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"I'm a music lover"

An Internet pioneer, a music junkie, a multi­talented creator who always has another ace up his sleeve. Thomas Sterchi has launched an impressive number of companies and lead most of them to great success. We met up with him to talk about his enterprise group Tom Talent and his latest project, the Zermatt Unplugged Kaufleuten music festival in Zurich.

Text:
Dörte Welti
Photos:
Agi Simoes (portrait)
I

“I’m not afraid of failure!”

We meet Thomas Sterchi in his restaurant Rüsterei in Zurich, Switzerland. He has just come back from the Montreux Jazz Festival. Still enchanted by this experience, he sits down in his busy restaurant and orders a soup and some meat. With a satisfied look on his face, he notices that every last table is occupied in this hip restaurant, for which the Tom Talent-owned Sihlcity Gastro AG holds the majority interest. He is especially proud of the atmosphere and the interior design, which he claims is “totally his style” and was created by his friend Heinz Julen, designer and hotelier from Zermatt. And so the first circle is complete.

But let’s start with the facts: many years ago, Thomas Sterchi made the deal of his life by selling his job platform jobs.ch for a three-digit million sum. Instead of leaning back, spending his fortune on yachts and gold watches, however, the businessman from Bern started pooling talents under the roof of his organisation by the name of Tom Talent. The enterprise is divided into two operational fields: Digital Spaces and Live Spaces. Digital Spaces comprises the companies Cinergy with its online cinema platform Cineman, the IP-TV platform teleboy and Docmine, the creative studio taking factual storytelling to the digital age, and has only just built the recently launched SWISS Universe app. And then there is events.ch, an online events platform that is in urgent need of an overhaul. At the moment, however, this orphan has to join the queue. For now, the focus lies on Prospective, a previously outsourced software company that operates mainly in the field of human resources and is currently moving into the Tom Talent headquarters at Lake Zurich. Another player in this field under Tom Talent management is Job Index Media, a venture that, for example, publishes the professional journal “HR Today”. Once the crew has settled in, 90 per cent of the 120 to 130 Tom Talent Holding employees will be working under one roof. Speaking of which: directly under the roof of the beautiful registered mansion lives the founder himself. He’s got the shortest commute ever – given that he’s home and not in his recently built Tuscan paradise, his own private life space, in which he sometimes welcomes friends, rarely paying guests.

Breathtaking not only for the audience: the bands too love the unique atmosphere at the Zermatt Unplugged festival with the magnificent Matterhorn as the backdrop. Save the date: 4–8. April 2017.

FORESIGHT PAYS OFF

And then there are the Live Spaces, which include the restaurant Rüsterei in Zurich’s shopping arena Sihlcity and, of course, Sterchi’s favourite children, the music festivals Zermatt Unplugged and Zermatt Unplugged Kaufleuten, the latter of which is Sterchi’s youngest offspring and will be held for the second time in late October. As if that weren’t enough, the business man has been one of the main investors in the Zurich Film Festival ZFF since its founding by Nadja Schildknecht and Karl Spörri eleven years ago. Today it is the biggest cultural event in Zurich. The whole construct couldn’t be more coherent. The different parts cross-pollinate each other permanently; the Rüsterei, for instance, regularly hosts Zermatt Unplugged jam sessions. In 2007, Thomas Sterchi founded the singer/songwriter festival Zermatt Unplugged together with Marco Godat and thus realised a project very close to his heart. Even though he never learned to play an instrument and, by his own account, cannot sing to save his life, the 47-year-old is a passionate music lover. So passionate in fact that he could give up his companies, his achievements – everything else but music. In Zermatt, the usually reserved character even goes on stage, moderates the event and ignites the crowd with his fire.

PASSIONATE LEADERSHIP FOR THE WIN

His team members too get infected by his passion, being very aware of how privileged they are to be working for such a visionary leader. He thanks them by creating the best working conditions imagin­able – the lakeside office, an in-house chef, a team-building atmosphere and his philosophy that “it is most rewarding when you can credit an achievement to the team and yourself at the same time”. His Talent family is still manageable, though there is already an office in Berlin. Is he a jet-setter? In a modern, positive sense, yes. Major Tom asks a lot but he also likes to give. A man who knows to enjoy life. His secret? He listens to his inner voice and to the soundtrack of his heart.

An important stage for stars and newcomers: the Zermatt Unplugged Kaufleuten festival in Zurich. In the former club house and school of the Zurich chamber of commerce, built in 1915, singers and songwriters of all genres take turns on the microphone for the second year.
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