Cédric Waldburger only drinks water, always showers cold and owns just 64 things, all of which are black – and he freely admits that plenty of people see him as a little eccentric. In recent years, the digital entrepreneur has never spent longer than four days in any one place. Moving between California, Berlin and Hong Kong, he realised it no longer made sense to have his own apartment, so he moved out. From then on, he sometimes slept in hotels, and sometimes on a friend’s sofa. And, like a snail carrying its shell, he carried a rucksack containing all his possessions everywhere he went.
The 30-year-old’s lack of interest in material things contrasts sharply with his wealth of ideas and projects. He has already founded several software start-ups and also invests in carefully chosen fledgling companies run by others, always with the goal of learning as much as he possibly can. “I love experimenting – and experiences are much more important to me than owning things,” Waldburger says.
Having few possessions is something he sees as liberating rather than limiting. He prefers to call himself an “essentialist” rather than a minimalist, arguing that what matters is not the number of things you own but rather the ability to focus on what’s important and what makes you happy. Every 90 days he takes stock of his life. He analyses 12 areas including business, relationships and fitness, striving to keep his life constantly optimised.
Fascinated by the complex subject matter
His parents, neither of whom have an academic background, noticed his talent for logical thinking when he was very young. By the time he was six, he was already writing his first computer programmes with his older cousin. Waldburger explains that he was something of a nerd when he was a kid, an introverted child who preferred to tinker with things on his own. In his third year of primary school he abandoned regular maths classes and spent his time giving lectures and attending special courses for gifted pupils instead. He continued to make rapid progress and skipped year six of primary school altogether.
He had very little in common with his fellow pupils and preferred to spend time with older students. One acquaintance he made was studying electrical engineering at ETH and took Waldburger along to one of his lectures. This proved to be a pivotal moment in the young boy’s life. Waldburger was fascinated by the complex subject matter and immediately sensed how much he could learn there. He promptly decided this was the degree programme for him. Business administration also interested him, but – unlike electrical engineering – Waldburger felt that this was a subject he could teach himself later in life.