Runtastic, Tractive, Surgebright, My Donkey, Pixelrunner, Payolution, Robart or rudy games: The list of start-ups that have been in the upper Austrian startup incubator tech2b is long and prominently occupied. Founding consultant Raphael Friedl has been one of those employees for five years who supports the founders with words and deeds.
In an interview, Friedl talks about the strengths of the Startup location in Upper Austria, about the hidden champions of the state and about the biggest challenges founders have to face.
In Linz, the startup scene has developed well in recent years. What is the role of tech2b?
As an incubator of the Upper Austrian universities and the province of Upper Austria, we are the startup hub in Upper Austria. We are a neutral partner for anyone who wants to learn to fly with a young company with a scalable product. That is our mission. We make this industry-independent, the only requirements are an innovative product and the location in Upper Austria.
How are the startups supported in the incubator?
The focus is on us with advice and support. It’s about a lot of human issues. In the teambuilding process we are very often challenged, but we also provide infrastructure, ie workplaces and offices. This helps in the beginning to save costs. It is also very important to network the startups with each other. External mentors cover industry knowledge, act as door openers and show shortcuts. Finally, there is a small cash grant from us to help the founders to cushion the start-up costs. So you do not have to shy away from going to a good lawyer and can now make a proper contract.
As an alumni, Runtastic is one of the flagship startups in Austria. What other hits have come out of your incubator?
tech2b has been around since 2002, so there are many others. Few are as well-known as Runtastic because about 80 percent pursue B2B business models and are therefore not as broad-based in the media. One company you know for sure is Tractive with the GPS tracker for pets. I was allowed to accompany them personally and learned a lot from the team myself.
In addition, Surgebright, who won the Challenge Challenge 2018, has been in the media lately. Rudy Games, who are rethinking the topic of board games, is now doing very well. But B2B startups such as smec – Smarter Ecommerce GmbH, one of the leading providers of SEO technologies, are also very active today and made the first few meters here a few years ago.
From your experience – what are the main reasons for failure?
The most common reason for failure is the team. Either teams do not start completely and fail to get on well in time, or they fail to make clear arrangements. Then, sooner or later, the team breaks up because the ideas diverge. This is also the thing that hurts the most, because there is always a personal component involved.
In the past, there was often the problem of being tinkered too long in the lab, asking too late on the market if anyone needed it. But formats such as # believing-challenge, 2 minutes 2 million, and so on, that’s not the problem any more, because people go out early and get feedback.
Later stages will bring new challenges
More mature startups are discovering a completely new hurdle: In Austria, there is a glass ceiling for investments from 2 million euros. Since it will be very difficult to set up in the country funding, because you have to go out of Austria. And then it turns out that Austria is not on the radar of major international venture capitalists – at least not yet. We want to change that in the coming years, together with our partners in the startup ecosystem.
Linz is a strong industrial location. How does collaboration between startups and established companies work?
This varies greatly from company to company. Some are discovering the topic just now, others have already built a lot of professionalism in the field. It works best if the startup topic is supported and pushed at the top management level. In many companies, the in-house development department is being shot at and that can only be done if the boss sees startups as a priority.
The willingness is there at companies we work with, but there constantly. We also make this the criterion of whether there is a partnership or not. In companies, there must be very specific contacts who act as bridgehead to the startups. So people who understand the needs of start-ups. Many startups can not wait four months to decide if there is a pilot project or not. So it needs agile structures.
tech2b wants to make the location Linz known beyond the borders to investors. What are you doing in the field?
In any case, we will drive the issue through cooperation with strong partners who already have good connections. We also look forward to being present in other startup hubs and maintaining contacts. We’re going to develop a format to make reverse delegations, so get the people to us.
The startups with us can compete internationally, but are too modest. The quality is there, and if we succeed in getting international investors to us in significant quantities, then in the future will come voluntarily. That’s my personal belief.
Also published on Medium.