Meet the New Board Members
AustrianStartups & me
I feel right at home at AustrianStartups. In fact, I’ve been a part of the AustrianStartups family since 2014, when I joined as part of the first official volunteer intake to manage and grow the social media presence. These past years have been a crazy, wonderful ride for me (personally and professionally), for AustrianStartups, and for the whole Austrian startup ecosystem. When I started out in the field, there were about 50 people in Austria who could be considered startup folk, so newcomers got to know the veterans rather quickly.
In this small but growing ecosystem, the untamable spirit and support of this community helped my partners and me start and grow our company, TheVentury, to support innovators with key services in innovation management, data and software engineering, as well as growth marketing. We created the accelerator program ELEVATE for machine learning and AI startups from around the world, which enabled us to start building a portfolio of startup investments.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and learn from some of the most ambitious and successful entrepreneurs and innovators in Austria and beyond. Today the situation in the startup scene has evolved, with all sorts of motivated players and innovators contributing to a thriving ecosystem. I like to think that I’ve grown as an entrepreneur and as a human, alongside this amazing community. And AustrianStartups was a key factor in my journey. Since AustrianStartups has provided me with endless insights and access, I’m honored to be able to contribute as a member of the board and hopefully give back of, to both the community and AustrianStartups as an organization.
Big shoes & big plans
When Can asked me to take over for him on the board I was hesitant. Firstly, because the shoes of this veteran startupper seemed too big to fill, but then the excitement kicked in. The challenge was just too intriguing to say no to. Thank you Can for all the inspirational talks and the trust you’ve placed in me! I can’t wait to tackle the big plans and challenges ahead!
Execution is everything & education is the key
I believe that execution is everything in innovation, and in order to execute well on your ideas, you need to develop the right skills and know-how. Ever since I began my startup journey, I’ve been able to spread the knowledge I gained by teaching entrepreneurship, digital business, growth hacking and digital marketing at various universities and programs. Playing a small part in enabling budding entrepreneurs to achieve their goals faster and more sustainably has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my career to date. I look forward to discovering what we as AustrianStartups can do to get skills and know-how out there, so that as many people as possible can feel equipped to at least consider the possibility of founding a company and following through with their ideas.
Entrepreneurship the Austrian & European way
I believe “entrepreneurship done right” is one of the most efficient ways to make a positive impact on society, and the Austrian and European perspective has a lot to offer when it comes to “doing it right.” Entrepreneurial innovation is particularly essential in times of climate crisis and accelerated socio-economic changes around the world. For years, we’ve been looking to Silicon Valley for innovation and the methods of bringing it about. We’ve learned a lot, but it’s time to confidently combine these learnings with our own DNA in a European context. I believe this combination will result in an efficient, sustainable and responsible approach to entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, leading to our own unique success factors.
I’m particularly interested in how to best apply hypothesis-driven innovation methods (you know, all that lean startup and growth hacking stuff) to any situation and at any scale – individual, community, startup, corporate, government, anywhere really – with the goal of sustainable and responsible innovation and development.
I’m excited to explore all this, and more, with AustrianStartups, and other stakeholders. Essentially whoever wants to talk about it 🙂 Find me here.
My affiliation to AustrianStartups began when startups were still to be a rare beast in Austria. Back in 2011, there were only a few individuals around with the courage to step forth into the startup jungle. For most other people in business, we startup folk, were regarded as business punks. Within the sphere of the Austrian mentality, this meant that our chances of success were deemed small to non-existent. To them, it almost seemed that we were attempting to take a shortcut to success. Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth.
My RealLifeConnect Co-founder Jürgen Höbarth lay the groundwork for AustrianStartups, by building a Facebook fan page and growing it’s Likes to an impressive and respectable size. Back then, there were many and varied funky ways to doing so quickly.
Jürgen however, moved to Hong Kong to expand the RealLifeConnect business overseas but didn’t want to leave the AustrianStartups community unattended so he decided to invite Vlad Gozman to be page admin and the rest is history as told in a previous blogpost. Thus, it began, and the association AustrianStartups was born.
