Only seven months ago, we spoke with Klaudia Bachinger about her dreams for her fledgling startup WisR. Since then, the company has added two Co-founders (Carina Roth, Chief Financial Officer, and Martin Melcher, Chief Technical Officer) and everything is now in full flight.
Employees were hired, awards were won, partnerships were built, and grants were given because Klaudia, Carina, and Martin believed in WisR’s mission: to connect skilled and motivated Silver Agers (people in early retirement age or before) with jobs thus helping build the bridge between generations. With everything that’s happened in such a short time, it’s clear that many others believe as well. Klaudia, Carina, and Martin sat down to talk about how they decided to work together, their plans for the upcoming year, and how the challenges keep coming.
What’s changed since we last spoke?
Klaudia: A lot! The last time we spoke I was alone. As positive as I sounded in that interview, not long after, I was ready to quit because it was getting really hard. I felt like I was not making any progress. I needed a team and had the hardest time finding people who wanted the same things. I gave myself two months to find someone. Luckily I met Carina and Martin and now there’s an office, a company, and most importantly, a team.
Carina and Martin, what made you decide to join WisR as Co-Founders?
Carina: Martin and I pretty much joined at the same time but I met Klaudia through Lemmings! I asked her what she was doing and she gave me her one-liner and it stayed with me. It was her enthusiasm for WisR and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it so I texted her the next day, asked her to go for coffee, and the rest is history.
Martin: Klaudia and I met at Smart Ninja where I was a trainer. At one point, she told me about WisR and it just so happened that around that time I was looking for a change. During the last five years, I’ve worked purely on tech-focused projects and I thought a social project would be something good. It’s something I haven’t done before and what appealed to me was that it’s not just about building a great product–it’s also about building the bigger and greater idea behind it as well.
How is the working dynamic between you three? What characteristics do you think make you work well together?
Klaudia: What we did at the beginning was have everyone fill out a Co-Founder questionnaire to figure out what everyone wants and what values are important to them. As it turns out, we’re all pretty similar in those aspects.
Carina: Our competencies, what interests us, and our roles are fairly separate so we naturally don’t step on each other’s toes. All our abilities and interests complement each other. I’m the numbers girl dealing with finances, Klaudia is the creative and leadership force, Martin is the tech and research genius. The balance is just there.
How do you deal with disagreements?
Martin: It’s only recently that we’ve had any kind of disagreements but we’ve managed to sort those out. Now that we’re bigger with more people and bigger tasks ahead of us, it becomes clear that sometimes we’re not all on the same page and that leads to some minor disagreements. Before, when we were smaller and it was just the three of us, disagreements didn’t exist.
Klaudia: It was actually kind of fun when we all realized that we were having our first disagreement. We all felt it as in it was clear that something didn’t feel right and we asked ourselves what just happened, why did we disagree, so the next morning we sat down, talked about it, and worked it out.
Carina: Open communication and direct communication is something we have in our values. We have to stay humble and keep in mind that we have common goals. WisR is always bigger than our egos.
Klaudia: We actually do have a hashtag that says: less ego, more talent! #LessEgoMoreTalent
Have there been any unexpected challenges so far?
Klaudia: Coordinating everyone and keeping everyone informed is a challenge.
Martin: We also had to let a couple of people go early on which is difficult when you’re just starting.
Klaudia: That was really tough. We liked both these people very much on a personal basis but it just wasn’t the right fit for the team. Telling someone that they are not the right person for the position or for your team was probably one of the toughest challenges so far.
What are some of the milestones or successes that you’ve achieved in the past seven months?
Carina: We received a €100,000 public grant! And we moved into our first real office on the still new third floor of the Hub!
Klaudia: We created the GmbH. We are now finally an established company; a founded company. And we launched our new website and got our first paying customer!
Martin: On the technical side, I managed to build and implement a software stack that I’ve always wanted to build and it consists of the best tools that I’m aware of. I’m really proud that I put this together and that’s it’s working!
How has the Hub helped you in achieving these milestones?
Klaudia: I think I said it before but I’ll say it again. If the Hub wasn’t here, WisR wouldn’t exist. It’s the network, the great people that are part of the Hub, the support, and the positive spirit that keeps pushing us forward. The RE: WIEN program was also a big help.
Carina: Yes, we met great mentors through the program and some are still our advisers! It’s also a great vibe here and we love the space.
Do you have an example of a memorable mentor moment?
Klaudia: There have been a few. Before I met Carina and Martin, like I said before, I was ready to give up. But before quitting I spoke with a mentor and that helped a lot. He asked me great questions and got me to see what I had achieved. I was quite down and was expressing all my worries and fears and it helped me realize that I shouldn’t give up because I wanted to give it one more go and also that it’s okay to be and feel vulnerable.
Another moment one was when I had to fire someone. How do you fire someone you actually like? So with another mentor we role played and went through all the possible reactions and scenarios. It helped me realize that it was my fault for bringing on this person so it definitely changed how I saw the whole situation. And it helped answer questions like: What do you say if they’re angry? What do you say if they cry? I still have to lead this tough conversation no matter what happens. You can’t learn this stuff in school. It’s something you can only learn from someone who’s been through it.
Klaudia, looking back at the past seven months, could you imagine that you are where you are now?
Klaudia: No, absolutely not, It wasn’t until we had the Christmas party and all of the team and our supporters were there where it really dawned on me how big this has become. Like I said before, I was on the verge of giving up so to go from there to here is huge. I try to visualize where we are going to be but the past seven months have gone way beyond my expectations and I couldn’t be more grateful!
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
Carina: We have very clear milestones. From a product standpoint, there’s the finalization of the platform, the creation of the web app, and the development of the matching algorithm. Sales or revenue-wise, we’ve just started our Pioneer Partner program where we approach corporations to get them onboard to help us grow even if we can’t offer them a finalized product. And of course, further funding!
Klaudia: Testing the business model, finding the right product market fit, and showing how what we’re doing is sustainable.
Martin: Growing the tech team is very important to me and also being able to pay people what they deserve to be paid.
What advice can you give fellow Hubbers who are just starting their own ventures?
Carina: Get a team.
Klaudia: Get a team that compliments you and that you’re aligned with vision-wise. No man or woman is an island and remember that it’s incredibly hard, you will doubt yourself, but if you believe in it, keep going.