Symvaro — SaaS solutions for water and waste management that really work

Symvaro, from Austria provides urban habitats with modern technology that makes citizen’s everyday life easier. They are developing applications for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets which adapt to the digital age: “smart city apps”. It’s easier for regions, cities, municipalities and their utilities to become smarter — trough simple, easily integrated solutions with high added value for municipal administrations and citizens.

Their flagship product, Waterloo is a simple, yet effective lifetime eater meter management solution.

Rudolf Ball, Symvaro CEO & Founder from Austria walks us through their journey on how to turn everday problems into products that people use and love.

“Can you tell us in one sentence what you guys do?”

We are creating kickass, scalable and user friendly SaaS-solutions for the water and waste sector.

"Why did you and your co-founders (if you have any) decide to build something like you do today? What was your initial inspiration or problem you wished to solve?”

Usually something bothers me in my everyday life and then I try to find the ideal solution for the problem with my team. For example, I once forgot to put out the garbage and had to wait for weeks until the next appointment. As a result we created the “Müll App”, an app which gives you all the information around the waste management in your neighborhood. The same thing happened with our current hit-product WATERLOO and the app WATERLOO 365. After buying my first home, I was confronted with the task of reading out my water consumption but the water meter reading chart just did not seem plausible to me. So, I decided to change something. My team and I then talked to some people working in the water sector and learned that one of the major issues of water providers is the management of their main business engine, which is the water meter. Their tasks get more and more complex due to legal, organisational and cultural changes. On the other hand, water providers have not set up a strong relationship with their customers over the last decades, which is crucial and desperately needed to fix the first problem anyway.

So, with WATERLOO we created an outstanding all-in-one tool for small-to big-sized water utilities.

It's the perfect management-solution for water utilities, helping them to manage the lifetime of water meters, integrate their customers, increase visibility and reduce costs while raising awareness for the valuable resource water.

“What excites you the most about your work, and what is that single moment in your past that you are most proud of?”

As an entrepreneur, founder and CEO at Symvaro, I find the most pleasure in transforming “old-world problems” into state-of-the-art software solutions. This whole process includes several crucial points like growing the idea, forming business models around it and then inspiring my team as well as our partners and customers to grow and act together. That’s how it happened with WATERLOO. Being able to instill all that into an unique niche product and subsequently receiving international recognition for our work by being pronounced “Austrian Startup of the Year 2017” by CESA, is definitely one of the things I am most proud of in my professional career.

“...and fails? We all have them, but what were your most spectacular ones? Of course only the ones you wish to share”

All of our past fails can be traced back to one and only reason - we recognized too late how important it is to integrate the customer in the innovation process from the early beginning. In the past we used to generate innovations from our own ideas.

Then we tried to sell the finished product which turned out to be insanely difficult. That was the case with our “Bürgermeister App”. No one wanted it and we failed spectacularly. It was not until we changed this process and worked with customers as well as joint solutions from the start, won them as pilot customers and only then began to develop the product, that we created a game changing solution - WATERLOO.

“We all know entrepreneurship is a difficult road to take, especially in the world of startups; are there any mantras, hobbies or routines that you use to keep your mind and body healthy?”

What always keeps me motivated are my four children whom I love dearly. They give me the strength to tackle things and create solutions which really have an impact on the world and for which I know they’ll need in the future. In my free time I like to read, listen to podcasts or go skiing to relax my mind.

As for mantras, I believe that life is like an oven: you have to put in wood and fire, and then, after a while, heat will come out. You cannot tell the oven: heat me, and then I will give you wood.

This is how I do business: give a lot, and over-deliver on expectations. With this heat, businesses grow in a rapid and smart way. But the most important thing is this: I give 100% of my passion to everything I do or else I won’t do it at all!

“What do you value most in people? Especially those in your team?”

It is particularly important to me to take time and get to know each of my employees so that I can tease out their biggest talents and find their biggest strengths.

What I value most in my team is their never ending passion and focus on changing the world as well as the willingness to leave the comfort zone in order to grow.

“What do you anticipate the most for technology in the forthcoming 5 years? What are the things that knock your socks off?”

Currently, I am fascinated by smart cities and their utility systems. I am a software man and believe firmly that great software can change the world. With WATERLOO.io, we’re taking a fresh approach to the water business and have plans to make a lot of changes. When thinking about the forthcoming 5 years, I am having some doubts though. I believe that the gap between technological development and people's understanding of it is going to get bigger. Technological development is fast but people seem to be slowing down. A new skillset and mindset is desperately needed. However, examples like Amazon and their Alexa show how fast you can insert technological development if you use a good business model, combine it with a smart product and a good pricing. Suddenly speech recognition is no longer a hot topic but self-evident for millions of people.

“Who are you most excited about in your local startup ecosystem and why?” - this could be startups, coworking offices, accelerators, mentors...basically anyone who you think highly!

A person I really think of highly is Julien Coustaury. For me, he is an incredibly trusted mentor, investor and friend. He helped us to take the right steps from the early beginning of WATERLOO. Therefore, we were not surprised when he was pronounced the “Investor of the Year” for Slovenia in 2017. Julien, along with our mentors Ernst Zejn, Aljosa Domijan, Wilfried Aichinger and Dejan Rolic, really pushes us constantly to step outside our comfort zone and think bigger than we could ever have imagined. What I dislike on the startup scene is partly the superficiality and the distance to the customer. Good mentors like Joulien are the key to making a serious business out of an idea. Take a look at this blogpost to get to know him better.

"In your opinion what are the single best and the single worst things running a startup from Central Europe?”

Nowadays it should be absolutely irrelevant whether you establish your startup in Klagenfurt, Sofia or Paulo Alto because the world is digitized. The world is not that big, flights are cheap, and the mindset of a startup has to be to go international anyway. As a single worst thing running a startup from Central Europe, especially Austria, I would name the high labor costs which are definitely required to attract and maintain a good employee.

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We at CESAwards stand with our hats in our hands each year in front of all the amazing innovation, the incredible stories and brave startupper who strive for more, who are here to build and change the status quo in the CEE region.

In this interview series we introduce our National Winners of 2017.

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