Meet our Premium Member Stefan Pabst, co-founder and CEO of Luke AG

Please tell us about yourself and Luke AG

My name is Stefan Pabst, I am the co-founder and CEO of Luke AG. I am 41 years old and have lived in Switzerland for 15 years. I originally studied Philosophy & Physics. After graduating, I was part of the first class at the “School of Design Thinking” in Potsdam in 2007/08. Since then I have been supporting organisations as a consultant in innovation and strategy issues. Then came LUKE…

Just over two years ago, I had the idea for a device that could be used to remove annoying care labels from clothes without leaving any residue. Together with my brother Christoph, who lives in Germany, LUKE was born from this idea. 

Together with great partners in Switzerland and Germany, we have since developed the small household appliance. It quickly became clear that we also wanted to create a digital platform where users could digitize the information on the care labels – in other words, we could create a digital twin of their own wardrobe. The LUKE app can then be used to analyze the laundry pile and control the smart washing machine. Clothes can be resold or reordered via the app. LUKE is a combination of hardware and software solution that solves an annoying problem and helps people to manage their clothes sustainably.

Tell us more about your plans for 2024? What is your long-term vision?

LUKE should be on the market by the end of 2024. For this to work, we still need to secure financing for the first series production. As it is a product that is attracting international interest, we want to build up a solid distribution network as quickly as possible. We also want to attract partners who will work with us to build a network based on the data on individual wardrobes in order to provide helpful applications for end users and other players in the textile industry via the LUKE app.

What has been the biggest success that you have achieved in your startup?

At the beginning of 2024, we successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. This was certainly one of our greatest successes to date. And this campaign also brought us an extremely relevant realization: we received messages from all over the world from people with autism spectrum disorder for whom scratchy care labels are not just a minor flaw, but a real problem. This has opened up a new and very large target group that we are now paying particular attention to at LUKE.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? What are your biggest learnings?

I would find out more quickly from partners or service providers whether they are used to working with start-ups because this is an important prerequisite for it to work well. It’s about costs, but above all about the fact that as a founder you could be working on 200 topics at the same time and that there are often uncertain phases in a project. If everyone involved understands this or even knows it themselves, it is possible to work together very well. And I have learnt that lawyers from different law firms are usually of the opposite opinion 😉

What motivates you to continue your business every day?

Basically, it’s the incredible learning curve that you experience every day. I can’t remember having to constantly complete so many new tasks and understand new topics in the last 20 years. It’s great fun. And it’s the positive feedback we get from people all over the world for our product. When you realize that the idea is also appreciated by other people and that they are willing to pay money for it, then that is a huge motivation.

One piece of advice for someone who is just starting out with their startup?

Quickly identify the areas in which the team has gaps. And then use your own network to find 2-3 people who can provide support on these topics as sparring partners. If you want to do everything on your own, you lose time unnecessarily on topics that others can easily contribute with minimal effort.

What does it mean to you to be a member of the Swiss Startup Association? 

I think it’s great to exchange ideas with people who have already been on a similar journey. Because no matter what sector an idea or business comes from, everyone has very similar challenges when founding and building your company. 

Would you recommend joining the Swiss Startup Association? Have you ever visited any of the events?

Absolutely! It’s the place where people support each other and know that the other person can very well imagine the tasks you face as a founder.

Yes, I joined Founders Day on 18 April at the Google office in Zurich. There was a superb mix of formats and inputs. I’m glad about the many conversations and contacts, two of which were even very good and will definitely advance our project. Thank you for that.

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