European Business: Mr. Weigl, your company is headquartered in Austria. What are the biggest differences between small businesses in Austria and Germany?
Max Weigl: I don’t think the differences are all that great, even if things are looked at a bit more closely in Germany and the level of self-confidence is significantly higher than in Austria. That I am sure is down to the fact that we have a very large and very successful neighbour in Germany. When a German politician praises an Austrian decision, it is front page news in the next day’s papers here.
In America, you are judged on the value of your ideas, the opportunities offered by the market and the scalability of your business model – regardless of what may have gone before. Max Weigl
European Business: Which ideas from elsewhere in the world have influenced you the most?
Max Weigl: The US market, which we manage from our offices in Los Angeles is particularly important for us and I fly there frequently. The speed with which highly innovative companies build a presence in the United States is very impressive. Even if the likes of Tesla or Uber struggle with the same problems as other companies, their scalability is enormous. That is down to a completely different set of conditions regarding investors and venture capital organisations: In Europe, you are measured on past performance. This is the basis on which your company is valued and whether lines of credit are extended or not, and therefore what opportunities are open to you. In America, you are judged on the value of your ideas, the opportunities offered by the market and the scalability of your business model – regardless of what may have gone before. That is why a company with a good idea and a competent management team can find themselves valued at several 100 million USD before they have even won their first customer or taken on their first employee.
It is like the situation where everyone else says: “That’s impossible.” So that is what everyone believes. Until someone comes along who hasn’t heard that it’s impossible and simply goes ahead and does it. Max Weigl
European Business: One of the ways that Beerjet raised the necessary funds to optimize its production process and expand internationally was through a crowd-investing page. How did that go for you?
Max Weigl: Beerjet had one of the most successful crowd-investing pages in Austria. We raised 600,000 EUR in just three months. Our advantage was the clear benefit of our product. Beerjet serves up 6 beers in 7 seconds and there are numerous occasions where people have to queue up for a beer: in a football stadium, at the Grand Prix, at big concerts. Everyone is familiar with the problem because they have experienced or constantly experience it themselves.
European Business: Are there lessons to learned for small and medium sized companies from this funding model?
Max Weigl: There are definitely lessons to be learned. But only the future will tell whether it will become established in the long term. The model is still very new and most of the projects funded in this way have not yet matured to the stage where investors can expect to see their capital returned together with the promised interest. If the returns are lower than expected, then dissatisfaction with the model will likely bury it. Add to that the high costs involved for advertising, interest payments, platform expenses, investor relations. It is not the cheapest way to raise money. As a funding model, it only makes economic sense if you are able to raise a really big amount.
European Business: Most of the small and medium-sized companies that go on to become the world leader in their particular market stand out not because of their brilliant idea but because of the management team behind it. What motivates you to be successful? And what ideas do your employees have to get behind?
Max Weigl: The beginning for our company was the identification of a problem. Ludwig Kleinlehner, one of the partners of Beerjet, operates the Wies’n in Vienna, which is to Austria what the Oktoberfest is to Germany. His problem was that it was impossible to serve perfectly tapped draught beer to 6,000 people a night and be profitable: He would have had to set up 25 beer taps with just as many barmen or make people wait so long for a beer that they gave up. Solving this problem was the starting point for us. Now, two BEERJET-6-Mobile with three staff can pour 10,000 glasses of beer in three to four hours and customers only have to wait between 5 and 8 minutes for their beer. The landlord doesn’t lose any customers and is not dependent on professional bar staff.
Solutions are what drive us onwards. We want to be the best in our field. Max Weigl
Solutions are what drive us onwards. We want to be the best in our field. There is a reason why customers like Do&Co in the Allianz Arena Munich or the management of Borussia Dortmund, FC St. Pauli, Formula 1, Moto GP and many others rely on our solutions. We deal with this subject 24/7. And our employees sense that we have the opportunity to really go places. Beerjet solutions are now in operation in more than 14 countries. Our vision is that in future, wherever there is this kind of need, Beerjet is the first port of call for the solution. When a small company from Weidhofen/Ybbs exports a new technology to the whole world, that is a big thing. That is what motivates us to work even harder.
Interview: Julian Miller