20 years of emovis: our history so far

We at emovis are celebrating our 20th anniversary: a good occasion to take a look back at the story of our origins and to venture a glimpse into the future! Read the interview with emovis founder and CEO Dr. med. Bettina Bergtholdt to find out which of our approaches have proven successful, why growth sometimes has to be slowed down, and how exactly emovis was "born" under an apple tree.


Dr. med. Bergtholdt, do you still remember the exact foundation date of emovis?

On March 15, 2001, we were at the notary's office and the GmbH was founded. Of course, this was preceded by several months of planning, for which I cannot give an exact date.


Why did you establish emovis? Did you have a specific vision back then? If so, has the vision changed?

My vision back then was to lead an independent professional life. This is still the most important aspect of my job satisfaction. I was able to fulfill this vision and this makes me happy. Everything else came with time, by chance, unplanned. I did not have a vision in the sense that I imagined how big the company should become or what else it could do.


Would you have thought that emovis could become 20 years old? Or did you have moments of doubt?

There were many moments of doubt, especially or rather exclusively in phases of financial instability. But I always only had doubts about whether we would make it. I never doubted that I wanted to do what we do. I never thought about whether emovis could become 20 years old. I am rather surprised now that emovis has been around for so long.


When you look back: Did you make any mistakes in the early days at emovis? If so, to what extent have you learned from them?


(laughs) Hundreds of mistakes, yes. We might have learned from 80 mistakes, but the other 20 mistakes are being made again and again. You probably want to hear some examples... For example, we founded our company with the minimum allowable start-up capital. I would never do that again: It turned out that this was not enough money to start a company – at least a company like the one I established. That decision made our start very difficult. Another example: There were several phases when there were two people at the top at emovis. Although I am a totally agreeable and nice person, this never worked out in the end. I would not do that again either. And in general, I have learned that, in crises, you do not step on the brakes but on the gas pedal to get out of a crisis.

Which approaches have proven successful?

Viewing and treating employees as self-responsible, independent and adult human beings. Treating clients, patients and employees with respect and dignity. Knowing that people only perform at their best in an environment in which they really enjoy their work. To actually feel and live gratitude towards study participants – gratitude for being willing to participate in clinical studies – and to try to give something back to them in return.


When you look back on the last five years: What are you particularly proud of?

I am particularly proud of the fact that I have learned to let go. I think I have become relatively good at, for example, "letting our directors go" and trusting them that they come to me in case they need help. I am proud that I do not control but can let go – this is not easy for many bosses.


When you look ahead to the next five years: What would you like to do differently or better in the future?

I am still working on being able to reduce both my workload and that of my employees and still be economically stable. I do not know whether I will succeed in doing this within the next five years – it is at least one of my main goals for the next few years. 


What challenges does emovis currently face? What challenges could be added in the future?

Currently, there are two major challenges: One challenge is the instability in clinical research. It is always project work. Very large projects are requested and announced – they can be cancelled a week before they start, they can be postponed by three months, but they can also start a month earlier than planned. It is challenging to deal with this unpredictability in this business which has become much more intense because of corona. The second big challenge: emovis is currently growing and I need to slow down its growth to ensure a healthy speed. This is not easy.


Can you explain this in detail? To what extent is emovis currently growing?

The number of orders is increasing, the volume per order is increasing and we are receiving requests for completely new services in the field of clinical research. I find these requests extremely exciting. Ultimately, however,  they entail the opening of another department or offering a completely new service, such as our COVID Trial Unit. Of course, all these things are costly and require an investment and an increase in the number of employees. It is not easy to find employees who are qualified and who share the emovis "spirit". Our employees also need to be trained, of course, and this does not always happen as quickly as we would actually need it to.


Would you like to tell something else about the history of emovis that I did not ask you about?

Yes, I would like to tell the nice anecdote that emovis was founded under an apple tree. I was invited to Lübeck, to the garden of my boss back then. I was not invited to establish a GmbH but there were various things we had to discuss. I was working for him in Berlin at that time. Over a glass of red wine under the apple tree, we said, just for fun: "Why don’t we just do it ourselves?" We were both working at the university back then, and relatively quickly, from our wine-induced state, we said: "Yeah, let’s start a GmbH." And because there was no one else around but me – I was a young assistant doctor at that time –, I became the managing director. After this decision, I bought a book called "Wenn Frauen gründen” and first read up on what it means to be a managing director and what a GmbH actually is – I was relatively surprised.


Thank you for the interview – we look forward to many more successful years at emovis!