Growth at On: “The best kind of roller coaster”

Frederik Borst was one of the very first employees at On. Now, he’s one of more than 600. We asked him how he helped grow the Berlin office, what makes the On office in the German capital so unique, and where On is heading in the future. We also learned about his interior decoration “skills”.

In 2018, On was growing – fast. They knew that they had to open a new Tech Hub in Europe in order to attract the talent they needed. They considered London, Paris, Lisbon, and more, but in the end there was one clear winner: Berlin. As one of the biggest tech and start-up cities in the world, the team knew that they’d be able to find the brightest and best people there.

As an added bonus, Germany was already one of On’s biggest markets; plus it’s in the same timezone as the global HQ in Zurich. And, as Frederik admits, “It’s also a city with really amazing coffee!” Read on to find out just how special the Berlin office is.

In 2018, On was growing – fast. They knew that they had to open a new Tech Hub in Europe in order to attract the talent they needed. They considered London, Paris, Lisbon, and more, but in the end there was one clear winner: Berlin. As one of the biggest tech and start-up cities in the world, the team knew that they’d be able to find the brightest and best people there.

As an added bonus, Germany was already one of On’s biggest markets; plus it’s in the same timezone as the global HQ in Zurich. And, as Frederik admits, “It’s also a city with really amazing coffee!” Read on to find out just how special the Berlin office is.

Hey Fred, thanks for finding time for us. What’s your role at On? And how long have you been here?
I started in 2012. I was employee number five, I think. Now, I work across e-commerce and marketing, with a focus on digital growth.

To help my friends understand what I do, I tell them I help people all around the world understand what’s so great about On’s gear, and try to get them excited about trying it.

In five words, how would you describe working at On?
Ha, that’s tough. Fun, definitely. Challenging. Really, really interesting. Always Inspiring. And energizing – I get such a kick from working here.

You helped set-up the Berlin office, what was that like?
I worked with Marc, our COO, to find an office. We knew that Berlin was where we needed to be, but apart from that we had to start from scratch.

When we found the office, next to Görlitzer Bahnhof in Kreuzberg, it was totally empty. Fixing it up became part of my job. I worked alongside a carpenter, I helped with electrical installations. I even had to make design decisions like selecting furniture. Then, in summer 2018, our first Berlin employee started.

Did those early employees in Berlin like your work?
I mostly did a good job. But the meeting rooms didn’t quite work out. I made them look cool, they looked like garages… but it turns out I should have focused more on making them soundproof!

The thinking for all the offices comes from David, one of On’s co-founders. It’s all about movement. People can move easily from one office to another. There are no fixed desks, so you’re always sitting next to someone from another department. And there are always places to meet and chat and drink too much coffee.

And, most importantly, every office has showers, so that people can be active all through the day. A pre-work run, a lunch break yoga session, people really use that opportunity.

Hey Fred, thanks for finding time for us. What’s your role at On? And how long have you been here?
I started in 2012. I was employee number five, I think. Now, I work across e-commerce and marketing, with a focus on digital growth.

To help my friends understand what I do, I tell them I help people all around the world understand what’s so great about On’s gear, and try to get them excited about trying it.

In five words, how would you describe working at On?
Ha, that’s tough. Fun, definitely. Challenging. Really, really interesting. Always Inspiring. And energizing – I get such a kick from working here.

You helped set-up the Berlin office, what was that like?
I worked with Marc, our COO, to find an office. We knew that Berlin was where we needed to be, but apart from that we had to start from scratch.

When we found the office, next to Görlitzer Bahnhof in Kreuzberg, it was totally empty. Fixing it up became part of my job. I worked alongside a carpenter, I helped with electrical installations. I even had to make design decisions like selecting furniture. Then, in summer 2018, our first Berlin employee started.

Did those early employees in Berlin like your work?
I mostly did a good job. But the meeting rooms didn’t quite work out. I made them look cool, they looked like garages… but it turns out I should have focused more on making them soundproof!

The thinking for all the offices comes from David, one of On’s co-founders. It’s all about movement. People can move easily from one office to another. There are no fixed desks, so you’re always sitting next to someone from another department. And there are always places to meet and chat and drink too much coffee.

And, most importantly, every office has showers, so that people can be active all through the day. A pre-work run, a lunch break yoga session, people really use that opportunity.

How has it felt to be part of On’s journey until now?
Like being on a roller coaster – but in a really good way. You constantly need to adapt. There’s always a new challenge on the horizon. I’ve learned so much.

And I’ve met so many good people who’ve become great friends. We go on big bike rides together, spend the weekend with each other, the people here are really special.

Could you name a couple of key milestones you hit – and say what they meant to you?
Our five-year anniversary in 2015 was incredible. It felt like we'd made it, that we were a real player in the game now. Since then, we’ve not looked back, we keep on growing. This year was our 10th anniversary, we had huge plans. The whole company was going to meet in Sardinia, but because of coronavirus it looks like that party will have wait until next year now. But it will happen!

