A portrait: Katharina Berres
Katharina Berres, founder of Mountain Zebra reveals to us what she loves about her job, why and how she does things differently and what inspires her.
Why Katharina loves her job
Katharina loves many different aspects of her job. And that’s exactly what motivates her every day: the variety. No day is the same as the next, no task is repetitive. Standing still would be a step backwards, and she only looks ahead to a better future.
Together and with others
Facilitating workshops. Passing on knowledge. Sharing content. Providing food for thought. Sensing moods. Getting teams excited about the best option. Taking the lead or letting the team take the lead – all in the spirit of the mountain zebra. This is how Katharina tickles the best out of her conversation partner.
Mountain Zebra’s founding idea is to develop business models for a better, more diverse tomorrow. For example, Katharina enthusiastically accompanies a founder in the development of an app on women’s health. As a mentor, she supports a still-young Munich-based social startup that is taking a strong stand against discrimination. As a consultant, on the other hand, Katharina supports a large pharmaceutical company, among others, in developing bold scenarios for the future. What they all have in common: They face the future with energy and curiosity thus overcoming the uncertainty that always accompanies innovators.
Katharina is a lecturer for Digital Business Models at the International University, the largest private university in Germany. She likes to combine her knowledge of theory and industry experience. In her discipline, theory is often caught up with actual business practice. Market conditions change rapidly, and so do aspects of business models. However, it is precisely the exploration of concepts and theories from academia that provide Katharina with a sound basis for her daily business: ensuring the future viability of startups and companies.
Discover more about Mountain Zebra
Connect with Katharina on LinkedIn
What Katharina does and makes so very different
Just do it
Katharina just does it. That’s where it starts. Some say she is a “creator”, others say that she not only has new ideas, but also implements them – and successfully too. She has a good intuition for how things can succeed and knows what it takes to make it work.
Listen & understand
At the beginning, Katharina may seem reserved when she primarily listens and asks precise questions. She does not judge, but simply tries to understand – no matter how new or different a topic is for her at first. In the end, she understands her mentees, her clients and, above all, their respective entrepreneurial vision so well that she can develop viable business models together with them.
Taking new paths
Ideas, concepts and business models that take shape with Katharina’s help are characterized by new, bold paths that impress with their feasibility. They are always oriented towards what will stand the test of time and be valuable for our society. And in doing so, Katharina’s reassuring mantra is: “It’s not so complicated.”
How Katharina gets inspired
Katharina draws her inspiration from the exchange with other cultures, languages and the infinite universe of podcasts.
It was clear to Katharina early on that she would not stay where she went to school forever. Accordingly, she quickly packed her bags after graduating from high school, traveled to Italy and stayed there for the time being. Even today, she regularly has to travel to the north, south, east or west to “breathe fresh air”. The Salone in Milan calls with installations by artists and designers. In New York, she looks to see which new precious fabrics are piled up under the high ceilings at Mood. In Shanghai, it’s enough to marvel at the flashing LED walls on the Bund, the banks of the Huangpu River. And certainly on a trip with Katharina, enjoyment is not neglected: she always knows where to go for a drink or what the “signature dish” is in a particular restaurant.
Katharina was already a little bibliophile as a child. So it’s no surprise that she packs six or seven biographies, novels and nonfiction books at random for a two-week vacation by the Mediterranean sea. For the past 20 years or so, her literature year has begun in February with the publication of a new crime novel by the Sicilian detective Commissario Montalbano. Upon completion, it moves into her bookshelf. German, Italian, English, American and Japanese authors line up there. The nonfiction section has clearly spread out in recent years: Here you’ll find – ironically in print form – much that has to do with “digital.
With the beginning of the Covid pandemic, Katharina has tapped into a new universe: Podcasts. It all started with Dr. Laurie Santos and her “Happiness Lab.” This is an adjunct to “Psychology and the Good Life,” the most successful seminar in Yale University history. Today, Katharina’s day begins and ends with Spotify. In the morning, it’s the news podcasts from “Handelsblatt”, “Pioneer” or the “FAZ”. During the day, she searches for keywords to quickly catch up on a topic. In the evening, she likes to listen to “Alles gesagt,” the never-ending interview podcast from “Die Zeit”. Nevertheless, her favorite playlist from “Cose Speciali” also plays when the occasion arises. After all, there is always time and space for Italy in her life (and her heart).
Katharina’s favorite playlist on Spotify is from Cose Speciali. The exclusive online concept store for high-quality gift boxes is constantly adding new Italian hits to its playlist. Be sure to listen in!