Vienna

An ode to Austrian startups and the next chapter


It’s been almost a month since moving to London. Three years after (not so) secretly dreaming about the possibilities in this city, I took on the challenge to start an MSc focused on technology entrepreneurship, customer development in early stage ventures and strategic management of growing, scalable projects/companies. Basically, these next 11 months will help me understand better what I’ve been trying to push when consulting clients – and they will provide the backbone for the years to come.

Getting here was the result of a great interest towards startups and the way they function – from founding to exit. I can still remember a chat with a former employer of mine mentioning they’re NOT a startup because they do not want to scale, which made me raise questions about what that actually meant. Looking around at that time (2012-2013), the only guys I knew in the Austrian space who wanted to change the world were Whatchado, who are great with their approach towards team building, diversity and talent retention. Also, the company called Finderly for second hand electronics swaps had pivoted into the mobile marketplace Shpock and I was about to witness first hand what it meant to be an early adopter the startup wanted to work closely with (still gushing about it to this day). They turned out to have one of the most successful exits I’ve heard about in the last years. Many people with different backgrounds in Vienna wanted to make more, have their voices heard and share their stories with the world.

AustrianStartups came together and gave a regular place, date and time for people to get in touch. Suddenly, there was a way in which co-working spaces opened up, allowing newbies to get to startups. There was honest feedback on how building a venture works. You would hear for example of David and Bernhard from orat.io who were based in Berlin at the time (2014) giving their first project a go and failing at it. And it wasn’t the end of the world. Interestingly enough, they pivoted to amazing customer service providers through mobile messengers and have just organized the very first European ChatBotConf. Simply put: this period showed me that if the people rock, it’s just a matter of time before the product does.

I see the market rapidly maturing and developing with multi-platform collaboration both in B2B and B2C. Austrian Airlines‘s chatbot was just launched as the product of a startup, a digital agency and a corporation in Vienna. Moving on to the other side of the ocean, you see people like Peter and Phil from Swell who are clearly set to conquer the world, one decision at a time. No matter if they’re in L.A. or in Eferding, schnitzel is still in their DNA (you have to check out their Facebook page to see what I’m talking about). They had to relocate to get to their core user base and it will be interesting to notice how this move affects the future of their product.

In the meanwhile, I’ve done the same. Until we have a clear vision of the customer pain we’re trying to tackle, my team in London will keep on iterating ideas and prototyping. Just like the tweet pictured above suggests, it’s more a question of design than the technology around it. That’s why my main focus is to get the right people in the right place at the same time working on something that will make a difference. And the design wouldn’t have been drafted like this without the inspiration Austrian startups have provided over the years. I hope to return soon with new insights to share with the community. And for those not yet familiar with the community: currently there are loads of interesting people in Vienna looking for opportunities to join great startups, a lot of them in the conversational UX/chatbot/AI space. Have a look around and let me know how I can help ;)

 

#wienblogger November edition – impressions and updates

Wienblogger November 2013“When was the last time you went to a blogger meetup in Austria?” :) Last summer when I asked this question on Twitter, the answer was kind of disappointing, since people originally organized such events before 2010, back when I was still a little girl, blogging from my hometown in Romania. “Would you like to take part in an informal get-to-know-each-other blogger meetup this year?” – the answers were surprisingly positive, because people generally prefer meeting other people in person rather than just seeing their online accounts tweeting, posting on Facebook and being very social media active. That’s how Wienblogger started and it has been a long journey since.

This year has been quite tough for me in terms of university work, which is why I didn’t have time to find sponsors to top off our Christmas get-together last year. But since sweet November came along, a lot of you asked me when we are meeting again, I asked you if you’d like to go back to the original way we got together, so Wienblogger’s back, alright! And yesterday night was a great opportunity to have our very first English-German-Romanian speaking meetup, since people who attended the event were literally from all over the world. You can find photos of us on Instagram and Tweets here.

