2016 in review — startup, bots and personal life

2016 was quite a year. In October 2015 I founded my 4th company (oratio) together with my co-founder and friend Bernhard. We launched our MVP in November 2015, hired our first team member Rene and managed to find a few early customers.

Beginning of this year we had no clue that this year was about to become the Year of Bots. We started off as a small team of 3 people and basically a handful of money. During this year, we grew from 3 to 7 team members, organized our own very first conference and grew an average of ~40% month over month (MRR).

As a founder it’s always hard to realize successes and failures since the focus is always on growing the startup. During the last days I sat down and started to reflect what happend in 2016 and decided to share it publicly.

January

🎉 I decided to organize my first own monthly meetup — Vienna Tech Meetup, where makers and developers can showcase their product. During the next 6 months I had great guests, showcases and product demos from e.g. Swelly, Franz, Kiweno, Seedcamp-backed Yodel, Anyline, YCombinator-backed Usergems,… just to name a few.

🎉 I launched the open source project TelegramLogin — OAuth for Telegram Messenger.

February

🎉 We got accepted at Seedcamp, one of the best pre-seed investors in Europe. This was not only a great success for us, but also showed us that we are on the right track with our product.

🏝 I went on holidays to Maldives — one of the most beautiful places I have been to. Later this year it turned out that this was my only work-free vacation in 2016.

March

😢 We applied for YCombinator (again) and got rejected (again).

April

🤖 Facebook opened up their Messenger Bot Platform and people started to get crazy about bots. This was definitely a major milestone to push bots and its ecosystem. A huge opportunity for oratio and many other fellow founders and companies in this space, some of them I know pretty well by now. Love this community ❤

😰 Competition starts to get tough, many sleepless nights ahead to think about positioning, strategy and which direction oratio is heading to.

May

🤖 Together with Jakob I started organizing the local Bots meetup to strengthen the early Viennese Bots community.

💪 We hired our first online marketing manager Kristy, growing our team to 4 people.

June

🤖 Thomas talked me into organizing a Hackathon about bots. Together with his, Jakob’s, Natalie’s and A1’s help we were able to make this event happen within 3 weeks and with more than 70 attendees. Thanks for the support: Alex, Rene (oratio), Andre and Mario (Yodel), Philipp (Swelly) and Barbara (Mica) ❤

🎙 🤖 While attending Fifteen Seconds conference in Graz, I had the chance to spontaneoulsy give a lightning talk about bots at the Forbes lounge. Thanks Thomas & Forbes Austria 🤗

🤖 At Pioneers Festival we managed to organize an adhoc Bots Meetup with cool bots people from around the globe.

😢 UK voted for the Brexit, our plan to incorporate as British LTD bursted. Even more that was a sad sign for the EU.

July

🤖 💪 In the last couple of weeks we had the idea of organizing a conference about chatbots in Vienna. In July we finally decided to move forward with it and fixed the date to be Oct, 14th and hired the best possible event manager for this job: Vilyana

😢 Due to the work with our startup, organizing the local Bots Meetup, BotsHackathon and ChatbotConf, I had to step down as organizer of Vienna Tech Meetup. It was a hard decision because I really loved the community of developers, builders and makers around this meetup.

August

😢 Kristy decided to move back to New Zealand and left our team.

💪 We hired two amazing guys, Ashley who is responsible for online marketing and Piotr, a kick-ass software developer.

September

✈ 💻 I went on a workation to Bali with my girlfriend and two other close friends for almost 4 weeks. Definitely one of the best experiences this year.

✈ 🎙 🤖 During the last days of September I was invited at Voxxed Days in Belgrade to talk about bots. I met lots of amazing people there, it was a blast.

October

🎉 🤖 October 14th was the day of our own very first ChatbotConf. It was definitely the highlight of this year, bringing industry leaders such as Amir (Slack), Mikhail (Facebook), Toby (Microsoft), Beshad (Google), Ido (Viber), Greg (Poncho), Thomas (Lemmings), Peter (Swelly) and many more to Vienna. (We uploaded all talks on Youtube)

🎉 We launched our first bot product: oratio Shop Assistant

😢 Organizing such a conference as a small team while working on a new product release consumes almost all of your time, killing your social life completely.

💪 Viktoriya started as a Sofware development intern after graduating from Lemmings I/O, an incubator focused on AI and bots.

November

💪 Stefan, the genius behind Franz, started helping us with the redesign of our platform.

✈ I went to WebSummit in Lisbon. This was my second time at WebSummit and very likely my last time since I don’t think it was a great benefit business-wise.

✈ 🎙 🤖 I had the chance to speak on a panel on ChatbotSummit in Tel Aviv. Great conference, great people, great community. Thanks Yoav!

December

🎉 We finally incorporated as a GmbH.

😢 The whole incorporation process took us 4 (in words: FOUR) months! — Seriously Austria, you have to get better at this.

🤖 Together with Peter I started a video podcast about bots: BotCast.wtf

☃ As usual I went to my hometown Graz for Christmas holidays to spend time with family & friends. I really enjoy this time of the year, I can completely turn off work for a few days and start reflecting on what happened this year.

My resolutions for 2017

  • Write more personal blogposts — this helps me to reflect my work (business and personal), its outcome and makes it easier for me to realize successes and failures.
  • Help fellow founders wherever I can — As a 4th time founder I still don’t know how to make everything right, but at least I know a lot of things which can go wrong 😉
  • Spent more time with friends — As someone who works a lot, it’s too easy to loose track on work-life balance and social life. I’m hoping to manage this part a bit better this year.
  • Contribute more to the Open Source movement — I use lots of OSS in our startup and in my personal projects.
  • Dig more into AI and Machine Learning

Feel free to reach out to me via Telegram, Facebook or Twitter if you want to connect, have any question or just want to meet for ☕.