Fabian Pfortmüller on How High School Teaches Future Entrepreneur Business

In Chapter 8 of 19 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller shares how high school student government experience in Switzerland taught him fundamentals he uses today as an entrepreneur. He learns critical thinking, project planning and the perils of volunteer accountability. These experiences all contribute to Fabian's actions as an entrepreneur. Pfortmüller is co-founder of Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com). He also co-founded an innovation think tank, Incubaker (www.incubaker.com), and is part of the group's first spin-off, Holstee (www.holstee.com), an apparel brand for people who would like to wear their passion. Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its School of General Studies.


Erik Michielsen: How has your student government experience benefited you as an entrepreneur?

Fabian Pfortmüller: So I started in high school doing student government stuff and first of all, we didn’t achieve anything. We didn’t achieve anything what so ever at all. We talked a lot, we organized big things and there was no output out of it. Doesn’t matter. I think what we learned was… first of all I think we really developed a good feeling of how much we can rely on people, very, very important aspect that I’ve seen throughout my project is that, you know once we started out we were like, ‘Oh, could you help us do this? Oh, you said yes, that means he’s going to do it’. Of course he’s not going to do it and realizing that… I don’t want to say that that’s generally true that this person’s not going to do it but my experience has shown me it’s where I’ve had to be critical.

Rather putting good project management place to ensure that person really does it and put pressure on that person, recurring pressure on that person to actually do it, I think that was one of the learnings. Second, I would say had a lot to do with planning in the sense that I just met people who could plan and there were other peoples who could not plan and I was one of the second ones who could not plan [laughs] and being able to see other people who would do their stuff not in the last minute but had a project plan and would lay out their things and would reach out to you two months before, that was really good to see, that was very interesting to see what they could achieve and I believe one of the biggest things that I realized while I was doing student government was that voluntary work is very hard to work with, in my opinion. I think if you don’t pay someone and you don’t have a very clear contract or somewhat of a transaction with someone it’s very hard to really plan with that person and to get to the output that you had in mind.