Now, nine years later, I was asked to join the board. Naturally, I said “yes!” 🙂
Here’s what makes me tick: I believe that we are living in the best ever time to pursue our (business) dreams. I believe that delivering value to people is the only way to create a sustainable business and I believe that things that are worth something don’t come easy!
“Solving problems” is the essence of why we are here. I know that some of us crave to solve problems on a larger scale, at which point we need help, a team, a company or a community.
AustrianStartups sets the stage on so many levels. It provides a stage on which we can express what we believe in, and build something to prove it. Most of all, AustrianStartups shapes the political landscape in startups’ favor, a priceless contribution. I look forward to using my role at AustrianStartups as an opportunity to give something back.
What do you believe in? Come to the next AustrianStartups “Stammtisch” and share your thoughts and passion with us.
My current focus
At the moment, my main topic is “building successful tech & product teams”. I’m helping companies to build teams from the ground up, or re-build them after a tough period. This involves having a creative atmosphere, workflows, common beliefs and a vision to work towards.
At AustrianStartups, I stand for technological progress and a numbers-driven approach, in order to innovate for you and measure our success.
My background is technical, I started out earning a living by developing websites and apps back in 2004. Soon I discovered the Startup world with my Startup called RealLifeConnect – it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. After that I built a tech team practically from scratch for Mobfox, a $40M revenue company in the advertising industry. Now I’m helping Walls.io in building a tech team and growing the product.
What I’m Passionate About?
I’m passionate about all things tech and finding solutions that solve people’s problems at scale. I also have a thing for numbers – not in the traditional sense, which would require you to be a math genius to even grasp it – but in the sense that numbers are at the core of everything I do. Numbers guide my decision making, so I can rely on them more than on my gut feelings.
I’m an avid golfer. I only started about eighteen months ago and am still far from awesome at it but I can hold my own in a round of business golf when needed. 😉 I have also been a Cuban Salsa dancer for 16 years, and you can find me at various Latino venues in the evenings.
My most recent passion is helping AustrianStartups reach a position of sustainable growth, so that we can serve you even better. I aim to succeed with my fellow board members and our passionate team of volunteers, without whom we couldn’t function. Thanks for the trust you’ve placed in me. Let’s rock this 🤘🏼
A day in September…
It was September 2013, a few weeks before the federal elections, and looking back, we had no clue what we were doing. That’s abundantly clear from a picture we took that day at our workspace on Spengergasse: Christoph Jeschke and I are both wearing blazers, not hoodies. We wanted to look serious. AustrianStartups was an unknown, newly-born initiative, and there we were sitting alongside Oliver Holle in front of a bunch of journalists. As a veteran, Oliver kept his cool. It was Christoph and my first-ever press conference. The stakes were high and I still remember how nervous we both were, amplified by the lack of sleep due to finishing and printing our “VisionsPapier” just in time. I don’t know what the bigger relief was back then, the press conference finally coming to an end or, over the next few days seeing that it did, in fact, lead to a big spark of public attention. That spark was crucial and the timing was just right.
We did it! But who were we?
I attended a wedding a few months ago, where the father of the bride said in his eloquent speech “Behind every person, there is another person.” So true. As Christoph and I sat at that table, there were many other people “sitting behind us”. Among them, and as part of the first board, were Adiam Emnay, Daniel Cronin, Vlad Gozman, and Patrick Manhardt. Behind the initial six of us, there were countless supporters and friends who helped us get started. The backbone of the initiative was made up of a community of hundreds who participated in our first survey, which was the foundation of the vision paper and press conference. Without the community’s involvement there would be no survey, no paper, no press conference, no initial spark, no AustrianStartups as we know it.
The same can be said for every single thing that AustrianStartups has achieved as an organization: We’ve always been by the community, for the community. “We all are AustrianStartups” was our first slogan but it was so much more. Without the incredible, sometimes invisible work and dedication of the team, local representatives, supporters, partners, advisors, entrepreneurs and stakeholders, AustrianStartups could not have become what it is today. A heartfelt thank you to every one of you. You know who you are.
