There was more upheaval in the Berlin startup scene on Monday with the surprise news that twago co-founder Gunnar Berning is to step down as CEO. The 39-year-old founded the online freelancer marketplace four years ago together with Maria Lindinger and Thomas Jajeh but will now move aside into a purely advisory role.
Silicon Allee understands that the move was sparked by a change of tack from investor and shareholder Euro Serve Media, which wants the company to focus its efforts on Europe rather than seek aggressive expansion into emerging markets, something Berning had been pushing for.
In addition to his departure, head of PR and communications Christoph Burbes is also leaving twago. Burbes, who had only worked for the company for six months after leaving madvertise, is believed to have followed Berning out the door after being a key proponent of his growth strategy.
While neither will leave under any shadows, it is yet more proof that the startup scene can be extremely volatile. The news comes less than a week after activity marketplace Gidsy was surprisingly sold to rival GetYourGuide, while twago itself closed a €2.25 million funding round in June 2012 just two months after entering into insolvency (reportedly through no fault of its own).
That funding round was led by Euro Serve, and also included media-for-equity fund GMPVC.
In a statement announcing Berning’s departure, his two co-founders said: “We respect the decision of Gunnar Berning, even if we regret it very much. Twago was Gunnar Berning – he was behind the recent very successful developments with [our] best business year in 2012 since the launch. We are pleased that he will continue to remain close to the company on the advisory board and for his expertise to still be available to us.”
The statement also confirmed that twago’s efforts will be focused on the core European markets.
Berning previously worked at Siemens and Bertelsmann, having started out his career as a sports photographer. A source at twago told Silicon Allee that the departure of Berning was a sad day, as the company had been his baby and he had helped build it rapidly in recent months with a view to making it a truly global brand.