Interview with the founder of Continux, Mrs. Elif Levin

1. A brief introduction?
“My name is Elif Levin, I am a managing partner of a company that manufactures and distributes IP patent management software from the cloud.”
2. Why did you choose this profession?
“To be honest, I’m more of the type who moves aside the things that come in his way without thinking twice. The same goes for problems for which others don’t seem to find a solution or simply don’t see one. For these I usually find a solution. So the desire to develop suitable solutions for software users arose at a fairly early stage, solutions that did not yet exist. No matter how far the goal seemed, I simply set out on the path and have never regretted this decision, on the contrary, every new day confirms my decision and gives me joy.”
3. Did you come directly to this profession or did you do something else first?
“I was an absolute career changer. The common thread in my life always shaped itself according to the problems or their supposed solution. So I started to do a vocational training first of all after my graduation from school, this only so that I would have a profession from which I could possibly live first of all. Accordingly, I chose the first best thing that was recommended when choosing a profession at that time: paralegal. After the vocational training, however, I only worked in this profession for four months, as it was at the limit of what I could still achieve with my otherwise exuberantly available motivation. So I decided to become a foreign language correspondent, since I had always enjoyed languages. This additional education led me to an employer, where I finally realized, or rather experienced, that the computer systems of this employer and the solutions of colleagues’ problems with software and hardware fascinated me much more than translating some dry texts. I started to spend my evenings and nights studying IT on my own and became the point of contact for all IT-related questions among my colleagues. I had so much fun doing it. And that was the beginning of my career as a software professional.”
4. So you did something else?
“Yes, basically I have always done something. And even if it wasn’t fun sometimes, in retrospect it always spurred me on to make more of my life. As a further step, I then founded a trading company.”
5. How exactly did you then come to your current profession?
“In the mentioned trading branch I achieved excellent sales figures as an independent trader, so I was able to accumulate some basic assets, which enabled me to start my dream of owning a software company without outside help.“
6. How did you go about it?
“As always, just took a run at it, collecting all the salient features and points that I had found lacking or displeasing in the other software vendors. I had a clear picture in my head of what an alternative software would look like. It was clear to me that I would not be able to program and be responsible for a top-class software resulting from these ideas myself, no matter how much software knowledge I had acquired in the course of time in self-study. For this I needed someone who was a high achiever in his field and believed in the idea. It turned out to be a lucky coincidence that I had many computer scientists and mathematicians in my circle of friends and they recommended an excellent computer scientist to me, whom I then only had to convince of my idea. I succeeded quite well. That was a really magical moment, which I was not even aware of in depth at the time. I won over Peter Parzinger, a brilliantly competent, modest graduated computer scientist bubbling over with creative ideas, as a partner for the company I was to found. In retrospect, this was really a fabulous gain, a gift, especially since at that time, when I founded the company with him, I wasn’t able to judge his competence at all. But he went along with it almost unconditionally, he trusted me and my idea, he was a doer like me who just delivers what he promises once he makes up his mind. That’s it.”
7. Are there certain prerequisites that one needs for your profession of being an entrepreneur?
“Yes, of course. If you limit my profession as an entrepreneur to the aspect of founding and expanding a company, I think that for this you need a good dose of critical faculties, especially towards yourself, perseverance, the ability to constantly realign yourself according to unpredictable goals, over and over again, a large dose of optimism, and by optimism I don’t mean the so-called ability to think positively, but the ability to always be able to see the big picture from an optimistic and creative point of view, and not to let setbacks deter you from your optimism under any circumstances. But if you put aside these two aspects, the doing of founding and expanding a company, I would add to the list of qualities that I would never have gotten this far without my gripping nature, my creative, enthusiastic streak, which I rarely lose. In my opinion, this is hardly a later acquisition, but often predisposition.”
8. Aren’t there moments when you don’t know how to go on or just want to give up?
“Yes, you bet there are! I know many such moments. I am convinced that they are part of my healthy path. If I didn’t sometimes despair or doubt what I’m doing, I wouldn’t be able to make course corrections and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my successes and results. Where there is no doubt, there is no real joy. This can be spun on to other areas of life as well. Where there is no doubt, there is no real joy. Where there is always harmony, there is no drive, rather boredom. Therefore, I am happy about every negative emotion or situation that comes my way and always try to make the best of it in the truest sense.”
9. How did you come up with all these ideas and this attitude?
“I can’t answer that like that. I would need a crystal ball for that. Or an oracle that knows everything. But if I were to try to judge it, I would see the roots of my being and my success already in my parental home, where a lot was demanded of me, without exception. So while I was basically busy with household, school, taking care of my little sister and saw no escape, I probably grew with my tasks and learned that I can do everything if I only want to. However, my parents also always taught me this credo. They taught me that there is nothing you can’t do on your own if you work hard enough. They also lived this out for me. A little anecdote: when I was five, my mother sent me alone to the bakery to buy bread. She told me that I could do it all by myself, because I were great and could do it. I was so proud of myself and I really thought I was the ruler of the world. I didn’t realize that she was secretly following me and making sure nothing happened to me in traffic. Moreover, I was lucky enough to have a second family with whom I was always allowed to be in phases. The family of my aunt. My cousin, who is actually a brother for me, was a model student and bathed in love and constructive boundaries and guidelines. I then simply participated in this wonderful “bath” as a matter of course, as if I were actually a daughter of the family. I carry this polarity between strict parental home and loving consequence of the other family as a total composition in me. I am grateful for that.”
10. Finally, a question: what would you do differently today if you had a choice?
“That’s a difficult question. Basically, I have the “je ne regrette rien” attitude. But if I think about it carefully, there is something essential: I would give myself more playful, joyful and non-committal time with my creativity and also with my work content and tasks. I would try to really implement an advice I had received many years ago from a great strategist and at the same time my cousin (and brother, as mentioned above), Ümit Anil. The advice was this: “Focus all your energy on your strengths and try to deepen your strengths even more. Let your weaknesses be weaknesses and let others take care of them for you.” That’s really the only thing I would do differently. Yes, in fact, I manage to do that today. Most of the time, at least. But had I been able to implement this earlier, at a time when my cousin was telling me this, and now that I’m implementing it, know what a tremendous impact this approach has on me and the success of the company, I would have gotten a lot more out of it much earlier. I can’t get enough of the happiness I feel and live every single day of my life and the joy of sharing it with others..”
Thank you for the interview, Ms. Levin.
The interview was conducted by Ms. Cornelia Ertel-Reiter as part of research into success stories.