Austria brought a particularly strong hand of startups to the CEE table in 2013. From water as primary resource to supplying accurate drug data, telling life stories and taking the headache out of apartment hunting, these Austrian startups are providing services to make life better, easier, and cleaner on a global scale. We take a look back at the top five Austrian startups that we seem to have buzzed most about this year.
The digital healthcare venture Diagnosia offers the Diagnosia Index, a comprehensive index accessible via web and mobile application, of all medications approved for use in Austria. Since 2011 Diagnosia was developed as a cloud-based app providing reliable information on pharmaceuticals to medical professionals, and is now available to patients as well. The drug data offered by the app is available in 14 languages and serves more than 1.3 million users per month.
In May, we covered the company in a team profile. We also included them in our first roundup focused on the medical and health sectors. They’ve been given a healthy round of medical-sector kudos by fellow Austrian startup founder and CEO Florian Gschwandtner of Runtastic in recognition of their novel efforts. Diagnosia has received powerful backing, too. Most recently, the drug data startup closed their second round of funding in October, enabling them to move forward with new applications and enter new markets. Their plan is to be present in numerous European countries in the next five years, and to “be the best in terms of product and information – a true supportfor doctors by doctors.”
In February we profiled Martin Wesian, founder of Helioz and one of Austria’s best-known social entrepreneurs. The 2012 runner-up in the Pioneers Festival, Helioz describes its mission as a social enterprise engaged in R&D and sale of affordable products for low-income households in developing countries. Wesian developed Wadi, a solar-powered electronic device enabling individuals to safely disinfect drinking water in PET bottles, winning awards and recognition for the company, as well as necessary venture capital for the product’s mass production and international distribution. In February, the Sustainable Future Awards 2013 awarded Helioz for its work in this area. Their initiative on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo in August again showed their dedication to humanitarian projects, like making water more readily and safely available to everyone, this time raising funds to bring clean water to children in India. For the campaign, they partnered with fellow Austrian water-focused startup Soulbottles, creating Wadi-branded soulbottles for the cause.
Soulbottles, a company producing and selling “sustainable and handsome bottles made of glass” to raise awareness about the environmentally unfriendly practice of plastic-bottled water consumption, had a year of heavy impact. We’ve been following their progress since the end of 2012, profiling co-founder Paul Kupfer in November of that year. This year, they participated in Start-up Day 2013 in Innsbruck, contributed specially-branded bottles to a clean water for India initiative by another water-themed startup Helioz, and the designer behind the artistic, creative and socially-conscious glass bottles, Talia Radford, was the subject of her own inventures.eu profile.
In September, the soulbottles team hit their 20.000-euro crowdfunding goal a week ahead of deadline, allowing production and distribution of 12.000 more soulbottles. This recent campaign drew the support of fellow Vienna-based startup (and fellow most talked-about entry), Helioz, whose founder Martin Wesian found their efforts in using water as primary resource and cutting down on plastic bottle pollution worthy of support. Water with an ethical aspect certainly deserves sharp focus, both in our region with its high-quality tap water, and in less developed countries that require safer drinking water. The Soulwater project is an initiative of Soulbottles helping to meet this basic need. With a strong ethical foundation, the creative flair to catch the public’s eye, and the connections and supporters necessary for success, it’s no wonder Soulbottles has garnered so much buzz.
Who hasn’t floundered at some point in making career decisions? Maybe the common shared experience is what’s made Whatchado so popular. The startup’s team produces video interviews of life stories, and aims to help guide users towards their dream job. They have more than 6.000 minutes of career and life stories online. Founder, CEO and “Chief Storyteller” Ali Mahlodji has the credentials to be trusted in this endeavor: At age 32, he’d worked in more than 40 different positions before discovering his dream job. Whatchado has been collecting awards – in September placing amongst the world’s 40 best e-contents and applications at the biennial World Summit Award, winning the Knowledge category at the WKO’s eDay 2013 in March, and the next month taking the category Growth-oriented small enterprises at Mingo, Vienna’s startup initiative.
Mahlodji demonstrated his knack for storytelling when he gave an inspiring and entertaining presentation at the Pioneers Unplugged kick-off event in April, spoke at BabelCamp, the social media barcamp held in Brno in August, and was given as a shining example of how telling a good story makes for a strong startup at our own inventures.eu workshop in April. In May, Whatchado’s video producer Ranya Abd El Shafy spoke at a Digitalista event, Austria’s new platform to connect and promote women at work in the digital field.
Another startup tackling an all-too-common frustrating issue, finding an apartment, was the subject of more than a few conversations in 2013. Zoomsquare was born after co-founder Andreas Langegger grew tired of the frustrations of apartment-hunting in Vienna, especially after having to check so many websites. Desperate to simplify the stressful process, he developed a real estate search prototype, later meeting co-founder Christoph Richter at a startup event, and together creating zoomsquare. After some initial funding and beta testing, it finally launched in October. They’re now looking to offer a freemium model that incorporates free and paid elements, as well as add-on features and apps for Android and iOS, and tags to help users search out what’s most important to them in a potential new neighbourhood.
This year, zoomsquare were one of three finalists of the Mingo Award 2013 in the Company Formation category. They also were chosen as one of 20 Austrian IT Firms to participate in this year’s Go Silicon Valley Initiative. Richter was chosen to mentor an event hosted by StartupEngineers in June, and Bernhard Hoelzer, zoomsquare’s head of corporate communications, presented at the Startup Marketing Get-Together event. They also helped test the social network platform of TGfred.