On the road for “Mission Possible”

This post appeared first on inventures.eu.

In this series inventures joins entrepreneurs at their adventures on the road. In part one Michael Schuster shares the road trip experience from an investor’s point of view.

It seems reasonable to set big goals for yourself when you travel to a place called Mission. After all, the district in the middle of San Francisco is home to some of most inspiring web companies as for example Automattic, the makers of WordPress. Our mission for this trip was not bad either. Our Slovenian startup Flaviar went on a trip to San Francisco which should help them to find new investors and open the doors to the US market. Now, I was about to join them for two weeks during this important trip and crucial negotiations.

So not only 40.000 km travelling were lying ahead of me but also seven intense meetings, at least the same amount of burgers, 75 of the best pitches I’ve ever seen, a lot of coffee and even the heaviest earthquake in San Francisco in 15 years.

From Ljubljana to SF in two years

In average I go on one or two trips a year with one of our startups. From my own experience I know that all of them are intense, but only in a few cases you achieve the desired success. Though, to go to the US with Flaviar was a logical step. After two years of product development and market research in Europe, the team around founder Grisa Soba has now entered the period of scaling. Their products – high quality spirit subscriptions and hard to get full-size bottles – fit the US market just perfectly. After all, some people were already enjoying Flaviar products in the US.
The reason for joining them on their US road trip as an investor is quickly explained: it is part of our investment into the companies, to support them on an operational level, although travelling with the guys from Flaviar actually feels like a road trip with friends. Still, they shall benefit as much as possible from our connections and experiences. So I can help with Business Development and network but also Erik Bovee, who oversees the US operations of SpeedInvest is a great support. We help to arrange business meetings and introduce the teams to our contacts – in Flaviar’s case producers of spirits and potential investors. But we also give feedback from a different angle and together we try to understand how the US market works.

Pitching skills from a different planet

What struck me most at all the pitches and meetings is the level of ambition. During my stay in the Valley I had the chance to attend the Demo Day of YCombinator, one of the best American seed accelerators. Altogether, I have seen 75 pitches there and every single one of them was clear proof of the enormous pitching skills that people hone in the US. Although the potential of startups in CEE is equally impressive as in the US, their pitching skills need catching up – in terms of communication and but also in terms of goal settings. Most startups on the US list their market size with amounting up to billions of dollars because they simply believe that it is possible. And as matter of fact, quite a few of them reach their goals.

Tripling turnover, without changing anything

So with Flaviar camping out in San Francisco they wanted to achieve three things: Firstly, get to learn more about their target group. Secondly, build a local network and increase their local footprint. They did well. By the end of our trip, I’ve not only learnt that the guys have great cooking skills but also that they had already tripled their turnover – simply by going with the US flow and focusing on growth with an increased ambition level. And that’s only a little taste of what’s possible on the US market.

To sum up, the two weeks were not only full of excellent burgers (and in the end of the trip with a bit of a school week collapse feeling) – there were also good news on the business side. Yet the details cannot be disclosed at this point, new supporters were found that will mark the next big step on Flaviar’s journey and turned this ‘On the road’ trip into a success.

The Revolution Will Be Streamed!

It’s been fascinating watching the media industry being ripped apart, and pulling itself back together again, over the last 20 years by the Internet and Software. Disruption started with print and all its manifestations, associated use cases and business models. Then it was Music’s turn when Napster hit it big followed by more “legit” options such as iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Last.fm. Video was next and Over The Top (OTT) video streaming service combined with an explosion of devices to consume video on have completely changed the way people are watching video – and TV followed closely in its wake. No more tuning into Channel Zero every weekday at 7pm – instead you watch your favorite esports team online or call in sick to binge on the new season of ….

Internet video traffic exploded and will comprise 79% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2018 (1). Delivering high quality media streaming can be technically complex due to the large variety in content formats, protocols, transmission options, and device-specific factors, for example. Certainly distribution is the major cost factor – for successful content at least. And while demand is very healthy, customer expectations are increasing and not delivering the expected quality of experience impacts viewer engagement metrics such as abandonment rates, viewing time and ultimately a forecasted $20B loss of revenue for global premium brands in 2017 due to poor quality video streams (2).

