Hi Alex. It’s a pleasure to interview you today! Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m Alex, a 39-year-old entrepreneur originally from Germany, with life and work experiences spanning across Australia and Austria. Family is central to my life; I’m a proud father to two wonderful daughters and a husband to an amazing wife. When I manage to carve out some free time, you’ll likely find me recharging by pedaling on one of my bicycles, exploring the scenic routes around me.
You are the mastermind behind the innovative PATCHBOX products. How did you come up with those ingenious ideas?
I’ve always been intrigued by the mechanics of creation, a passion that was ignited in the workshop of my parents’ electrical installation and appliance business. As a child, I’d spend hours after kindergarten tinkering with materials, crafting whatever my imagination conjured up. This early playground laid the foundation for my practical skills.
During school holidays, I’d work in the family business, not just to earn some pocket money, but also to immerse myself in the world of cables and construction—environments that I found inherently fascinating.
But perhaps a surprising twist to my story is that my inherent laziness—or should I say, my desire for efficiency—has been a significant driver of my innovation. I have an instinctive urge to streamline tasks to the point of thoughtlessness, whether that’s loading a dishwasher or managing complex cabling systems.
This blend of hands-on experience from my formative years and a relentless pursuit of efficiency is what led to the creation of PATCHBOX. It’s about transforming necessary tasks into seamless actions that blend into the fabric of everyday life.
Have you always been an inventor or did it all start with the PATCHBOX?
Indeed, my inclination towards invention was present long before the PATCHBOX came into existence. It first took root in my school days, where I often found myself swiftly understanding new topics introduced by teachers.
Once the principle was clear in my mind, my focus would shift, and the ordinary objects on my desk—pencils, paper clips, rubber bands—would become the tools of my imagination, taking on new forms and functions. This playfulness was not only confined to the classroom.
It was also fueled by countless hours spent in my parents’ workshop, where I was surrounded by tools and materials that allowed my creativity to flourish.
That environment was instrumental in shaping my understanding of how things work, both mechanically and physically, and it honed my ability to harness those principles effectively. These experiences laid the foundational skills that I would one day apply to inventing the PATCHBOX.
When you first pitched the concept of the PATCHBOX to friends, what were they thinking? And what were you thinking?
When it came to the PATCHBOX, discretion was our initial strategy—I held the concept close to my chest. Sepp was the first and only person I looped into the vision early on. We formed a pact of confidentiality, diligently working on the idea until it was robust enough to secure with a patent.
It was a pivotal moment, investing all our available funds into that patent application, but it marked the point when we could finally open up about our innovation.
The reaction from friends was surprisingly muted; they didn’t share our fervor, perhaps because the problem we were solving was so niche to our industry. Colleagues and industry peers often responded with skepticism, with many suggesting such a solution wasn’t necessary.
In hindsight, maintaining our initial secrecy proved wise. The external doubt, had we heard it too soon, might have dissuaded us from pursuing what we believed in.
Together with Josef “Sepp” Hofstätter, you founded the company in 2015. Starting from a small business in a garage to a successful company in a modern office in Vienna.
When you think back, what experience or achievement are you most proud of?
Reflecting on our journey from a humble startup in a garage to a thriving enterprise in a sleek Vienna office, the triumph I hold dearest is the unwavering partnership Sepp and I have maintained through every high and low.
Our bond is perhaps the most substantial in my life, even surpassing the time I’ve spent with my wife. We’ve grown to understand each other profoundly, recognizing our individual strengths and weaknesses, and intuitively knowing when to lend the other a hand or take the lead.
It’s this synergy between us that has been the bedrock of our success. On our own, perhaps neither of us would have embarked on such an ambitious path, but together, we’ve become an indomitable force.
What was the inspiration for the PATCHBOX?
The concept for the PATCHBOX was sparked on an evening that found me knee-deep in network cables at a hotel pre-opening. As a trained IT systems electronics engineer, I was tasked with setting up the guest WLAN network.
