We asked twelve Austrian founders to pick their local hero from the startup ecosystem

Given how recent the startup scene is in Austria, there’s a lot going on. The first  STARTvienna event in 2009 with 40 attendees, became Pioneers Festival that now welcomes 2,500 participants every year.

Equally important is the nonprofit ­AustrianStartups, supporting the scene since 2013, hosting a monthly ­Stammtisch that has grown from 50 in its first year, and now packs Sektor5 with over 200 ­attendees and mentors.

In 2011, the first Speedinvest fund raised  some €10 million and a second fund in 2015, $100 million. In the meantime, the number of startups has increased exponentially, with some great ­success stories like Runtastic, ­paysafecard, dynaTrace and Shpock. Since 2013, Austria has had its own crowdfunding platform CONDA, which now operates in seven additional countries and has generated over €9 million in investments.

The show 2 Minutes 2 Million, Austria’s answer to the U.K.’s Dragon’s Den, or Shark Tank in the U.S., and the popularity of co-working spaces are further signs that entrepreneurship is becoming mainstream, with a State Secretary, Harald Mahrer now pushing the startup agenda.

None of this would have happened without these disruptors and heroes of the startup scene. Many cite courage and resilience as the key ingredient. But perhaps they can explain it best themselves.


Reinhold Baudisch / Durchblicker

portraet-baudisch-durchblicker

Role: Co-Founder & Managing Director
What they do: Help consumers compare options, to save on insurance, banking, utilities and mobile phone plans.
Interesting fact: Durchblicker claims to save clients €2,000 in fixed costs per year.
News: 23% of all private households in Austria switched their energy provider with durchblicker.at in 2015.
(Source: futurezone.at)

“Armin Strbac is my hero, for combining boldness, endurance and smart decision-making.

“The app Armin co-founded, Shpock has been downloaded  over 10 million times and is one of the hottest internationalization stories in the Austrian startup scene so far.

“His startup’s initial product flopped and instead of dying a slow death, the team pivoted radically to build and launch Shpock.

“Following this bold decision, the founders built a great team and began scaling, expanding to multiple countries and ­accumulating an impressive user base.

“In the crowded marketplace of online classifieds, Armin and his team have built an unparalleled system that stands out in terms of ease of use. To top it off, they exited in 2015 with one of the highest valuations in Austrian start-up history.”

Armin Strbac, Shpock

ArminStrbacRole: Co-Founder
What they do: Shpock is a flea market app for mobile devices.
Interesting fact: Before Shpock, Armin and Katharina founded finderly.com. The business didn’t get traction, so the small team retreated to discuss new ideas. One of them was Shpock.
News: Besides their core markets Austria, Germany and the U.K., Shpock recently launched in Italy. The Norwegian Schibsted Classifieds Media bought up 91% of Shpock shares in September 2015. (Source: shpock.com)

Fredrik Debong / mysugr

profile-pic-fredrikRole: Co-Founder & Community Relations Lead
What they do: MySugr offers app-­based, all-around care for people with diabetes. The apps and services ease the daily grind of diabetes therapy.
Interesting fact: Almost half of the MySugr employees live with diabetes, many since childhood. One of their advisors is Tim Ferris, author of The 4-hour Work Week. Customers are known to have tattooed the logo on their arms!
News: In April 2016 MySugr began working with Roche, the market leader in blood glucose testing.
(Source: prnewswire.co.uk)

“Florian Motlik and I met at the TU and he soon became my mentor – ­despite being several years my junior.
A few people can be said to have been the instigators of the scene, but some, like Florian, tend to stay in the background.

“He’s a passionate man, with the ability to inspire and teach, usually with a big smile on his face. Over the years we’ve had great fun as co-founders of STARTeurope (later Pioneers.io), JSUG (Java Student User Group) and a dozen other small projects we started for fun. I attribute much of the philosophy and openness of the Austrian ecosystem to his work and inspiration. After a stint in Boston he has now come back to his hometown. Vienna is lucky to finally have him back in its comfortable clutches!”

