Dorian Selz is back with a new enterprise – the web based digital notebook Memonic. In AEGEE he was member of AEGEE-Genève and President of the CD in 1994. Five years later Prior to launching, from 1999 to 2005 he was Partner and COO at Namics, an internet consultancy where he founded and built the German business. “Actually with some old AEGEE,” Dorian recalls. Later he was the co-founder of, the leading local search platform in Switzerland, before he co-founded in 2009. The CEO of Memonic told the Golden Oldie how he became a serial entrepreneur.

Golden Oldie: Dorian, you managed the step from AEGEE to entrepreneurship. One year ago you founded a company called Memonic. What is it about?

Dorian Selz: Memonic is an online note-taking service, which enables you to grab any type of digital content – text, pictures, videos and others – and store it in one central place. Memonic combines the advantages of bookmarks with your private full-text archive.

Golden Oldie: How did you get the idea?

Dorian Selz: I got the idea back in 2007 from researching a holiday trip to Australia. We wanted to travel the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide. An hour into my research I had countless open browser tabs. Printouts of all of them was a bad idea, a simple bookmarking list would not suffice either. So I was forced to a dreary copy-paste exercise. A broken process I thought, that merits a better solution.

Golden Oldie: Who are your clients?

Dorian Selz: Today we count a couple of ten thousand users from around the world. We offer a Freemium model: You may use the application for free, once you start to use it more intensely you can buy a subscription entitling you to more features and unlimited storage space. For about three months now we have a second line of business: Publishing houses take our technology and offer it in their colors to their readers as a personal digital newspaper archive. The Neue Züricher Zeitung, Switzerland’s leading quality daily, was the lunch customer.

Golden Oldie: How many employees do you have and how is the business developing?

Dorian Selz: Currently we’re 9 here at Memonic. That is us five founders and four people who joined last autumn. We five already built our previous company – – together. We’re a bit like a rock band, say ACDC. They make great music, we build companies.

Golden Oldie: Memonic is already your third company. The first one was called Namics, founded in 1995. What was your involvement? How did you found it?

Dorian Selz: Actually Namics was a spin-off of the University of St. Gallen where I did a PhD at the time. We were doing applied research in electronic markets. As a result we were actively involved at our Information Systems Institute in bringing the first big Swiss Companies online. The spin-off of theses activities was a logical next step; quite a big step at the time for all involved.

Golden Oldie: Namics has 300 employees today. Why did you leave it and searched for a new challenge?

Dorian Selz: Actually I never left. I am still a silent partner of Namics and still own my part of the company. I had a great time with Namics, founding and building its German business. Namics just celebrated its fifteenth birthday. Today over 300 people work for Namics in Germany and Switzerland. It is the market leader in Switzerland and a strong runner-up in Germany. Back in 2000 we sold part of the company to a strategic investor. PubliGroupe, Switzerland’s largest media company, in 2005 asked me to spearhead an effort in local search and yellow pages. They run the Yellow Page business in Switzerland together with Swisscom, the telecom’s incumbent. Yet and to their chagrin they lost out in the online space against a small Swiss startup. My brief was simple: Rebuild the market leadership in local search in Switzerland. Our solution: We created, run as a startup, and turned it after just four years into Switzerland’s fifth largest website with 42 Million US-Dollar revenue in 2008.

Golden Oldie: What is about?

Dorian Selz: It is about everything in your neighborhood. Find the telephone number of the restaurant for a lunch appointment, locate any place on a map, see what’s on next Saturday evening in town, sell your no longer used chairs, find a cheap second hand car and much more. is concerned with aggregating local information and enabling users to find anything local. This works well on the web and any mobile device.

Golden Oldie: So it is profitable?

Dorian Selz: is today Switzerland’s fifth largest website, very profitable, and has a franchise that extends all the way from the web to any mobile device. Local’s iPhone app for example is today Switzerland’s 2nd most used app – behind the public transport timetable.

Golden Oldie: And again, why did you start something new?

Dorian Selz: Back in 2007 I had that run in with too many bookmarks and a dreary copy paste exercise. Over the course of the year I found out that my buddies had similar ideas of their own. After a careful challenge of whether this is a leisure-time activity or more we opted for the adventure of again starting at zero. Each of the ventures is different yet there are similarities. The anatomy of any startup is starting at zero, cutting back your salaries, focusing narrowly on just one thing, work extra long hours, etcetera. This part of the package may sound unattractive at first, yet building something out of nothing is for me the ultimate challenge in business life.