So before we get to the list of bloggers and onliners who attended, I’d like to ask you this question: what do you think a collaboration between Wienblogger and different companies (such as startup incubators, marketing event organizers, banks and so on) could lead to? Would you like to get to know people who are interested in you as bloggers or would you just want to meet up at a restaurant and have a nice time, no strings attached whatsoever? Please comment below and tell me your opinion (in English, German or whatever language you prefer).

Long story short: wer war dabei? :)

Carly

Majella

Larisa

Melanie

Heinz

Fabian (look him up on Sunday at 9.50 am)

Cristi

Thomas

Irene

Bigii

the misterious Florian – found his blog through instagram

+ yours truly, Andra

Hope you had a wonderful evening and see you soon!

How it all began

Living in the big city has its ups and downs. There are days when you get up and just want to go back to bed. Then there are other days when you wake up, open the window, smell the fresh air and start dancing in the room, looking forward to getting outside and meeting new people or seeing old friends. Or simply traveling with well connected public transportation that leads you to the heart of the city in less than 10 minutes.

Somehow, you never quite understand why you love living in the city so much. Why the fact that you missed your metro and will probably be late for a meeting or a class makes you smile and think about just how much you wanted to get here in the first place.

Everything has changed so much since you came here a while ago. You were young and hardly knew anybody, had an apartment somewhere none of your newly met acquaintances used to live and were alone for the most part of the day. Since you got extremely bored of your university courses, you decided to take long trips with the trams and buses of the city. It started through exploring the depths of the capital, discovering streets on which you could just walk ahead, searching for answers when you didn’t even know the questions. And then something happened: you found yourself. That person you always dreamed of being, that one was right there, inside, all along. She just needed the right city, the right age and the wrong university courses to unfold.

Three years went by. Now you’re sleeping in a larger bed and dreaming about the next steps in life. It all makes sense now, why you didn’t like to go to those courses, why some of the acquaintances went with the flow and others stayed next to you through thick and thin. It’s very hard to tell what will happen in the next three years. But trust me, they will be at least as amazing as the last ones. Because you’re living in a very, very colorful city.

Later edit: here’s a very inspiring video I just found on Christoph Jeschke‘s blog (he was one of the very first people I met in Vienna in 2010), that might show you a different perspective of “the city”

Cultural swing

Losing touch with the Romanian “media culture” was not something I had considered when arriving to Vienna. The thing that surprises me the most is that it occurred so silently, nobody could even sense it happened. Having no access to the object that kept me on track with everything during my 19 year long stay in the Carpathian Garden – the TV and its wonders – eventually led to a loss of interest towards themes so fervently discussed back in Sibiu. Why?

It’s been more than two years since I last sat on my favourite chair in my grandmother’s home, reading a piece of beautiful Romanian postmodern creation that was absolutely unrelated to the exams I had to take in order to obtain my high school degree. I vaguely remember the coffee conversations we enjoyed in Sibiu, yet always remember the places, the people and the books (and the places where you could get the books and meet lots of cool people – Humanitas). Of course, everything that happened in the media was a part of our lives and of our discussion topics, the music we heard on TV was played at our parties and the people who were famous for a reason and promoted in the media were our models in life.

Compared to the Austrian press, Romanian print is extremely poor in information and suffers from a severe case of tabloidization, yet it’s still being read and somewhat followed (in terms of fashion and lifestyle of celebrities, habits of going to very expensive clubs and wearing very expensive clothes and so on) by a big load of people. Media apparently influences Austrian minds and Romanian pockets.

Although it was hard getting to transit from the typical Romanian way of perceiving media, Vienna (and even more: the University of Vienna) has introduced me to some of the most fascinating themes I’ve faced so far. Coming close to the age of uninnocence, subjects that earlier could not be debated without a serious amount of controversy and very many stereotypes in mind seem more and more promising. The pages are unfolding in a more Standard (Austrian quality newspaper) kind of life than in the typical Tribuna (local Sibiu newspaper) times. It’s true, I haven’t read a good postmodern fiction work in a long while and my favourite chair can never be replaced. Yet nobody seeks to copy Lugner around here and it makes much more sense to take some distance from things portrayed in the media – both on TV and in print – then to let your life be exclusively influenced by it.