Florian Motlik / Codeship

FlorianMotlikRole: Co-founder & CTO
What they do: Codeship is a fast, secure and cloud-based continuous delivery platform that lets software developers easily test and deploy their code.
Interesting fact: In 2013, Florian and his Co-Founder Moritz took Codeship to Boston, where they joined the Techstars accelerator.
News: In March of 2015, Codeship raised another $1.5 million, for a total of $4.4 million in funding.
(Source: betaboston.com)

Bianca Gfrei / Kiweno

BiancaGfrei_c-Marko-Maestrovic_H0A5176Role: Co-Founder & CEO
What they do: Kiweno offers do-it-yourself food intolerance tests (which are provided by a certified laboratory), online visualizations  and customized tips for the user after taking the test.
Interesting fact: The startup pitched at the “Startup-Challenge” at the Pioneers Festival in 2015 and won its €45,000 prize.
News: On the show 2 Minutes 2 Million, Kiweno was granted a media investment of €7 million for 26% of the company. (Source: Forbes)

“Hansi Hansmann has had such a positive impact, not only on our company, but on the entire startup ecosystem. While he hails from an extremely conservative industry (Pharmaceuticals), he has managed to be very open-minded toward change and ­innovation.

“He is one of the busiest people I know, but he’ll always find a way to squeeze in a few minutes to share his advice and insights whenever needed.

“Hansi is never one to point out your weaknesses, instead he empowers your strengths. The fact that I am a young, female first-time founder was never an obstacle to him. On the contrary: I know that I can always count on his support and that he has my back through all of the ups and downs.”

Hansi Hansmann / Business Angel

HansiHansmannRole: Business Angel
What he does: Hansi offers startup cash investments and know-how.
Interesting fact:  The startups he invests in call themselves the Hansmen Group
News: His last two investments were in the tooth-brushing app Playbrush (€700.000 together with Speedinvest) and the storage space platform, Storeme; a six-figure investment along with the Swiss Martin Global AG.
(Source: Futurezone.at)

Felix Häusler / Grape

Felix_HäuslerRole: Co-Founder & CEO
What they do: Grape is a business messaging service that simplifies communication in large companies through intelligent auto-complete.
Interesting fact: Grape got funding from Betaworks (Kickstarter, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) and Mark Pincus (Zynga).
News: In January 2016, Grape went public with its ­­“Intelligence Amplification” feature, meaning the messenger understands what people are saying, takes notes, creates appointments, etc.
(Source: techcrunch.com)

“Julian ­Zehetmayr (formerly Mobfox, now APIlayer) is my local hero.

“Not only because he’s Vienna’s youngest­­­ multi-­millionaire­­, but mainly because he is one of the most likely to do it again. Austria is full of amazing coders and hackers, but not many are capable of launching rapid growth with solid sales and marketing tactics.

“It’s imperative to remind people in Austria that you can’t code your way to success. Often, you can achieve more by closing your ‘Sublime’ (a text editor for code) to tweak your marketing message, pick up the phone, or feed your newsletter subscribers. It’s one of the harder things, as we all love to build products, but founders tend to get lost in the process and forget to work on their success.”

Julian Zehetmayr / Mobfox

JulianZehetmayrRole: Founder of MobFox and APIlayer
What they do: MobFox is an advertising platform that enables advertisers to communicate their message to a mobile audience. In February 2015, Julian launched APIlayer, to help developers automate complex processes.
Interesting fact: Zehetmayr was 16 when he created MobFox.
News: He sold the company to Israel’s Matomy Media Group in late 2014 for €17.6 million, becoming a multimillionaire at 22.
(Source: wsj.com)

Katharina  Klausberger / Shpock

Katharina-Klausberger_shpockRole: Co-Founder
What they do: Shpock is a flea market app for mobile devices.
Interesting fact: Before Shpock, Armin Strbac and Katharina founded finderly.com. The business didn’t get traction, so the small team retreated to discuss new ideas. One of them was Shpock.
News: Besides their core markets Austria, Germany and the U.K., Shpock recently launched in Italy. The Norwegian Schibsted Classifieds Media bought up 91% of Shpock shares in September 2015. (Source: shpock.com)

“From the first Startup Live event to the present, he’s inspired many others to make a contribution of their own.
Back in 2009/2010, when my co-founder and I were about to start our first business, there was no established startup scene in Austria – you could count the number of seed investors on two hands, Series-A investment rounds were nonexistent and the few existing startups were not connected whatsoever.

