As we are getting ever more mobile in our lifestyles, the desire to work from different places has also increased. Whether you are taking a business trip to the other end of the world or meeting partners next door, you certainly want to stay in touch with your coworkers and be on top of things – even more so if you own a business.
Having identified the needs and desires of today’s globetrotters, Austrian brothers Mario (46) and Marco (44) Schwaiger decided to exploit this niche and set up a project that keeps you connected – no matter where you are. Mario, who studied Telematics in Graz, and Marco, who studied Business Administration in Vienna, have worked together on several other projects and founded Spintower in 2008. With a family background in entrepreneurship the brothers are businessmen at heart. “My inspiration is creating new things and following my own ideas. I was never employed so I never had to think about quitting a job. I never started with a search for cofounders. If there was a constellation of enthusiastic partners we took the chance. But I would have done everything on my own as well,” said Mario.
Information, first hand
CEO Mario Schwaiger; Photo credit: Spintower
With Spintower’s first product, D.A.R.V.I.N (Device for Autonomous Realtime Video Networks), the two brothers developed a portable video system that enables users to keep connected to their team wherever they are. The headset device and mobile tablet comes with a small camera and helps solve problems together. They claim that D.A.R.V.I.N can make jobs faster and easier.
Imagine you are working from your office and want to get a hands-on report from your colleague at the construction site. Instead of making endless phone calls and receiving confusing descriptions from the other end of the line, the attached camera allows you to see exactly what your colleague is experiencing. While the first person view comes in handy for those working from the office, the colleague on the construction site benefits from the hands-free device that secures a conflict-free working process. Apart from live video communication, D.A.R.V.I.N. can also be equipped withinfrared cameras or different sensors for on-the-spot measurements. So, the mulitfunctional device can be used in production industry, service and maintenance, quality management, security and defense, and also further applications are possible. Moreover, it incorporates a smart security concept with strong data encryption and extended communication control.
Mario is sure that the remote-collaboration device minimises requirements for users and is fit for typical use cases in this area. He is confident about his current business and he should know, he first toyed with the thought of founding a business as a teenager. “I have several companies so I had my first contact with these topics already in the age of 17. I grew up in an environment of entrepreneurs and my family has companies as well. So they are all familiar with what it means to set up a business.”
While it is easy to get support when things are running smoothly, he thinks it is the tough times that separate friends from foes. “What I had to learn: nobody will help you in particular questions – you can never rely on other persons! Having said that, I also got good advice on my way, for example from my family and the startup center Science Park in Graz,” he said.
Spintower finances itself through a combination of their own capital and private credit holders. Moreover, they have R&D partnerships with the public funding authorities FFG and AWS.
Survival of the best
The Darvin device; Photo credit: Spintower
Spintower has quickly gained fame. In 2013, the team was already among the top 100 startups in Austria. Recently, D.A.R.V.I.N was nominated for the Innovation World Cup 2015 and was among the four finalists from 400 applications from over 70 countries. The video-assistant won the “Multimedia & E-Business” Prize in the category “Enterprise Services, Technology Provider”, and was alo exhibited at the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “This victory was a great appreciation for our team´s work! We also felt some positive effects in the field of marketing (with accelerators, for example),” Mario said.
I work in a combination of a structured environment and a creative chaos.
As rewarding as an active startup live can be, once in a while Mario likes to get away from all the work and business life by saddling his mountain bike and pedalling off. The activity restores a balance that is sometimes hard to keep with his daily routine, in which a 12 hours working day is no exception. “I work in a combination of a structured environment and a creative chaos,” Mario says. “I usually start at 7am without any breakfast, immediately check the project status, set up meetings and teleconferences with the team, project partners and suppliers. Afterwards, I answer emails, decide next steps and goals, do some administrative stuff, of course, and try to answer technical questions that come up during the day. Without any lunch, I usually end up at 7pm.”
Collaboration on a future goal
So, for further challenges three big issues are and will remain important: growing the team with qualified members, financing the upcoming months, and solving technical and administrative issues until perfection. “We are on a solid market entry level. Our next step is finalizing a global player partnership and the launch of our new service software. The way to this milestone was indeed a challenge – mostly in financial questions. But the mix of working, believing in the goals and making decisions got me to where I am now!”
With the popularity of collaboration solutions on the rise (see e.g. here), Spintower have entered a promising market in an early stage and are looking forward to becoming a big player on the European and international level.
This story is brought to you in partnership with AplusB, a programme funded by FFG.