Interview With Matthias Zeitler, Founder at Coworking Camp
Matthias is a location independent entrepreneur. Before entrepreneurship, his career included executive management positions at leading localization companies like STAR, Trados and SDL International. He has helped Fortune 1000 companies like Daimler, John Deere, NetApp and Nikon to master their global web content management and business process automation challenges.
To nurture the nascent startup ecosystem in Salzburg, Austria and to make meaningful connections with other international founders, he is driving the vision behind the annual Coworking Camp event.
Coworking Camp is a temporary coworking space in a 5-star resort for startup founders, entrepreneurs and digital nomads that want to escape the winter and make new meaningful connections to grow their business. And since it's off-season, they get great cashflow-friendly rates.
Who are your ideal clients?: The people that come to Coworking Camp are about one third freelancers, location independent entrepreneurs, and remote workers. We aim to create a broad mix of people with a variety of skills and interests so that everyone can contribute something to the event and find complementary skills for their business.
The structure and pricing of our event work best for early stage participants that are already working on their business but are looking to grow to the next stage. But we also had some people with just ideas and several that have already excited a business successfully.
Is this your first business?: Coworking Camp is more of a hobby than a business for me. It was started a few years ago at Coworking Salzburg, a pretty cool permanent coworking space in the Austrian city of Salzburg when we wondered why startup founders stay in the rainy winter in Salzburg while a lot of retirees escape into the sun. Maybe our elders knew something about life that we didn't :-) So this is why we started to explore the possibility to set up a temporary coworking space in a beach resort for the winter months.
My real business is OpenStrom, where we build an open hardware smart meter that allows to measure and control power circuits over the internet.
What is the biggest reason for your success so far?: The people that join us and the energy that they bring with them to create an amazing experience.
There is a lot of art, science and magic that goes into creating the right structure and finding the right people, but ultimately it is the amazing coworkers that make Coworking Camp such a great environment.
What were the earliest indications that this business could be successful?: When we came up with the idea initially it sounded a little bit crazy and of course I always like my ideas very much. But once we started asking others if they would be interested in joining us for a few weeks in a temporary coworking space, it became clear that this was a pretty good idea. We got a lot of positive press since our first coverage in July 2013 on Venture Beat and I think even a small trend has developed around coworking & travel with a lot of different "camps" now being organized by a lot of different people.
What position did you hire first?: Coworking Camp is run by volunteers that help with various tasks in exchange for free tickets. This covers topics like running workshops, taking photos/videos, helping with marketing, organizing the schedule etc.
What is working best for your marketing right now?: Word of mouth is very powerful for us.
What is your biggest differentiator?: Our focus on coworking/productivity for a 6 week period at a beach resort is a very different experience to shorter, more vacation like trips.
What is the toughest decision you've had to make in the last few months?: When we started getting the first signups in spring 2013 for our fall event in Egypt we ran directly into the 2013 coup early July. Ultimately we had to cancel our Egypt 2013 plans due to safety concerns.
Geopolitical risk is a constant consideration for our events, as we want to do it around the Mediterranean and for cost/climate/location considerations the best countries are Tunisia, Turkey, and Egypt. And the situation is fluent in these countries, so I have to pick the right location based on feedback from previous participants, new attendees, and my own risk assessment. This is kinda hard.
If it was possible, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?: Focus more on what makes you happy.
What is your favorite thing about coworking?: The mix of people that you meet and connections that it creates.
What book are you most likely to give as a gift?: The next book I will give to my friends at Coboat is "Shanties and Sea Songs" which should be great for their next trip.
Favorite place to travel to?: I love to travel to and within SE Asia. Especially enjoy the contrast between highly developed buzzing cities like Hong Kong and the chilled atmosphere in Chiang Mai.
What is the best small business in your neighborhood?: A friend of mine has founded Findologic which focusses on making search within online stores better to increase revenue. I think this is an amazing idea and it is inspiring to see him execute his vision with great success.
Do you have a favorite freelancer you have worked with?: Yes, but I will keep him for myself :-)
What is your favorite app or online tool?: Tinder is great to meet people when traveling alone. Especially in digital nomad hotspots it helps to connect with like-minded people quickly.
What was the best event that you recently attended?: This is hard as I am at so many great events, but The Wolves Summit is one of the best startup conferences I have attended. Their team had put a lot of focus on ensuring that people meet each other during the event which I enjoyed a lot.
How did you finance your business?: The cost structure is set up to break even if there is a shortfall I am in the lucky position to be able to cover it through my other business.
What advice do you have for new founders?: "Work hard, stay humble" - as founders we need to believe in our business and in ourselves very strongly, but often failure comes from being too arrogant. So let's try to listen to other people sometimes, they might offer a perspective that we miss.