“We soon discovered an event called ‘Startup Live’ – a meetup, run by Andreas and the team. This was one of his first endeavors to connect the startup scene and overall to foster a culture of entrepreneurship. That led to ‘Startup Week,’ which was then renamed the ‘Pioneers Festival’ – a startup event with thousands of participants from all over the world.”

Andreas Tschas / Pioneers

AndreasTschasRole: Co-­Founder & CEO
What they do: Pioneers hosts Pioneers Festival, one of Europe’s major conferences for tomorrow’s ideas, bringing together startups, corporates, media and investors eager to support the next big thing. Pioneers also offers funding, mentoring and industry insights.
Interesting fact: The Pioneers founders, Andreas Tschas and Jürgen Furian initially wanted to do something to reduce unemployment in Europe.
News: For the first time in 2016, Pioneers.io has an invite- and application-only policy. (Source: trendingtopics.at). In March 2016 Pioneers partnered with Nikkei to launch its first Asian startup conference in Tokyo. (Source: futurezone.at)

Andreas Klinger / Product Hunt

Andreas_klingerRole: CTO & founding team member
What they do: Based in Silicon Valley, Product Hunt is a well known website within the global startup community that showcases new innovative products as they hit the market.
Interesting fact: Launched in 2013, the website received Series A funding of ­
$7.1 million in 2014 and won the “Best New Startup of 2014” Crunchie Award in February 2015.
News: In March 2016, Product Hunt introduced a topics feature. The roughly 300 topics range from “Productivity,” to “DJ Khaled.”
(Source: buzzfeed.com)

“To me, ­Jürgen ­Furian and the ­Pioneers team are Austria’s startup heroes.

“Not just ­because they actually kickstarted several of Austria’s biggest success stories, guided several of our most important investors and multiple policy makers, but because they raise expectations. The expectations of what innovation can mean, what people can do, what our future will look like and what young people in CEE can do to get us there faster.

“In 2010 I attended a startup weekend in Pristina, Kosovo. A few presentations were about  reestablishing basic infrastructure, or providing better alternatives. This was when I realized that startups  can serve a greater purpose. They can move a society and humanity forward.

“That was the first StartupLive event organized by Jürgen Furian and Andreas Tschas. Since then, they have changed names more times than Puff Daddy, but they have stayed true to the core aim: to forge entrepreneurial spirit in Europe’s youth, or as they like to put it, ‘JFDI’ (just fucking do it).”

Jürgen Furian / Pioneers

JuergenFurianRole: Co-Founder
(see Andreas Tschas)

Alfred Luger /  Runtastic

Alfred_luger_SWRole: COO and Co-Founder of Runtastic.
What they do: Runtastic is a startup that combines fitness with mobile apps, social networking and gamification.
Interesting fact: In August 2015 Runtastic had over 140 million app downloads and more than 70 million registered users and over 120 employees.
News: In August 2015, Adidas bought Runtastic for $239 million.
(Source: reuters.com)

“I admire ­Michael Eisler because he does a great job helping ­early-stage startups grow, find investors, or apply for funding. And he’s a fantastic mentor. At the moment he’s doing what I’d planned years ago for Upper Austria.

“He’s become a real mover of the startup ecosystem and a great multiplier for early-stage founders.

“This is something I never got around to, due to my job as managing director at Runtastic. Michael draws on a vast realm of experience from the companies he co-founded such as DIG, Talentland and Wappwolf as well as his time as Managing Director for Talenthouse when he was based in LA. He is a personal friend and I admire his passion for startups.”