Bitmovin today announced its investment by Speedinvest and we’re excited to be able to support the team to continue to innovate around streaming media technology and bring solutions to market that will enable new cases and deliver order of magnitude improvements in the performance, quality and economics. The ability to massively scale cloud-based transcoding and encode hours of HD video in minutes, or be able deploy the computing resources to significantly reduce bandwidth requirements without compromising on quality, has value. A single client/SDK suite that deliver up to double the effective bitrate throughput compared to Apple HLS, especially in variable mobile network conditions and without adding stalls/buffering, is relevant for end users, service providers and advertisers alike.

The revolution is being streamed – and bitmovin’s streaming it!

(1) Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2013–2018, http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/ip-ngn-ip-next-generation-network/white_paper_c11-481360.html.

(2) Conviva, 2013.

Exciting news from indoo.rs!

indoo.rs, the technology leader in indoor localization and navigation, has been selected to participate in the “Entrepreneurship-in-Residence” program, launched by the Mayor of San Francisco, to explore innovative solutions to civic challenges. indoo.rs appointed new CEO, Hannes Stiebitzhofer to lead the company in its commercial worldwide expansion.

indoo.rs was selected as one of the six startup companies to participate in a new “Entrepreneurship-in-Residence” program. The voluntary, sixteen-week collaboration starting March 2014 aims to bring together the private sector and City departments to explore innovative solutions to civic challenges that can lower costs, increase revenue, and enhance productivity.

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Nearly 200 startups from 25 cities and countries around the world applied to the program. The diverse group of applicants ranged from seed-stage startups to later stage startups and across software, hardware and services – including serial entrepreneurs, NASA engineers, employees of leading technology companies, and several patent holders including some that have been granted more than 100 patents. San Francisco City departments and agencies selected the finalists through a competitive process based on their needs and priorities.

indoo.rs will collaborate with the San Francisco International Airport on exploring and enhanced navigation and location-based services.

indoo.rs offers a flexible and accurate real-time localization software for indoor venues, where GPS signal coverage is difficult to use. indoo.rs technology is widely used in positioning and navigation solutions for airports, shopping malls, hospitals, museums and enterprises. Way-finding and routing, proximity marketing and interactive guides, analytics and asset tracking are a few of the features indoo.rs technology offers to its customers.

The indoo.rs platform uses a range of technologies, consisting of client-side technology that combines available signals from the device sensors (including accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, and compass) with radio signals such as 3G, Wi-Fi, geomagnetic fields and Bluetooth LE, for accurate and robust positioning. indoo.rs unique sensor fusion and post-processing methodology deliver highly accurate positioning estimates, at the same time keeping footprint and power consumption low.

Hannes Stiebitzhofer has been appointed the CEO of indoo.rs. “I am very much excited to join indoo.rs as I see indoor navigation only as a first step. The technologies developed by this young and great team will enable many applications we haven’t thought of”, comments Stiebitzhofer.

Prior to joining indoo.rs, Stiebitzhofer was Technical Director at LearningSigns and was responsible for the technical development of mobile educational games experience. He has vast expertise in the fields of Entrepreneurship, Product-Management, Software Development, and Project Management. Since 2000, Stiebitzhofer has successfully founded and co-founded several companies and has held directive positions in those and other businesses.

Expectations vs. Reality: What I learned in my first year @ Speedinvest

Having just completed the first year at Speedinvest as the latest team member joining in the US, it was great to reflect back over the holiday period and think about the great things that happened, and compare the actual events to the expectations I had joining the team.

What an amazing opportunity!

