Andrea’s Dobler doesn’t call himself an entrepreneur… (yet). He is the initiator and founder of Crownos, a digital marketplace and community for watch lovers. For Andreas, it has all happened very fast since that summer of 2020 when the first thoughts of Crownos crossed his mind… and never left.
Andreas is very aware of his skills: interaction design and creating digital products. But to build Crownos as a running business, he knew there was more to it he needed to learn. So that same year, he started a Master of Arts (MA) with a specialization in Design Entrepreneurship in Bern, Switzerland, to acquire what he called “the missing entrepreneurial” knowledge. And Crownos was the project idea he joined with.
A year into the master’s, he heard about no-code tools and the benefits of using them to build and launch digital businesses. He was also part of the first batch of students who joined the No-Code Academy organized by HuggyStudio. By the end of 2021, after finishing the bootcamp and acquiring many learnings, he officially received a job offer to join HuggyStudio as a Full-Stack Designer.
Andreas is an entrepreneur. He doubts saying the words out loud, but he knew from the beginning where he wanted to go… time was faster than him.
“In one of the first in-person meetings to join HuggyStudio as an employee, I remembered the team asking me the typical question of ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’, and I said:
‘In 5 years I’m self-employed, or an entrepreneur’.
Andreas knew he wanted to create a digital marketplace after surfing the internet for a watch and constantly seeing the same brands popping up. In his eyes, those small and independent Swiss brands needed more visibility, recognition, and reach —especially in the digital ecosystem.
Being part of the master’s also meant exploring opportunities in new areas, attending some lectures, and getting a budget for coaching sessions with experts from different branches. It also meant increasing his professional network and taking ownership of the first steps he needed to make toward the growth of the project.
“I met a lot of other entrepreneurs, which also had an influence on my mindset. I recognized how it is to work with other people that are in the same boat. Of course, they also connected me with others, which opened up opportunities to pitch Crownos at many events. That’s how I got access to my first funding, also through the school”.
The first successful funding for Andreas was in the Summer of 2022. He joined a program from the University of Applied Sciences in Bern called “Sustains” and could pitch Crownos. He promoted sustainable entrepreneurship and social innovation. He got the first CHF 12’000 which he could invest in platform and business development.
From that moment on, Andreas realized how much preparation it would require for him to pitch Crownos. But he also tasted the waters on how possible it was. “I researched who could be the right partners for me or the right institutions where I could apply to for getting more funding. The goal was to speed up the process of developing my startup”.
For networking purposes with other entrepreneurs in the startup scene in Bern, he joined Be-advanced. And continued applying to different innovation awards —and getting rejected— until he made what he considered “one of his best decisions”. That was, applying to the First Ventures support program for entrepreneurial students. Which is part of an Association based in Basel, the Gebert Rüf Stiftung, that supports bachelor’s and master’s students of universities of applied sciences who are developing innovative business ideas as their thesis topic.
In February 2023 Andreas finished his Master of Arts (MA) in Design Entrepreneurship and got the confirmation that Crownos will have CHF 150’000 funding for 18 months. Alongside that, he will get individually tailored coaching to launch his startup. “It’s a full-time commitment. If I do it, I do it right and bet all my cards in the game. I needed to leave HuggyStudio”, says Andreas.
When Andreas joined HuggyStudio, his position was as UX and UI designer. With time, he grew and developed professionally —and personally— in his role. All the learnings he got while working with the No-Code agency team helped him continue testing different aspects of his business. For Andreas, “the goal was clearly to grow further on other topics, especially on validating ideas, project management, and understanding better the ‘task’ of being an entrepreneur / the world of entrepreneurship”.
On a professional level, Andreas learned not only about no-code development and professionalizing his services but also how to launch and test products faster. He implemented high-quality standards in the development process and led meetings with potential clients.
“I think the work at HuggyStudio was the perfect school for me. I learned and also practiced, how to reach out to potential users, do sales, pitch an idea, and launch a digital platform. Many learnings were about the holistic understanding of becoming an entrepreneur, and what is needed to run a company”.
On a personal level, and keeping in mind that all his learnings were being applied to Crownos, Andreas learned how to set up marketing funnels, track his users, and other aspects that customers might not see in the final product. “I always tried to combine work-related topics with the development phase of Crownos. Every discipline from within the teams helped me break out of the box of UX design”, explains Andreas.
It is well known that Switzerland is a country of watches and watchmaking. According to the industry report from Morgan Stanley and LuxeConsult, there are around 350 different watch brands in Switzerland. However, the majority of people only know a maximum of 10% of them (which also mirrors the revenues of those brands). That means, 25 brands own 90% of the market. From Andreas’ perspective, “if the need or the demand in the watch industry is getting higher and higher, the diversity and reach to different brands are getting smaller and smaller”. That’s why Crownos intends to reshape the state of the art and make watches accessible also for small and very independent brands.
“In my dream and vision, Crownos is the one single place online for watches and watchmaking. There are plenty of webshops where you can buy watches, but that is not something new. I really believe in the approach Crownos has: it's not just about buying watches, it's really about transforming the watchmaking industry to be more accessible and diverse”.
From April 2023 on, Andreas’ total commitment and focus will be on Crownos. His new employment with the Institute of Design Research in Bern will allow him to organize the coming months in a proper way. During the first weeks, he will develop a clear process structure, plan, and set up the right partnerships for the expected milestones. New routines will be created.
“There’s always the danger to start building a product nobody wants, that’s why the first weeks won’t include any development or further design, it’s really about planning what will come”, says Andreas. After that, the focus will be on launching Crownos’ beta phase. Nearly 100 customers are already on the waiting list and ready to interact with the page and its products.
“I believe that by really understanding our users’ needs and desires, Crownos can help them make a more informed and sustainable decision when purchasing a luxury watch. Our approach is user-centric, and we strive to provide a personalized experience that enables them to find a watch they will really love”.
Andreas Dobler was part of the no-code academy, joined HuggyStudio as an employee, and now embarks on his own journey to grow Crownos. It’s a new adventure, and there are many feelings and situations he has to be confronted with. Mainly, the unknown. “The vision is to become a player in the market, to become big, and to launch a successful product. Of course, I would like to see the company grow, hire people, and also people who share the same vision as I do”, shares Andreas.
Below are some aspects Andreas recommends to aspiring entrepreneurs. This is to consider when embracing the new journey of starting to work on their business ideas:
4. Don't waste time on concepts, which probably won’t work out. “Test as soon as possible. Have an early validation with your potential customers and iterate fast”.
5. Be brave to stop things that are not working out. “Most probably you will find a better way or another way. And you can save a lot of time, money, and also nerves if you're honest with yourself”.
“Something I repeat myself when things aren’t going as expected is that even if by now I am a solopreneur, I am not alone. I always have the opportunity to talk to coaches, teachers, supporters, and family members. If you are a single employee in your startup, it doesn’t mean you can’t get advice from others. After I talked to people I get new energies and perspectives. These connections help me to get to a better place again”.
You can also contact the founder of Crownos, Andreas Dobler, via email at email@example.com.
Read more about Crownos' story: A platform that brings together watch passionate, brands and retailers