When we meet in the Impact Hub Vienna, Georg Holzer seems quite exhausted. „I just came from a pitch”, he smiles and adds that by now, he knows the “Südautobahn” like the back of his hand. He regularly drives from Carinthia to Vienna, to either meet potential partners, talk to VCs, receive prizes or have a chat with the press. „It has been a hell of a year, but in the next one we want to calm down a bit – at least concerning startup events.“
It indeed has been a successful time for Georg Holzer (41) and Bruno Hautzenberger (27), the founders of xamoom. Not only have they won the advertising awards in Carinthia, but also the community prize at the „Austria’s Next Top Startup“ challenge and the futurezone „Startup Of The Year“ title. Earlier this year they even got the Bank Austria Kunstpreis – the most prestigious art award in Austria (read more here).
Do it now or never
Discussing ideas over a beer or two; Photo credit: xamoom
When Georg looks back, he can’t quite believe how quickly his new venture happened. „Like sooften, it all just started with a chat over some beers,” Georg describes ideas being born. He met Bruno long before starting xamoom and the two of them attended Barcamps and Photowalks on a regular basis. „Bruno is at the cutting edge. He always knows about the latest stuff.“
So, in 2012, before they even thought of founding a business, Georg and Bruno introduced an art project called pingeb.org to their hometown. Over 250 yellow stickers with QR codes and NFC chips were put in public spaces so everyone could see and use them for getting to know local artists. „The project was more of a hobby,” explains Georg. „But as I noticed all the attention we got – all the prizes and even big blogs were writing about us – I knew there could be something bigger in that idea.”
With the first success and a great feedback in pocket, it was not hard to convince Bruno to go on a startup adventure. “When I suggested to build up a company I told him that there is less risk in it for him then for me,” Georg says and adds that a gifted software developer like Bruno can always get a job – he, on the other hand, gave up 14 years of working in journalism to found xamoom. „I didn’t know anyone in the startup scene but I got positive reactions from my surroundings. And when some said ‘Wow, you dare to do that? At 41?’ – I knew I had to start right now or never do it,” Georg smiles.
Living the startup life
Since the founding of xamoom in April 2014 the team has been supported by the AplusBbuild! founder centre and works in an office inthe Lakeside Park, Klagenfurt. „While I like to sleep long, Bruno is always in office early. We try to start each day smoothly and have a quick chat before we go to work. While we are actually not too long in office, our work also continues after office hours – when we meet startups to discuss recent challenges, or simply think about how to solve a specific problem,“ Georg summarises his new everyday life.
Where art meets business
The xamoom debut at TedxKlagenfurt; Photo credit: xamoom
xamoom provides an infrastructure for location-based services and has many possibilities of application. While museums, galleries, car dealers, furniture businesses or gastronomy can benefit from their platform, xamoom’s main focus is and remains on the creative industries, because of two reasons: first, it is an „underserved market“, as Georg puts it. „There are many people with great ideas but most of them are lacking the necessary money.“ Secondly, the feedback from the art and culture community is very positive and helps to spread the word about xamoom. „That’s why we also have a cheaper price model for customers in the cultural sphere – we accommodate them and benefit ourselves from the attention that we receive in return.“
[W]e are at a stage where we will enter the market soon. Everything we can do at this point is to do our best and then wait and see.
Talking to people always gives a big boost to the team’s ideas. The comments they got on their first test version made them “change the business model before it even existed” and also the features of their service were adapted to meet the needs of users. With all the talks and tests, it was the sum of many small moments that pushed them in the right direction.
The biggest moment in the young startup’s career, however, came on 20 September when they were able to see their new platform open to the public for the first time at TedxKlagenfurt, where attendees were able to find out more about the speakers by scanning little posters. „You never know if something will work out or not. But we tested it, saw it work and now we are at a stage where we will enter the market soon. Everything we can do at this point is to do our best and then wait and see.“
The customer competition
At the moment, three projects are already running on their platform: Their own Project Ingeborg (pingeb.org), the art exhibition of the „Lakeside Kunstraum“, and the technical high-school(HTL) Villach will start using the flexible platform for their new ideas soon. „I’m excited to see how the students will use the service and am looking forward to their feedback.“
For the following months Georg still has some pitches on his list and hopes for the closing of a funding round. „If we get this one, we’ll have enough runway”, he is sure. Moreover, they are starting to build up a xamoom community and aim to attract more customers by direct mailings to their target group. „The prizes we won during the last year put us on the map – but the biggest challenges are not overcome on stage.”