At Speedinvest we’re seeing on average 30 new startup decks, pitches, etc. per month – and more when Oliver is on TV in the Austrian version of SharkTank. We only invest in about 1.5% of those, but what’s clear is that

  • There is a great (technical) founder talent pool in Europe and they’re building amazing technology – but sometimes disconnected from the nexus of the market they operate in.
  • Business experience among founders is less than in the US – serial entrepreneurs are rare
  • Valuations are, say, 25% of US valuations for comparable early startups with similar technology
  • Most European startups have opportunities to attract significant government grants

Clearly there are a lot of opportunities for investors and founders alike to take relevant companies with world-class technology and IP to the US.  Helping founders in that process is simply one of the most rewarding things ever!

Silicon Valley is all that people think it is – and then some

Within days of arriving in the Bay Area you can feel and experience firsthand how conductive the environment is to business. The sheer breadth and depth of resources (skills, expertise …) is simply breathtaking. The efficiency of the ecosystem is unparalleled and incomparable to Europe. The network is highly interconnected and dense. And people generally like to help! There are experts for everything, and they are never more than a few phone calls – and a 30 minute drive for a f2f meeting – away. This is a scale as well as a cultural thing.

I cannot see how SV can be replicated elsewhere except through many years’ application of brute force public investment firepower and a 180 degree shift of mindset.

In California, your next critical meeting is tomorrow, not next month

If you want to meet the VP of so-and-so and you have an interesting proposition, you’ll be meeting her within days. Asking for a meeting in 2 weeks means you’re really not that interested in a reply. Compare this to Europe where meeting any senior management requires weeks of careful planning (read “waiting”).

Water

Austrian tap water is superior. Even better, there is tap water in Austria, and it is readily and abundantly available.

What an amazing opportunity! Cont.

US investors – by and large – have a limited interest in investing in European early-stage companies. Even though you may have a great idea or technology, and good initial indications of product-market fit, unless you are located close-by and within arm’s reach of US VC’s it will be challenging to raise funds in the SV. This is not necessarily due to fiscal/legal complexities related to cross-border investing, they are well understood and the process scales. It is more a matter of Silicon Valley already having very good access to a deep pool of great entrepreneurs and startups – and doing weekly sync calls at 7am for the next 2 years and flying 11 hours to attend a start-up board meeting in Munich may not be all that attractive to everyone. But a European startup that moves to the US, or at least having the commitment and plan to do so, and willing to play by SV rules will find US investors well accessible.

Founders moving to the US

There’s an almost mystical appeal for (European) founders to move to Silicon Valley. It’s the tech vortex, where you walk among the superstar founders and investors contemplate multi-million dollar funding rounds, multi-billion dollar valuations and grow your venture to biblical proportions. Some of that can happen, but a few conversations with immigration and financial/tax advisors can easily bust that bubble. The reality is that there are transaction costs moving to the US, the process can be “messy” and benefits are realized mainly in the long term.

If you were dreaming of very low tax rates – dream on and apply for your next government grant in Europe. If you have not incorporated your startup over 1 year ago, come back later as your immigration options may be very limited. If your partner wants to join you moving to San Francisco, and you’re not married and she’s not on the Olympic team – book a minister and call a caterer now.

Low touch, high impact.

At Speedinvest we’re high touch. We work operationally with many of our portfolio companies on a wide variety of business aspects of running their company. Every day. All day.  It’s the only way to bring consistent results.

Although I do want to be a “low touch, high impact” investor when I retire grow up.

Founders: Get ready to compete

There are orders of magnitude more startups in SV, with founders as smart as you (and smarter) and they are building their 3rd venture backed startup. They have discussed IP licensing agreements and terms sheets over lunch with their classmates in college, and taken their first M&A courses as freshmen, and have seen more startups being created and folded up by the time they get out of university than the number of issues of Wired you have ever read. As well as a place of great opportunities, SV is a highly competitive place for startups.

Americans, including most investors, are super friendly. They’ll ask “how you are doing” and will think you pitch was “very interesting” and definitely a reason to “stay in touch”. Spoiler alert: You can color them red in your spreadsheet pipeline tracker. By all means keep them updated, but you can expect very clear signals when there is serious interest – “staying in touch” is not one of them.

