Tobias Schiwek, Lego lover, sustainability enthusiast, start-upper, father of three, internationalist, wanted to be a professional soccer player or journalist when he was younger. Started his career in the music industry, is inspired by his children, embraces change, efficiency and speed, wants to make a difference on this planet. Avid fan of 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Bertelsmann Entrepreneurs Program alumnus and CEO of We Are Era.
“To me, work means being paid for something that you love to do.”
This principle has guided Tobias Schiwek, CEO of We Are Era, Europe’s leading digital studio and talent network, along his winding career path. “You spend so much time at work, it better be fun. It should be something that you do with passion, and it’s even better if you get paid for something that you have passion for”, says the father of three.
Tobias laid the first professional foundation for his career in the digital industry very early on: he started programming at the age of ten. While he was a university student in Mannheim and Milan, studying political science and business economics, he interrupted his studies for three years. “I almost dropped out of university to start a music streaming service, and as soon as we had sold that company, I launched a data analytics start-up. In between, I finished my degree.”
The 36-year-old has always enjoyed creating things – whether that’s with Lego, code or businesses.
“Creativity means turning your ideas into reality. In the environment that I am in, it's even better because I do it together with many others”,
says Tobias, who prefers working with people who have an intrinsic drive to being a constant motivator. He decided to leave the start-up scene and pursue a career in the corporate world when he heard about the Bertelsmann Entrepreneurs Program (BEP) at the age of 32. “I really wanted to see what it’s like to work for a corporation, and I knew that this was not your typical corporate job. You’re basically a free radical in the physics of the company, and you travel the world looking for new business.” He adds that this was not only the first time he wrote a CV, but also the first time his wife saw him being nervous. Everything turned out fine, and Tobias entered the BEP and went on to establish new projects in different Bertelsmann companies all over the world.
Many would expect a corporation to be slower than a start-up, but not Tobias: “Ihave been in both worlds, and I can say that it depends on how you play it. And if you play it right, you can leverage corporate resources very well.” He is convinced:
“It is your mindset, that of the people around you and your resources that determine how fast you can act.”
After his fast-paced and entrepreneurial experiences during the program, he took over We Are Era. “We create the value chain of video for a whole generation: from concept, strategy and talent to creation, production and media.” His current mission is to be Europe’s answer to fragmented audiences and diversified media consumption. In order to be that answer, We Are Era acquired four companies over the course of twelve months. Starting with 90 people, the company grew to a team of 250 people who work from Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki.
Today, the company is more multi-faceted than ever: providing digital rights management services as well as media solutions to a network of social influencers. A true online video powerhouse. “The artists expect us to connect them with their audience across platforms. Our audience is watching our content across platforms with different genres and talent in front of and behind the camera”, Tobias sums up.
Being part of the content industry and following his passions makes him take a step back from time to time: “Sometimes I think it’s ridiculous to get paid for what we are doing. We get to know some interesting places and people, and we shoot videos at the most amazing places that, normally, you would not be able to go to.“
What drives Tobias is the constant change in an industry led by consumer behavior. The model of ownership has shifted to access, 24/7 availability has shifted to video on-demand and a higher degree of individuality in general. “In our environment, nothing is stable – and it’s so much fun to be agile, to think in different ways, to connect the dots and to make them reconnect”, Tobias says. The biggest challenges he currently faces – speed, volatility, ambiguity – are, at the same time, his biggest motivators because, he says, there are changes happening every day:
“I think this is the slowest day for the rest of our lives.”
Being a digital enthusiast with a background in coding and founder of several start-ups allows him to be efficient. Unpredictability and eternal change are things many do not seek in their work environment. But Tobias embraces them and finds balance at home with his family: “Very often, I don’t know on a Monday where I will be on a Thursday. But when I’m at home with my family, they know that I am present. I need it for my balance to be happy at both ends of my life: my family and my job.”
As to the question of whether this is his dream job, Tobias answers: “If it was not my dream job, I would change it. I think it’s all about creating your own career, and I totally believe in that. So that is what I do – every day.“ His purpose in life is to leave his mark on the world and change it for the better. He is convinced that everybody should make a difference once they are on this planet. “You must not waste the time you have – it should make a difference that you exist. And that’s my goal in life.”