TUM Alumni Michael Wax, Erik Muttersbach and Michael Ardelt (f.l.t.r.).

In 2015, TUM Alumni Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach launched their logistics start-up Forto. Since 2017, TUM Alumni Dr. Michael Ardelt has also been part of the company's management team. When it comes to digitization and sustainability, the trio is unrivaled (photo: Forto).

Alumni start-ups
Entrepreneurs Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach
“We take our responsibility very seriously”
08. Dec 2021  |  
Reading time Min.
If politicians had the same conviction and uncompromising approach as TUM Alumni Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach, the ongoing climate crisis would be a thing of the past. With their start-up, they intend to digitize global trade and in the process make it climate-neutral.
With their start-up Forto, Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach want to make a difference – in more than one way. Their logistics platform makes the global delivery of goods more efficient, cost-effective and their customers can track their goods in real time. “Global trade is the backbone of modern prosperity and is still for the most part managed using analog signals,” says Erik Muttersbach. ” Our goal is to fundamentally transform this essential industry by using Artificial Intelligence. With us, shipping goods from Hamburg to Shanghai should be as easy as sending an email.”

NO COMPROMISE

In the early days of their company, the entrepreneurs brought in another TUM Alumni: Dr.-Ing. Michael Ardelt (Diploma Mechanical Engineering 2008, Doctorate Electrical and Computer Engineering 2012). He is responsible for the start-up’s ambitious sustainability strategies. “The logistics industry accounts for six percent of the global greenhouse gases,” says Michael Wax. “Our goal is to make this industry green.” The company is planning to have its entire supply chain one hundred percent carbon-neutral by 2025. Even now, more than fifty percent of its total shipments are carbon-neutral. So, the 2025 target could be reached even sooner than expected. This is possible through smart routing processes such as sea freight and through carbon-offsetting, which is a mandatory part of every quote. The fact that their customers are voluntarily spending more on sustainability makes the entrepreneurs hopeful.

Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach mean business. And so do their employees. Already in the job interview, they are asked about their thoughts on the corporate value of sustainability. “Anyone who can’t give a convincing answer won’t even be hired,” the founders say. “We don’t compromise.”

We want to increase global prosperity while driving sustainability.

Erik Muttersbach

Since its launch at the end of 2015, the Berlin-based start-up has been climate-neutral. There is no meat consumption, they only drink local beer, use green electricity, take buses and trains, and consistently invest in climate and sustainability projects. During working hours, posters and banners are designed for the participation in Fridays for Future demonstrations. “We take our responsibility very seriously,” Erik Muttersbach emphasizes. Both of them do not consider a return to the status quo ante for the purpose of climate protection an option. “It’s not about doing and consuming less. Our goal is to increase global prosperity through the digitization of global trade, while at the same time driving sustainability.”

WELL PREPARED

Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach impress with their energy, drive and incomparable entrepreneurial spirit. At just thirty, the two have already set up seven start-ups together – while they were still high school and university students at TUM. Their extensive entrepreneurial knowledge certainly helps the passionate entrepreneurs with Forto. But also their expertise sets them apart.

Erik Muttersbach is no longer programming himself. But his profound knowledge of software systems quickly earned him the credibility and respect he needed to lead a team of over 150 software engineers as CTO. Michael Wax, who is the CEO and thus responsible for the strategic direction of the company, also to this day draws on his university days. He particularly emphasizes the interdisciplinary elite program Technology Management, which he and Erik Muttersbach completed at the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM). The CDTM is a joint research and teaching institute of TUM and LMU and has made it its mission to complement traditional university education with an emphasis on practical application and a special focus on entrepreneurship. “This outstanding program ultimately sparked the founding of Forto,” says Michael Wax. “We met a lot of smart people and investors there. The time at CDTM was very formative for us.” Last but not least, both founders met their partners in the program.

Thinking Big

Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach have long since achieved their goal of becoming one of the world’s leading freight forwarders. They are tripling their sales from year to year. They now employ more than 700 people at 17 locations in Europe and Asia, including Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Recently, their start-up has become one of the unicorns, companies that investors believe to be worth at least a billion dollars even before their IPO or a company sale. Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach know what they are doing and know what they want to achieve with their globally positioned team. “We are a sports team that wants to win,” the entrepreneurs say. “In the process, we are always thinking big.”

Forto's Berlin team at a Fridays for Future demonstration.

Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach don't just want to do their time, they want to create something meaningful. Right from the beginning, their start-up Forto has been climate-neutral. They regularly attend the Fridays for Future demonstrations with their Berlin team. (Picture: Forto).

TUM Alumni Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach (left to right).

Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach (left to right) (Picture: Forto).

Michael Wax und Erik Muttersbach

Master Industrial Engineering 2015 and Bachelor Informatics 2012, Master 2015

 

From 2012 to 2015, Michael Wax studied Industrial Engineering at TUM. In 2014, he earned an MBA from HKUST Business School Central through distance learning. He completed semesters abroad at Oregon State University and the University of California in Berkeley, USA. While still at university, he set up a software company with four other TUM Alumni in 2014. In his free time, he enjoys ski touring, kite surfing and mountain biking. The Munich native lives in his hometown with his girlfriend.

Erik Muttersbach discovered his passion for Informatics in school. To study at TUM, the Rostock native moved to Munich. Over the past few years, he has founded tech companies with a wide range of focuses, from a mobile app for museums to an online voucher platform and a Big Data cloud platform. The e-commerce company he co-founded was acquired by Google in 2011 for over $100 million. But his mother was not happy until he had earned his master’s degree from TUM in 2015. With his wife and dog Plato, Erik Muttersbach lives in Berlin.

When Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach completed the supplementary Technology Management program at the Center for Digital Technology and Management at TUM and LMU in 2014 and 2015, their vision of the perfect logistics company was born. Together with the brothers Ferry and Fabian Heilemann, who have since retired from the operational business, they co-founded the start-up Forto (formerly FreightHub) in 2016. With their logistics technologies, they broker transportation for land, air and sea freight for their customers and allow them to digitally manage the global supply chain from manufacturer to the final customer. Each CO₂ compensation of their customers is still doubled by Forto. The goal is not only climate-neutral, but climate-positive global trade.