Golden Oldie: Are you still owning a part of your first two companies?

Dorian Selz: In case of Namics I am still a silent partner. no.

Golden Oldie: What is so fascinating for you about online or electronic services?

Dorian Selz: Some fifteen years the Internet was grey, static and geek only territory. Today it is mainstream and permeates every aspect of our lives. Quite extraordinary I think. I am really thrilled to be part of the world and shape some aspects of it.

Golden Oldie: According to your rhythm, in 2013 you should found your next company. Do you plan to move on one day or do you want to stick with Memonic?

Dorian Selz: None of my previous moves was a long in advance planned move. Each was a deliberate bet. Company building is tough. It’s like top-class sports. You only become champion with dedication, hard work, sacrifice and a bit of luck. Either you’re fully committed, or you put your investment at risk. For now Memonic is not yet profitable. Once we achieve this goal, we’ll see.

Golden Oldie: Many people try to make money with online business models. Not many succeed. What is the right way to make them profitable.

Dorian Selz: I guess there’s not just one right way. It is a combination of good idea, impeccable execution and some luck. And I am sure we haven’t seen even 20 percent of all the transformative new businesses to be built on the Internet. There’s plenty of room to test and succeed with new ideas.

Golden Oldie: The person who creates the next Google, Skype or Facebook will be millionaire. What’s your guess – what must the next big thing be able to do?

Dorian Selz: To say it with Einstein: The only certain thing about the future is that it is uncertain. I am bad at predictions. Yet I guess any business that fixes well a previously broken process might do well – that is our case, hopefully. Occasionally there is a break through innovation that changes the game entirely. There were search engines before Google, there was IP telephony before Skype and there were social networks before Facebook. It seems a combination of feature set and timing brought them success whereas many others failed.

Golden Oldie: If you look at companies like Apple, you see that marketing and design seems to be as important as the technical side. How important is marketing compared to idea and technology?

Dorian Selz: Peter Drucker said: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation.” Experience from the companies I run confirms his citation.

Golden Oldie: Do you actually have concrete ideas for new companies?

Dorian Selz: Yes.

Golden Oldie: Is it hard to get the starting capital for a new company?

Dorian Selz: The world is awash with money today. Money is seldom the real problem. Rather more often I came across situations with a gap between what has been said and what has been done. Example: We dealt with a number of German and Swiss based Venture Capital companies. They all talk aloud about their willingness to take risks and finance risky ventures. Actually none of them really does. They invest in ventures that are already profitable or close by. In their case the term risk capital is simply wrong. They finance growth acceleration venture incubation.

Golden Oldie: How much did you benefit from your AEGEE experience when you founded your first company?

Dorian Selz: At barely 25 I ran a Comité Directeur at the time of 16, composed of – if I remember correctly – 12 different nationalities. It is a priceless experience and preparation to run a company like with 30 staff and 20 externals, or to run Memonic with already again 5 different nationalities. I would never want to miss the time at AEGEE. It basically taught me how – and how not – to run a multinational company. Plus when building Namics Germany I actually employed a number of ex-AEGEE folks. And I would be happy to do likewise again at Memonic. Check our open positions at:

Golden Oldie: AEGEE is full of creative and smart people, but not many became entrepreneurs. Why?

Dorian Selz: I don’t know. From my time at Brussels I get the feeling that a lot of AEGEE folks are drawn into the big European bureaucracy. Too bad. Europe needs more innovation and more entrepreneurial undertakings. That by definition is not delivered through grand sounding schemes but through hard work. That said, I am all in favor of European wide initiatives and activities, though I’d rather focus EU efforts on creating the right kind of business environment.

Golden Oldie: For becoming entrepreneur, do you need skills that AEGEE doesn’t provide? Which skills are mainly necessary?

Dorian Selz: Like any adventurer you need a dose of know-how, a willingness to continuously learn, self assurance yet willingness to question oneself and an unwavering belief in a successful outcome of your venture, yet be willing to face up to the brutal facts of your current position. Quite many of theses skills may be acquired through active participation in many of AEGEE’s activities. If you organise a big congress you are pretty much an entrepreneur.

Golden Oldie: How could AEGEE or even Les Anciens prepare or encourage people to become entrepreneurs?

Dorian Selz: Spend time together. Share experiences. I invite anyone to come and join me for a chat. If I am travelling I am happy to stop by to talk about your idea, my experiences and share insights and learn from each other.