Tip for estranged Romanians suffering from cultural swing: always listen closely to the songs on the radio that are trendy in Romania when arriving in the country, then repeat some lyrics in front of your friends. Somehow this still gets the conversations started just like in the old days.

On being a Pioneer in Vienna

“You can start a business anywhere you want in the world, as long as you’re driven”. This is what a speaker mentioned on day one of the Pioneers Festival, held this year between the 29th-31th of October at the Hofburg in Vienna. What do you think about this statement?

To summarize what I am about to say in the following article, you need to go to the Pioneers Festival in 2013 if you:

-are looking for change in your life and career

-strive to make some international connections on the spot

-want to see speakers debating current issues from an insider perspective.

It’s intriguing to see just how much events such as this and TEDxVienna (which I will be attending later on today) have changed the spirit of the city. Not long ago, things moved a little bit slower. People seemed to be looking at the future doubtfully, with a self-restraint towards ambitious ideas like: Chile? Lisbon for incubation? The Far East? Why not? Everything is worth a try, no matter how distant it might look and how expensive the ticket towards it may be. Or maybe it’s just me.

Pioneers is yet another great opportunity to make international connections and discover some projects that are worth communicating about – > check out the catch box. And the speakers….oh, the speakers! The themes debated by them were exactly ones that grab you from your seat and bring you to the point where you HAVE to make a change about the way you perceive business. I mostly attended the Startup Academy classes and got exactly what I was hoping for: authentic insights.

Thank you Pioneers for giving me the possibilty to experience this event on a full scale “Blogger/Press Pass” and therefore offering me the opportunity to get to organize our first ever “spontaneous #wienblogger meet up“, which on day two was a complete success! Also thank you to the people who participated at it and I’m looking forward to seeing you in December, this time at a surprise Christmas edition of our blogmeet.

The big move

As simple as it may sound, moving is never easy…or at least not that easy, if you are a person who realizes how many cosmetics she owns one week before she has to shove them in a box and place them in a different district of Vienna. But, on the bright side of it all, the place where I’m about to live is a looot closer to Stephansplatz, which can only make me want to dance around the (new) house and thank the person who recommended me to check it out.

So, pack your stuff, little girl, because things are literally about to get heavy :) The past few weeks have probably been the busiest and most filled with events in a couple of years, but I can only be thankful for having had the opportunity to attend them and get the most out of them. The only thing I wish I had done is to have written about them immediately afterwards and posted on my blog (but you can always check out my Tweets for live-facts from every event I go to). Sometimes it’s hard to carry around so many thoughts for so long, and I’ve really missed putting them all together in an article.

Moments like these make you cherish the people that you carry inside your heart, the ones that you take with everywhere you go, the ones that you think about when you’re far away and make you feel like home. I’m glad to have met such people for the past 20 years and a half and I hope to make them proud to have met me. It’s just one of the many things that are somehow waiting to happen.

love letter to the city

I’ve fallen for you, Vienna. You’ve showed me both your rainy and your sunny days and made me happy to be a part of them.

You’ve explained to me that none of us is the center of the universe. That I’m not invincible and that I can made awfully big mistakes in order to learn out of them. You’ve accompanied me in times of sorrow, times in which I missed my dear ones from Sibiu and whispered: “it’s ok, we’ll make it through this day”.

Maybe you’re not the love of my life, maybe we won’t even end up together, but you are…wonderful, Vienna. You truly amaze me with every single day I spend in the city. And I believe this is what love really means: trust. I trust in your powers to make me discover my path which each moment spent here. Thank you, Vienna, for giving myself back to me.

And thanks for this lovely job I got this summer ;)

Day trip to Bratislava

Since it was getting hot in the city of Vienna and I could hardly wait to get out of the house, I decided to take a short trip to Bratislava on a sunny Sunday alongside my friend: to get to know the city and its culture/history/buildings better. We were focused on getting the best views in the shortest amount of time, so we followed a map of the old town (thank you Google Maps and HP Printer) and tried to make our way through the city.

