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John Corcoran  3:38  

And so you were in the semiconductor manufacturing sector? And it was about 20 years ago, around 2003. Where you had taken on a new investor in your company, and you started to look for something some other organization that would help you to kind of support you in your entrepreneurial journey, which ended up being EO. You’d heard about YPO, which is a similar type of organization. Tell us about what EO was like in Germany in around 2003 When you came upon it?

Karl Funke  4:15  

Well, when I stumbled into EO at the time, it was still YEO for the Young Entrepreneurs Organization. There were only about 25 or 28 members in Germany. So I was lucky to find this events. But I liked the people, they were a versatile group from all over Germany. They met, they it was kind of an exclusive circle but they the people were very down to earth, very genuine. And I immediately liked their way of exchanging their experiences, opening up to each other, and welcoming each other. So having met them a couple of times, I joined them because I was looking at essentially what looking for my tribe. You know it was like, being with entrepreneurs, who didn’t just brag about their experiences or their successes and experiences, but who were genuinely interested in the other people’s stories and experiences and trying to learn from them.

John Corcoran  5:19  

Yeah. And what was the culture more broadly in Germany or in Munich? As far as starting companies? Were there a lot of lot of people starting companies around Munich? Did you have other friends who were starting companies who are entrepreneurs?

Karl Funke  5:37  

No. In those days, so that this was end of the, I mean, when I, when I started my company in fact, I didn’t start like, I bought it actually. There was no startup scene in Germany. I joined a private equity company, late 80s. And even that was a new industry in Germany. The way I stumbled into entrepreneurship was because my investor killed the deal that I was passionate about. So I quit the job and bought the company myself. And, and prior to that, the colleague of mine, a colleague of mine, and my boss, with thought, for a couple of years, came up with an idea to start our own company, but we weren’t smart enough to come up with a good business idea. So that was difficult in those days. In 2000, this, this has changed. The internet was there. So the startup ecosystem was actually starting out in Germany as well. And we know where it’s gone since then.

John Corcoran  6:46  

Yeah, and a couple of years in, you became president of your chapter and you also got followed what was kind of known as the path of leadership. So talk to us about what that is exactly within EO.

Karl Funke  7:07  

So, usually, when after we joined as just regular members, we cannot avoid also stepping into leadership at the chapter level. Because people see the value of it and because the, our peers, also want us on the board to just push the local chapter forward. Not all of us, then move on into international leadership. So the EO, essentially, as a three tier leadership structure, I would say there is at the local level, the local chapter, Munich, San Francisco, Seattle, whatever. Then we have the regions, Europe, North America has three; East Western Center, Canada, and so on. And then there is global leadership. And global leadership, for me has taken me to two different committees, the male committee and the leadership committee. And they are you design, the programs you design, the Leadership Academy is to look after leadership structures, or we look after the EO program, or in the regions, you just essentially run the regions. And for me, it’s recently been the last step having served on the global board for three, three and a half years.

John Corcoran  8:33  

And so, talk to us a little bit about that leadership committee role because you said from age 15, you were interested in leadership. And I know that there are a number of different leadership conferences and events for different individuals, like if you become president of your chapter, you can there there are different leadership events and a little kind of general it’s called miniature retreats. And then same on a regional level, and, and people rave about these activities. So talk a little bit about what those options are.

Karl Funke  9:07  

Um, leadership in EO has a totally different meaning than being a leader in your company. As entrepreneurs automatically we are leaders. We’re leading our company, we have a team, and we kind of find our own leadership style depending on our past experience and our upbringing and our personality. And of course, depending on the environment we’re operating. However, when we step into leadership in EO those tools and those behaviors we learn that don’t necessarily work, because suddenly we have to lead peers. And the entrepreneurial DNA is such that entrepreneurs don’t like to be told. They’re resistant to any kind of advice. However, within EO the starts and for being a forum moderator, you soon need these kinds of leadership becomes any team even as the phenomenal sports team of highly competent peers there always is a captain. And learning this kind of leadership, which we in EO, we call influential leadership is a huge step forward that forms us in our personality, that forms us as people, not just as leaders in EO or leaders in our companies, but also as human beings in our communities and in our families. It forces us to understand ourselves better to be a little bit more humble and understand the way the people around us operate a lot better. And I think it’s a phenomenal way of stepping up our leadership abilities to not just, and just being much more impactful. And it’s probably also a much more kind human being.

John Corcoran  11:17  

Hmm. And you put on a few universities as well, which is not “university” in that traditional sense, it is not an academic university. But EO has you put on a Berlin University. So it’s a, well you explain what it is, but it’s a it’s a gathering of members coming to enrich themselves and learn. Talk about what those universities are.

Karl Funke  11:40  

Universities are, if not, essentially, like a conference, like a learning conference. Usually run for for four and a half days. Well, it’s a combination of great learning opportunities, through speakers and breakout sessions, very often learn arounds with local members as well. It’s also a phenomenal opportunity to connect to other EOs. EO prides itself of facilitating deep personal connections. We lay the groundwork for that in the forums we have. But this extends into universities while we need strange people and we have to code intimacy very, very fast, to dive deep. And not to forget, the parties as the universities have always been phenomenal. Something I found out far too late, too late while I was doing already get already in the EO.