I bet you are a first time founder – 5 facts on the Austrian Startup Ecosystem

In our little startup bubble we work with assumptions. They are a way of keeping you productive and test your hypothesis when making decision. But from time to time, it seems necessary to question those assumptions. In this case, we wanted to answer some questions about the state of startups in Austria. How many serial founders are there? What’s their background? What drives them? What do they think about subsidies and local business angels? What about women in startups?

Because those answers might be relevant for others too, we published them in our 3rd annual Austrian Startup Report where you will find answers to all of these questions and a lot of additional interesting facts on the Austrian ecosystem.

The Austrian Startup Report is an ongoing research project to get structured data about the development of the growing startup community in Austria. It provides detailed information about a nationwide, representative selection of startups, investors and public institutions.

Why we do it:

  • Raise attention for startups, entrepreneurship and growing companies. Because that helps all of us in doing it.
  • To find out what Austrian startups need to grow and thrive.
  • To make grounded decisions, based on facts about the influence of public and private support initiatives.
  • Benchmark our startup community on an international level, thus setting it in context to other cities and countries in Europe.

So, how did we do this?

We conducted a qualitative survey, collecting thoughts of 50 interviewees within the ecosystem, based on which we designed a quantitative questionnaire which has been completed by 575 interviewees.

Most of them are founders or work in a startup (87%), the remaining 13 percent were either investors (7%) or funding agencies (6%). Surprising revelation? The average person working in the Austrian startup industry is male, aged 32 and has completed a university degree.

What else did we find out?

Fact 1: Ecosystem

The Austrian ecosystem still is in the early stages of development. 73% of the founders are first-time founders. 70% of the startups interviewed are in their idea / early stage phase.

Fact 2: Funding

The majority (70%) of startups that received funding is financed by private investors. The size of the investment is growing, but still remains clearly below international levels. One third has received more than 500.000 Euro in funding.

Fact 3: Gender

The gender gap is still huge. Only 12% of the interviewees are female.

Fact 4: Business Environment

The Austrian business environment is heavily criticised. 93% believe that social security taxes and non-wage labour costs should be lower. 83% are of the opinion that business angel investments should be tax-deductible. Further 80% feel that the outdated trade regulations should be reformed fundamentally.

Fact 5: Mindset

73 % don’t see the value of startups recognized by society and 75 % don’t think startups are valued enough by the Austrian government. Moreover, 90% of interviewees think that our society lacks a “culture of failure” and assume that the absence of a culture of failure is the biggest restraint for entrepreneurship.

So, what next?

Being active in the Austrian scene for a long time and conducting this study for the third time in a row we see evidence that the awareness of Austrian startups increases slowly but constantly. Various successful initiatives such as Pioneers and Austrian Startups, as well as growing interest in the general public (e.g. 2M2M) support our confidence that the importance of entrepreneurship will rise further in the upcoming months and years.

But we need to be faster. Other spots like Berlin and London have already a headstart and Austria seems to miss out on massive opportunities if we not act swiftly. Some necessary steps needed:

  • Creation of tax incentives to foster private investments (get out of real estate and into startups!)
  • Raise awareness for the topic of startups, entrepreneurship and include this in school curricula
  • Liberalisation of corporate and labour laws
  • Allow for alternatives in investment (crowd-funding, etc.)
  • Rethink subsidies from the ground up

Read the full Austrian Startup Report.

Visionen für Österreich – read the paper by austrianstartups.com

 

Also we would like to thank our partners:

Partner

 

 

2 Minuten 2 Millionen

So, we just resurfaced from an amazing Pioneers Festival and now we have our own TV show: “2 Minuten 2 Millionen” which is going to premiere on November 25th on Puls4.

We, that is, the Austrian Start-Up scene. This is pretty cool. When we first heard of the idea, we were both sceptical and excited.

Excited, because this is the chance to finally show the public at large what we do, to promote entrepreneurship and make those great teams Austria has to offer visible. It’s another step in a long journey.

Sceptical, because it is somehow terrifying to be part of a reality TV format where bashing, blank exhibitionism or small talk wisdoms on start-ups would occupy centre stage.

