“The trust is growing exponentially”

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Without digitisation, his firm wouldn’t exist. And without trust in things digital, Tobias Häckermann wouldn’t have any customers. His product digitises what until now has been time-consuming boardroom work.

Text: Sandra Willmeroth | Images: Markus Bertschi | Magazine: Trust in the Digital Age – December 2017

“Digitisation doesn’t mean transmuting existing processes from ­paper to tablet, one-to-one; rather, it means using digital possibilities to develop entirely new processes,” emphasises Tobias Häckermann. This erstwhile law graduate is today the brain of Sherpany, a company whose digital solution – Sherpany Boardroom – simplifies the work for corporate directors, board secretaries and the like. “Everybody concerned can find instantly all the relevant information they need, work through the various issues, make notes, exchange ideas with other board members, and of course vote electronically as well,” company co-founder Häckermann explains. In theory at least, it’s not even necessary anymore for board members to meet face-to-face. Physically, that is.

“Trust is the alpha and omega of my business, and I have trust in today’s digital possibilities.

“Digital transformation sometimes also entails taking a step back,” says Häckermann, meaning that existing processes occasionally need to be revamped. The audacity to adapt is something he learned the hard way with his first company, Agilentia, which was rechristened in 2013 to become Sherpany and then restructured in the difficult days of 2015. Difficult because the company’s masterpiece – a portal for informing and interacting with shareholders of listed companies – wasn’t exactly the hit that its inventors had hoped for. They developed the platform as a kind of Facebook for shareholders, a venue where official information on the exchange-listed companies could be accessed, shareholders had the possibility to swap instant messages with each other, and their votes could be cast electronically for annual meeting purposes. Alas, the portal was not used as actively as Häckermann had envisioned. “We had to face the fact that neither the companies nor their shareholders were ready at the time to jump on the digitisation train – even though it was and remains unstoppable.”

Tobias Häckermann, born in 1984, grew up in Küsnacht ZH and still lives in Canton Zurich. At the age of 18, he founded his first company – Swiss Protection Services – but opted to step down from the Executive Board in 2011. Häckermann studied law in Zurich and Siena, and during that time founded his second company – Agilentia – which was ultimately renamed Sherpany Ltd in 2013. Häckermann is an analyser, nerd and (ever since his childhood) an active Kung Fu enthusiast.

But almost at the same time, one of his customers, the CEO of a listed company, planted the seeds for another Häckermann idea. While he was listening to how the executive bemoaned the time and effort it was taking him to prepare for an upcoming board meeting, the concept of a digitally organised board of directors germinated in Häckermann’s mind. Within the space of just a few months, Häckermann had transferred this thought from drawing board to hard disk. And in 2013, the first version of Sherpany Boardroom was up and running.

His old customers remained true to him during the transformation of Sherpany’s business model and today handle both their shareholder and boardroom matters via digital means. And many new customers have jumped on the bandwagon in the meantime. Why? Tobias Häckermann has come up with a quite unusual strategy to stoke enthusiasm for his product: he zeros-in on one member of a given board, describes to him or her the advantages of Boardroom, and in so doing turns that person into an ambassador for Sherpany. Then, instead of staggering to the table with a heap of paper and files, the board member sashays into the room for the next meeting with nothing more than a brand-new tablet in hand. Bingo. The other board members become curious all on their own and want to know more about this digital assistant. This concept is called “Roll-in” and replaces the outdated “Roll-out”. Häckermann smiles as he tells the story.

Sherpany Ltd (formerly Agilentia Ltd) was founded in 2010 by Tobias Häckermann, Roman Bühler and Nathanael Wettstein. With its Sherpany Boardroom meeting management system, the company offers board members a tailored digital tool that makes it easier to process the relevant information and arrive at insightful decisions. Now in its seventh year of existence, Sherpany has 45 employees, some 200 customers, and revenues of more than Swiss francs 5 million. A winner of multiple awards, Sherpany most recently took first place in the Handelszeitung “Growth Champions Switzerland” ranking, and the company’s Boardroom 3 application was distinguished with the silver Stevie Award 2017.


“Our dilemma, though, is that the people who buy our product are in operative management, but the ones who use it are members of the board. So ultimately, we have to convince those people that they save a lot of time and tedium with these new digital processes,” notes Häckermann. To date, the company has always been able to gain the confidence of board members, as “digitisation engenders transparency, which in turn fosters trust,” the young entrepreneur is convinced. Sherpany already has a customer base in excess of 200 companies and is now in an international expansion phase. “The trust is growing exponentially,” says Häckermann, who himself has total trust in the digital possibilities out there and in his product, as well – one which didn’t come from a pipedream like his erstwhile shareholders network did, but rather from a real customer need.

Tobias Häckermann
Short questions – short answers

What’s your favourite app?
The Boardroom app, naturally!

Which aspect of your personal life has changed the most as a result of the digital age?
My family space. Thanks to the quick and easy outreach that instant messaging enables, I feel much more in touch with my family than before.

These days, we’re all constantly online and available; how important are offline oases to you?
Not very. I was in Africa a few weeks ago, totally offline. That was okay, but it’s not as though I necessarily yearn for offline getaways.

What kind of wallpaper do you have on your smartphone or laptop?
Panoramic landscapes.

When you were a kid, what was your dream job?
I wanted to be a “repairer”. There’s no real profession like that, but I always wanted to repair things!