John Corcoran  12:46  

I also wanted to ask you about – so around 2009, you’ve been in EO for about six, seven years at this point. You went through a difficult phase in your life and so you had been president of your chapter and you decided to kind of take a pause there. One of the things I love asking EO members about is just kind of how their forum or chapter members or other members of EO have helped them through difficult phases in their life, whether personally or professionally. Can you share kind of what impact the organization had as you went through that?

Karl Funke  13:21  

Yeah, sure. So 2009-2010 was kind of a break in my professional and my personal life. I had serious health issues probably resulting from a difficult phase in my business as well. And I had to make the difficult decisions to leave my business, which I loved, and to get healthy again first but also cut a few ties with the past. I was in a stable forum at the time, but I was also president of EO Germany and had a phenomenal team that I loved as much as my forum. I had to step down from that role, because I just had to make a lot of time for myself. And the peer support I received on the board of EO Germanys their willingness to stay out step up and say okay, Karl that’s fine, we’ll step up, we’ll take over as well as the forum that was there to for me to share the problems I had, to show me ways to deal with this difficult phase, to let go of the company that I love, to find a new way in my personal life as well and professional life was invaluable. And eventually, also led to the fact that I then later on stepped up into international global leadership roles in EO.

John Corcoran  15:05  

And let’s talk about that. So what does the global board do? Well maybe I should say, what doesn’t it do? I’ve been talking about kind of what the what the three and a half year experience was like, is it? Is it kind of you can you focus on what you want to focus on? Or is it the chair at the time says, “Karl, I need you to work on this thing”? Or plus, I have to mention, last three and a half years, you dealt with COVID, which was unprecedented. So talk about that experience

Karl Funke  15:42  

Any corporate board is mainly oversight. And oversight is also a big portion of our responsibility in EO global board. The members on the global board, have the duty and the responsibility to make sure that the leadership of the organization is is appropriate that the funds are administered appropriately. And that the strategic direction has in the best interest of our 17,000 members not unlike those of your audience that are familiar with EO. They probably know there are chapter boards and chapter boards have chairs that membership chair that the forums chats on, the global board does not have roles that address these individual seats, apart from the oversight that gets their approaches. We we look after the regions we have so I was assigned to Latin American regions. For the past few years, I was assigned to the US West region before that. And each of us looks after one region, just making sure that we understand what’s going on there. We are there to inform them but also to listen to them and see what what’s on their minds. We had to deal with COVID. When COVID happened, all of a sudden, nobody could meet in person anymore. And the rest of the meetings are the essence. They bring us they bring out the magic of EO. So we had to find ways to teach keep EO alive, while not being able to meet in person. We we make sure that the products we have being the forum, or the universities, or the leadership academies that they evolve. That we assign the right funds to take them up to the next level. And such we have we have projects to look after, correct? The most important part is probably that you only learn, realy understand EO once you’ve been through the global board for three years.

John Corcoran  18:07  

That’s interesting. And what are you most excited about with the organization which, you know, by the way, I was in Accelerator, the Accelerator program, EO Accelerator program, when COVID hit. And I was so impressed with the way that the organization responded and just stepped up. And every day there were text messages and emails and events and zoom calls that were that were put together. And I believe the organization grew from around 14,000 to 16,000 or so now in the last two and a half years. So it seems like there’s momentum, but what are you most excited about with EO?

Karl Funke  18:46  

Well, what excites me most about EO is the huge diversity of entrepreneurial individuals. Each one of them has a different story. They are the stories how they got to be an entrepreneur, the stories how they design their life, their life model, the entrepreneur model. There’s the craziest people are the ones that excites me most. And at the same time, you can find deep personal connections with any one of them. It doesn’t matter whether they have more business, in the minimum is a million turnover, as you know, or whether they have a big business, and they have several thousand employees and a few billion in turnover. It doesn’t matter. We are here and and I found that I could learn something from their life stories or their entrepreneurial stories from each one.

John Corcoran  19:48  

Yeah, and I want, I’m gonna put you a bit on the spot here, but are there any particular EO members, maybe other members of the global board or anyone else that you would want to call out and just acknowledge them for being a great fellow member, a great volunteer, a great peer? Anyone in particular that you would just shout out and thank?

Karl Funke  20:11  

If I mentioned names now I would automatically do injustice to all the ones that I would not name. My EO network is huge. Everybody who’s been along my side for the last eight years, while I was global leadership, the being of the people I served on the board were for the leadership committee or in my EO, in the regions, there are phenomenal leaders. But then also, those people that have been my experience in my forum for 14 years. The people in my local chapters here who have been served on the board with me, I would have to write this down probably 20 to 50 names.

John Corcoran  20:59  

I think I might, you might have to submit those in writing and we can put them in the show notes then that that would be a double the length of show. Well said. Karl, this has been a pleasure where can people go to connect with you or learn more about you or perhaps your your new coming incoming endeavors and businesses?

Karl Funke  21:18  

Um, they can go to LinkedIn, they will find me on LinkedIn or in Germany, we’ve got a similar network, which is the same. I’m a bit lazy when it comes to social media. I must admit, I do have an Instagram profile, but it’s not very active. Yeah, I leave that, leave that to my wife. But LinkedIn is probably the best place to find me.

John Corcoran  21:46  

Well, I told you beforehand that there’s not much on the internet about you. I had to do some deep digging to find some information about you. But thank you for being transparent and sharing your story here. I appreciate it.

Karl Funke

My pleasure. Anytime.

John Corcoran

Thank you, sir.

Outro 22:02  

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