With 17 years of business experience, Thomas Fleck is one of the most popular guys in the Magento community. His arsenal includes vast experience in Marketing, Strategy, Business Development, and the ecommerce landscape. If you are looking to start a new ecommerce venture, Thomas Fleck is the person to reach out to! He is also the co-organizer of Meet Magento Germany, one of the most popular Magento events hosted independently by merchants and developers from across the globe.
Thomas Fleck is currently the owner of NetResearch, a company he has been involved with for the past many years. Besides his work routine, he is known to be an adventurous guy with love for traveling and hiking.
In this interview, Thomas shares detail abouts the upcoming Magento 2 and the future of eCommerce. He also shares some advice for upcoming and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Cloudways: Thomas, you are an entrepreneur and lawyer. You were looking after Marketing Europe with Magento. How did you start your career? What challenges did you face? Who do you think is the finest tech entrepreneur today?
Thomas: As some might know, I grew up in the eastern part of Germany—behind the so-called “iron curtain”. I was a teenager when the Berlin wall fell and from the next day, I woke up in “another country”, where I felt a bit like an immigrant. Studying law seemed like a good way to learn how the “new system” works. Actually, studying law can be boring from time to time. But there was this “internet”. I was fascinated by the possibilities and how it could help to create new jobs in my region. Many jobs had been deindustrialized within a few years and unemployment rate went north of 20%. This is how I founded Netresearch and became an entrepreneur.
Of course, there were many challenges—but I think, this is what entrepreneurship is all about. I believe every entrepreneur deserves our deepest respect—regardless of the industry he’s in.
Cloudways: With 17 years of experience under your belt, you currently work as owner of Netresearch. The company that organizes Meet Magento, a flagship event for merchants, system integrators, developers, and service providers. What is the reason behind starting this project? Share some interesting experiences and some challenging times of your career with our readers.
Thomas: In everything we do, we enable and connect people. We help them to do good business and find new friends.
At Netresearch, we have been working with open source software from the beginning. We are inspired by the idea of sharing knowledge. Also, I know that people want to meet other people. When we stumbled upon Magento in 2008, I quickly decided to create an event to make it more popular and enable people to use it.
Cloudways: Famous American entrepreneur Scott Belsky said: “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.” As an entrepreneur, what’s your view about this quote? What’s your tip for newbies who want to become good entrepreneurs? Why do you think entrepreneurship is very popular lately?
Thomas: I like this quote. For me, entrepreneurship is not about making money. It’s not about impressing people or following a trend. Entrepreneurship is a way of life to make things happen and become happy.
My tip: Just do it and never give up.
Our world is changing fundamentally and faster than ever before. These are perfect conditions for entrepreneurs. Also, it hasn´t been easier to become an entrepreneur than now. So what are you waiting for? 😉
Cloudways: Thomas, let’s talk about Netresearch’s partner, Bluegento (or Blugento). What’s interesting about this project? How many big names are behind Bluegento? What are the benefits for Magento developers who want to deploy their ecommerce project on Magento with Bluegento.
Thomas: When Magento wanted to bring Magento Go (a SaaS offering from Magento) to Germany, we did all the localization and customization to make it suitable for the German market. There is a great demand for such a platform, but Magento Go was shut down at the beginning of last year.
With Blugento, we want to serve this market. Blugento is really a platform for growth where merchants can start small and scale as they grow. Blugento is made for merchants who want to focus on their core business and don’t want to deal with code or employ their own developers (or both). Therefore, it comes with a lot of best practices implemented.
Since we believe in people, you’ll see more partnerships in the coming months.
Cloudways: With the release of Magento 2.0 in beta, there is a lot of debate going on about the compatibility of web shops with the new version. What would be your recommendations for those e-merchants looking to upgrade from 1.x to the new version?
Thomas: That´s a tricky question! We all know “never change a running system”, but everybody wants to benefit from the latest technology.
Every day, we talk to a merchant who is unhappy with his store. It’s always the same: It’s not Magento, but an unprofessional implementation. More often than not, it is so bad that it can’t even be updated, yet it stays vulnerable. Not to speak about other improvements. So, I think it’s a good point for merchants to rethink and rebuild their platform with Magento 2.0.
Cloudways: Meet Magento Germany (MM15DE) is the biggest and most successful event in the Magento community. You have organized Meet Magento Germany with Thomas Goletz. What is the impact of this event in the Magento Community? What is the motivation behind this event?
Thomas: Meet Magento is not a one-man-show. It is driven by teamwork. Sometimes, we provide only a platform for business people, developers, or merchants to meet and share. There is a lot of respect between all attendees and involved people. This special spirit is something you can find at many places in the Magento world. Meet Magento Germany was the first event. It is more or less the mother event for all Magento events. So, each edition is a new challenge for us. You can’t stop and think till it’s settled and done.
We believe that it is important to work with people for today and the future. Without that, you will soon find agony. MM15DE is, therefore, an important event, but not the only one. Thomas is the person in the background. He is a great partner who understands what Meet Magento is and should be and how it can be in a local setting while keeping its global perspective. All those aspects motivate people to attend a Meet Magento. Speakers do even more. They share their experience and knowledge. Thomas expects that from them. Speakers contribute to the content of such an event. We need them. Their motivation lies beyond attendance. To them, it is all about sharing and contributing. (This includes that they respect the audience and don’t waste their time.)
Cloudways: Do you think Meet Magento is the best and most reliable platform for people who want to involve themselves in Magento? Share your best moment from MM15DE with our readers.
Thomas: Frankly, there is no “best” or “most reliable” platform. There are so many events and formats in the Magento world. So, you can find for every head for fitting the hats. What can you say better about an ecosystem?
There is not one best moment from MM15DE. During 2.5 days, there were many amazing points-in-time, but I can’t select one. But, we loved to see how engaged people were about ecommerce. And, you could see our very close cooperation with Magento itself. The team from Magento delivered a lot of good content, mainly outside-of-sales talk. It was just good, valuable information.
Cloudways: The German ecommerce market is rapidly growing. Ecommerce turnover grew by more than 40 percent to EUR 39.1 billion in the period 2012 to 2013. How do you see ecommerce growth in Germany in the next five years? Do you think Magento is best platform for ecommerce?
Thomas: There’s a good infographic on the eCommerce market in Germany and I can confirm the trends. I see both Magento and Magento 2.0 are well-prepared for the future. They can easily serve the market. But, there are some interesting competitors coming up and I think we should not ignore them. Instead, we should learn about them and discuss the emerging trends. Therefore, we usually have an open talk with all the other players at the Meet Magento Germany event.
Cloudways: Let’s put Magento aside and discuss your personal interests. You are a passionate hiker and runner. 🙂 Share some interesting anecdote from your Gobi trip. Who are some people that inspired you during this journey? What did you learn while traveling, hiking, and running? Share some hiking tips with our readers.
Thomas: I have been interested in China for many years. So I did not hesitate for a second when Thomas Goletz invited me to BusinessTrek. Trust me! Spending many hours in a naturally challenging environment is a catalyst for building long lasting relationships. There were many people who inspired and impressed me, with their wisdom, mental and physical strength. And, it’s not a secret! Kuba pushed me hard to keep up with him as he running through the desert. Tips: Start, don’t give up—and have good shoes 😉
Cloudways: How do you see ecommerce in Asia? Do you think Magento is the response to all the ecommerce-related technological problems?
Thomas: I would not consider myself an expert for ecommerce in Asia. I’m still trying to learn and understand it. But from what I see, there is a great interest in Magento. Some of the biggest partners with the highest number of certified developers are coming from there.
(Edited for clarity)