Dates that make a difference (not only) in terms of success
Ideas, innovations, investors: The WU Executive Academy brought aspiring entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship experts together.
The foyer of the WU Executive Academy building is filled to capacity. At least two dozen people have to remain standing. Many students and alumni of WU Vienna and the WU Executive Academy who are potentially interested in becoming entrepreneurs turned out to attend the Entrepreneurship Café and collect a wealth of tips, feedback and impetus during one-on-one “speed-dates” with 30 experts from the fields of entrepreneurship and marketing, investor search and finance as well as commerce and law.
According to Rudolf Dömötör, Head of the WU Entrepreneurship Center and co-initiator of the Entrepreneurship Café, more and more postgraduate students are burning with entrepreneurial ambition—and the great interest in this evening's event shows that he is right. “The Entrepreneurship Café is really great because it is designed not only for students enrolled in a bachelor's or master's program at WU Vienna but specifically also for MBA graduates. Both target groups can benefit from the event and from each other. A postgraduate program is undoubtedly the perfect time to strike out in new career directions,” says Dömötör. Hence, the Entrepreneurship Café takes place at the WU Executive Academy.
Following words of welcome by Dean Barbara Stöttinger, and prior to the business dates, serial entrepreneur and WU Executive Academy alumnus Harald Trautsch speaks on the topic of “An Entrepreneurial Career: How To?”, affording the audience valuable insights. Trautsch's philosophy: “I have always done what I loved to do.” Apart from founding Dolphin Technologies, an app service provider and Blue Monkeys, a digital agency, last fall, he opened a CrossFit studio at Viertel Zwei, which is located close to the “Prater” recreational area. Along the way, he realized that there is a certain pattern that all start-up processes have in common: “You have to take care of the finance side of things, you have to do marketing, you have to keep the books and you have to lead people.” Trautsch says he did not know how to start a fitness studio, but he had an idea and a vision. “I simply needed to get a co-founder on board who had the required experience.” The most important thing, according to him, was to calculate the negative cashflow as realistically as possible, so as to know how much money would be needed during the start-up phase.
After a brief snack break, the audience members relocate to the sixth floor of the WU Executive Academy building, where the experts answer their questions during 10-minute slots.
One of the experts is Sandra Thier. Three years ago, she quit her job as an RTL2 News anchorwoman. Since then, she has founded and been the CEO of Diego5 Studios, a Vienna-based YouTube influencer network and video production firm. According to Sandra Thier, tapping into the potential of the moving image for self-marketing purposes is a sine qua non, especially for fledgling entrepreneurs and start-ups: “Our philosophy is: ‘If you have something to say, film it!’,” she explains, adding that people's media usage habits are changing: “Currently, video content is the gold standard, so to speak. This will become even more of a trend, given that advertising budgets increasingly focus on digital media.” The expert also points out that video content is essential as far as young start-ups are concerned—and this is also true in the run-up to starting the business, e.g. when it comes to looking for investors or in the context of self-presentation during crowdfunding campaigns. “You do not have to spend huge sums of money on production,” she reassures the audience, “the creative idea and the storytelling are much more important.” Apart from image and promotional films for household names such as Samsung and L’Oreal, Diego5 also produces investor videos for start-ups like Techbold and Greenmove.
Next door, Oliver Csendes is providing advice to a young employee who is contemplating turning his favorite topic at work into a business. Exactly a year ago, Csendes succeeded Andreas Tschas as the CEO of Pioneers.io, an investor network, to support its structural development and help scale the company. Is management experience an asset to fledgling entrepreneurs? “During the scaling phase, it is, but during the start-up phase, that is not necessarily true,” says Csendes. “If your experience prevents you from being open-minded and adopting new perspectives, it is not conducive to the process of starting a business. Conversely, experience that makes it easier for you to identify patterns and interact with people is an asset. A certain level of seniority is also advantageous when it comes to getting investors on board.” In the context of scaling, team building and process development, management experience is definitely a plus, according to the expert. “Many fledgling entrepreneurs have never learned how to do these things and have never received any coaching,” continues Csendes.
Csendes goes on to relate that only a short while ago he was approached by a young woman about a very common problem. She had five start-up ideas and found it difficult to decide which one to pursue. “What is important in such a situation is to focus—not on your idea but on the problem you are trying to solve,” says the expert. He advised the student to choose the most relevant problem—so as to be able to attract many clients once she has solved it. “In the start-up sector, people are often looking for problems they can apply their ideas to—that is the wrong approach,” says Csendes. According to him, hardly any start-up has achieved success by pursuing the idea that originally led to its creation.
A few tables away, Daniel Horak, Managing Partner of CONDA, a crowdinvesting platform, is offering advice to a young man who is wearing a baseball cap. Later, he says: “When it comes to financing and the first steps of the start-up process, many feel particularly uneasy.” What really matters, according to him, is to “collect feedback by discussing your idea with other people, including potential clients, as early and as often as possible.” Our ideas, he adds, are often the result of problems we have experienced or observed. “You have to make a reality check to see whether your experience matches that of your potential clients. Being an attentive listener is key in this context. Many fledgling entrepreneurs tend to bury their heads in the sand in response to critical feedback.” One of the most common fallacies, the expert says, is to believe that entrepreneurial success is the result of having the right idea. “Entrepreneurs are not successful because of the ideas they have, but because they work with the right people and implement their ideas in the right way.” The widespread fear that somebody might steal your idea if you disclose it at an early stage is unwarranted, according to Horak. As he explains, starting a business is a skill you can train: “It is no coincidence that serial entrepreneurs are often highly successful. You cannot plan everything, but in many cases, there are procedures you can follow.” Horak advises fledgling entrepreneurs to keep their finger on the pulse of the market. He, for one, has been into cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings for quite some time.
Graduates Vincent Gummlich and Philipp Hamann have collected several useful tips. “I have been given many valuable tips regarding internal communication and outsourcing. We want to outsource as much as possible,” explains Vincent Gummlich, CEO of mynextgarage.at, a start-up business. Philipp Hamann says: “I have gained perspectives that are very new to me. If you focus too much on your idea, problems can easily escape your notice. The evening was also great in terms of networking: Daniel Horak has provided me with an important contact.” Philipp Hamann now intends to bring his business model to fruition: He wants to create a platform for people with food intolerances.
We cannot wait to see what business ideas our alumni will make a reality in the near future.
A great thank you for Wiener Tafel and GEMBA Alumna Alexandra Gruber, for organizing the delicious buffet!