Learn how a professional Parkour athlete moved from overcoming obstacles efficiently to digital marketing and asset-backed projects. And did I mention interior design? A fascinating look at how passionate people can migrate professionalism from career to career.
It was an idyllic childhood. Andreas thanks me at the end of our interview for reminding him. He is traveling back from celebrating his adoptive father’s 70 birthday party. I use the term adoptive but in reality, his father is his father. His parents adopted him as a newborn baby, his birth mother having abandoned him at a hospital. Andreas has never felt the urge to seek her out, perhaps she might not be found, but he doesn’t need to such is the bond with his parents.
There is a repeat of circumstances as an adult. His partner has a three-year-old toddler, David. Andreas first met him when he was a year and a half when he was just learning to climb down from a sofa. Within three weeks, Andreas had taught him how to jump from the sofa instead and now at three years he can gap jump a metre from the table to the soft. This might not be something the average child – or indeed mother – might be keen to witness until you realise that Andreas is a professional Traceur - or someone who does parkour, - which is the sport that fosters efficiently overcoming of obstacles.
Back to the idyllic childhood: Andreas recalls living outside mostly. His early childhood was just before social media and mobile phones which meant that he and his friends played in the woods. He grew up in the small Austrian town of Hard where back doors were unlocked. He may have been an only child, but he had access to multiple friendly neighbouring kitchens and friends (and food – running wild in nature is a very hungry pursuit).
School was not his cup of tea. Andreas is hugely curious and will deep dive if a subject interests him, but if his interest is only Meh then so too is his attention. This is both a negative as a young child in formal schooling but a huge positive for an adult looking to follow a passion.
“If something catches my attention then I can be like a dog with a bone and nothing will satisfy me until I read everything on the subject, watched every video available and sought out experts on the topic. Formal education can be very passive and also very retarded – often subjects taught in college are well behind what is happening outside of academia.
“I am a self-learner.”
Growing up and enjoying the outdoors led Andreas to hear about the world of Parkour – then only in its infancy. Andreas was studying as an apprentice with a travel agency when he discovered that tumbling, moving, jumping could be pulled into a defined experience.
Parkour by definition is described as:
the activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.
Note to self – as I typed in ‘’ Parkour De’ google automatically filled in the rest of my search string suggesting ‘deaths’ not definition. I don’t advise anyone to go there. However, in my conversation with Andreas, this is not something that he sought: neither death-defying jumps or backflips. Neither complete his definition of Parkour nor that of the original concept.
“If you adopt the definition of efficiently overcoming obstacles then you are not going to stop and backflip as part of that movement.
“Although I can, of course, backflip.”
Neither was Andreas interested in dangerous stunts.
Parkour was invented in the 1990s in France by David Belle and popularised by the filmmaker Luc Besson. Andreas was smitten and travelled to France where he studied under the creators. He soon quit his apprenticeship to concentrate on this new sport. He became a full-time Parkour athlete and in doing so also stepped into entrepreneurship – if only he had realised.
“I wasn’t even aware of the term entrepreneurship but I know I had found my passion. I put all my energies into this new sport, this new form. It began to capture the media’s attention and I was then approached by brand giant Adidas to take part in an advertising video.”
Andreas had to find five other Parkour buddies in just two weeks to appear in the advertisement in Berlin. He rang around his friends – it was a small tight-knit community – and rocked up to the film set with his team. Their mission was to run through the Berlin underground in a guerilla-styled video.
“Of course, we were paid a pittance but it was a start.”
Andreas could see there was a demand for his style of movement and established a Parkour Agency.
“Like a modelling agency, we offered talent and found a lot of traction.”
I asked if Andreas trained alone or in company, and if there were Parkour competitions. To the first, he replied both and to the second he was largely dismissive of the more modern Parkour competitions.
“If you consider the ambitions of Parkour – namely to overcome obstacles as efficiently as possible – then it can be hard to compare different athletes. Consider the obstacle might be a large boulder. Someone with long legs might be able to step over it, someone with short legs might have to climb it, How can that be judged?”
Initially, Andreas earned income from appearing as an athlete in videos or promotions but as the sport gathered traction, there were more athletes and more competition. Some professionals moved into coaching and opened Parkour gyms. Andreas tried that but closed his gym after a year. This was not for him.
“I became increasingly interested in the business of film making and digital marketing – it was a natural step for me to step behind the camera and in front of the computer.”
Around this time Andreas was also approached to write a book about Parkour. Its title translates into About the art of Overcoming Obstacles. The book did well and reflected more than just the sport but also the philosophy and art behind Parkour. Andreas had been the TV champion of the sport but as he moved behind the camera, his profile became less. The book was nevertheless a vindication of the man whom formal schooling had been a trial. It is still selling well (in German).
