ACADEMIA SUPERIOR invit­ed „Mr. Run­tas­tic” Flo­ri­an Gschwandt­ner to a talk with Markus Hengstschläger to present his new book „So läuft Start-Up”. They talked about indi­vid­ual stages of his life, the lessons he draws from them and what devel­op­ments he sees com­ing in the future.

Lessons from Austria’s most successful start-up

In 2009, the Run­tas­tic app went online for the first time. „The down­load num­bers imme­di­ate­ly exceed­ed every­thing we had ever hoped for,” said Run­tas­tic CEO Flo­ri­an Gschwandt­ner at the pre­sen­ta­tion of his new­ly pub­lished book. Gschwandt­ner and his three co-founders cre­at­ed Run­tas­tic, the Aus­tri­an flag­ship com­pa­ny in terms of dig­i­tal start-up. Mean­while, the app is on tens of mil­lions of smart­phones world­wide, the sports man­u­fac­tur­er Adi­das bought the com­pa­ny in 2015 for 220 mil­lion euros and Flo­ri­an Gschwandt­ner recent­ly announced that he will retire at the end of the year as CEO of Run­tas­tic.

Taking the easy way rarely brings success

The atti­tude „that I have to do some­thing, that I must have income to enable me to do what I like or want to do”, was already giv­en to Gschwandt­ner in his child­hood at the parental farm. Dur­ing his lat­er stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ties of Applied Sci­ences in Hagen­berg (Mobile Com­put­ing) and Steyr (Sup­ply Chain Man­age­ment) he „had to work hard — espe­cial­ly in Hagen­berg — to be able to keep up. Pro­gram­ming has nev­er been easy, and I’ve made many mis­takes, „said Gschwandt­ner. But he want­ed to make it and was ready to go „a lot of extra miles”.

When fel­low stu­dents approached him with a busi­ness idea — the GPS track­ing of sail­ing ships — Runtastic’s lat­er four-per­son found­ing team was formed. „We quick­ly real­ized that our first idea did not work and switched to record­ing run­ning data because it’s more inclu­sive. First, we want­ed to dig record­ing sta­tions on fixed tracks, then came the tech­nol­o­gy and the idea of ​​GPS track­ing on a smart­phone”, Gschwandt­ner said. The rest is his­to­ry — a suc­cess sto­ry.

What did he learn from all this? „First of all, if you real­ly want to change some­thing, you have to be will­ing to invest time. If you don’t work, you will not achieve any­thing”. An idea is only about 5–10% of the suc­cess, the rest is hard work, accord­ing to Gschwandt­ner. The ear­ly think­ing of ​​scal­a­bil­i­ty is the sec­ond major suc­cess fac­tor: „What you always should think about is how you can make mon­ey out of what you do some­day. One should not talk your­self down and just try to real­ize his ideas”.

But you also have to rec­og­nize quick­ly, when an idea leads to noth­ing, and then switch to some­thing else. „Start fast and fail fast” — was his advice to future busi­ness founders.

Autonomous driving and speech recognition become game changers

Asked about the big changes we will see in the future, the Run­tas­tic CEO said: „I think autonomous dri­ving and speech recog­ni­tion will soon change every­thing. And faster than we believe today”. Gschwandt­ner warned against sim­ply allow­ing the devel­op­ment to hap­pen by itself: „Every sixth job in Aus­tria some­how depends on the auto­mo­tive and sup­pli­er indus­tries. I have the bad feel­ing, that we will lose a lot to com­pa­nies like Uber or Google in the future. They lead the devel­op­ment of dig­i­tal con­tent that will be the essence of the next gen­er­a­tion of vehi­cles”.

But accord­ing to Gschwandt­ner, there will also be oth­er social con­se­quences: „Twen­ty per­cent of a cities area is occu­pied by cars today. In the future, cars park overnight in park­ing garages on the out­skirts of the city and only come into the city dur­ing the day to dri­ve peo­ple from A to B. That will change the cityscapes enor­mous­ly”, the CEO was con­vinced.

Gschwandt­ner attach­es sim­i­lar impor­tance to the devel­op­ment of speech recog­ni­tion: „Today we are used to typ­ing every­thing into devices, but that will soon no longer be nec­es­sary. Then we talk to the devices”. That would rev­o­lu­tion­ize our han­dling of machines, he was con­vinced. „What we real­ly miss for a suc­cess­ful han­dling of these devel­op­ments, how­ev­er, are the tech­ni­cians. We also have to change as a soci­ety and become more open-mind­ed and, for exam­ple, do not scare off girls from engi­neer­ing edu­ca­tion”, con­clud­ed Gschwandt­ner.

Do not have a plan

The plan of Flo­ri­an Gschwandt­ner for the time after Run­tas­tic is first and fore­most to have no plan. He want­ed to con­scious­ly spend the time, try­ing out a few new things and trav­el­ing. He does know that this will not be easy for him at the begin­ning, but it is a chance for a time-out that he does not want to miss.