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Robert Franken

QX: Robert, after graduating in English and German Studies you started your professional career at an aspiring Internet Startup in 2000. What enticed you as an arts scholar to accept this rather unusual challenge and how was QX involved in this decision?

Robert: QX was actually a kind of door-opener to my career. As an arts student I was pretty insecure about what to do after graduation. So I was excited to participate in an event called "Start@Startup" which took place in an abandoned factory building near Hattersheim and which had been organized by QX. All the aspiring Startups presented themselves to the QX folks and I came across urbia.com, a web platform for families. They offered me a job and I gladly accepted and moved to Cologne in August 2000. It was an interesting time, for the "New Economy bubble" was about to burst while urbia's owners wanted to expand the business further. Through a difficult period of near insolvency we managed to keep together a great team of about ten (of more than 60) people and finally, we made it through and reached profitability from 2004. In this particular year I became CEO and tried to move the company through the following years, still not knowing much about the theory of entrepreneurship nor about the target group issues such as pregnancy ;) In December 2010 I left urbia after more than 10 amazing years.

QX: In 2011 you eventually became CEO of ‘Pixelhouse GmbH’, managing the leading web portal concerning the appreciative topic of cooking – ‘Chefkoch.de’. Retrospectively, what was the most engaging experience in your new position?

Robert: Chefkoch.de was a great opportunity for me. It had just been acquired by Gruner+Jahr and the three founders were about to leave the company. My greatest challenge was to bring continuity to the team and expand the business along the shareholder’s idea’s while at the same time, developing my own "leadership culture" and personal strategy for the business. It is still a process which has no end date. We act within a digital environment, which means that change is the only constant in our business. It is an amazing task, since Chefkoch.de is just huge: More than ten million unique visitors per month make it one of the leading German websites and surely the leading cooking platform in Europe. 

QX: As you said, “Chefkoch.de” reaches an incredible amount of customers – certainly including a reasonable number of QX members ;-) What makes this broad, but still very distinct target group so interesting for you? 

Robert: Chefkoch.de is one of the very few digitals brands that have a clear USP: Search for ingredients and find your recipes among >200.000 user-rated and -commented recipes. Like urbia, Chefkoch.de provides for every-day needs. There are no complicated services on the platform - just simple and easy steps towards a better cooking experience. The combination of content (here: user-generated) and community makes an even better product, adding a layer of trust to the content. And, we have just started thinking about how to expand the brand, bringing it to all kinds of mobile devices for example. 

QX: Knowing about cooking, pregnancy, family issues AND being a successful business manager – sounds like the perfect son-in-law. 

Robert: I might sound like the perfect husband and father, too, but only in theory ;) I am still a learner and quite a good cooking assistant: My girl-friend is a very good cook. I try not to interfere with her too much and usually, I'll be taking care of the mess in the kitchen. And speaking of urbia: I can still tell you which baby stroller people have in use better than being able to tell you about fancy new cars! 

QX: Capturing the fact that cooking and parenting are not yet substantials of your leisure activities, how does your favorite weekend look like and which QX-Events are you looking forward to? 

Robert: Honestly, a week-end ahead with no plans at all is one of my favorite images. I enjoy having long breakfasts, taking walks, being outside and having great food in the evenings - as well as sitting on my sofa and doing nothing at all. Besides that I love the game of Basketball as well as Skiing and Hiking. It doesn't have to be spectacular at all.  

I surely follow QX's activities through all the channels. Unfortunately, I won't make it to the Leadership Conference this year but I hope to be there in 2014. The most recent idea of a "Snap-Together" sounds great, I hope there are gonna be a few lunch dates with unique members of the network.

QX: Robert, it was a pleasure talking to you and I am sure your “Snap-Together”-Match will have an amusing and likewise inspiring lunch with you. Once again, thanks a lot and finally our traditional last question: What is your vanity? 

Robert: I do have a vanity: I can hardly walk by my favorite sneaker store without buying another pair of my Air Max Ones!