More recently, it’s been seeing the traction of On as a brand, seeing us make a real impact in the world. It feels like, wherever I am in the world, I see more and more people wearing our shoes. That’s an amazing feeling.

What’s the wildest moment you experienced in your time at On?
Watching the Super Bowl live in February 2020 and seeing Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson walking into the spotlight wearing Black/White Cloud X. My mind was just like, “What the heck is happening?!”

And then, five seconds later, I’m getting an error notification on my phone telling me that the website is down. It crashed because we had so many people trying to access the website to find out more about who we were.

How has it felt to be part of On’s journey until now?
Like being on a roller coaster – but in a really good way. You constantly need to adapt. There’s always a new challenge on the horizon. I’ve learned so much.

And I’ve met so many good people who’ve become great friends. We go on big bike rides together, spend the weekend with each other, the people here are really special.

Could you name a couple of key milestones you hit – and say what they meant to you?
Our five-year anniversary in 2015 was incredible. It felt like we'd made it, that we were a real player in the game now. Since then, we’ve not looked back, we keep on growing. This year was our 10th anniversary, we had huge plans. The whole company was going to meet in Sardinia, but because of coronavirus it looks like that party will have wait until next year now. But it will happen!

More recently, it’s been seeing the traction of On as a brand, seeing us make a real impact in the world. It feels like, wherever I am in the world, I see more and more people wearing our shoes. That’s an amazing feeling.

What’s the wildest moment you experienced in your time at On?
Watching the Super Bowl live in February 2020 and seeing Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson walking into the spotlight wearing Black/White Cloud X. My mind was just like, “What the heck is happening?!”

And then, five seconds later, I’m getting an error notification on my phone telling me that the website is down. It crashed because we had so many people trying to access the website to find out more about who we were.

Were you at any point concerned that On was growing too fast?
At times, yes, as we’ve been growing so much, bringing in so many people. But I look around at who we’ve brought in, and what they’re capable of, and it’s honestly just made my job even more inspiring. There’s so much potential here.

That’s not to say it’s not daunting, when I see the business plans for next year, the targets and forecasts. But we can do it, I know we can. And I get a real buzz from that. Imagining what comes next.

What challenges have you faced, because of On’s rapid growth?
Ha, well, as I said, we’ve managed to crash the entire website a few times. We now have kick-ass marketing and PR and social media teams. So a really interesting new launch or product story can create a huge amount of traffic. But we’ve learned our lessons. So, fingers crossed, that shouldn’t happen again.

And the coronavirus, of course, has been a huge challenge. But honestly, I’ve been so inspired by everyone’s responses. We just came together, adapted, made the best of it. People organized these huge online workouts, they were so much fun.

Were you at any point concerned that On was growing too fast?
At times, yes, as we’ve been growing so much, bringing in so many people. But I look around at who we’ve brought in, and what they’re capable of, and it’s honestly just made my job even more inspiring. There’s so much potential here.

That’s not to say it’s not daunting, when I see the business plans for next year, the targets and forecasts. But we can do it, I know we can. And I get a real buzz from that. Imagining what comes next.

What challenges have you faced, because of On’s rapid growth?
Ha, well, as I said, we’ve managed to crash the entire website a few times. We now have kick-ass marketing and PR and social media teams. So a really interesting new launch or product story can create a huge amount of traffic. But we’ve learned our lessons. So, fingers crossed, that shouldn’t happen again.

And the coronavirus, of course, has been a huge challenge. But honestly, I’ve been so inspired by everyone’s responses. We just came together, adapted, made the best of it. People organized these huge online workouts, they were so much fun.

Do you think On still has the same culture as when you started?
It’s not the same, of course. We were a handful of people, now we’re hundreds. So you can’t know everyone. But the DNA is the same. We’re all one team. Everyone is still really ambitious. Everyone wants to have an impact in their role.

And we all want to have a positive impact in people’s lives, too. Like helping someone finish the NYC marathon she’s always wanted to run. Or someone else to just get out there and explore his local area a bit more, to be more active.

Where do you see On in three years? And yourself?
There’ll be another new office for sure… but I don’t think they’ll let me design it. I will still be at On, no doubt. Maybe I’ll be doing something else. There are loads of opportunities to try something new, new doors opening.

Maybe I could retrain as an architect or interior designer. Or maybe not. We actually have a whole department for that now.

Do you think On still has the same culture as when you started?
It’s not the same, of course. We were a handful of people, now we’re hundreds. So you can’t know everyone. But the DNA is the same. We’re all one team. Everyone is still really ambitious. Everyone wants to have an impact in their role.

And we all want to have a positive impact in people’s lives, too. Like helping someone finish the NYC marathon she’s always wanted to run. Or someone else to just get out there and explore his local area a bit more, to be more active.

Where do you see On in three years? And yourself?
There’ll be another new office for sure… but I don’t think they’ll let me design it. I will still be at On, no doubt. Maybe I’ll be doing something else. There are loads of opportunities to try something new, new doors opening.

Maybe I could retrain as an architect or interior designer. Or maybe not. We actually have a whole department for that now.