Felix Artmann (Class of 2019) Discusses Entrepreneurship and the Darden Experience
Felix Artmann (Class of 2019) came to Darden from Frankfurt, Germany. Prior to Darden, he completed his undergraduate degree at Technical University of Munich and co-founded a coffee machine company, Bonaverde, which was one of the top 16 technology projects on Kickstarter in the world in 2013. Felix is involved and holds leadership positions in many organizations at Darden and in the local Charlottesville community. He serves as the vice president for Venture Capital of Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club (EVC) and vice president of Career and Alumni Relations for the European Society at Darden, and is a student representative of CAV Angels and a member of the Charlottesville Angel Network. Felix has enjoyed living in the U.S. for the first time and hopes to stay after graduation. While at Darden, Felix started his own venture, “sonme” (short for “It’s on me”), a virtual wallet system with many different capabilities including virtual gift giving and ways for parents to regulate their child’s spending.
When deciding which MBA program to pursue Felix thought analytically about his decision, initially weighing the costs and benefits of the top programs in the United States. After weighing these factors, Felix ultimately arrived at his final decision based on school atmosphere, satisfaction and happiness of the students and graduates, and the location of the program. He was especially drawn to the immersive style of Darden and Charlottesville, in contrast to other programs located within city centers. Felix believes that prospective students who are able to visit Charlottesville and experience the Darden case method through sitting in on a class would be sold on coming to Darden.
In his first year at Darden, Felix participated in a Darden Worldwide Course (DWC) to Sweden with Professor Marc Modica. Felix described Sweden as the ideal environment to incubate a new venture because of its relatively small ecosystem. Also, as a nearly cashless society, he was able to see the potential effects of sonme in practice there. He hopes that as other societies, like the United States, move to cashless transactions his new venture will gain traction. Academically, Felix was impressed by the course, themed “Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Sustainability,” because of the number of ventures at all different stages that the group visited while in Sweden. “Professor Modica had great company connections and was able to cover the wide-ranging topics of the course with cohesiveness and efficacy in a short amount of time,” Felix shared. “This course had something for everyone. I highly recommend this DWC to any student at Darden.”
One of Felix’s favorite parts about the Darden experience thus far has been the ability to make entrepreneurial and venture capital connections within and beyond Charlottesville. His networks in Charlottesville, Richmond and the D.C. area have proved impactful for Felix, as an international student building a business from scratch in the United States. “Having a Darden MBA will get your foot in the door, especially at venture capital firms which are mainly relationship-based,” he commented. “You have to be in the right place and be opportunity-seeking to make the right relationships. This makes all the difference.” Felix’s interest in venture capital began with his time as co-founder of Bonaverde before he decided to pursue his MBA. Bonaverde invented a coffee machine that roasts, grinds and brews coffee in one machine in order to make the freshest coffee in the world. At one point it held the Guinness World Record for fastest bean-to-brew cup of coffee, crafting a cup of Costa Rican coffee in New York City in under 48 hours. After his experience at Bonaverde, Felix began working for Tiburon in Munich and San Francisco, a German-American investment boutique that provides seed funding and a great network to startups. Felix’s experiences at these companies helped define his interest in entrepreneurship and self-employment.
Felix believes that starting sonme while at Darden has made all the difference in the venture’s initial phases because of the support available to him in this community. Felix mentioned that while it is appealing to follow the traditional path of recruiting at a large company, he felt that the entrepreneurial route aligned better with his long-term goal of self-employment, either on the startup or investor side. Through the supportive Darden culture, courses, and faculty, he knew that he would have the resources here to achieve his goals, providing a strong foundation for his company after graduation. “My entire Darden experience – the classes that force you to see business differently, the community of entrepreneurs and investors that support one another, and all of the opportunities provided therein – have given me the courage and freedom to pursue my venture,” Felix explained.