Ready for Liftoff
For the speed issue we take a look at forward-thinking disruptors and innovators from the startup capitals of the world. These are the people behind the big ideas that are changing the future, coming up with new ways to look at old problems, and in the process inspiring us by their entrepreneurial spirit and their ambition to execute change.
Interview JUSTIN ROSS
Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
LEA LANGE, JUNIQE
Creative Exciting Innovative | For Culture Lovers, Art within Reach
Position: Co-Founder & Managing Director
“A truly great idea has to solve a problem and make something better, faster, less expensive, or more efficient.”
What is JUNIQUE?
JUNIQE brings together carefully curated, yet affordable wall art posters, framed prints, and more from over 600 artists. While JUNIQE HQ is in Berlin, we have customers across 13 countries in Europe. Since our launch, the company has secured more than €20 million ($24 million) of investment and now employs 100 members of staff.
Why did you start your company?
The idea for JUNIQE came about when I was furnishing my home and helping friends decorate theirs. There were plenty of places to buy well-designed furniture at all sorts of price points, but it was incredibly difficult to find something exciting for the walls. I wanted to change that.
What makes your company different?
With JUNIQE, we disrupted the market—what we’re offering now simply didn’t used to exist. Art meant fine art and the sector was dominated by a small circle of people who were in the know about what even constitutes art and which artists to follow. They tended to be the people who had the money to buy real art, so it was quite an exclusive circle. At the other end of the spectrum was mass-produced wall art. There was nothing in between.
What were the most difficult challenges along the way?
One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced so far was right at the beginning. We tried to raise money without having any real data, customers, or even a website. All we had was our business plan and a presentation. It takes a lot of passion and perseverance when you’re starting out and you have to convince a lot of players that your idea makes sense. Whether they’re investors, staff, or creative talent, it’s impossible to persuade them if you’re not passionate about the idea yourself.
Where do you look for inspiration as an entrepreneur?
For startup-related inspiration, I regularly read First Round Review, a blog by Eight Roads. I get my industry-related inspiration from Horizont, W&V, and Business of Fashion for Marketing. But I also come from an entrepreneurial family—both my father and grandfather ran their own businesses. I have great respect for both of them, and of course grew up with a certain openness to entrepreneurship.
Is it important to be first or fastest?
Fastest, I guess. That’s why startups can turn entire industries upside down: they are making things better, more efficient, and solve problems—a lot quicker than anyone else could.
What advice do you have for people with a great idea who want to start their own business?
If I was giving one single piece of advice about founding a startup, it would be to focus on the most important thing that drives your business. And that includes saying “no” to things when you need to. Building a company from the ground up is unbelievably challenging. You have to invest a lot of time and resources, and be focused on moving the business forward. When you start out, everything feels like it’s happening at the same time. You have to prepare for the unexpected and be able to think on your feet.
In ten years where do you want to be?
Good question. Probably right where I am now: an entrepreneur seeing problems and solving them.