Michael Eisler /  Startup 300

MichaelEislerRole: Co-Founder & Managing Director
What they do: Startup300 is an accelerator for Austrian startups. It is a network of business angels and ­entrepreneurs, who are highly active in the Austrian startup ecosystem. The accelerator funds and supports aspiring startups.
Interesting fact: The network already counted 80+ members among its ranks before launching in December 2015.
News: In March 2016, Michael Altrichter and Startup300 invested €1 million in Hokify, the Viennese “Tinder for jobs.” (Source: Trendingtopics.at)

Ali Mahlodji / Whatchado

Ali_Mahlodji-2Role: Co-Founder, Chief Storyteller & Chief Visionary
What they do: Whatchado is a career portal. In short videos, people explain their job and the path that led them there.
Interesting fact: Ali was a high-school dropout and by the time he founded Watchado in 2011 he had had 40 jobs.
News: In Febraury 2016, Whatchado partnered with AustrianStartups to feature Austrian startup entrepreneurs as role models.
(Source: Whatchado.com)

“Everyone in the startup business is going for gold, but Matthias Reisinger is in it for something meaningful.
Some would call it ‘impact.’ In his case, it’s the real thing.

“He founded the Impact HUB Vienna, a place for game-changers and dreamers, the people who really want to bring about change. Today the HUB is a thriving space for a subculture of entrepreneurs who ­really believe in the power of mankind.

“I met Matthias in May 2011 and since then he has impressed me with his ­approach to leadership, mixed with the right instincts on how to learn from mistakes.

“Matthias proved everyone wrong who said that there was no space for sustainable thinkers in the quickly changing startup bubble. As far as I can tell, he’s just at the beginning.”

Matthias Reisinger / Impact HUB Vienna

MatthiasReisingerRole: Co-Founder & Director
What they do: Vienna’s Impact HUB community is made up of social businesses and individuals taking on challenges with a social or ecological impact.
Interesting fact: Vienna’s Impact HUB hosts the Social Impact Award.
News: On June 30th the Impact HUB will be hosting the CEE Impact day, the CEE’s biggest conference for impact investment.
(Source: Impact HUB)

Travis Pittman / Tourradar

Travis_Pittman_BWRole: Co-Founder & CEO
What they do: TourRadar is an online marketplace for comparing and booking group travel, with its HQ in Vienna and regional bases in Brisbane and Toronto.
Interesting fact: Travis is Australian, founded Tourradar in 2010 and pitched (in German) on the Austrian investment show 2 Minutes 2 Million in 2013.
News:  TourRadar’s annual bookings grew three fold between 2014 and 2015. (Source: tourradar.com)

“Even though he wouldn’t admit it, ­Oliver Holle has been a driving force behind the progress of Austria’s startup scene over the past four years.  Without listing his accomplishments here, I’d say the biggest impact he has had was launching the $100-million Speedinvest II fund.

“Austria has successfully motivated a number of business angels to be active in pre-seed and seed investing, but there is a big gap when it comes to the necessary follow-up funding at the Series A stage and that is what SI II has helped address. If Vienna wants to be taken seriously as a startup hub, it needs more funds like this so founders don’t run off to Berlin and London or across the pond to Silicon Valley or NYC. Oliver’s humble nature and wise words will continue to push things forward for many years to come.”

Oliver Holle / Speedinvest

OliverHolleRole: Co-Founder & CEO
What they do: Speedinvest is a VC fund founded in 2011. It invests cash, operational resources, mentoring, and coaching to startups.
Interesting fact: Speedinvest has made 5 investments over €600k in 2016, the latest exit of the VC fund was Holvi, which got acquired by Spanish Bank BBVA.
News: Starting in 2016, Oliver’s colleague Marie-Helene Ametsreiter will begin running Speedinvest’s first German office in Munich.
(Source: speedinvest.com)

Christoph Richter / zoomsquare

Christioph-RichterRole: Co-Founder & CMO
What they do: Zoomsquare is an innovative, user-centric real estate search engine for Austria and Germany. It filters all available properties according to users’ personal needs, and desired locations.
Interesting fact: For better search results, zoomsquare scans different real-estate platforms for matching listings and therefore is able to provide more results than individual platforms can.
News: The Viennese startup launched in Germany in February 2016, opening a Berlin office. (Source: trendingtopics.at)

“Christopher Kahler founded a startup called ­Qriously in 2010.

“He was one of the first people to join Sektor5, the co-working space where the startup community was born. He has a true entrepreneurial mindset, helping the others with his experience and wanting nothing in return.

“He showed the rest of us how startups really worked. And most importantly, he is still successful with his startup. The Austrian scene has come a long way since 2010, and at the moment it’s growing quickly. The community has grown strong, with people helping each other in every way they can. It was people like Christopher who made it that way.”

