StartUs Presents: Wohnwagon

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Ever wanted to live off-grid? Wohnwagon CEO Theresa Steininger talks about living in a 25m2 unit, using solar and wind power. Learn more!

Describe Wohnwagon in 50 words or less.

What do you really need for a good life? Wohnwagon offers independent, natural space for off-grid living: Solar panels and wind power provide electricity, a green water treatment plant on the roof processes the water needed for daily life. The startup also offers workshops and a web platform for sustainable living.

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

For us the Wohnwagon is not just a product. It is a political and philosophical statement on the future of living. We wanted to show that it is possible to live close to nature and reduce life down the essentials, while still enjoying a stylish lifestyle. This could potentially change a lot and this gives the idea so much power. It was just so evident for us that we have to do that!

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

By then we are the first address for independent, sustainable living. We inspired hundreds of people to think differently when it comes to housing and caused many people to live smaller and more sustainable. We have a family of Wohnwagons all across Europe that work as flagships for a new lifestyle that is all about the beauty of simplicity. With our web platform and webshop we sell systems for off-grid living and offer the know-how needed to implement sustainable living in your daily live.

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

We have different ways of measuring our success. There is of course the quantitative part: How many visitors are on our web platform, how many wagons were sold, what revenue do we generate with our webshop? And then there is the qualitative part: How is our team developing? How happy are our customers? How does the daily business feel for us? A good “gut feeling” is of great importance for us.

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

There is no typical day. As the CEO of a startup that is exactly the interesting thing about my job. There are new challenges every day that we need to master. I spend a lot of my time coordinating internally and externally. My central responsibility is finding new customers and making sure that the current ones are happy.

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

We started out with a product that can be used in so many different ways, so it was quite clear from the beginning that people will come up with many different ideas how to use their Wohnwagon. So it didn’t really surprise us when people wanted a rolling bookshop, a mountain-caravan or a wagon that works as a hotel. We are glad that our idea can be implemented in so many different ways!

What are your next projects?

We are currently building a wagon that will be used as the first off-grid hotel room in the mountains of Austria in Carinthia. In this mountain village people will be able to test our wagon and try themselves what living on 25m2 feels like and how the autarky systems work. The hotel wagon will open in January 2016. Besides that, we are developing our webshop where you can find many interesting products for sustainable living such as water filters for traveling, currentless appliances and a worm composter for your flat!

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

To finance our idea, we started a crowdinvesting campaign in 2013 and succeeded in bringing over 100 small investors on board, raising over 70.000 Euros to pay for our first prototype. A second round in 2015 brought in an additional 144.000 Euros. The project has since turned into a small company and Wohnwagon number 5 and 6 are currently under construction. We are partly financed by our cashflow and are also looking for investors and strategic partners for internationalization and further growth.

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

I don’t see a lot of competition in our market segment. We are the first company to offer fully self-sustained living units with absolute independence from the grid, even regarding water. This makes us really unique. I also think that it is a good thing that there are many other companies trying to build smaller living units – would be great if this could become an international trend!

What do you look for in team members?

Self-empowerment, creativity and a certain spirit and drive for our cause. We want people who are as passionate about changing the world as we are. We are trying to build a diverse team with people from different backgrounds that offer their unique perspective and help us build a great company.

Why would a talent join your team?

We are in a really interesting position right now. We are developing structures and processes, heading for serial production of our Wohnwagons and there is just so much to learn right now! Every team member has the potential to create and really bring in their ideas. I think that is what makes it interesting to work for us right now.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

On June 24th we presented our prototype to the public for the first time. We spent weeks in the workshop, doing many nightshifts to make sure that we are ready in time and really poured our hearts into it to find a way to make this date. When we finally opened our doors for the first time, Michael stepped into our wagon and instantly said: I will buy one! This first customer that trusted in us to build his home just seemed like a gift from heaven in that moment.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

I think that the most important thing is a great team, an idea that you are really passionate about and enough stubbornness to really go through with it. We also figured out that it is really important to build a community and integrate your “crowd” as early as possible. This helps a lot regarding product development and finding first customers.


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