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This side and that. (02/2023)

A leap into the unknown.

Interview: Marion Maurer

Would you give up a permanent position to start your own business? Anina Lutz shares with us her reasons for taking this brave step.

Anina Lutz
Anina Lutz completed her Master's degree in Business & Economics at the University of Basel in 2016. She is co-founder of the insurance start-up Calingo Insurance AG, where she is responsible for fundraising, among other things, as Managing Director. (Photo: Christian Flierl)

AlumniBasel: Ms. Lutz, since graduating from Basel University in economics, you’ve been working in the insurance sector. You recently became self-employed, founding your own insurance company Calingo Insurance AG. For many people, insurance is a somewhat tiresome topic.

Anina Lutz: (laughing) I actually ended up in insurance quite by chance. Whilst at university, I did an internship at an insurance company and then stayed for more than eight years in the end. I never imagined I’d stay so long, let alone launch a start-up in the insurance sector. But the opportunities just kept presenting themselves.

What was your original career goal?

Actually, I never really had a goal. I also think that career paths are often the result of the opportunities that present themselves along the way.

But you were never in any doubt that you were going to study economics?

I have to admit that my choice of degree subject was based on a process of elimination. Economics degrees are very broad and open up many job opportunities. That said, I was always interested in the creative field. Maybe I would have liked to have been an architect, but I didn’t dare.

Is establishing a start-up an opportunity to express your creative tendencies?

You might be onto something there! As a start-up founder I literally do everything myself—which is the great thing about it! This means you can often work creatively and have more freedom than in a big company where everything is already predetermined. We largely designed our own logo and website, for example. But you also have to be creative when it comes to your strategy, so that you can build your company from the ground up.

What’s unique about Calingo?

First, we deliberately seek out niches—for instance, we offer pet insurance. Our business is also exclusively digital. Our approach is that insurance should be as simple as possible. And we’ve tried really hard to make our products fair. Many people have a bad impression of the insurance branch. That’s a shame, as insurance is actually something positive: It gives people security, so they don’t have to worry about financial ruin.

While we’re on the subject of financial ruin: Were you ever scared that your start-up would fail?

Absolutely! I was very nervous, especially in the early months. Suddenly, I wasn’t taking home a salary and at the same time there was all this uncertainty about how things would go. On top of that, you’re worried about your public image. When you tell people you want to set up your own business, they often laugh at you. But you inevitably learn really quickly how to deal with anxiety and stress. You face at least one problem every single day. You have to be resilient, you need grit and a certain amount of optimism.

Your courage and persistence have paid off; Calingo is growing well. What’s next, another start-up?

Who knows. If we do launch another company, it would have to be something completely different, something you can eat, something really great that everyone wants—not like insurance (laughing). No, seriously, at the moment I’m concentrating on Calingo and I think that’s the right thing to do. Start-ups, in particular, demand complete focus. Family and friends have to take a back seat for a while. It’s really true that, especially when you’re just setting up the business, you basically have almost no free time. A start-up is a labor of love, so you work evenings and weekends, too—basically all the time. There is just so much to do, and you know you have just this one chance and so little time. I believe that putting your whole heart into the business is the key to success. My aim is to make it big with Calingo and then go on holiday without taking my laptop for once!

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