Florian [3rd left] with his cofounders Christian, Alfred and Rene

published 28 Apr 2015 by Christina Forster in Austria 4 minutes 56 seconds to read

"No one gives feedback to the CEO"

Together with cofounder and CEO Florian Gschwandtner, we look back on SPOTLIGHT FAILURE but also look forward to the Runtastic launch on Apple Watch, their plan to turn into a 'Big Data' venture and Florian’s challenge of becoming a better manager.

Failure tech2b AplusB

We just finished a special content focus on failure by telling unique stories of CEE entrepreneurs that were facing difficult times with their ventures. What's your biggest  fear?

To fail as manager and simply working too much. As a CEO no one gives you feedback and if so it's hard to tell if the feedback is honest. That's a real problem in my opinion. I am even thinking about writing a book about it one day. And, as we are a fast growing company, the working hours seem to become more and more, so the logical next steps are to delegate tasks to other team members. I am fine with that on a professional level, but it’s a challenge on a personal level. 

What are you doing to support these challenges? 

For the feedback, I actively ask my team to give me feedback, which might not be easy for them at times, because I always have an explanation why I did it my way (laughs). I also have a mentor I talk to on a regular basis and I have an agreement with my assistant, Eva, to tell me straight away. She is doing a brilliant job!

For the working hours, Eva helps as well. We already managed to cut my working week down from 80 hours to about 60 hours, but I still need to reduce the hours a bit more. After all, we didn’t found the company and commit to not having a life anymore. On a personal level, these are the two things I really want work on this year.

runtastic GmbH

Founded in 2009, Runtastic has rapidly grown into an innovative suite of apps, products and services that track and manage health and fitness data

What was the biggest challenge for Runtastic?

That was on a personal level as well... When one of our co-founders became seriously ill and his future was uncertain. Thankfully, after only a few months, we received the good news of his full recovery and things got back to normal. But times like these remind you very quickly what really counts...

Were there any setbacks on a business level?

I don’t think we ever had to face major difficulties – or maybe we just didn’t see them as that. There was one more difficult time when we went from 60 to 90 employees in a very short time without having the structure to provide them with the jobs we hired them for. But, we also learned from that. We are still working on ten projects at the same time, and that's one of the reason why we are successful, I think. But, now we are taking the time to develop better structures and processes, as well.

Runtastic's heart rate: the time line of a success story; Photo credit: TOSA

Many are impressed with the growth of Runtastic as a company. What are your strengths?

I am practical-thinking, but all of our cofounders are – I  think that's why we work solution-oriented, and are not really afraid of failing. I am a fast decision-maker which is 'must' for a CEO, in my opinion. And I love talking to people, which is indispensable if you want to sell a mass product on a B2C basis. For that, you need to understand your target group and you that means talking to a lot of different people, which I genuinely enjoy.

Do you make mistakes?

Yes. Probably every day. I make so many decisions in one day that it's only logical that not all of them are the best. But, this doesn’t really concern or worry me, as long as I continue learning.

When Apple Watch meets Runtastic...
Only a few days ago, Runtastic announced that three of their Apps will be available for the brand new Apple Watch which is about to deliver its first batch to customers. Runtastic users can use their Flagship Runtastic App, the Runtastic Six Pack App immediately - the Runtastic Butt Trainer is about to follow shortly. Further, the Runtastic Running & Fitness App will be featured on the Apple Watch Companion App (pre-installed on the iPhone iOS 8.3). Florian Gschwandter: 'We are always looking for high quality products that provide innovative platforms to use our apps the best way possible. With Apple Watch we have the best.' More info can be found on the link on the right.

Besides, your apps being available for the Apple Watch, you've just made public that Runtastic will turn into a Big Data company...

Not 'Big Data' as we know it; it's our very own 'Big Data' which we want to use with more efficiency. With 140.000 downloads daily, we have a lot of data available. We would never sell to third parties, but we want to add its value for our users. So, for example if someone wants to lose five kilos, we can provide targeted exercise plans from other users with similar demographics (who achieved success). The products and services we are currently working on, will work as health and fitness services and motivators at the same time.

But, before that, we have another app launch planned for the end of the year. Simultaneously, we want improve our Runtastic Ecosystem and turn it into a dashboard for users that hosts all their fitness activities. But, this will be a process and likely only 'complete' in the next two to three years.

Is there anything you wish for outside Runtastic?

Yes - for a better education system in Austria. Kids should learn English from an earlier stage. It still takes too long until we reach a level of English that allows us to broaden our horizons. And, like in the U.S., international business should be a higher priority subject in the education system. I will try to support this in the years to come and topics such as these might become my biggest mission for my time after Runtastic.