Coming from a family of entrepreneurs in the field of dietary supplements, Maximilian May, 29, has known health products since childhood. One of these products was at the center of an exciting scientific study examining natural energy boosts in human cells caused by a health-promoting supplement from the May family business. The HHL graduate, who was born in Munich, says, „I knew fairly early on that I wanted to start my own business to launch so-called functional drinks, which have a unique effect while offering a lifestyle component at the same time.“ While completing his Master program at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Maximilian May met Philipp Veit, 28. Excited about the idea, the two classmates have actively worked on developing the functional drink since January 2014. Eventually, in early March 2015, substanz® was launched.
Patented ingredients instead of artificial additives
According to Maximilian May, the „substanz® – natürlich wach den ganzen Tag“ drink is a „novel vegan functional drink combining energy and health promotion in one unique recipe.“ The company founders do not use any artificial additives but instead a fermented ingredient, which was tested in studies and consists of twelve fresh, purely organic varieties of fruits, nuts and vegetables. A study on this patented ferment substantiates an increase of the energy value through the ATP energy marker, measured on an intracellular level, on top of the participants‘ subjective perception. Other ingredients of the substanz® energy complex are guarana, isomaltulose and ginseng. The founder comments on the added value of the drink, „Additional ingredients such as the vitamin B complex and magnesium support the metabolism and vitamin C and selenium strengthen the immune system in fighting off infections. Tasty fruit such as quince, grapefruit and sea buckthorn as well as a fruity, yet agreeably tart tea mix made from hibiscus, balm and peppermint round off our substanz® natural Energizer.“
Target group: health-conscious, active people
Unlike most companies offering energy drinks, the Leipzig-based start-up, which is partnering with Dr. Niedermaier Pharma GmbH and supported by HHL as well as the Office for Economic Development of the City of Leipzig, does not primarily target teenagers but rather „health-conscious, active people, who want to deliver great performance on the job and in their free time while enjoying life.“
Diversified sales strategy
The diversified sales strategy for the natural energizer is based on four pillars: a) an online store () with a subscription model, b) directly approaching certain industries, c) retail with focus on sports/fitness, organic/vegan and convenience food, d) gastronomy, e.g. bars, clubs and Spas.
Maximilian May and Philipp Veit are pleased with the way the start-up, acofunktion has developed. „After a development period of just over one year, 350 samples and three major test batches, substanz® has reached a satisfactory level of marketability.“ Philipp Veit adds, „Further optimization of the product with regard to its content and design is, of course, possible. Right now, we are focusing on marketing the product through all channels.“
Alternative to existing energy drinks
The success of the start-up business seems to be a given considering the positive market outlooks. Maximilian May explains, „Our product is in the market of functional drinks. Although the overall share in the beverage market is relatively small, the segment of functional drinks has grown in the double digit percentage range over the last few years. This also includes energy drinks in the widest sense. The forecasts continue to be positive.“ The two company founders consciously distance themselves from the major corporations, such as Red Bull and Coca-Cola, on the market. „Our products are not just mere energy drinks. We take it one step further by launching substanz® as a functional drink meeting the highest quality and performance while representing a sensible addition and optimization to the working life of people who tend to be very busy,“ comments Maximilian May.
„HHL puts great emphasis on entrepreneurship“
HHL played an important role in establishing „substanz® – natürlich wach den ganzen Tag“. Maximilian May explains, „I came to HHL because I knew precisely that the school puts great emphasis on entrepreneurship. Here, I learned everything about self-employment; working in a structured, disciplined and pragmatic manner to drive things forward. Philipp Veit adds, „HHL’s support of start-up businesses is exceptionally strong with regard to both teaching and practice. We always knew we could come to our alma mater when we set up the business and find someone to answer our questions. HHL also provided rooms for us for several months.“
About HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management
With over 150 start-ups by HHL alumni over the past seventeen years, Germany’s top address for young managers has also developed into an incubator for company foundations. The founders‘ entrepreneurial commitment has created more than 2,500 jobs already, over 1,100 of which are located in the Leipzig region alone. In 2013 and 2014, HHL reached one of three first places for the best entrepreneurial universities in Germany in the Start-Up Radar ranking published by Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Founders‘ Association of German Science) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BWMi). According to the Financial Times, HHL ranks first in Germany and fifth globally for its entrepreneurship focus within the M.Sc. and EMBA programs.