We met Stefan Theißbacher in 2013, when he made a decision to apply for the Social Impact Start (SIS) Program in Impact Hub Vienna. SIS is a program that awards start-ups which adopt innovative and scalable methods in order to tackle social problems with a 4-8 months incubation stipend. His clear vision and deep intention for restoring neighbourhoods and communities helped him make it to the finals and on 29 Oct 2013, after pitching his start-up idea “FragNebenan” in front of the expert jury, he was chosen as winner to the Social Impact Start together with 4 other ventures. Today (literally today!) he is launching his project in 3 more districts in Vienna and he is sharing his journey from idea to real impact, with us.
The success of FragNebenan has certainly put you in the spotlight. But, who is Stefan behind the scenes?
Stefan: A son, a brother, a friend and – of course – a neighbour.
Tell us more about your project. What is FragNebenan about?
Stefan: Basically, what we try to do is to restore communities within modern cities. FragNebenan offers you the opportunity to connect with neighbours within your house and your neighbourhood, to get to know them, to interact whenever you want and where ever you are. It helps you to support each other, to share knowledge and resources, and to organize mutual aid. Besides that you find service information related to your house and you can communicate with your property management. Simple as that!
From a business idea in October 2013, in almost a year you are reaching to 4 districts of Vienna. How did the whole business idea develop?
Stefan: I lived in a house in the 17th district for two years and only knew my roommate. So the idea for a new online platform that will make neighbors meet and communicate more came to life back then. After several prototypes and tests, discussions and meet ups, a core small team was created. We won the Social Impact Start (SIS) award when we’d just formed our team and decided to work together. Actually, we decided to apply for the call as it was a great opportunity to get office space for free. That was it back then! But then, SIS accompanied the development of our team, business model, impact model and website. The whole development of the business idea was a lot about asking (or being supported to ask) the right questions. And here we are today: excited about how many and how fast neighbours responded to their neighbours asking for support; happy about the big potential out there; proud to be the ones who are waking up that potential. From this day forward we are working in Vienna’s 6th, 7th, 8th and 15th districts and looking forward to expanding and reaching more neighbourhoods.
Apart from winning 8 months membership at Impact Hub Vienna, free coaching and networking support, what was the best thing about being part of the SIS Program?
Stefan: As I said, in the beginning it was just about the office space. But that changed tremendously. Especially because of the meetings with our mentor: it was exceptionally useful to have somebody experienced „from the outside“ to discuss with. His advice often helped us to prepare important decisions and to redefine priorities. It is hard to single out one thing, as our success was definetly a blend of having a highly motivated team, the right external support and the right network!
What would be your message to future social enterpreneurs?
Believe in the power of your ideas. And look for support, open calls, programs! and most importantly: apply cus it’s definitely worth the effort!