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And how did Andreas then transition from Parkour to blockchain and gold – it might not have been an obvious leap or even backflip.
For Andreas, his first experience with Bitcoin and Blockchain was in 2011. He had €5000 to invest and two choices. The first was bitcoin, then valued at about €2 a coin. The second was a startup. He chose the latter and of course, the startup failed and Andreas never saw a red cent in return.
His second introduction to blockchain was via Parkour. He was hired as a digital marketer by Novem co-founders Wolfgang Schmid and Mario Schober. They quickly saw his potential, his love of digital marketing and his passion and so he was hired as the chief marketing officer for their gold-backed stablecoin project Novem.
This was quite a jump if you’ll pardon the pun, for the Parkour filmmaker. So I ask Andreas to describe the project as he might to a child. Andreas laughs at first for he used exactly the same question to the project lawyers not 60 minutes prior.
“Okay let me pretend you are an eight-year-old,” he begins. “Gold, especially in large quantities, is difficult to mind. If you have a lot people may want to steal it. It is hard to store safely or move around, so Novem solves that problem.
“Novem tokenises gold – when you buy Novem tokens you can store the tokens in your wallet but you have title to the real gold equivalent which we hold securely for you in our partner vaults.”
There is a second part to Novem, or perhaps a first part. The two founders of Novem are long-term precious metal and gemstone experts with experience in international trade in Germany, Austria, and the UAE.
They had seen first-hand what it was like to sell or buy gold in retail shops. The shops tended to resemble pawn shops and the price offered often seemed untrustworthy. The founders knew there had to be a better and fairer way for people to buy and sell real gold.
Wolfgang had already opened a first Novem store. It differs significantly from the traditional tawdry shops as described already. In fact, the flagship store in Wels, Austria, resembles a high street luxury retail outlet, an outlet that provides trust and transparency for the customers.
Once joining Novem, Andreas got involved in a number of areas, including internal project management. A decision had already been taken to build the project on NEO. While not a dev opp, Andreas has made it his business to be knowledgeable about the platform.
“NEO is a smart choice. It is accessible, by which I mean programmers do not need to learn a new language, they can programme in Ruby, Rust, Python etc. There is an active community which is super handy when you need help. And the speed – it doesn’t matter whether you look to send $100 or $100,000 it is still fast and secure, taking seconds to transact.”
Andreas does not profess to be a programmer but he understands enough to manage and it was he who found the project’s CTO, Christoph Klocker. “I had coded when I was younger but I’m not a dev opp. I have always believed in getting the specialists in – and Christoph is that guy.”
Novem has already raised more than a million dollars which it invested directly into gold and which is held in secure vaults. The next step is to start the ICO or token sale of the NNN.
Andreas remarks to me at this stage that I am being very kind to him. “Running an ICO it feels as though everyone hates your guts, or at least the media does. I have done any number of interviews where the overlying comments are how everyone now hates ICOs and that people running them are stupid.”
While I personally think ICOs are tough work in this Crypto Winter, I do think that only credible projects will make any impact. In this Andreas and I are agreed.
“Having a stablecoin changes the reality of fundraising. People buying the NNN token know it is backed by gold. We are offering transparency and we have a track record in the gold management business. This is not a high tech play; it is a pure gold project.”
Andreas is both an internal project manager and chief marketing manager of Novem. The first role is also engrossing as he learns new skills.
“As with the legal team, I have to keep on drilling down to understand what they are saying. I push and I push until I learn. And of course there are many obstacles but I work hard to overcome them.”
I chuckle at this point – a bit like Parkour I point out – finding out the more efficient way to overcome obstacles.
“Yes, that’s it,” says Andreas.
The token sale will only run for a number of weeks and after that, what next for Andreas?
“Well, Wolfgang and Mario have a vision of opening their new glossy gold stores across Europe and ultimately the world. I won’t say exactly how many but at least three this year and ten the next. However, I would be very surprised if that number is not much larger.”
And Andreas will be in charge of the interior design. Excuse me? I say. Interior Design? I say (and probably in Caps).
But of course, that is something that interests Andreas. He has done a lot of design, including graphic design as part of his marketing strengths and is confident he can pull this off too. In fact, he has already done the interiors for an upmarket discotheque (his word not mine) in Zurich. His self-learning enables Andreas to inhabit more than one career.
While Andreas still trains in Parkour he is no longer on television or fronting glossy advertisements. He is more likely to be spending time with David, his girlfriend’s son, training at weekends.
Andreas, in addition to not being interested in crazy death-defying jumps, is also concerned with overall health. “I was never interested in doing high impact jumps – that way you can screw up your joints and never do sport when older. I love training with David, as a three year old, he just owns it,” he says proudly.
Strength, sense and passion – and maybe long legs – could possibly be the best way to overcome obstacles efficiently whether navigating boulders, the cryptomarket or being a dad.