Viewpoint 14 | Developing Leaders Issue 27: 2017 The attraction of execution excellence is also highlighted by a glimpse at Germany’s most controversial entrepreneurs. The Samwer brothers are not known so much for their breakthrough ideas as for copying a start-up that made it big elsewhere. Their first venture was an eBay clone in Germany which they sold back to eBay for USD 43m within 100 days of going live. Others followed and eventually turned the three brothers into billionaires. What they excelled in is scaling up ideas in markets with high entry barriers. No small feat either – particularly for start-ups. Fight bureaucracy and concentrate on the frontline Keep things simple. Start-ups do this naturally but large companies can also achieve it. Cool things happened for example when Jack Abraham ignored eBay procedures. In 2012 he proposed an overhaul of the website to create a social feed for products and brands at a meeting with John Donahoe. The CEO asked him to figure out what he needed to make this happen. And Jack decided to move outside the company norms. He took six developers to Australia for two weeks and presented a finished prototype when he returned. Usually such an initiative takes a couple of years, produces hundreds of power-point slides, and becomes a subject of turf wars. Jack Abraham’s unconventional approach was one of the initiatives that helped turn eBay around at a time of stagnation. John Donahoe’s smart move was the creation of a new level of freedom where rebels – often like Jack Abraham those who joined by having their start-up acquired – could excel by moving outside the bureaucracy. One way to keep bureaucracy at bay is through a strong commitment to the frontline. That is no easy achievement and occasionally requires painful financial decisions. When Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen started – a website that offers home improvement ideas – it was an after-work project. Their budget was small. Using their own savings, they spend just USD 2000 a month. Still, the website quickly picked up traffic and the temptation to make life easier by allowing advertising was great. But they resisted. This also meant that outside funding was not an immediate option. Outside money only came after assurance from an investor that is not required to compromise on user Successful companies master both innovation and execution; they never take their eye off the frontline; and their leaders are insiders but not necessarily charismatic Grzegorz Czapski / Danamania / Wikimedia Commons