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Balancing the Grind with Christian Eckelmann, CEO & Co-Founder at Upstreet

Christian Eckelmann is the CEO & Co-Founder at Upstreet, a startup that enables users to earn shares in companies as they shop.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I founded my first startup (wein.com, a DtC wine shop in Germany) in 1998 with two friends when I was 16 years old. We learnt a great deal and sold the business a few years later.

I then went to work for Audi while I also acquired a Masters in Software Engineering and an MBA from Steinbeis University in Berlin. I ended up working with Audi for almost 10 years, before joining McKinsey in Munich. After a few years in Munich, I transferred to the Sydney office in 2015. While at McKinsey I did mostly transformational work across industries that created additional value for clients. 

As my pet project at the firm, I co-founded the Australian Startup Club; the club helps local startups solve their most challenging problems in a constructive environment. We ran Friday afternoon sessions with pizza and beers in the McKinsey office – that was a tonne of fun. What began with two guys rocking up at startup pitches developed to 40 consultants engaged across all McKinsey offices in Australia and New Zealand.

That’s also where I realised I wanted to build something; something meaningful and bring my 18 years of learning to bear. So I left McKinsey and joined the Antler program in 2019 and founded Upstreet and the rest is history. I’m currently the co-founder and CEO of Upstreet.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I normally get up around 6 am and start the day by making coffee and breakfast/lunch for our oldest child (Max 4yrs). I also change and feed Leopold (7 months).

After getting them ready, I bring Max to kindy at around 8 am. After drop off, I go for a walk at Bondi Beach with Leopold. With my soy cap in my hands, I’m walking down the boardwalk and thinking through the days’ tasks ahead (Leopold is sleeping most of the time).

At 8.30 I have my daily check-in call with my friend and product manager at Upstreet Ravi. We talk through the actions of the day and how we should implement things. Who is doing what and how to do the integrations with clients

9 am — Hand over Leopold to the nanny.

9.30 am — Check-in with the product and tech team – what’s on for today.

10 – 12 pm — Various phone calls to the sales team to push topics along / setting up the latest client (we are early so I’m involved in the day to day ops) / working through clients contracts

12 – 1 pm — Lunch break sometimes with a quick beach run (45min) 

1-5 pm — Clients pitch calls and client implementation meetings / internal meetings like a product review or sprint planning & review 

5-7.30 pm — Dinner with the family and playing with kids. Getting them ready for sleep. My partner takes the little one and I will read a bedtime story to Max. Most of the time I will fall asleep as well and do a 45min power nap

8.30 — Late admin, leftovers of the day, email, writing answers for this Balance the Grind interview, and phone calls with Europe.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes, absolutely. As the founder and CEO you basically can make the call to have an office or not. However, I recently asked the team and almost all of them prefer to continue to work remotely with in-person workshops now and then.

I personally love it, I save a lot of time (1 and a half to 2 hours a day in commute) and can invest that in time with my kids and put a bit more time into the business.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance has changed quite a bit from back in the days as a consultant without kids to now being a founder with two little ones. It’s about balancing myself, the business (it’s an always-on job every day) and the kids so I don’t get that much time to myself these days, however, I love it all. I feel good about delicate balance, but others think I’m crazy, it’s a preference thing I guess and how much you are really willing to invest.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I started intermittent fasting; great if you want to lose weight and feel better. I don’t eat from 8 pm to 12 pm the next day so I only drink water and coffee for 16 hours.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I personally listen to three podcasts:

  • Acquired 
  • How I Built This with Guy Raz
  • Learn from the Top

All great shows and every time I listen to an episode I learn something I can use in my life or apply to the business.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

  • iPhone.
  • Superhuman; the new email client is soooo good.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

Elon Musk. He is the CEO of how many companies now? SpaceX, Tesla, BoringC the brain thing. Crazy. I run a small startup and am running around like crazy. How does he do it?

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Do what gives you energy and you have fun with. Not everything is fun all day (I hate repetitive tasks but you have to do them). I basically know what I love – working on the product & interacting with clients & mastering the next big challenge.

So every day I note down in an excel file with dates, what did I do today (short notes nothing too long), rating of the day -2, -1, 0, 1, 2 (-2 horrible day really really bad, 2 is great/exceptional day) and hours working on my passion areas 

With that, you can track “are you working on the things which matter to you and are you enjoying it”, I try to work certain hours on my passion areas and I track how many hours I’m doing the things I love.

Sounds crazy but it keeps you grounded and you can see what you have done and understand what’s what and if you need to change something.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.