conversation, I’m sure everyone enjoyed it. Thank you for spending the whole hour with us.

Bernd Roggendorf:

It was great. It was so much fun. Thank you very much.


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