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Between Kita and startup: What’s it like as a mum and founder in Berlin?

  • Name: Anna Lukasson-Herzig
  • Industry: AI & Technology
  • Position:  Nyris Co-founder

Nyris is a computer vision and AI startup that provides a solution for enterprise customers to integrate visual search into their products. The solution is used primarily by retail companies and is also being used increasingly in the industrial sector to help identify items such as spare parts and other equipment. The company already counts large companies such as Lidl, one of the largest grocery chains in Europe, and Daimler as customers.

Anna started Nyris with her brother Markus Lukasson who wanted to build a quick checkout for online shops. While building the startup, they realized online search for products takes way too long and started working on software which uses artificial intelligence to recognize objects in pictures and thus can be integrated into their search by online shops. The rapid image recognition AI solution from Nyris allows customers to take a photo of the desired product, instantly upload it to an online shop, and order directly.

What inspired you to create Nyris and how did you get to where you are today?

My brother and I have backgrounds in engineering and always wanted to start something. We tried to do that at our jobs at Amazon and at BCG (Boston Consulting Group), but that didn’t work out for us. So, we had a deal: he quits and starts the project, I continue working to deliver cash when it’s needed. Nyris is our second venture and since 2015 and we are both fully committed. This was the time when the first investors came on board. Today we are a team of 25 people from ten different nations, five different religions, and more than 40% are female. This makes me especially happy.

What has your personal experience as a founder in the Berlin ecosystem been like and where do you think it’s headed?

In the Berlin tech ecosystem, it’s easy to meet the right people, to exchange ideas and find talent. The industry in Berlin is great for getting a lot of exposure, for networking, recruiting events, conferences and raising funds, which is awesome. We met with many investors in Berlin as we focus on the German industry. Our main office is in Berlin, however, we decided to establish our sales office in Düsseldorf for logistics reasons. Berlin will surely keep its position as the digital inspiration hub and that’s cool!

Can you describe ‘a day in your life’ handling work and children?

At Nyris I am mainly responsible for Finance, Strategy and Sales. I am the first contact for all investors, key partners and customers. Most of the time I am on the phone, in telcos or personal meetings with potential customers. A major part of my job is working with the team members, listening to their challenges and supporting them in succeeding. On a typical day I spend time with my kids before school and KiTa, then I head to the office. After school, the kids go to sport activities and then get picked up by the babysitter. My husband and I are home by 6:30 pm and family time starts again as we prepare dinner, check the homework, and talk about the day and then put the kids to bed. After the kids are sleeping, both of us need to finish some work, and we sometimes do some calls with the US. Our weekends are fully blocked off for family time.

Anna Lukasson-Herzig
Nyris CEO Anna Lukasson-Herzig © Frank Beer for Wirtschaftswoche

Only 20% of tech jobs worldwide are held by women. How can we change that?

When I started as a female founder I didn’t notice right away that it was needed, but as time went on I was able to see more bias in the industry. At Nyris we put emphasis on hiring female developers and we have made this clear by running a job offer on our career page, that especially encourages women to apply. Not because we don't like men, but because the share of women in all our incoming applications is extremely low and we are very eager to engage more women with Nyris. We currently have two great women in our development team and are trying to increase that number.

Why do you think aren’t there more female entrepreneurs?

It's a bit like the climate change: there are thousands of data showing that women in a team or in mixed teams are more successful than homogenous men's teams. In my experience, the problem is that people, including VCs, make decisions according to their feelings – and the majority rather trusts someone who is like them, instead of investing in a team that is black, female and Hindu.

Do you have any advice for navigating work-life-balance successfully as a mother and founder?

Outsource as much as you can. Cleaning, washing, shopping, and taxis for the kids - anything you can hire someone to do for you.

What do you need as a woman and founder in Berlin to succeed and how can we inspire more women to take the lead?

The family issue is crucial. In Germany most of my friends still think, you can’t work and be a good mum at the same time. We need to change that. It’s extremely old fashioned and proved to be wrong several times. At BCG I worked with several younger colleagues whose mums did have a career and they have been my biggest support when I was in doubt. I would like to be a mum like that for my kids.

Anna Lukasson-Herzig
Nyris CEO Anna Lukasson-Herzig at Microsoft <EXPLAINED> 2017 © Microsoft Berlin

What advice would you give to other women in tech?

Let's connect! Let’s support each other! I can recommend the Professional Women Network that is run by a good friend of mine and has a very professional approach. Mentorship is also important in the tech industry for women. When I was very young, right after I finished my university studies, I was part of a program, where I was paired up with a mentor, who was the director of global production at Bayer. She really helped with understanding what is important and helped me get started. I’ve also been approached by Google to be a mentor for their Google Women Techmakers program which is really exciting!

Text: Melissa Embury

Header image: © Unsplash

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