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Two GEMBA ’15 grads ‘swipe right’ on disrupting the art world

February 5, 2018

GEMBA Grads WYDRMatthias Dörner (GEMBA ’15) understands that finding the perfect piece of art is a lot like falling in love: it can happen in an instant and you just know when it’s right. It figures that while brainstorming start-up ideas with classmate Timo Hahn (GEMBA ’15), their most promising concept eventually turned into wydr, which is often referred to as ‘Tinder for Art’.

Today, the platform — which has more than 100,000 users from around the world, including Canada, the US, Brazil, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong and Australia — is shaking up the art world.

“It’s about making art more accessible,” explains Hahn. “We’re removing barriers and giving artists a platform to reach a global audience.”


“The art world hadn’t changed in decades and it was overdue for a disruption.”

-Matthias Dörner (GEMBA ’15), Cofounder of wydr.co


Thousands of artists have already uploaded pictures of their paintings, photos and sculptures to wydr’s database, and users can swipe right on art works they love. Those on the hunt for unique pieces to decorate their homes and offices now have a starting point for looking and learning about art.

“By looking at so many different styles, approaches and designs, they’ll have a better sense of their own taste and preferences,” says Dörner. “Users can discover a lot about themselves.”

For this entrepreneurial pair, their own learning journey — from how to pitch a start-up idea to running a sustainable business — kicked off during their time in the Rotman School’s Global Executive MBA. 

Disrupting the art world

Before enrolling in business school, both Dörner and Hahn were already on promising career paths. Dörner, who had a background in mechanical engineering, had worked in several managerial roles at medtech companies. Meanwhile, Hahn had taken on senior management positions at financial institutions.

Both knew that completing an MBA program, especially one that incorporates travel and features a strong faculty, would give them a broader perspective of business issues and could help them advance professionally.

Eager to learn more about all things business, Dörner and Hahn jumped at the chance to build and present the case for wydr as a class assignment.


“You need to get the idea out of your head and start building. Talk to everyone about it, take what you’ve learned and get started.”

-Timo Hahn (GEMBA ’15), Cofounder of wydr.co


Though their initial pitch was met with criticism — the guest judges for the course didn’t think they would find enough artists to make the venture successful — the two weren’t discouraged.

“The art world hadn’t changed in decades and it was overdue for a disruption,” said Dörner. “We believed in our idea and knew we should go ahead.”

The feedback they got from class motivated them to test and refine their business model further. They went on to speak with artists, art students and galleries to learn more about the industry and address some of the comments they’d received.


“Your users are your best and only relevant teachers.”

-Matthias Dörner (GEMBA ’15), Cofounder of wydr.co


A few weeks later, they took their idea to the Startup Weekend competition in Zurich. After an intense 52 hours working with experts in various fields, wydr won first place.

“That weekend confirmed what we had thought. It gave us that validation,” said Hahn. “At that point, we knew this couldn’t just be a hobby.” 

The pair decided to focus on wydr full-time after graduation. Within a few months, they launched an app version of the platform and have since connected thousands of users with artists and art from all over the world.

Some advice for future entrepreneurs

Today, Dörner and Hahn are still learning.

“Your users are your best and only relevant teachers,” explains Dörner.

They still refer to their business school notes to craft business plans for scaling up the venture, but they are learning as they go when it comes to tapping new markets and expanding wydr.

Ultimately, the journey has been worth it for the business partners and they want other aspiring entrepreneurs to feel confident in pursuing their own business dreams.

“Most people feel insecure about discussing an idea,” says Hahn. “But, you need to get the idea out of your head and start building. Talk to everyone about it, take what you’ve learned and get started.”


Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories » | Learn more about the Global Executive MBA »

About Matthias DörnerGEMBA 2015

Class

Class year

GEMBA ’15

Industry

Industry

Technology, medtech

Job Title

Current Position

Cofounder
wydr.co
Zurich, Switzerland

Senior Project Manager
etventure
Berlin, Germany

Previous Work Experience

Previous Employment

Senior Account Manager
Computer Rock
Zurich, Switzerland

Previous Education

Previous Education

Master of Science
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich


About Timo HahnGEMBA 2015

Class

Class year

GEMBA ’15

Industry

Industry

Banking, Technology

Job Title

Current Position

Cofounder
wydr.co
Zurich, Switzerland

Previous Work Experience

Previous Employment

Director, Head of Internal Control Assessment Security IT
UBS AG
Zurich, Switzerland

Senior Information Risk Manager
Zurich Insurance Company Ltd
Zurich, Switzerland

Previous Education

Previous Education

Bachelor of Science (Computer Science)
University of Applied Sciences
Stuttgart, Germany


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