Smartphone Sicherung (c) Reeloq - Thomas Jeindl
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About Reeloq GmbH

  • Founders: Lukas Watzinger and Julia Schadinger
  • Founded in: 2020
  • Employees: 4
  • Money raised: Savings, funding, investments, sales: funded by national funding agencies (Austria Wirtschaftsservice & FFG); investments: < €50,000; sales in 2021: several hundred thousand euros
  • Ultimate goal: Make everyday life easier for many people through our innovative products;

Mechanical engineering student Lukas Watzinger was mountain climbing when his smartphone fell to the ground. This prompted him to go in search of a solution, a mechanism that would allow the smartphone to be used safely in almost any situation. Because this solution did not exist, he created it himself. That was in 2018. In the meantime, he has a patent on his smartphone safeguard, his own start-up Reeloq and has already sold 10,000 units of his innovation. The co-founder is Julia Schadinger, responsible for the economic matters in the start-up. In an interview with Innovation Origins, she talks about the challenges of a start-up:

Man and woman taking selfie in the mountains
The Reeloq founders (from left): Lukas Watzinger and Julia Schadinger.

What motivates you?

There are situations in which you would actually like to take pictures but don’t dare because you’re afraid your smartphone might fall. One example is a fixed rope route where you can’t put your backpack down – or paragliding. With our smartphone safeguard, you can take photos in almost any situation. Lukas has developed a smartphone sleeve with a leash secured with a locking mechanism – similar to the cardholder on a ski lift. The case is attached to the front of the backpack strap. If you pull out your smartphone, the mechanism locks when you pull the leash all the way out and you can take pictures without having to worry. When you pull the leash again, the smartphone retracts and can be stored in the case. So you can take pictures safely and freely almost anytime.

Our values are freedom, fun and adventure. For us, Reeloq is not just a problem solver, but total self-actualization. We are still relatively young. I’m 23 and Lukas is 26, and the start-up itself is also a big adventure (laughs).

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

We were both still in the middle of our studies and suddenly responsible for setting up a company. In the process, we often fell flat on our faces. In the beginning, we also made strategy mistakes. For example, we really wanted to sell our smartphone safeguard through brick-and-mortar stores and chased a retailer for four months to get listed. That cost us a lot of time in the first year and was associated with existential fears. It wasn’t until we focused on e-commerce that things really took off.

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What have been the best moments so far?

One of the best moments was definitely our appearance on the TV show 2 Minutes, 2 Million. That was on the day of our sales launch and helped us get off to a successful start. Since then, things have gone uphill. Cool moments were also when we were listed with the first sporting goods retailer – and the cooperation agreements with the Mountain Rescue Service, the German Federal Fire Department, the Alpine Club, the Friends of Nature and the Bavarian Red Cross.

It was also a big step for us when we hired our first employee last year – and yesterday we got the key to our very first office. That’s what we’re excited about right now.

How difficult was it to get funding?

I must say that the funding landscape in Austria is extremely good – and certainly better than in Germany. But finding private investors in Austria was more of a challenge. We met our private investors mostly by chance. But the negotiations dragged on for over a year. In retrospect, we are very happy and grateful because our investors support us not only with their money but also with their experience, know-how and networks.

Can you imagine a better place for your start-up?

Basically, Graz is already a good location and we have received a lot of support. There are two incubators here, the Science Park and the Gründungsgarage. In addition, the start-up scene is manageable and very well-connected. Since we have developed an outdoor product, the geographical proximity to the Alps is also an advantage. We certainly wouldn’t have found such easy access from a location outside the DACH region. But the German-language area is limited and if you start up in an English-speaking country, you can certainly internationalize much faster. We are experiencing this right now as we scale and internationalize.

Austria is certainly not an ideal location, but due to the popularity of outdoor sports, it is a good place to start.

Where would you like to be with your company in five years?

We are currently in the middle of an expansion phase and are doing test runs in Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. In the coming years, we would like to expand distribution to France, Spain and the UK. In the short term, we plan to hire more employees, especially in sales. We now have a higher profile and want to approach dealers again. In the long term, we will develop more products. Lukas is full of ideas and is constantly developing projects, and I take care of sales. We want to make people’s lives easier with our innovative products and have already started a second company last year.

What makes your innovation better/different than existing things?

Our smartphone lock consists of a patented locking mechanism – that is our unique selling point. To date, there is no comparable solution for outdoor sports.

Are you hiring?

We are looking for an industrial designer and a sales and collaborations associate.

Want to read more posts about startups? You can find more installments of this series here.