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Startup Spotlight: Interview With Tobias Strebitzer, CTO of MagLoft

Startup Spotlight: Interview With Tobias Strebitzer, CTO of MagLoft

quote-tobyPlease, introduce yourself. When did you move to Bali, where do you live, etc…?

My Name is Tobias Strebitzer, Cofounder and CTO of the Bali startup MagLoft Digital Publishing Solutions.
I wrote my first ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Software at the age of 6 years in Basic, keeping track of allowances that my family members owed me. Back then I discovered the strong synergy between business and software engineering. Continuously improving and expanding my knowledge in both fields made me speak 15 programming languages fluently. My studies in Business and Management helped me master my entrepreneurial and business skills not only theoretically, but also practically, while working as a CTO in a renowned Austrian software agency, leading a team of 8+ developers.

After university I started to work in startups around the world (Europe, USA / Silicon Valley, Asia) to approach a changing global market of rapidly growing technology businesses.

Besides pursuing challenging business opportunities, I regularly teach classes at university about web-design and usability.

Today I’m living in the south-eastern part of Bali in Batu Bulan (Moonstone). We have a co-working & co-living space here called Liv.it, full with tech-entrepreneurs from around the world. This setting is not only inspiring and educational, but also offers this ‘good kind of challenge’ where your efforts seem to be amplified by the great minds around you. I haven’t regretted my choice of relocating here. The culture here is inspiring, and working in – as a call it – Bali-Mode keeps me going for 12+ hours of work / day, while still feeling comfortable and relaxed.

BUSINESS CREATION

When, how and why did you found your company and what made you decide to jump in and create the business?

When I first came to Bali three years ago, I was doing an Experiment together with my former co-founder, on how an idyllic and harmonic environment affects my performance, efficiency and work-life balance.

Here I’ve met my co-founder Nick Martin, who had the great business Idea of allowing everybody to become a mobile publisher. While he’s a genius at marketing and business development, he needed someone to deliver the technical side, and that’s how I came in.

Did you get any funding arrangements?

We’re flirting with investors from day one, although we were not actively fundraising for a long time. We wanted to build up some metrics first, and It took us a good while until we had the numbers to back up a reasonable investment ask. Today we are talking with some selected angel investors and advisers that are deeply involved in the industry, and are planning on taking in investment for Q3 2016, where we expand our business towards a blog-to-app vertical.

What is the size of your team today, name of founders, management roles and key personnel?

The MagLoft Team


Today we’re a team of 5, but we have new talent joining us in April. The founders are me and Nicholas John Martin, which makes us a classic Marketing / Technology combo. While we tend to manage our territories well, we’re somewhat filling the gaps (financial, laws, HR, etc…) deliberately when they come up. There’s no point in hiding it, we’re a start-up still.

We have backup from our amazing customer support and marketing angel Andina, and Hendra and Yana in our tech-department.

FACING THE MARKET

What is wrong with your specific industry that requires a startup like yours to help it out ?
Today still, pricing for digital publishing is incredibly painful, but also what I’d call crude: A print magazine gets pushed onto a newsstand- app, where millions of readers pinch-to-zoom to uncomfortably read static and boring print PDF’s. We all learned over the past years how immersive and interactive real mobile applications can be, but the publishing industry wasn’t willing – or able – to adopt. This is where MagLoft is on a mission of allowing publishers to create real reading experiences that are responsive (enjoyable on all device sizes), interactive (video, virtual reality, animations, …) and haptic (designed for mobile instead of designed for print).

What is the estimation of the market size?
PwC is following the trends of the Publishing Industry moving towards digital thoroughly, but instead of spilling out boring numbers, all you need to know is that the print publishing industry will convert to digital over time. The rate at which this was happening started out slowly in the past decade, but today we’re seeing exponential conversion year-to-year.

Who are your competitors?
We’re competing – among others – with Adobe (Digital Publishing Suite), Magzter, Issuu and MagPlus. To be honest, these companies are doing a good job, and are pushing our limits further and further. While some of them are sheer un-affordable for the long tail of publishers (talking multiple dozens of thousands of dollars / year), others will lock you in in an abusive business model that will take 50% of your revenue for the lifetime of your app. But our competitive edge definitely lies in responsive and interactive magazine creation, which I’d say we’re unmatched to this date.

What is your revenue model and strategy for profitability?
We’re charging $99 / month from our clients. This pricing allowed some of our clients to reduce their publishing cost ten-fold, while still having the features and functionality they need, as well as – their own words – better customer support.

What are the biggest challenges you faced/are facing now?
Recruiting, hiring and getting more people. We have totally missed the time window here, and are now struggling to keep up with our expansion plans and new opportunities. That’s one of the downsides of having a lean mindset, and I can only encourage anyone reading this to plan hiring early.

STARTUPING IN BALI

Describe your Bali startup in three words.
Affordable Digital Publishing

Why did you chose Bali to start your business?
I’ve worked in Silicon Valley before, and even though there’s a lot of positive factors that help you spin out a company, culture is – to say the least – questionable. Think of it as a shark tank filled with young entrepreneurs fighting for survival, thus exploiting all opportunities – despite their negative impact – to stay in line of the investors queue. Every day is full of scrappy, short-sighted decisions that should buzz your startup and get you to the next level, but in the end at the price of real sustainability and responsible growth.

Bali was different. I felt that culture and environment here are good factors to grow a business. We’re running incredibly lean (maybe too lean sometimes) but that allowed us to shape our organization with diligent thought and without external influence: It was a creative canvas for us to draw what we believe a sustainable business should look like, and the real reason to form MagLoft.

What are for you the great advantages of working in Bali ?
Ricefields, Nature, Beaches, Digital Nomads, the Surf, need I say more?

MARKETING TRICKS

What are your favorite media channels and why ?
Social Media, specifically Instagram. The reason is that magazines are visual, and Instagram is the perfect platform to share inspiring graphics. Email / Newsletter: We had great success announcing new product features, discounts and promotions. Email is still a very personal medium, and very good to target your audience more specifically.

What is your strategy for raising awareness and customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
Obviously, there’s Advertising. Besides that, we’ve had great success so far partnering with other startups. For example, we’ll exhibit at Tech in Asia in April, together with our beloved office-sharing company MailBird. Ultimately, testimonials and case studies of our existing customers are probably the most authentic and convincing argument.

What are the 3 main growth hacks that worked for you?
This is – for now – disclosed information, that will cost you a beer in one of the nights.

INTO THE FUTURE

Where do you see the company in three year time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
The most immediate and hardest challenge is empowering our customers to market and monetize their apps. In the end, a magazine needs to – besides all features and design – provide good content. We’re not strong in this area, at least we haven’t leveraged the full potential to amplify our clients success in marketing and monetizing their business model. It’s a B2B model, and if our clients don’t make money, they won’t continue to pay us. We are thoroughly advising and collaborating with agencies and third party providers to ultimately help our clients succeed in their ambitions, but there’s still a long way to go.

Which company would be the best fit to buy your Bali startup ?
Yahoo! … they could use some good acquisitions after recent events.

What do you need most right now? How can the Bali Startupers community help?
Of course we’re always looking for customers, but more than that we’re looking for feedback and means to improve our product, our business model and our network. We’re happy to start a conversation with anyone in the publishing or mobile industry. Then of course there’s the quest for talent. We’re looking for senior iOS, Android and Web developers, and are grateful for any recommendations or referrals.

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