Patrick Blaha and Lukas Gutwinski have known each other ever since they were 12 years old and have always been poking around at ideas. Since the beginning of their studies at the University of Economics and Business Administration in Vienna, realisation has drawn particularly close to reality. Their job platform, Workbeat, has been online since 31.3.2014.
When did the idea first come to you?
We drew up the idea within the context of a course, about a year and a half ago. After then getting some great feedback, we set up a few appointments with HR managers in the summer to gain feedback.
Weren't you worried they would steal your idea?
Patrick: No, not really.
Lukas: Autumn 2013 onwards is when we really got started.
Where does the self-confidence to found a business actually come from?
Patrick: That's a good question, but when the market - so in our case, the HR managers we consulted - says the product is well-received, then self-confidence comes with it automatically.
How did you take on support for creating the business? Did you apply for funding, for example?
Patrick: At the beginning, we consciously decided against funding. For the time being we wanted to work not for the funding, but for the customers.
So we can assume you already had some financial wiggle room.
Lukas: Yes, that's right. We were acquainted with some programmers as well as designers, and the total to be financed wasn't too high. We were able to have a good start out of our savings.
What do you think of the support for founding a business? Is there anything missing for you? What do you find especially helpful?
Lukas: The entrepreneurial service at the Austrian Economic Chamber has more or less stood by us with help and advice. It's a free service and anyway, they tend to know their stuff better than we do ourselves. It has also helped that we have both already worked at start-ups before and also regularly attended start-up events, for example Sektor5. You build up a good network there. That's how we met our designers, in fact.
So Vienna is totally set up to be a start-up place?
Absolutely, yeah! The best thing is you can network quickly, that helps a crazy amount.
How's it been going since the launch?
Lukas: Well, we didn't know what would happen when we went online. In the weeks leading up to that we were just correcting errors on the website, but on the launch itself everything worked.
Then we made the Facebook page and it was crazy how it exploded, every time we refreshed it there were ten new likes. Of course we tried to get our whole university network on board, that also worked well and it felt really good.
Have you given out any goodies since the launch?
Haha, well, we've already filled a few positions, but to be honest, goodies haven't really worked out so far. When we post a new job on Facebook, in no time at all people comment with someone else's name underneath. So they're recommending the job, just not on our website, which is what's needed in order to get goodies.
How is responsibility divided between you?
Lukas: Patrick works in Workbeat sales and enjoys everything to do with sales.
Patrick: Yep, and Lukas does optimisation and marketing.
And companies pay for adverts? How did you convince them to place them with you?
Patrick: Exactly, Workbeat is based on advertising. Companies pay for their positions to be advertised. At the beginning, we mostly presented Workbeat to companies in person. In addition, we sent out an info folder. That was a lot of work. Then as soon as we got a larger company on board, it got much easier, but at the beginning it was nowhere near as easy to win over the big ones. Many said it was interesting. And it helps enormously when a company sees that another one in the same field is doing it.
At the moment all the jobs in the business area are taken. Should it stay that way, or do you still want to build it up?
Right now we have good access to the field and it just makes sense to start there. It's also easier for companies when they know that we come from the business school in Vienna, and they could use people from there. We don't want to expand right now.
What are your next goals?
Patrick: We're optimising the site, mostly for search engines. We also want to build up the Facebook community and set up the newsletter to be more effective. So boost our range, basically.
Which tips would you share with other entrepreneurs?
In principle, it's much easier to get appointments with managers than you think, and we could have maybe got even more feedback.
Leave yourself a bit of time to get to the bottom of problems. And ask the managers what more specifically can be improved, instead of just being happy about their optimism. Also, ask them exactly what people they are looking for.
And they also say they are interested straightaway, but the decision they'll make later about that has to get through some bureaucratic steps.
What has been your oddest experience in the world of work so far?
Lukas: I used to work at Lomography, it was actually at the time when the company was getting started. For the Christmas party they flew all the employees - even from Japan - into the Vienna headquarters and drove everyone to Bratislava in busses. And then they paid for a hotel there, put on a great party with a live band, it was really awesome.
Patrick: In an extreme contrast to being in a start-up, when I was a student I did an internship with a large company. Early on it was really cushy, for a start we ate breakfast together for an hour, etc. At the time the company was being taken over by another enterprise and employees suddenly had to share desks, which led to a lot of resentment!
Lukas: One more story: Sektor5 organised a trip to Bratislava to another co-working space. It was so interesting that the people there - especially the technicians - were really excited when you told them you studied economics. In Vienna it's more like economics is seen as unexciting, everyone does that anyway, so it's nice when you meet a programmer because you're less familiar with the field. It was the exact opposite there.
You can visit Workbeat at http://www.workbeat.at