Horst-Georg Fuchs is one of the Co-Founders of Xaleon, a Linz-based software startup that was acquired by TeamViewer, a Digital Customer Engagement Platform in 2021. For him, there’s nothing more exciting than having a vision of how to improve the world and then actually making it a reality. Find out what it’s like to be part of a success story in Linz, what is it about entrepreneurship that particularly attracts him and what he predicts for the ecosystem in Austria in the near future.
1. Hi Horst-Georg, thank you for agreeing to do the interview. Could you tell us about your background and how you entered the startup world?
Sure. I was one of the Co-Founders of Chatvisor (aka “Xaleon”), a Linz-based software startup which was acquired by TeamViewer in January 2021.
I met my two Co-Founders via “Startup300”, a Linz-based startup ecosystem. One of the ecosystems’ Co-Founders connected us. They were already working on the idea and thought about adding a salesperson to their team. I already had a few years of sales and marketing experience. I was also generally interested in customer communication, marketing and sales, so when I heard about the idea, I was hooked immediately.
After two weeks of intense discussions about vision, roles, responsibilities and of course shared distribution, we all had a good gut feeling and decided to give it a go.
2. So now you’re a Director, Solution Sales Engage at TeamViewer, a Digital Customer Engagement Platform for online sales, digital customer service, and video consultations that empowers companies to elevate their customer experience. Could you tell us more about your mission there?
At Xaleon, which turned into TeamViewer Engage after the acquisition, we believe that in a world of largely interchangeable products, customer experience done right is a key differentiator for any kind of business, from a small ten-people company to a big enterprise.
With our TeamViewer Engage platform, we enable businesses to bring their digital customer engagement to the next level, reduce barriers that exist in the company, and improve key company KPIs like customer satisfaction scores, online revenue and customer service efficiency.
This starts with proactive chatbots on the website or e-commerce shop; continues with live human-to-human interactions via chat, messaging channels and video chat – empowered by collaboration features like website co-browsing, document co-browsing, or a virtual whiteboard; and finishes with a legally binding signature to sign contracts directly on the spot.
We provide a super feature rich and secure Digital Customer Engagement Platform, which is used by our customers either as their central Customer Engagement platform or in a modular way in which they implement certain modules of our platform (e.g. the co-browsing or the video consultation product) in their existing system landscape.
3. What is it about entrepreneurship that mainly attracts you? How do you feel you’re contributing to the startup ecosystem in Linz?
Today, the thing I’m most driven by is a deep sense of purpose and fulfilment. There are very few things more exciting than having a vision of how to improve the world and then actually making it a reality.
However, this was not the case for me in the beginning. My original interest in entrepreneurship came very much from the desire of becoming financially free. I know it’s probably not the noblest thing to say but it’s the truth. I still remember when I was about 15 years old, and Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull, bought an Austrian football club which turned into “Red Bull Salzburg”. Being a huge football fan, I thought “Wow, this guy is buying a football club. I want to be able to do that too.” So, originally my motivation was based on financial freedom and accomplishment.
But that changed. And it actually changed before and during building Xaleon. I learned that money alone doesn’t fill my energy tanks enough to fuel the huge amount of energy needed to build a successful startup. It requires way more work and sacrifices than many people think. For three years we basically worked 60-65 hours per week. Every week. Without holidays. Almost every Saturday, we were at the office. In order to handle that amount of intense work, you have to be driven by a deep sense of mission and purpose. Money alone could never provide the energy to sustain that.
When it comes to contributing to the startup ecosystem in Linz, I believe our exit was another nice sign that Linz-based startups can be successful. Success stories like ours are very important because they show founders that it CAN be done. And it can be done from Linz. You don’t have to move to the US. Xaleon was not the first success story in Linz. Many startups exited successfully before us, and many more will exit successfully after us.
4. As an entrepreneur, you had to overcome a lot of challenges for sure. Could you share the top lessons for founders you’ve learned over the years?
While building Xaleon, I always felt like I have to maximise my speed of learning and personal growth in order to keep up with the requirements of the business. Almost every week we had to deal with situations which we’d never experienced before, and we needed to find solutions quickly.
One thing that helped me was investing time in self-improvement on a daily basis. This meant reading books early in the morning, meeting people from similar businesses who have solved problems I was encountering at the time and choosing investors wisely – focusing on those with specific knowledge and experience.
Another very important element for founders is figuring out which game their startup is playing and which skills they need to master in order to grow the company successfully. For example, for a B2B enterprise software company, word-of-mouth growth is nice, but not that important. That kind of company can afford to spend a lot of money on getting just a single customer. This one customer will pay a lot of money to license their service. However, that’s not the case for a different kind of business.
5. What do you predict for the ecosystem in Austria in the near future?
Honestly speaking, I believe the startup ecosystem will go through a rough patch in the next year or two. We can already see the economy struggling and evaluation multiples decreasing. Today series A, B, and C rounds happen for 30% of the evaluation compared to twelve months ago. For startups, this means less capital in the best case and no funding at all in the worst case.
Besides the negative economic situation, I also see a big opportunity in the near future. Many super successful companies were born in the worst economic times of 2000 and 2008. I believe obscurity and a strong shortage of resources also have their benefits as it forces you to be creative and work super efficiently.
From an ecosystem perspective, I believe Austria and Europe are on the right path. There have been lots of improvements in the past 10-15 years. We have startup ecosystems in almost every big city today, the technical education is quite good, we have a bunch of European unicorns, and we have regular knowledge exchange between successful startup founders and new founders. So I see a positive movement, which will take some more time to match Silicon Valley.
Thanks a lot for sharing your story, Horst-Georg. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.
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