Growing up, Nora Heer never had a sense of what she wanted to do but admits there was an inevitability about becoming an entrepreneur. “It is like that Steve Job’s quote,” she says. “The one about you can never join the dots of your life moving forward. You can only see how they link up looking backwards.”
Dot one was growing up in the Black Forest in southwest Germany. There she was most inspired by enabling people to achieve their goals and imagined that, perhaps, she may go into coaching or psychology.
Later, in her career, she worked for Holtzbrink Publishing as a project manager for strategic business planning in Stuttgart and New York. While she learned a lot, she realized that “the world of number crunching and strategy was not my preferred environment.”
Dot two came at Meltwater, a Scandinavian digital news startup. During her six years with the company, she helped it grow from five people to more than 940 staff based around the world.
The third dot arose in 2008 when she accepted a position as the director of university relations at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, a seed fund and incubator in Ghana, Africa. “The goal is to create a Silicon Valley in Africa by encouraging local software entrepreneurs, which they are doing very successfully,” explains Nora. “The students are very aware that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and do everything to seize it. For me, it was my first glimpse that helping others to become entrepreneurs is a really cool thing. Teaching people to become entrepreneurs involves a mind shift and turns people into problem solvers.”
Dot four occurred almost by default when she returned to Germany in 2012, starting as head of human resources at Project A Ventures, an international venture capital firm in Berlin.
“I was very inspired in that position,” says Nora. “I didn’t imagine I would be a founder of my own firm. However, I was seeking simple and effective software for employee performance management and couldn’t find it on the market.”
Instead, Project A Ventures developed their own and when it became clear that thousands of medium-sized companies had a similar need, spun it off as Loopline Systems, an independent company, in 2014. Loopline is a feedback tool that ensures better performance reviews and employee development through real-time analytics providing a structured path to analyzing KPIs over time and deriving action plans.
The investors kicked-off an international search for a suitable CEO until it dawned on them that she was sitting in the room. Nora was the obvious choice to lead the nascent company.
“That was giant step, but it was the right one for me,” Nora says, explaining how it has brought all her skills and interests together. “I realize now that I have always been an entrepreneur in the way I have approached business in that I have always had big and bold ideas and a passion for realizing them.”
With Loopline now up and running successfully to provide business leaders with the data they need to make entrepreneurial decision, dot five lies somewhere in her future. She believes the thrill for entrepreneurs is creating successfully running companies and then moving onto new projects.
“I find myself becoming more and more interested in the Mittlestand,” she reflects. “Coming from the startup scene, it is all about disruption. However, I am realizing that there is a lot to be learned from successful medium-sized companies with a proven track record. There is much they could teach startup brands about growing their business to the next level. I imagine opportunities could lay in there.”
Tags: CEO, Entrepreneur, Germany, HR, Innovation, Software