Christopher Kahler / Qriously

ChristopherKahlerRole: CEO & Co-Founder
What they do: Qriously is a platform tool that allows companies to get real-time sentiment analysis from mobile users by replacing mobile advertisements
with questions.
Interesting fact: Qriously has access to 50,000 apps and their users in 100 countries.
News: Qriously teamed up with the cross-device tech company Drawbridge in September 2015, allowing Qriously to recognize and retarget consumers on both the mobile web and apps, as well as across devices.
(Source: mediapost.com)

Thomas Schranz / Blossom

Thomas_SchranzRole: Co-Founder & CEO
What they do: Blossom is a project-­tracking tool (optimized) for software companies with teams working globally.
Interesting fact:  Blossom’s five employees serve over 500 paying companies including Twitter, Netflix
and NASA.
News: In April 2016 Blossom was selected by Zapier as one of the best project-­management tools on the market.
(Source: zapier.com)

“Floor Drees is the managing director of sektor5, one of Vienna’s leading co-working spaces. She’s now also the program manager at their new incubator, 5starts.

“Floor was instrumental in building up the local tech & open source meetup scene, virtually from scratch. Today this community forms the backbone for lots of the ventures we see succeeding. Things like this don’t happen by accident. It takes a motivated, cheerful, optimistic, empathic and resourceful person. It takes someone who has the courage to think long-term and still able to act in the moment.

“Floor is the secret gardener of our blossoming startup ecosystem.

“Unassuming yet decisive, she makes barriers of all kinds vanish and builds bridges between the existing hubs. She has paved the way for many  of us – ­behind the scenes, steadily, with much care and unending enthusiasm.”

Floor Drees / sektor5

FloorDreesRole: Managing Director & ­5starts Manager
What they do: Offer co-working space to freelancers, the self-employed and startups.
Interesting fact: Sektor5 launched in 2010 and was the first tech-startup co-working space in Vienna. Its alumni include Codeship, Grape, MySugr, Product Hunt and Qriously.
News: In January 2016 they launched the incubator 5starts.
(Source: medium.com)

Lukas Zinnagl / Diagnosia

Lukas_Zinnagel_Nuno-Filipe-OliveiraRole: Co-Founder & CEO
What they do: Diagnosia offers health professionals access to specialist ­information and medical databases. It acts as an international search engine for pharmaceuticals.
Interesting fact: Almost as a side-­effect, Diagnosia is now operating the largest drug search engine in the world, with around four million monthly users.
News: In March 2016 Diagnosia bought the Innsbruck-based medicinal data distributor MedEval
(Source: Trendingtopics.at)

“Besides being an accomplished tech entrepreneur, Markus Wagner is a great business matchmaker, who lives by his global mindset. With the experience Markus gained from the companies he co-founded, including 3United and 123People, he supports countless founders through the incubator i5invest, which he helped build when there was only a handful of startup veterans in Austria.

“Especially when it comes to ‘the next stages’ of developing a business, like the process of expanding overseas, Markus can be a key player.

“For businesses coming from a small country like Austria, that is an important step to large-scale success.”

Markus Wagner / i5invest

MarkusWagnerRole: Founder & Chairman of the advisory board
What they do: The members of i5invest mentor and support European tech companies with corporate development, internationalization, mergers & acquisitions, and fundraising. They have an extensive network of international business angels and VCs. The fund also offers seed financing.
Interesting fact: “i5” stands for the core capabilities and the philosophy of the company: innovate, inspire, incubate, invest and internationalize.
News: Wagner was instrumental in i5invest’s expansion to Silicon Valley in early 2015.
(Source: fillmore.at)

IN COOPERATION WITHAustrian Startups_Logo

SHARE
Previous articleOn Screen: Independence Days – VIS Film Festival
Next articleMay 2016
Margaret Childs is CEO and Editor in Chief of Metropole. Originally from New York, she has called Vienna home since high school. She is a board member of AustrianStartups, the independent non-profit platform, which aims to make Austria as famous for entrepreneurship as it is for skiing. She is known for loving Vienna passionately, talking too fast and inhaling coffee like there's no tomorrow. She tweets @mtmchildsPhoto: Michèle Pauty