In the end, we quickly decided to participate. It’s a question of risk taking and we would simply look stupid if we would be leaning on the safe side here. So now, only weeks away, it’s on us to make this a great show. Together with my co-jurors Hansi Hansmann, Michael Altrichter, Daniel Mattes and Selma Prodanovic, I will have to be entertaining, yet serious. The wonderful team of Puls4 will make sure that the show element will be visible and so will we. But let’s talk about the propaganda that we want to get across.

Being part of the start-up scene pretty much before it existed, this is the moment (ok, maybe it’s one of many moments to come) where we can formulate for what we stand for. Certainly, we at Speedinvest want to see it that way.

So here is my question to the community:

  • What do you all want to get across?
  • What shall I avoid at all cost?
  • What are the lessons the audience should take away from watching this show?

Help me get through this. Let’s make the most of this wonderful, old fashioned media format and blast our message out.

See you in a few weeks on the big screen!

Oliver

4 lessons every VC should know before investing in pivoted startups

This article was originally posted on Venturebeat. Read the comments there.

We all know about the perfect pivot. The number of books and articles for entrepreneurs about when, how, and why they should drop their original idea to do something completely different could fill a small national library.

Unfortunately as a steed-stage VC like myself, there is little-to-no advice on how to handle “the pivot” from an investor perspective. And yet, very few entrepreneurs can execute this tricky maneuver without the support of their investors. It’s a very important perspective.

As a seed investor, you invest in teams. You are well aware that product-market fit might be elusive and there may be a few iterations before your team eventually finds its feet. So, you have invested in the team and it turns out there is no traction. The company only has money left to operate for a few more months. They need a new product, they need a new strategy and, most importantly, they need more money from you to have a shot.  It’s Pivot time!

But if a team fails, isn’t this a strong signal that they are not as strong as you originally thought? How do you disentangle external, market forces from in-house? Maybe there are team issues you missed?

These questions are difficult to crack, and there is no easy answer. However, I’ve found that four lessons stick out, (in reverse order of importance) as a good way to place your bet on a pivot investment:

1. Product-team match

You have seen the founders work on their initial product idea and it failed.

Will the new project be a better fit with the skills of the team? For this, you need to understand the skillset of a team first. Are they product people or sales driven? Do they feel comfortable in a B2B environment or B2C?

One key lesson here is that you have to go with what you have. It is very hard, in the short time you have to pivot, to transform a B2C team into a B2B proposition, unless they have done something similar previously.

My advice: if you have the shortlist of pivot ideas in front of you, make this a key criteria for selection. You only have one shot, so you better select a target that the team is truly well equipped to hit.

2. Cut your losses, forget the past

Don’t mistake a pivot for some incremental change in your product.  At least with past companies I have invested in, there comes a point when you sort of know if you are on to something (or not). After a long period of fog, the sky clears and you either see land or you don’t. If you don’t, jump ship. Don’t try to save assets, reuse assets, software components, partnerships, etc. Free yourself of all these burdens and focus on the team and its skills and enthusiasm. If you can jointly find something that makes sense and passes this test, go for it, and don’t look back.

One observation: the successful pivots we have seen were, more often than not, going after an idea that was already sort of on the market. I have rarely seen successful pivots that came up with radical innovations. More often, excellent teams that worked on an original invention — which then turned out to have no market (yet) – can leverage their skills on a product where the risk of product-market fit is smaller.

3. Timing is key or ‘muddling through’

From an investor’s point of view, managing this process tightly is of utmost importance.

Your challenge, simply put, is this: how can you buy time for yourself and the team without piling up further losses? You need to reduce risk in every way you can.

  • Choose a product that has a real chance to prove itself within the financial runway of the startup
  • Scramble for external funding:, salary cuts, renting out staff, office space, etc. Find every dollar you can save to extend runway.
  • Carefully evaluate progress and initial market traction (if any) of the new product. Tie your money flow to milestones.
  • Be 100 percent transparent on the milestones. Have a close, joint understanding with the founding team on the exact scenarios that you can support and those that you can’t.

