StartUs Presents: IdeenTriebwerk Graz

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Graz based IdeenTriebwerk works together closely with startups. Xiaoao Dong explains how they view the European startup ecosystem and how they contribute to it on a local basis.

Describe IdeenTriebwerk Graz in 50 or less words.

You have the idea, we have the engine. Our vision is to inspire every person to start their own company and support entrepreneurship in Graz/Styria (AT). We, as a non-profit student organization, provide a variety of startup events, in which we foster entrepreneurship in three ways: building consciousness, transfer knowledge and offer quality networking and matching.

What is your role at IdeenTriebwerk Graz and how did you get involved?

I am in the executive board and responsible for human resources and strategic planning. As we all know the team behind any startup, corporate or organization is the essential ingredient for the road to success. This is what I try to ensure that our team members have sustainable motivation to act as role models to show the startup community the importance of entrepreneurship regionwide on a low-threshold level. “Work hard, play hard” is our internal tagline, which means that the fun factor always have a high priority during our daily work. Therefore, my team and I organize internal teambuilding events to show the gratitude to the rest of the members of our startup organization.

Which technologies, industries or regions do you focus on?

We are part of AustrianStartups, which is the national platform for the Austrian startup community to increase its visibility and strengthen the entrepreneurial system. AustrianStartups has one local representative in every Austrian region and we are the ones in Styria. Our focus lies mostly in Graz, the capital city of the Styrian region.

Our organization is open for everyone interested in startups and every startup aficionado can participate in our events. Through our great network of startup related institutions, we strive for the lean management approach, where we also partner with a lot of startups located in Graz.

Tell us a bit about your opportunities – what can startups expect and what do you ask for in return?

Startups (in Graz) can expect a great expert network, where we have access to. Just to name a few opportunities: At our monthly regulars table, the Startup Spritzer, we provide a platform, where startups can pitch their ideas and get instant feedback from a large audience. Afterwards there is quality networking. Furthermore at the Startup Playground, our largest event, we provide startups the opportunity to work 3 days intensively on their ideas. They are supported by mentors in the tech, business and science field. On the final day, they can pitch their results to a public audience and win great prizes.

In return we want to establish a startup culture showing the public the importance of entrepreneurship driven by the community.

Why should a startup get involved with IdeenTriebwerk Graz?

We help and support startups from the idea generation phase up to the actual founding and beyond. Startups can expect qualified matchmakers with a huge network in Graz. If they need tools to accerelate their idea into execution, we’d do our best to transfer the necessary knowledge within our expert network. If they are looking for a first feedback for their prototype, they can pitch their ideas within our regulars table and get instant comments from qualified startup folks.

What do you think makes a startup successful? Which of the mentioned qualities are usually missing?

Ultimately it is always about the team behind the startup. As often mentioned, to start your own company is similar as to be engaged. You will see each other nearly every day and night. Therefore it is particularly important that you have a qualified team with sustainable motivation and a strong belief in your idea, product and vision. At the beginning, when the business model has not been proven yet, it often happens that startups need to pivot. For this to happen, a good team is a necessity, because a bad strategy in the early stage can be compensated by the “right” people. But this does not work on the other way round.

With insane growth of startup organizations joining the ecosystem in Austria – how do you make sure you stand out?

As mentioned before, we are the Styrian representatives of AustrianStartups. Our purpose is to support startups in Austria as best as we can. Within the last three years, we managed to get a huge network with key players in the entrepreneurial scene. At this point, it is not the goal, to outnumber each other with different services, but to look for synergies altogether and a collective vision, what we can achieve in the long-term for the Styrian and Austrian startup ecosystem.

Which startups success stories were involved with IdeenTriebwerk Graz already?

At the beginning of June 2015, we tried a new concept including into our regulars table: Successful startups would tell their stories what they’ve learnt so far and what their next steps would be. So far we had Stefan from SunnyBag (Solarbag which can charge your mobile devices using the energy of the sun), Mario from Smaxtec (Device, which evaluates the health of cows), Rüdiger from Compuritas (sustainable IT-refurbishment) and Klaus from Makava (organic mate ice tea). Just to name a few. But on the other hand, at our largest startup event: the Startup Playground, some participants took their ideas into execution and founded their company right after our event. For instance and Doro Turbine were some of the startups.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

This is a tricky question. At one point, it is definitely important to measure your own goals, so you have an idea, how you’re performing and how big is the gap between the actual and target state. But on the other hand especially when you’re related to startups (and we see our organization also as a startup), it is very important to be lean. Which means, you shouldn’t “overengineer” everything. Of course, measurement is necessary, but usually we keep it transparent. Our measures are mostly the amount of events what we’re hosting and the amount of participants. Additionally we keep track of peoples feedback, so we can improve the quality of our events.

If you had the chance to work with one particular startup right away, which one would it be?

That’s another tricky question. Since we are an inpedendent organization, open for everyone interested in startups, we don’t really distinguish between who we want to support or work with. So ultimately we give everyone the possibility to work with us and on the other way round, we would be super happy to work with inspiring and passionate people, who strongly believe in what they are doing and how their solution can benefit the society.

If there is one thing you can wish for improving the European startup ecosystem, what would it be?

We think that there is much more potential in the European startup ecosystem. Most of the startups usually have one problem in common: lack of financial resources. Of course this is not always the case, especially for the startups in the high-tec area, but the financial support all in all is far too less for the whole startup potential. There are definitely positive developments going on, like the new “Alternativfinanzierungsgesetz” for crowdfunding or the increasing amount of money from VC’s in Austria, but we need to change the framework to make it much easier for startups to get financial resources in a reasonable amount.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs for their startup?

Have a strong vision and be passionate about everything what you do. Don’t just dream, but go out and actually DO IT! As Ali Mahlodji, Chief Storyteller of Whatchado, once mentioned in one of his keynotes: For a startup to be successful, just 1 % makes the idea, but 99 % the execution. Hands-on experience is the right key word at this point. So if you’re loving what you do and you do what you love, then there is just one right decision: KEEP ON DOING IT!



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