StartUs Presents: ShiftYard

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Tobias Göllner, co-founder of ShiftYard, talks about intrapreneurs, innovation and purpose. Learn how his startup addresses these subjects and helps businesses thrive!

Describe ShiftYard in 50 words or less.

ShiftYard is about inspiration, innovation and purpose: When people thrive on creating the future of the organizations they work with, everybody wins. We provide tools, trainings and workshops to help people in corporations develop, implement and spread their ideas. Find purpose in what you are doing while improving your company’s innovation output.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

I made my first entrepreneurial experiences as a teenager, when another music producer and I decided to organize clubbings at which we could perform the tracks we had produced ourselves. The funny thing was discovering that I enjoyed the entrepreneurial aspect of it as much as the creative part. The years after graduating from university I had joined a consulting firm before I became part of the startup movement, building a new business unit as an intrapreneur. At some point it was just the logical next step for me to found a company myself together with my co-founder, based around a vision we both were passionate about.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

The best working day doesn’t involve an office. That’s when our clients are “shifting” with us during workshops and trainings at some creative location.

Otherwise, ShiftYard GmbH is headquartered at Vienna‘s finest co-working space, the ImpactHub Vienna. However, many people I work with and myself could be considered as nomads, working between computer-friendly cafés, home offices and other co-working Spaces like CoCoQuadrat, Stockwerk or Coworking Salzburg. It is important for us to also work with entrepreneurs, founders and startups on a regular basis – coming from the startup scene is part of the value we provide to our clients.

7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

Being ‘innovation literate’, making your own ideas visible within the company and finding purpose in what you do has a great impact on the careers of many people and on the organizations they work with, as it improves their general innovation output. It is our goal to support people who want to be more than a traditional employee and rather “partner with” their employer. Having said that, ShiftYard’s impact should not be limited to our home market Austria – in fact we have already worked on projects in Austria, Germany, Slovakia and Slovenia and with global companies.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the ShiftYard like you imagined it in the beginning?

For me, the ‘why we do it’ is more important than the ‘how we do it’. While we stay true to our vision, we try to ‘eat our own dogfood’ every day. We teach you to listen and adapt to your customer’s voice, but also need to do it ourselves. The biggest changes so far came directly after a first pilot project which was a prototype for many of the things we offer today.

Right now our learning experiences cover concepts like innovation, lean startup methodology, intrapreneurship, design thinking / human centered design, customer experience, growth hacker marketing, agile project management, social entrepreneurship, corporate culture (failing, experimenting, …) and more. In the future, we will not only provide trainings but whole solutions that support our vision of people thriving on creating the future of their companies.

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

Some of the best brands (e.g. Samsung, Deutsche Telekom group members, …) put their trust in us, that is why delivering on what we promise to our clients is most essential. While we actively ask for feedback from every customer, we are now also seeing clients becoming regular partners, which is a good indicator for the creation of real customer value.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

As an initially service-focused company, we were able to startup with founder’s equity only, without the need for external funding. This was possible by generating income early on. Thinking about growing the company in terms of a bigger team, new products or markets may require other financing options in the future.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

The more companies working on a solution for a problem, the better. Think of ShiftYard as a ‘networked enterprise’, very open for collaboration with others, if it improves the experience for the client. That involves being honest about what we are good at and where others can contribute.

I usually see that those you may call our competitors have a different view on the world though. We consider innovation as a question of strategic HR development and put people and their human feelings first.

What do you look for in team members?

Initially, ShiftYard had started out as a team of 2 founders. In total, about 8 freelancers are currently involved in creating customer success in ShiftYard projects. We are looking for business punks with cool skills and stories, who share our vision and can act as its ambassadors, people who question everything and have enough energy to tear down walls.

Why would a talent join your team?

By joining ShiftYard, you will enjoy the responsibility to shape this young company’s future, dealing with creative and innovative topics every day. Stay the rebel you already are and help serving our clients in the most professional manner possible. You will be working with some of the world’s best brands and corporate experts, which is a challenge to be taken care of with great responsibility. But we like challenges, right?

What was your most memorable moment so far?

There’s more than one: Adrenaline rushes everytime we go live in a workshop after an intense preparation process. The moment when you realize that the pieces of the workshop fit together and the puzzle becomes a complete image. Seeing participants having a good time trying out new skills. Knowing that your clients are happy with your work and will come back for more. Seeing that ‘shift’ is happening in the mindset of people and eventually in the culture of entire organizations.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Don’t wait for the perfect idea, start before you feel ready. However, before you build your own company, you may want to see how it is like by contributing in the development of another startup. Always put the customer first, even when you are a technology driven company. Take the methods provided by all those accelerator programs and startup gurus seriously. There is a lot of knowledge out there that should raise the odds for a successful startup.


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