Impact and growth, both mean change
Looking at all the team members past and present, their shared values of curiosity and open-mindedness, their unshakable spirit, and their support for each other, makes me feel truly proud. Proud that I have been part of an organization that attracted so many bright and purpose-driven individuals who co-created a collaborative, engaging, and inclusive organizational culture. An organization set out to positively impact the ecosystem it is a part of, and at the same time one that, at its core, promotes professional and personal growth in everyone who is part of it. Impact and growth both mean change. And to be part of a change, we ourselves must change. I believe that is just as true for individuals as it is for organizations… and consequently also for their board members.
It is from that perspective that I personally could not be happier that Adrian, who was among the first volunteers at AS, said yes to take my place on the board. For many years he has been the backbone of the AustrianStartups social media team, which he built from scratch.
If getting to that first press conference was a sprint to create the needed spark in traditional media, Adrian and his team’s efforts were a marathon to build the organization’s content engine on digital media. That became part of the foundation of what AustrianStartups is today. With his upbeat personality alongside his exemplary and supportive leadership style, Adrian has become a valued colleague in the AustrianStartups team. In addition, with his long-lasting dedication for the startup community, as well as his valuable experience as an entrepreneur, he is the best successor I could have wished for.
Thank you Adrian for years of great work and your contribution so far! I am equally excited about Michael joining the board and I want to express my gratitude to both of you for taking on this responsibility for years to come. I wish you two and the whole team an exciting continuation of the journey… You all are AustrianStartups.
Start with “why”?!
As some of you might know, I started my first company, Spoken Language System (we developed virtual assistants, aka chatbots) almost 13 years ago. Back then, I was 20 years old and had no clue about startups or starting a company. In 2007, there was nothing even resembling a startup scene in Vienna, so connecting with other founders, sharing knowledge, getting feedback (much less funding) was a real challenge. We tried to grow for several years and got a small amount of public funding, but in the end, we failed and my cofounder and I decided to go our separate ways. After a few years in the corporate and consulting world, I made my way back into the startup world in 2012, starting Crowdinvesting platform CONDA with my co-founder Paul Pöltner Our aim was to change the way startups get funding in Austria. My past startup (failure) experience was a strong driver for launching CONDA, so when Daniel Cronin approached me in 2014 – we met a few years before at the second batch of the hackathon-style startup competition StartupLive and the first season of “2 minutes 2 million” on PULS 4 – and asked if I wanted to join the board of Austrian Startups, I immediately said “yes.” For me, this signified another missing puzzle piece in the burgeoning startup scene in Austria, and I was eager to be of help and foster positive change.
The startup rollercoaster
Running and growing my own startup and being part of AustrianStartups wasn’t always easy because both meant a lot to me and both “babies” brought with them countless ups and downs. Nevertheless, looking back on the past few years being part of AustrianStartups, working with so many great and smart people from different countries, achieving so many great things together – I couldn’t be prouder and more thankful. Six years ago I couldn’t have imagined how many great experiences I would make and what role AustrianStartups would play in the Austrian economy.
Still, it’s just a beginning. As long as starting a company is a foreign concept for most of the population and children don’t learn about entrepreneurship in school there is still a lot to do.
Let’s make change before we get changed
Running CONDA now for over seven years has taught me a very important lesson: During the lifecycle of a startup, the founder(s) need to adapt to various roles – the company and its structure changes so the founders have to do so too. Another thing I’ve learned is that you should always be one step ahead and proactive, not passive – you need to embrace change.
For me, AustrianStartups is also continuously changing because the ecosystem, the people and the technology changes. It was always important to me to try to go where we see a gap – to go where nobody else was going. We aimed to create new things, connect the dots and not by simply doing more of the same. That’s the reason why, some time ago, we started a process of change within the board and I am proud that we were able to convince Maggie Childs and (later) Katharina Unger as well to join us. And now it is time for the next step, which means that I will trustfully handover my board duties to Michael Ionita-Ganea. I am excited about the fresh ideas and perspectives that Michael is going to bring to AustrianStartups.
So it is time for me to say goodbye and a big thank you to each and everyone who was part of and supported AustrianStartups over the last six years. I loved the work we managed to get done and I can’t wait to see what the next years will bring. I won’t be totally gone, as I’ll be joining the advisory board and will always stay deeply connected to AustrianStartups. I wish all of you the best for the future and rock it!