4. Crisis as team due diligence

So, finally, here is my main point. I have one clear indicator that separates a successful team from the rest: enthusiasm. The single strongest indication is how the founding team deals with such a situation and with a serious, new challenge.

How does the pivot process feel to you? Is it a burden put on the team? Are they weary, still in love with their old product? Do you have to force decisions on them? Do they discuss the pivot as a hypothetical option or do they take fast steps? Do they follow your advice, or wait for your guidance?

Or are they running with it, moving the ball, having strong opinions about a new path? Are they ready to double down their commitments, financially, socially?

Don’t get me wrong: such a process should involve doubt, self-questioning and careful deliberations. But only for so long. At some point, the team has to embrace the change and run. If you don’t see this specific dynamic building up, I would recommend walking away. If you see it, stay with it, fight for it — it will pay off.

Europe vs. the US: founder stories

 

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We at Speedinvest keep on discussing differences between Europe and the US in length, and have done so over and over again. Sigh. You probably heard it enough from us already. That’s why we wanted to ask someone who experienced the difference first hand, founded a company in Austria early and then moved to the US, to see the ecosystem firsthand. Tobias Hann, Founder of Vooch, a mobile couponing solution back from the days when nobody knew how to spell “Groupon” sat down with us to discuss startups, the US and stuff.

You founded vooch in 2009 in Vienna, what was the plan, how did it develop?

Our idea was to offer a mobile couponing service for retailers, restaurants, bars etc. We had one of the first iPhone and Android apps on the Austrian market and with marketing cooperations with local telecom providers we were able to reach more than a hundred thousand customers. While traction on the consumer side was great it was challenging to win business customers for the necessary coupons. Four years ago there was still a lot of skepticism towards smart phones and mobile apps. While we successfully convinced some great brands (such as Starbucks and Burger King) to advertise with vooch the willingness to pay for our service was low in general. In 2010 Citydeal (later acquired by Groupon) and DailyDeal (later acquired by Google) entered the couponing market in Austria and got a lot of traction. The market was swamped with coupons and it got even harder for us to acquire new business customers. As vooch was bootstrapped we eventually ran out of money and decided to shut down in 2011.

What were your learnings now looking back at vooch? what would you have done differently?

During the three years that we were working on vooch I learned a lot – experiences that I could probably not have gained anywhere else. It is quite a roller coaster ride to start a business. On the positive side I learned that I really like entrepreneurial environments and to be in charge of my own work. Because you don’t have a boss that tells you what to do, I think a strong internal motivation and work discipline are helpful personal traits for entrepreneurs. In terms what we could have done differently there are three main learnings.

First, know your future customers and the market you are getting into. Preparation is key and even before your product is done or your company incorporated ideally you already want to have feedback from future customers. You need to understand what their pains are and what product or service they are actually looking for. Knowing the specifics of the market and how sales processes etc. work is of great value too and will save you from unpleasant surprises. For example we didn’t anticipate the importance of advertising agencies for larger clients.

Second, know your team, roles and responsibilities and individual strengths and weaknesses of everyone. You really want to start a new business with a rock-solid team. Ideally the founding team has all the necessary skills to launch the initial (beta) product. Also, make sure that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. In the hectic time of starting a business there is a tendency that “everyone does everything”. While this might seem like a good use of human resources it is actually not. Everyone should do what they can do best and not waste time by trying to fill in roles that don’t match their skill set.

Third, be prepared to change your plan. Writing a business plan is a nice theoretical exercise but chances are high that the reality will look quite different. The startup world is dynamic and what seemed a good idea yesterday might be obsolete today. Although I’m not a big fan of startup talk such as “follow the money” and “pivoting” these concepts are actually really helpful. While it’s easy to say to stay flexible in reality it is not. I remember when we heard about Groupon in 2009 and briefly thought about adopting or at least adding their couponing concept to our system. We decided not to because we were just mentally stuck in our own approach. External partners and mentors can be helpful to prevent that “out of a box” thinking.

