To Succeed in Entrepreneurship, a Fire Must Burn Inside You

Day 21. June 2021

How can a business idea be a success? Where can entrepreneurs realize their plans and who is it good to connect with? Read an interesting interview with Alexander Mann, an entrepreneur from Austrian Carinthia and founder of Pixapo and ThinKing.


His business success seems fabulous. He describes his journey from studying international economics to an astute connoisseur of the startup scene at length, although he mentions only major milestones. In his work in the field of start-ups, he got to know Slovenian entrepreneurs and their ideas in detail. The founder of two extremely successful companies, Pixapo and ThinKing, who at the same time has a very well-formed opinion on how to start a business, talks about the Slovenian business in superlatives. At the same time, he emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurs in the Alps-Adriatic region connecting as if there are no boundaries or barriers between them. And that together they can penetrate larger markets such as Germany and Switzerland. Perhaps that is why Alexander Mann says that he prefers to be described as a citizen of Europe, if not the world, rather than an Austrian (he lives and works in Austria), a German (his father is German) or a Slovene (his mother is a Carinthian Slovene).


Start-ups sometimes hold the prejudice that they are mostly high-tech. But in Austrian Carinthia, they are from many other industries.


Yes, in fact, most of them are in other fields: medicine, tourism, cuisine, wood, logistics, fiber technology ... Of course, we also need high-tech companies, as there are many opportunities for them in Carinthia, Austria.


There are also many opportunities for expansion from Austrian Carinthia.


Absolutely. Due to its position in the Alps-Adriatic region, it is an extremely interesting testing ground for the expansion into the DACH area - to Germany, Austria and Switzerland.


Austrian Carinthia is kind of an entry point for the European market. It is extremely important for an entrepreneur to start in an environment in which he can test his idea with relatively small financial investments if he works with calculated risk.


The process can also go the opposite direction. Austrian companies, for example, understand Austrian Carinthia as a testing ground for entering the markets of Southeast Europe. If you start here, you spend less money and you can have a team in which employees speak several languages, combining knowledge from Slovenia, Italy and the countries of the Balkan peninsula. And all at once, you can access up to 80% of the European market from the center of the Alps-Adriatic region - to the north and south.



“The value of an idea lies in the using of it,” Thomas Edison said. What does an entrepreneur need to be able to turn his ideas into a business?


Ideas are worth a lot, and the biggest art is figuring out which one is good and will work in the market. This cannot be told by the house council of grandmothers and aunts, but by an experienced expert who knows entrepreneurship, local specialties, possibilities. So you need an objective opinion. When laymen taste wine, one feels good and the other sucks. Objectively, its quality can only be determined by a sommelier. And you can’t become a sommelier just like that.

The market and the customers have the final say. But if the idea is good and you surround yourself with the right team and connections, then the chances of success are already high.


Many say that if you’re not willing to invest everything, the startup won’t succeed​. This is probably the foundation of it all. 


It's true, you have to have a fire in you! Anyone who works for government subsidies and potentially big earnings will not succeed. If you are passionate about your idea, you will definitely get help from many people. In my lectures, I do not advise listeners to go their own way if their goal is a lot of money and a good car. But I say: if your idea, despite my advice, does not give you peace at night, then it’s a fire that is very necessary for success. However, you need to invest your whole self and know that you may not succeed right away anyway. An independent path is not so much an investment in an idea or a company, but above all, an investment in knowledge.


Maybe the company’s first attempt won’t be successful, but you’ll learn what doesn’t work. And that knowledge is far more important than the one that leads to success. Therefore, investors in start-ups are always somewhat reluctant to those who have not yet failed. Failure is really an opportunity, something valuable.


However, financial support is also needed to implement the idea. What’s the business environment that offers opportunities for a successful start in Austrian Carinthia like?


Financial incentives are important, of course. Ideas are well taken care of in Carinthia, regardless of the nationality of the entrepreneur who decides to work here. If you have a good idea, money is not an issue. But it's a mistake to think that you only need money for it to work. What you really need in the beginning is a good mentor who knows how to give advice. (Counseling is also part of a program to encourage start-ups in Carinthia, Austria.) If the mentor thinks the idea works, he will invest in it himself or connect you with the people who will invest. Therefore, it is essential that, as an entrepreneur, you deal with people as intensively as with an idea, spreading your idea, connecting with other entrepreneurs and potential investors.


Foto: Baurecht



Isn't it dangerous to talk about your idea with others?


By no means be afraid to tell people about your idea. It took a long time for you to get to the stage you are at - understanding how to develop an idea, what to do with it, and so on. Before someone steals this idea from you, they would have to work very hard, invest a lot of money and time to get to your level of knowledge. It's not worth it. They would rather invest in an already developed idea than perfect it themselves. But you really have to be fast.


Every time you present your idea, say something new. Investors keep their tabs on you, and if you always say the same thing, they’ll know you’re not developing that idea.


But it is probably also very important who you connect with in the beginning, what kind of team you form.


The team is extremely important. It's very wrong to think that you will be able to do everything yourself. Physically, you might be able to, but you can’t develop an idea like that. You need to choose people who are better than you, who know more than you. At the same time, it is necessary to have a system of rapid dismissal. Not having such a system is one of the biggest mistakes of startups. If you see that working together is not working out or that someone does not have the appropriate knowledge, you should say goodbye to them, quickly.


A startup is just a phase that should not really last long, by no means for many years. The biggest goal is to go through this phase and set up a growing company.


You like working with Slovenes in Carinthia, Austria. They are welcome there. Why?


First of all, because it is important for the team to be interdisciplinary, for co-workers to have different cultural backgrounds and different views on challenges. Slovenians have excellent ideas, exceptional inventors with excellent solutions. I also have Slovenians and people from other countries employed in my companies.


Why is networking between entrepreneurs so important?


Simply because it means you’re training your brains. When you are in contact with people who have good ideas, you are forced to think constantly and thus find new possibilities and new ways.  I also make some space available to other entrepreneurs at the headquarters of my company. Yes, it’s loud, but we help each other, we constantly exchange ideas, we speak 13 languages altogether. I wanted to build a stimulating business environment. This is really extremely important.


If you only stick to your bubble, it won’t work.


So, for example, I organize startup weekends, where we meet entrepreneurs once a month for an informal gathering and we are always joined by someone new. Thus, we expand our influence, power and reach.


Let’s say I have an idea to create a new sustainable product from waste plastic. I am not skilled in technological solutions, I have no money, investors or collaborators. Where should I go if I am thinking of starting in Carinthia, Austria?


If you have a good business plan, you can apply for an exceptionally high-quality program of the KWF - Kärntner Wirtschaftsförderungs Fonds. You will be given the financial means to be able to develop your idea in peace. You will make a prototype, gain new test customers, you will receive advice from very experienced entrepreneurs. But the most important thing during this time is to make sure you are networking to fill up your phone with new contacts. Connect locally with startups. You will get a lot of useful information from them. Everyone is ready to help. I also provided some contact information to a Slovenian entrepreneur who was setting up a company in Slovenia, who helped her on her business journey. For me, it’s nothing, for her it’s everything. Collegiality among startups is very much alive because we are aware that we can all learn from each other. Therefore, we will shortly establish an association of alumni startups, even the largest and most successful ones. We will all invest our money and time in it because we are aware of the synergistic effects of cooperation. This way, we will also be able to help start-up companies with our experience, knowledge and network. Such an exchange is the most important thing for the success of companies.


Interested in more? More information can be found here.


Izvedba: Mojdenar IT d.o.o.