First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Toni Wagner: The discovery of the coronavirus and the spread of Covid-19 has led the government here in Germany to take drastic measures. Right now, we’re in the second lockdown, which will last until the end of November, and large parts of our society aren’t operating anymore. Throughout it, all, my girlfriend and I are trying our best to stay positive and make the most out of everything.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded vAudience.
Toni Wagner: I’m from Würzburg, Germany, and have lived here most of my life. I completed my Ph.D. degree in Biology at the University of Würzburg, and I founded vAudience in January 2016 with the goal of connecting fans all over the world. The idea came to me while watching the 2014 World Cup game Brazil vs. Germany. I was alone while watching Germany win since I was on vacation with my girlfriend. I was, of course, happy to be with her, but it wasn’t the same as being back home, watching the game with other fans. I decided that I wanted to create an environment where sports fans never had to feel like they are watching alone. I wanted them to feel like part of the match, right in the stadium. Now, our company vision has shifted our focus onto B2B. Still, we continue to provide companies with technology that helps them take their live streaming to the next level, and thus enhancing the experience viewers have.
How does vAudience innovate?
Toni Wagner: At vAudience, we are constantly growing and changing. We started in 2016 with a small handful of people and one common vision. Now, in 2020, that vision hasn’t changed, but our methods have. In order to stay ahead in this branch, we constantly need to come up with new ideas and features that will differ us from others. We make sure that every product we create fits 100 percent of the needs of our customers.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Toni Wagner: The pandemic was a setback for us at first. Many things were uncertain, causing a rollercoaster of emotion. Otherwise, it sounds like a typical day at a startup, right? Still, companies are more held back when it comes to making business decisions. But throughout the chaos and uncertainty, we managed to come out on top. In the last seven months, we have hired more than 10 new employees and continue to grow. Our revenue has increased, and we managed to win many new clients. Since live events aren’t taking place anymore, artists, musicians, and sports teams are looking for new ways to stay connected with their audience. With our technology, we enable this connection and help our customers adapt to the new situation.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Toni Wagner: I would presume that almost every company had to make difficult decisions during these times. Sending and planning employees for short-time work wasn’t fun for both sides, but in the end, I think we have made the best of it. We learned that trust in the company, the CEO, and each employee is the basis for a successful business.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Toni Wagner: Well, I guess I try to identify the source of the problem that is causing me stress, but most of the time, I end up working more (laughs).
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Toni Wagner: Our main competitors are, of course, businesses that provide platforms and widgets for virtual events or streamings. The short answer: Hard work and innovation. Constant innovation ensures that we are one step ahead of our competitors. We aren’t the biggest company in the market with most clients – yet. There are times when we also have to work on the weekends or late at night to meet an important deadline. But we do this gladly with the thought in mind that it will take us one step closer to reaching our goals. You don’t become a multi-billion dollar company overnight.
Your final thoughts?
Toni Wagner: The covid-19 crisis has impacted businesses differently, but we’re all in this boat together. Let’s just hope that 2021 will be better.
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