Photo credit: Vienna Startup Award

published 22 Jun 2015 by Eva Thalhammer in Austria 4 minutes 18 seconds to read

The Winners of Vienna Startup Award 2015

On 11 June, the Vienna Business Agency distinguished Viennese companies with the Vienna Startup Award in four categories: Innovative Products and Services, Rising Star, Social and Sustainable Enterprises, and Startup Pitch. We were curious what makes these startups special and took a closer look at this year's winners.

Gründen in Wien Vienna Business Agency

Crystalline Mirror Solutions – Innovative Products and Services

Crystalline Mirror Solutions (CMS) was brought to life as a university spin-off by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Markus Aspelmeyer and his colleague Dr. Garrett Cole in 2012, with Christian Pawlu joining later as CEO. The team has been friends for 15 years, since they met as students in Munich and aimed to combine world-leading quantum science from Vienna with nanotechnology skills from the US. Today, CMS develops high-precision optics with the help of laser systems and has also come up with an innovative technology for mirrors that is already being used in science labs.

While winning the competition in the category Innovative Products and Services might not have exactly been a quantum leap for CMS, the award is a validation for the team. “For us it is important to strengthen our ties in the local science, industry and startup scene in Vienna. The Vienna Startup Award is a great acknowledgment of our work and already gave us lots of opportunities to talk to important and interesting stakeholders in and around Vienna,” said Christian. The team has had an active customer base creating revenues from the very beginning and has built a reputation in the academic world through scientific publications, as he explained.

When asked about their future plans the team said: “CMS wants to be the innovator who enables the first direct measurements of gravitational waves that Einstein calculated about 100 years ago. Thus we are working with the world-leading gravitational wave observatories on tailoring our mirror technology to their needs.”

ROBO – Best Startup Pitch

The prize for the best startup pitch went to kids' toy Robo. The team created a programmable robot that aims to “prepare our kids for the future,” as Anna Iarotska, cofounder of Robo, explained.

Together with Rustem Akishbekov, Anna founded the company in 2013 and nowadays the team has brought their idea as far as Asia. “We spent half a year in Shenzhen, China, taking part in the  best hardware accelerator worldwide - Haxlr8r. This helped us accelerate our product development and end of 2014 we won the Robot of the Year award from Futurezone and robotics company Festo with our robot,” Anna explains. Prizes and competitions are an important tool for the team (in 2015 they also won the trend @ venture award) as “it is recognition, a good PR and lots of contacts. This is very helpful.”

So what’s next for the futuristic toy? “We have finalized our product design and our next step is crowdfunding campaign. We will collect pre-orders for our product and will start mass production of our robots.”

Ruffboards – Social and Sustainable Enterprises 

Ruffboards was founded in 2014 and lends its name from founder Melanie Ruff. The active entrepreneur toyed with the thought of creating sports equipment and combined her business model with a social and environmentally friendly approach. The stylish longboards are made from old snowboards, a practice which aims to save resources and brings about unique designs. The social character of the startup becomes obvious if one looks at the production circle. The boards are produced together with the “Neustart” association, which gives ex-convicts a place to work and a chance to find their way back into society.

„Our product and concept is unconventional. That’s why it is crucial for us to build confidence and credibility. While we have already accomplished that in Austria, we are now ready to conquer the rest of the world. The award from our home will be a big help on the way,“ said Melanie Ruff. At the Vienna Startup Award the Ruffboards team received the award for Social and Sustainable Enterprises.

TourRadar – Rising Star

In 2013, the Austrian online travel agency TourRadar was born out of the project bugbitten (2003), co-founded by the brothers Shawn and Travis Pittman. The online social network for expats gives travellers the chance to share all their travel photos and stories in one place. 

“We wanted to create a platform that makes comparing and booking of group tours easy and trustworthy. The goal was to provide bookable tours as well as reviews written by real travellers,” said Travis. While they can already show off with awards from the past, it is an honour for Travis to take home the Vienna Startup Award this year. “Personally, I feel proud to set an example that hard work, perseverance, being passionate about what you do and working together as a team, ultimately leads to success.” 

But instead of resting on their laurels, the brothers have big goals in mind. “We are reshaping the industry and continuously pushing our tour operator partners to become more and more digital. With change comes many challenges, but as we’ve seen in recent years, there is very little that passion and execution can’t overcome. We plan to raise more capital so we can hire people across our four offices in Austria, North America, Australia and Russia.” 

This story is brought to you in cooperation with "Gründen in Wien" an initiative of Vienna Business Agency. 

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