You spent the last 2 years in Berkeley, doing an MBA, what is the atmosphere like there?

Berkeley is embedded in the Bay Area and the Silicon Vally is just around the corner. Entrepreneurship and startups are always present – in classes case studies are discussed, startups come to hire, students discuss their own ideas and you can listen to famous entrepreneurs such as Guy Kawasaki on campus instead of watching him on Youtube. Striving to become an entrepreneur is socially well accepted and successful entrepreneurs are almost treated like heroes.

How do Google, Facebook, others hire there? What are average salaries? What positions are looked for the most?

All the big tech companies are hiring right now. The problem is not a lack of positions but a lack of talent. On the IT side software developers and especially mobile app developers are in high demand and can make quite some money. For candidates with relevant experience (and for the best sometimes even straight out of college) salaries around $100k and above are paid.

Candidates with business backgrounds (and e.g. an MBA) also get hired but it is more competitive. Typical roles include product management, business development, or some analytical jobs. While salaries in general are a bit higher for business roles the gap to IT roles is not as big anymore as it might have been in the past.

The big tech firms all have big recruiting machineries and if you are not in the area or have some personal connection it will be challenging to get a hot lead. As international you also have to pay attention which companies are willing to sponsor a visa and which not. Hiring for startups is predominantly done by referrals and/or networking and a local presence is almost a must. They seek similar roles but pay less which is most often offset by some equity.

How do you perceive the Austrian Startup ecosystem after being away for 2 years?

From what I can tell the Austrian startup ecosystem has developed quite significantly over the past years. Even in 2011 it felt very different than in the beginning of 2009. Not only the number of startups has increased, also many more support structures are now in place. Initiatives like Speedinvest and the increasing number of business angels have made access to funds easier. Regular networking events support the exchange of know how and experiences between founders. The Austrian startup scene (as all the others around the world as well) has also benefited from new cloud computing services and the emergence of development frameworks. It is now easier than ever before to launch a web or mobile startup – all you need is an idea, a laptop, some time and the drive to do it!

But the reality still is that the Austrian startup ecosystem can’t be compared to the Silicon Valley in many regards. If I was starting another business today I would definitely spend some time thinking about the best possible location.

SpeedInvest wins 2nd Place at Venture Capital Awards

On June 19th Speedinvest was awarded 2nd place in the 2013 Austrian Venture Capital and Private Equity Awards.

SpeedInvest took home the silver at the recent Austrian Venture Capital and Private Equity Awards. This makes us very proud for two reasons:

First reason:
The prize was awarded by institutions (Vienna Stock Exchange, Federation of Austrian Industries, financial press & media and top notch auditing and law firms – in short: “the establishment”) that the start-up industry often complains don’t give them enough attention.
This award sends a strong signal from the establishment’s, Startup industry!
You’re welcome!

Second reason:
And the best thing about it?  We won the prize without really trying. And we won in impeccable SpeedInvest style:
-we submitted our application two days after the deadline
– and it wasn’t so much an “application” but a 14-line email accompanied by our recycled infographic
– we showed up at the ceremony only after being chased by the organizers for days. We didn’t realize the invitation meant that we made it onto the list of only 5 nominees out of 22 applications
– then of course we were half an hour late
– Oliver preparing his ‘thank you’ speech in even less time than I dedicated to the application itself (taking notes on a paper tissue after 4th place was awarded)

But don’t get the wrong impression.  We weren’t being arrogant, we simply didn’t expect ‘the establishment’ to take us seriously, with our early stage technology focus.  We live so far out in Neuland we weren’t sure they had our address.  But we’re really glad they did.  It tells us that our day-to-day work is award-worthy to others and needs no BS or flashy presentation.

But in the end pride of accomplishment is retrospective:
it doesn’t push us forward. Much more important is what take away for our future work. And this made me think about the good in coming second… And it took me a while, to be honest.

Second place is the last chance to do better next time!

…and that project kicked off on June 20th.