CONDA HELPS: Emergency action for Austrian startups and entrepreneurs

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Daniel Horak is Co-Founder of CONDA, a crowdfunding platform founded in 2013. With his latest initiative CONDA HELPS he was one of the first entrepreneurs in Austria who launched an emergency support for other startups and entrepreneurs during the Coronavirus crisis. With an innovative, yet simple funding model the first company reached 100k euros within only 10 days and many more success stories are yet to come. Read more about his mission and projects in the interview below.

 

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Daniel, I am one of the two Co-Founders of CONDA. We started CONDA seven years ago and I am responsible for the team in Austria and Germany mainly, but we also have some partners in several other countries in Europe. I am part of the startup300 / zero21 board as well, where I am responsible for all sales agendas.

 

Tell us a bit about your startup CONDA.

We started the company in 2013, since then the company has grown to 20-25 people and for more than a year now we are part of the startup300 group. Our main mission from the very beginning is to make it easier for startups and SMEs to get and raise money and we are doing this through the crowd. So on our platform people can invest in startups and SMEs starting from 100 euros. Since the beginning we have raised almost 40 million euros, have close to 40,000 investors and are launching new projects each and every week.

 

When did you join Talent Garden and how has your startup evolved since you joined us?

We moved to Talent Garden Vienna about 6 months ago. For us it was kind of a special situation because, as I already mentioned, we are part of the startup300 group and parts of the group had already been in the space, for example Pioneers or Minted. So we were actually working from three different locations and what changed most is that we are all working from one place now.

It is an amazing feeling to have the whole group together and that almost 50 people are working in the same place. It made us much more productive in working together, having team meetings, and also the exchange with other people in the space is a great opportunity for us, especially because we are doing a lot of workshops and events with CONDA, so it is cool that we can do that in our own space within Talent Garden and also in the event facilities there. 

 

How has the Corona crisis affected your company?

Well, luckily I believe we were pretty well prepared and had a headstart in getting prepared for the crisis, because we were already expecting large effects and problems for the Austrian economy earlier than most companies did.

Our team switched to remote work already 1.5 weeks before it was officially mandatory and also in the general working process there was not a big change in our daily routine. Of course, what changed for each of us personally, is that we are working from home surrounded by our families, but we try to keep our regular daily working routine.

For us as a company it changed that the awareness – especially in Austria – of funding opportunities besides a bank loan got much larger and for that reason we have a lot of work to do. Already one week after the Corona restrictions we launched our initiative CONDA HELPS / CONDA HILFT, so this kept us pretty busy from the very beginning.

 

With your project CONDA HELPS you were one of the first entrepreneurs in Austria who launched an emergency action for other startups and entrepreneurs. Was the initial idea something that you wanted to launch regardless of the crisis or did you come up with the idea just then and what was your motivation behind it?

Actually it was one of the first things we thought of when we knew that the crisis will hit the economy really hard and we expected that a lot of companies and startups would face liquidity issues. So we expected this as one of the main challenges, even before the government ever mentioned any rescue programs or financial aids. We were really ahead of all these supportive programs by simply using the resources and skills we have within the group and trying to create something that at least helps some suffering companies to get additional resources, additional funding.

We decided to look into this idea in one of our management calls, then it took us one or two days to get the landing page live, another day to get the legal work done, because we created kind of a special funding model for the companies and I think it took us five other days to have the first campaign launched. And yeah, at the moment we already have one company successfully funded – they raised 100k euros, another one launched just last week and there are another 10-12 other companies in the pipeline.

So no, it was not something we have planned to do before, we simply acted in a crisis mode and wanted to get something to the market super fast and offer immediate help.

 

What exactly does CONDA HELPS do and can you explain to us the application process?

The most important thing is, that we are using our infrastructure we already have in place to support companies in need. What we created is an own crowd investing platform that is just for the CONDA HELPS projects. Number two is our own financing model, which works similar to our standard model, but we now use a subordinated loan, which has two parts: on the one hand it is like a standard loan, so you have the loan money from the crowd and for example if the crowd borrows you 50k euros, you have to pay back those 50k euros but – and here comes the second part – the interest is going to be paid in vouchers, products or something else. So you can use the interest as a kind of push for future sales and the idea was that we do not only provide money and liquidity, but also additional revenues. And yeah, that’s what it is. 

The process is pretty simple. We have a form on our landing page in which interested companies in trouble provide us with some basic information about their business, previous revenues, the effects of the crisis, their financial needs and structure. As a second step we have a short twenty-minute ‘get to know each other’-call to understand better the struggles and the situation. And if we believe that we can help them they get some additional information, we set up the legal stuff, we do some more detailed analysis and we try to get them online within 5-7 days.

What is also special is that we have decided as a team that we won’t charge the businesses anything else than our direct costs, so we don’t earn any money with that, because our intention is not to get rich with this project, rather than to really help, so we only charge costs that we have to pay, for example for external services. But there is no margin or anything similar put on top by us.

 

How many companies so far have reached out to you to get your support?

Well, we are close to 200 requests so far. It is not only through the form on the landing page, but also through Facebook, LinkedIn, all channels you can imagine actually. Also, what we see is that the entrepreneurial community is highly connected so we also get requests from entrepreneurs which got the recommendation from other entrepreneurs. So it is also a lot of word-of-mouth and for sure, having the first company financed with 100k euros in just ten days proves that it works.

On the other hand, we also see that a lot of companies waited to see which and how much support they get from the government and now there is the bad awakening that it won’t be enough to keep them alive, so especially in the last 10 days, we got a lot of additional requests.

 

You were mentioning the project that raised 100k euros. Do you want to tell us a bit more about the company?

Sure. They are called Starbike, it is a bicycle store in the second district of Vienna, and they just started with their main business season – nice weather, everyone wants to be outside and then the Corona crisis hits. They had full storage, they had all bicycles on stock and then they had to close the store, so their revenue went from 100% down to 0%. What’s more, was that they also just renovated their store, so they had no ‘war budget’ to run a crisis. 

Now, they got the money from the campaign and when they were allowed to reopen they were able to reopen with all employees, so it is cool to see that the initiative made their survival possible and that their investors are now their future customers.

 

What are your future plans for CONDA in general and are you also planning on keeping CONDA HELPS running?

Currently we are also preparing several other campaigns, but we will definitely keep the initiative open for now because nobody knows what’s going to happen next. We can just hope that the numbers of infected people will go down and down and down but let’s see. So yeah, CONDA HELPS will probably not gonna be there forever, but we are going to keep it active as long as we see that there is a need and that there are companies out there that need our help.

At the same time I am hoping that people are getting more and more aware that investing in companies is something interesting – also during a crisis – and that companies do understand that they need to look onto their equity side as well and not only the loan side of the bank, that having sufficient funds in place or additional funding resources helps them through such a crisis. I am certain that this topic will get more and more important over the next months and years, so we will grow our platform further. 

 

When do you think we will be “back to normal”?

Never, honestly. I think there will be a new normal and changes that are here to stay. I hope that some of these changes will help us to understand that there is the potential as a global community to make a change and to change important things. For example, when I look at the environmental discussion, which was going on before the Corona crisis, we might be able to see now that we as a global community can also make common efforts into this direction. 

Usually there is a movement during a crisis: After everything went down, it all goes up again and that’s our new future. So yeah, there will be a new normal which we have to create as entrepreneurs and as a community.

 

Thank you for the interview, Daniel!
April 21, 2020 // Headerphoto (c) startup300

 

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