There I was, late into the night, methodically unpacking and connecting cables, when a moment of reflection struck me: Why do we still use traditional patch panels if their only advantage is a one-off organization? Throughout my career, every time I revisited a network cabinet, I was greeted by the inevitable chaos of cables, despite the presence of cable managers.
It was in that moment of contemplation that a lightbulb went off. What if we could repurpose the often-wasted space taken up by these shunting panels to neatly accommodate the excess cable lengths?
That’s where the idea for PATCHBOX originated – out of a desire to transform a philosophical musing into a practical, space-efficient solution.
Which story from a customer made you really happy?
It’s truly challenging to pinpoint a single customer story that made me happiest, as there have been countless instances where our customers’ feedback has brought joy to our team. Each story, each piece of feedback is a testament to the impact we’re making, and collectively, they’re a source of great pride and motivation for us.
Your role must have changed a lot since the foundation. What were your tasks then and what are they now?
Reflecting on the evolution of my role since the inception of our company is quite fascinating, as it’s an area we are actively refining. In the early days, Sepp and I wore many hats. We were deeply involved in everything from product design, sales, and marketing to investor relations and even the mundane task of cleaning the office. It was all hands on deck, all the time.
As the company has grown, we’ve been fortunate enough to bring on board specialists who excel in these areas, allowing us to delegate and elevate the work in ways that we couldn’t have managed alone.
It’s an ongoing process of evaluating our responsibilities and redistributing them to better suit the company’s needs and capitalize on our growing expertise.
Currently, my primary focus is on product design, managing our intellectual property, and overseeing our IT infrastructure. Just a few days ago, I would have included human resources in that list, but I’m pleased to say that we’ve recently welcomed an expert to take the helm of that crucial function.
What do you like most about your job?
What I cherish most about my job is the privilege of walking into our office each morning and being greeted by a team of exceptionally talented individuals—most of whom I’ve personally selected and brought on board. (You think you would be a great addition to our team? Click here to join us!)
Their energy and passion are palpable, and in my book, life’s too short to spend a single day surrounded by anything less than that positivity.
Another aspect that invigorates my daily routine is the sheer diversity of my responsibilities. While I may not claim deep expertise in any one field, I possess a broad understanding across a spectrum of disciplines.
This breadth of knowledge keeps my days dynamic, ensuring there’s never a dull moment and always a fresh, exhilarating challenge on the horizon.
What is the craziest thing on your bucket list?
At the top of my bucket list sits an adventurous dream to traverse the globe for a few years with my family, aboard an Expedition Truck—a robust, go-anywhere vehicle that’s yet to be constructed. It’s the idea of ultimate freedom and exploration, of charting unknown paths with the ones I love, and creating memories on a truly grand scale.
If you could have any celebrity be your best friend, which celebrity would you pick?
In all honesty, the concept of celebrity friendships doesn’t resonate with me as I have a peculiar quirk with names—especially those of celebrities. They just don’t stick in my memory. Even after watching a movie, I’d be hard-pressed to recall which stars were in it.
Do you have a talent that most people don’t know of?
One of my lesser-known talents is playing the Didgeridoo with circular breathing techniques, allowing me to play continuously without interruption. This unique skill has significantly increased my lung capacity to nearly 10 liters, which serves me incredibly well in endurance sports.
It has also empowered me to achieve a personal record of holding my breath for over 4 minutes—a testament to the unexpected benefits of this ancient musical art. Pretty random, isn’t it?
Which super power would you choose if you could have one?
If I were to choose a superpower, it would undoubtedly be the ability to stop time. The prospect of halting the rush of hours and minutes offers an appealing respite in our fast-paced world.
It’s not just about the stillness; it’s the opportunity to reflect, to perfect, and to appreciate the moment without the relentless pressure of the ticking clock. Plus, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, think of how productive one could be with the gift of unlimited time!