It all started with a trip with the Twin City Liner, that we took from Vienna Schwedenplatz and that got us in aproximately 75 min near the Novy Most (New Bridge) in Bratislava. It was very easy to get to the old town, spot buildings such as the St. Martin’s Cathedral or Michael’s Gate considering the fact that these we higher than the rest of the buildings and that there is a pedestrian zone in the old town, which means everything is in walking distance. What truly amazed me was how quiet the streets were, although we could see a lot of locals and tourists. We came across some traditional Slovakian restaurants but didn’t stop to eat. Maybe next time…

On our way to the bus station (it only costs about 7 Euros to get from Bratislava to Vienna by bus/train, so it’s worth it) I noticed a Billa supermarket and was eager to see whether the prices were higher than in Vienna. To my biiiig surprise, I spent the price of a typical Wiener Melange Coffee (3.7 Euros) to get…a whole lot of snacks and drinks for the road and for home. I LOVE the fact that Bratislava also opens its stores on Sundays and allows people to enjoy the pleasure of shopping (check out the Aupark website for yourself – open til 9 pm!) on days when you can only get bored or visit a museum in Vienna.

All in all, it was a great experience and I’ll be sure to come to Bratislava again for some new clothes that I’m dying to buy on a Sunday (when all Viennese stores are closed), or at least for some chilling walks around town.

livin’ la vida loca

you’re young, living in a small city of a former comunist country, thinking of yourself as the smartest being to ever walk this road to success. you’re cooking up plans to take over the planet and find yourself on a crossroad between acting, singing and becoming a famous marketing superstar who does PR for V.I.P.s and gets to see all that happens behind stage. so you choose to continue your studies, get out and about and try to discover the world one european capital at a time.

you start off with something easy: a city with a population of about 2 million people (a finer, much more quiet version of the capital city in your homeland), two very nice parents looking up for you financially to get you the best conditions possible (within a reasonable amount of money) and three months and a half of “preparation mode”. now you’re ready to take off, get on those dancing boots and start making your way through the market (and earning some money, of course).

and after a couple of experiences, you realise that you love it here. so much, that you would not leave this place called “opportunity” for a million bucks. well, maybe for two million :) you start to get used to these conditions, start enjoying your daily rides on the tram and metro and start inviting people into your life and your soul. but you know that this is only a step in your way to conquering the world.

next up: finding a way of getting your Master’s degree in Paris and working during the summers in New York. if you know a way I could reach out for these 2, please comment below :D you would probably save a life!

2011, here we are

How come every new year starts with a bunch of questions? Is it because you have the feeling of being more powerful, more able to change stuff you didn’t manage to solve in the previous years? Is it because, in some ways, you feel as if every new year is a new chance to start being different, maybe even turn into a better version of yourself?

2011 welcomed me in the most beautiful way possible: with fireworks and the Viennese waltz, with a lot of new hopes and dreams, as well as the ones that weren’t completely fulfilled until the end of the former decade. A new opportunity arises, turning the “kids” I’ve known for years into real grown ups (having grown up wishes with a twist) and making me realise that I’m not that much of a “kid” myself. Having a job experience that constantly challenges me to learn about the people that work in big companies made me sort out some options I had planned for my future. For instance, I’m trying to focus more on the way a new company can be created and developed from a zero standpoint. But since I want to do it right, first I need to accomplish more in my other fields of interest.

What I would suggest to anyone reading this article (myserf included): prioritise. If you leave out a very important aspect of your life when making (and fulfilling) your new year’s resolution, you might find your image (public persona, so to say) drifting apart from who you actually are or who you want to be. Be careful when making wishes, cause sometimes they might actually come true in a different way than expected.

I chose 2011 to be the year I focus on myself. My passions, my music, my works, my body and…of course, my soul. Plus my driver’s licence, since I’ve been meaning to do that in 2009 and didn’t make it through.

What is your word of the year?

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