What is good about the Luxembourg entrepreneurial ecosystem is that young entrepreneurs are full of ideas and are getting things moving. Over the past few months and years I have had the opportunity to meet many of them, including Felix (ex Univize) and Ivan (Startup Chauffeur), and more briefly, Tom and Sebastian. Despite different backgrounds and unique companies, they are now working together on a common project that will make the capital’s walls vibrate: the Luxembourg Open Air music festival.
by: Charles-Louis Machuron
featured: Ivan Cardoso, Tom Wecker, Sebastian Jacqué and Felix Hemmerling
Four entrepreneurs, four different journeys and finally 1 common project. What are your respective relationships, backgrounds and how did you come up with the Luxembourg Open Air’s idea?
One couldn’t really put it better than that. As you say, four entrepreneurs and everyone is pursuing a completely different journey, but we have one common goal for September 14th.
First of all, there is Ivan Cardoso who actually came up with the idea of hosting a new festival at this amazing spot. Ivan is an International Business student at Hogeschool Rotterdam and besides being also the Startup Chauffeur driving around and questioning founders, he’s currently a marketing intern at Banque de Luxembourg.
Then we got Tom Wecker. He is what people would call him a serial entrepreneur. He co-owns TWPM Group, which is a venture specialized in restaurant management, event management and real estate. Various restaurants, such as the well-known Snooze chain and Pavillon Parc Merl, as well as food delivery platform Livraison.lu are part of the latter.
Sebastian Jacqué is the COO at TWPM Group and has actually a slightly different background than the rest of us. He has a PhD in history from Erasmus University Rotterdam but also got the taste of entrepreneurship through the Luxembourg Open Air venture. Sebastian manages a wide variety of daily operations at TWPM, which is why he is an invaluable asset to the team on a daily basis.
Since I am very entrepreneurial myself and interested in a wide range of industries, I constantly find myself being involved in diverse entrepreneurial journeys. While being a part of LOA and a few other projects, I have recently joined the Finologee team as a KYC product manager, which is a venture I highly enjoy being a part of due to its entrepreneurial culture, ambitions to lead the digitization in the financial industry and leadership, among others.
“There are quite a lot of people advising you against starting businesses with your friends or family due to various reasons.”
Regarding the idea of the festival, Ivan and I know each other for quite some time and the amount of ideas he’s running by me is fascinating. Although not all of them are feasible, this one particularly caught my attention, which is why we sat down together to refine the concept and craft a plan.
Since Ivan and I have no previous event management experience, I knew we were not going to be able to execute this vision on our own, especially since we both have other full-time commitments. Hence, I suggested to approach Tom Wecker and Sebastian Jacqué, who both have a lot of experience in the hospitality industry, managing successful restaurants and hosting events themselves. Both being excited by the idea as well, they also pitched in quite a lot of ideas and other suggestions on how to make this idea become a successful venture.
That’s how we formed this team and put our heads together to finalise the concept, and we actually started executing our plan on the same day we decided to work together.
An idea is good, but setting up a festival is very time-consuming? What are your daily challenges and how do you combine your professional life and that organization?
Precisely, that’s exactly what I analyzed as well, which is why I judged bringing Tom and Sebastian on board absolutely necessary.
Managing both our full-time professional commitments while also organizing this festival for the first time has indeed been quite tough, but we’re fortunate enough that we perfectly complement each other and hence are able to allocate the tasks in a time efficient manner. We all work during the early mornings, lunch breaks, late nights and weekends, and we also take time off our jobs in order to be available for important meetings and other preparation tasks.
We are also very fortunate that, although Ivan, Tom, and I have other full-time commitments, Sebastian’s position at TWPM Group enables him to work on LOA during the day. This is extremely important for meetings where we have to raise funds and create an ecosystem of reliable partners around us. Without a full-time person on board we would definitely not be able to successfully organise this festival.
“We definitely plan on making LOA a long-term venture rather than a one-off event.”
Main challenges are actually timing – as you know, startups and small ventures can act quickly. This, however, is not the case for bigger institutions due to hierarchy and size, which can be a bottleneck at times we want (and need) to proceed quickly.
In general, we all knew that this would be a tough project, but we all gave it a 120% every single day so far, which is why everything is ready for the big day.
How did you divide up the roles?
As I briefly mentioned, the beauty in our team is that we all have different skillsets that put us in the fortunate position of perfectly complementing each other.
Ivan, our creative lad as we like to call him, is leading the whole design and marketing side. I am constantly impressed by the volume of new ideas he has regarding branding and promotion. Besides that, he is also involved in establishing partnerships.
Sebastian is our fund raising and sales expert. He’s got incredible pitching skills and raised a substantial amount of money in an exceptionally short time frame to finance this project. Sebastian also leads most of the PR and partnerships activities, but is also coordinating the logistical side with me, for instance.
Tom is more of our background guy. He’s pitching in his experience in logistics and hospitality as well as his network he established through his ventures when needed. This can often be a substantial accelerator.
Finally, I am leading the financial and logistic aspect, as well as supplier and staffing tasks. Besides that, I am working a lot with Ivan on the marketing side and am also sourcing new partners.
“We are fortunate that we have a lot of family members, friends and other people around us that help us where needed.”
What do you expect from the Luxembourg Open Air’s first edition?
While enjoying the process of creating something new from scratch is always one of my top goals when starting a venture, our main ambition is to establish this new concept in Luxembourg city on the long-term. The main reason we launched Luxembourg Open Air was due to our ambition to contribute to the event scene in Luxembourg.
Rock-a-field and Food For Your Senses having stopped their operations in 2016 and 2019 respectively, we felt that LOA is the right concept to fill this gap in the music scene.
Plans for the coming years highly depend on the level of success we can reach this year. We definitely plan on making LOA a long-term venture rather than a one-off event, so we’ll see after this year’s edition where we’d like to head with the concept.
How many friends and family members do you also have involved? What are they doing?
We are fortunate that we have a lot of family members, friends and other people around us that help us where needed. There are many friends and family members that actively helped us with tasks, such as finding volunteers to help out during the day, promoting the event, and many more that helped us focus on other aspects of the organisation. We’re of course extremely grateful for every bit of help or support we’ve got.
Besides our friends and family members I must not forget to mention how grateful we are for every single sponsor supporting us. Establishing a new concept is never easy, and so is finding sponsors that put their trust and confidence in you as a team.
“We all have a lot of fun building this venture while also enjoying spare time outside the LOA context.”
Is it easy to set up a project with friends?
There are quite a lot of people advising you against starting businesses with your friends or family due to various reasons. While I agree that one has to be careful about how to combine (and separate) friendship with business, I think that starting ventures with friends can be amazing when done correctly.
There will always be rough and stressful times when starting a business, which is why I feel that knowing, and I mean really knowing, your partners is highly beneficial in order to get through these dips. I’ve started projects with people I did not know that well, and I feel that there are more unknown variables between team members than otherwise.
It is often said that the team is one of the main reasons why businesses fail or succeed, which is again why I feel that it is important to really know and understand your team mates. I am not saying it is always the best to launch projects with friends, but in this case it has definitely been a great journey so far. While Ivan and I knew each other very well going into this venture, I knew Tom only briefly as I’ve joined his triathlon Team Snooze a few years back (yes, they also have a triathlon & cycling team!). Both Ivan and I didn’t know Sebastian, but one can definitely say that we’ve gotten pretty close through this project. We all have a lot of fun building this venture while also enjoying spare time outside the LOA context.
In my opinion, it ultimately comes down to having a certain amount of respect towards each other and knowing when to talk business and when to enjoy a squash match or pint of beer together.