- Founders: Fabian Lukas Goslar (CEO), Adrian Sebastian Frey (CFO) and Simon Molden (CTO), Arne Ruge (COO);
- Founded in: 2022
- Employees: 7
- Money raised: Currently bootstrapping, using our own money and our own efforts
- Ultimate goal: Giving a strong voice to citizens in the regions through our engagement platform;
The start-up conow has developed a platform that enables people in their respective regions to propose or support sustainable projects that benefit the common good. The focus is on co-working, mobility and renewable energy – topics that will be increasingly relevant for the average Austrian community to achieve the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations) in the coming years. But beyond that, the platform also aims to encourage citizens to propose their own ideas. After all, if they receive support from their fellow citizens in the form of likes, then the chance of implementation increases. Here is co-founder Adrian S. Frey in an interview with Innovation Origins.
How did the idea for the conow platform come about?
Fabian and I met in an Entrepreneurial Leadership program at Austrian Start-ups. Our first approach was to use unoccupied real estate. Later, we focused on co-working space because almost every community has promising unused real estate – be it an abandoned post office or bank. So our idea evolved and, with sustainable mobility and a decentralized energy supply, ultimately became a three-pillar model. What all topics have in common is that they require collaboration. This is also the meaning of the name of the platform, which refers to collaborate now.
Can you describe the three pillars?
Many people commute between rural and urban areas. This not only weakens the economy in rural communities, it also creates individual traffic, which accounts for the highest share of CO2 emissions on Austria’s roads. A co-working space could revitalize the community while contributing to the sustainable development goals by reducing traffic.
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In the area of renewable energy, for example, individuals could join forces with their photovoltaic systems and serve an energy community.
In the area of mobility, it could be a solution for both young and old populations with limited mobility, with people volunteering to drive, or sharing vehicles and routes. This requires appropriate communication, coordination – and partners who want to provide conow.
But even if a community has already solved all of these problems, there are certainly other challenges – such as a lack of childcare options or community projects. We would like users to face this on our platform and contribute their ideas without restrictions.
What is your motivation?
We are the best-connected society of all time, but outside the cities, little of this has arrived. Many follow what’s happening around the world on social media, but don’t know what’s happening in their own community. All they do is whine about problems – and that’s exactly what we’re interested in. We listen to where something has not worked out, or something that exists that is not being used. We want to change that by shifting the debates to the platform and asking: what do we have to do to make it work? This way we can allow projects to emerge that otherwise would not have gotten off the ground at all, or not for a long time.
What is the status quo of your project right now?
A prototype for the software is currently in the testing phase. It can be adapted to the requirements of the respective communities. We are currently in direct exchange with communities in Austria and southern Germany to find out what the focus is in the regions. We want to get to know the market and our partners better to see what makes the most sense where.
Currently, we are doing bootstrapping, but working on grants and funding to take conow to the next level.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
In the beginning, it took us a while to figure out what direction we wanted to go with our project. In the end, we decided to cooperate with communities to create a regionally focused impact. So far we have received very positive feedback from our contacts in the regions.
What have been your best moments so far?
When we were putting together the team, we saw that many people were open to our idea. There are now seven of us on the team. Everyone can contribute their strengths – even in a phase where a lot of flexibility is still necessary. That is a great place to be.
One of the best moments was also when we achieved a spot among the top ten of the best climate-relevant start-ups in Austria in the Greenstart 2021 initiative.
Where would you like to be with your company in five years?
If we manage to establish conow in every community in Austria, then we can do the same across Europe. Getting others on board also works across national borders. We also think that our platform can have a great impact on and for the population, especially in countries with weaker political systems.
What makes your innovation better than anything else on the market?
At the moment, communication between communities is mostly done through newspapers and websites. But our platform is not only about when the garbage collection comes or what the opening hours of the doctor are. We bring in the aspect of ideas and promote permanent dialogue between community leaders and citizens. With us, people can get actively involved. Everyone wants to be heard, and the support of fellow citizens helps to initiate the right investments in the region. Knowing when it makes sense to collaborate benefits everyone, so long as things are suitable to achieve sustainable development goals, serve citizens and can be mapped economically.