The Mountaineer / Article in the Swiss IT Reseller

Marc Gasser sends his employees to the mountains. However, not to take vacations, but to work concentrated and develop software. 

“In order to realize our projects, we send the programmers up the mountain.” Marc Gasser has developed a unique project methodology, which he implements in his IT company. This company ? the company Astina ? specializes in process optimization in the field of e-commerce and programs portals that retrieve data from the network and provide it in a structured manner. Gasser discovered his penchant for technology early on. As a teen-ager, he has dismantled radios and alarm systems. “I wanted to know how it works,” he explains of his early hobby. However, it was better that he had left his fingers out again, because the individual parts no longer fit together. His school’s internet connection has disaused him from tinkering. Because Gasser wanted to learn what was behind the magic word Internet, he began to deal with programming. Soon relatives and acquaintances commissioned him to develop web applications; an article about his early business in the regional newspaper even brought with it a storm of orders. This led to Gasser ? although he teamed up with his schoolmate Simon Morger ? had to reject some exciting projects. The Matur also wanted to pass.

Contact point Uni

The study of business informatics at the University of Zurich was the logical consequence of the early IT fascination. “For me, the course of study in Zurich was ideal. The structure was consistent with my idea that IT and business are so closely linked that the two areas cannot be considered separately,” explains Gasser. During their studies, Gasser and Morger met their two fellow students Matthias Alder and Philipp Kräutli. They, too, had already become self-employed with software development before their studies. The four worked together and quickly realized that they were ticking the same way despite their different characters. Inspired by success, the young entrepreneurs founded Astina in 2005. “We were able to start relatively comfortably, without much risk, because each of the four partners was already able to bring customers,” Gasser describes the initial phase. Customer acquisition was through word-of-mouth propaganda, which has not changed to this day. This works so well that the company has grown steadily since its foundation and now employs 13 people. The success of the company is also evident in the Christmas menu in the main restaurant: If there was initially still bratwurst with Rösti, one has now arrived at beef fillet with potato gratin. “The landlord even promised to think about something special for next year,” Gasser says with a laugh.

On the mountain

Finally, Gasser explains his mountain project methodology in more detail. For a project, an exact specification is worked out with the customer, which must be ready by a specific date. With this specification, the customer can then also obtain competing offers. If the project is implemented by Astina, the programmers pack their bags and travel “to the mountain” for a few days. This is quite literal, the employees have a development environment in the Valais Alps at their disposal. There they can concentrate entirely on one project. Disturbing factors and interruptions, which are common in the office, are thus eliminated, leaving room for creativity. The goal of this phase, which takes between five and ten days, depending on the size of the project, is to create a running version of the software. Staff receive paid for hotel, food and even wellness. Gasser is enthusiastic about the result: “The solutions that have been developed are fascinating. The employees are extremely motivated, are especially preparing for such a ? Sprint? before. And the customers are also convinced of the result.” However, in the beginning, especially for larger companies that know classic IT project management processes, some persuasive work is needed. Among other things, Astina does this by contractually committing itself to a discount if the set deadlines are not met.

Teacher Gasser

In order to stay on the cutting edge, Gasser is also involved in training. During an internship as part of his trade teacher training, he taught computer science at a High School in Zurich. Gasser discovered his enthusiasm for teaching and is now employed as a computer science teacher. He is currently teaching young people basics in the fields of network technology, services, security and encryption. Gasser finds a balance to work in sports, preferably when snowboarding or sailing. But jogging also helps him to ventilate his head. He often has the best ideas. When he comes to the office afterwards and tells his boys about his latest project ideas, then come the remark “Marc, that’s nonsense”. That’s good and get him back on the ground. Nevertheless, one or two projects have already emerged from this, after all, the company invests 20 percent of its working time in the field of research and innovation. In such projects, the company attaches great importance to cooperation with universities. “On the one hand, we are at the forefront of innovation, on the other hand we get to know exciting people who may be our future employees,” gasser says with a wink.

Marc Gasser

Growing up in the idyllic St. Gallen Rhine Valley, Marc Gasser begins to program web applications before his business maturation. While studying business informatics at the University of Zurich, the 28-year-old gets to know his future business partners. Together, they founded Astina, an IT company specializing in process optimization in the field of e-commerce, in 2005. The company now has 13 employees, and two more are currently being sought. Gasser completed a year of his studies in Sweden. “But the company didn’t have to suffer from it, for them it was as if I was on the mountain? May be. I was able to work remotely at any time.” During his exchange year, he learned that different cultures communicate differently with each other: “The Swiss formulate rather softly, but still mean it harshly.”

Original article in the IT Reseller

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