Stop talking, start doing!
Starting CONDA.at in less than 3 months.
So last time we ended with the successful search for our company’s name: CONDA. However, this was just the beginning of our journey, because at this point CONDA was just a bunch of people with a great idea (and a nice concept). In addition, to be honest, in my opinion an idea is worth nothing (good read: http://onforb.es/1L2JDxA), so we had to move ourselves into “execution mode”.
To achieve high-speed execution Paul and I decided to set one challenging goal at the end of 2012: launching CONDA on March 1st, 2013! (During this time, our team and we got used to set almost impossible goals to accelerate our execution speed.)
So as you all might know, Austria is a very innovation friendly environment, which encourages entrepreneurs to do completely new and crazy things and it was really easy to start an innovative service like CONDA. Just joking, it was a mess! Well this might be connected to the term innovation itself – let us quote Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation):
„Innovation is a new idea, or more-effective device or process.
Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more-effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models that are readily available to markets, governments and society.
The term „innovation“ can be defined as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, new, that „breaks into“ the market or society.“
I especially like the last part: something “breaks into” the market or society. Because this results in change. And what we discovered was that established organisations (public and non-public) do not like (rapid) changes, so they are trying to avoid them.
Why is this important?
Because as an entrepreneur you should be aware of such behaviour, especially if you (or your start-up) is contingent on such organisations. And at this point, CONDA was highly dependent on positive feedback of such organisations, because Heini Staudinger (founder of the shoe company GEA) got quite “famous” with his model of crowdfunding for GEA and his fight against banks and public authorities (there was still no specific law regulating crowdinvesting in Austria).
So what did we do, to avoid a fight before we have even started?
We again started talking to all different types of organizations to get feedback and to see what their advice for founding the company was. At the end, we had many opinions but no clear picture. And we got a bit confused by the question what CONDA actually is (in terms of the inflexible structure of the Austrian trade law):
Let us do a small quiz: is CONDA
- a consultancy company,
- an investment counselling company,
- a payment provider,
- an IT-company
- a bank,
- something completely different?
So what is your answer? You find mine at the end of the text marked with an “*”.
Exactly the confusion you might have discovered yet, the legal authorities got as well.
Therefore, we decided to be on the “safe” side and tried to achieve the maximum of legal compliance. And in the end, we started operating as a “consultancy and investment counselling company”; assessed by the financial market supervision authority (this is actually a longer story, which I will tell you soon).
Eventually we founded the “CONDA Unternehmensberatungs GmbH” on September 1st, 2013.
Yes, it is quite a boring name, but we were forced to use the name, because the company register authority refused our initial name “CONDA Crowdfunding GmbH” as they referred to the uncertain legal situation with Crowdfunding in Austria. It took us almost three months to get the trade licence to start the operational business, which drove Paul and me almost crazy. However, finally we received the official trade licence; one day before our launch.
And it was not the only challenge – there were three more:
- Having the participation agreements for our crowd investors, which was necessary by the Austrian law (to avoid fights like those that GEA had).
- Setting up an IT platform, where projects can be presented and online investments handled.
- Finding a great project to start with.
Solving them, felt like jumping from a cliff and building the parachute on the way down – but I think that’s the core idea of a start-up.
Let us start with challenge number three: we solved this by coincidence (business life is often like this, isn’t it?). In 2012/2013 I was doing my master in executive management at FH Wien and one of my colleagues was Theresa Steininger, one of the co-founders of Wohnwagon (http://www.wohnwagon.at). She told me that they are searching for money. GREAT – we had our first project (well it was actually not that easy, but anyways…).
For all the legal things, I was and I am still very grateful for working together with Paul, as he is taking care of such things (I am not really into it). And we were and we are still supported by great people, especially by Robert Bachner from Schönherr attorney at law and Roland Reisch from TPA Horwath.
So the last big challenge was to get the platform ready.
And thanks to the circumstance that we had great supporters like Thomas Grechenig and his company RISE, we managed to get the first version of www.conda.at ready in time.
But honestly, I think the people of RISE hated us, because of the tough timeline and it was really just a MVP with a huge room for improvement.
The conclusion of three months of working 24/7: CONDA launched on March 1st, 2013 with our first project “WOHNWAGON”. And it was one of the best feelings in my life!
So far, we had achieved a lot, but it was just the beginning and I need to mention two more big challenges we managed to conquer:
- Hiring our first employee and
- getting a lot of public attention for our small start-up.
However, these two challenges are each a topic for itself, so I will talk about them in my next blog posts. But for now, check out our 3 years anniversary video:
* The answer is: CONDA is like everything and nothing. Because we are a completely new service, which uses parts of many different business. And because we do not fit into one specific field.