US First, DACH Next: Austria’s Usersnap on Tackling Bugs & Territories

We can all learn a thing or two from Austrian SaaS company Usersnap. With a US client list that already includes tech giants like Facebook and Google, this company providing a visual bug tracking tool for web projects has taken a rather unconventional approach to growth when compared to other young European tech startups. It launched in 2013 with a clear mission for profitability, and has since maintained its sole office in Vienna, grown its user base abroad, and worked entirely with an English product.

Now, the Usersnap team is bringing things back locally, focusing efforts on creating a product for the German and Austrian markets. Silicon Allee sat down with Marketing Managers Rebecca Vogels and Thomas Peham and CEO Florian Dorfbauer, who spoke about launching abroad in the digital age, the difference between Vienna and Berlin tech scenes, and why increasing numbers of European startups are developing in Europe with sales teams in the US.

Can you first give us a rundown on how Usersnap works?

Rebecca: Usersnap is a visual bug tracking and feedback tool for web developers. What that means is, if you’re working on a web project, you can easily communicate with screenshots, annotate in your browser, and send [visual information] to your colleagues instead of sending lengthy emails explaining problems verbally. Usersnap is used both for web development projects and for customer care.

Let’s say a customer is trying to book a flight and they’re having a problem with the booking process, they can send a screenshot of what went wrong instead of completely describing the screen. This is used, for example, by Hawaiian Airlines.

So your client base ranges quite a bit.

Rebecca: It’s really all over the place. There are big companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google — but there are also non-profit organizations, like New York University, Columbia University, and New Zealand State Library. Usersnap is very helpful if you have a digital product.

What has been your strategy for gaining traction in your home market and in the US so far?

Rebecca: We’re not so much differentiating between the Austrian and German markets. Usersnap was founded in 2013, and the customer base was up to this year almost 90% from English-speaking countries. Mainly the US and Canada. The idea now is to launch in the German-speaking market as a whole.

So up until this point, you were not focusing on your home country of Austria.

Rebecca: No. We didn’t have a German website or German Twitter channel. We set up all of this at the beginning of the year as part of our German launch.

Thomas: As Rebecca said, we’re an English-speaking company and product. We do have some customers in Austria due to some local activities in the Austrian startup scene. From a market/product perspective, we were not focused on our home country at all.

What was behind your decision to begin in the US?

Rebecca: It just made sense at the time, and also because we have lots of integration partners there — Slack, Asana, Trello, etc. — and so everything there was set up in English. It made sense to offer a bug tracking solution in English. Also, the English market is just bigger.

Would you encourage more startups to make this same move?

Rebecca: It depends totally on your product. It’s very hard to say. You might have the advantage that the market in the US is bigger, but they may not need your product in the same way. It’s easier to start out locally if you can. But in our digital age it’s also not impossible to launch in another country where you don’t have an physical office.

Thomas: I agree with Rebecca. For us, the US was a great test and starting market, as it enabled us to get first user feedback from our target group of developers and designers. People are more open-minded about giving us feedback, compared to those in Germany, Austria, or other European countries. We could easily get in touch with our target group.

You’re now in Berlin for several weeks. What are you hoping to accomplish while here?

Rebecca: We’re attending some conferences and meetups mainly. We’re trying to meet people from the startup scene here — journalists, potential partners, investors.

What’s your favorite thing about Berlin so far?

Rebecca: I was talking to Thomas about this yesterday. You at least have the impression that things are happening faster here, there’s more energy here. There are people who can connect you to other people. It’s just a bigger startup ecosystem than the one in Vienna.

There are more possibilities for things to happen in that network.

Do you see signs of things picking up in Vienna as well?

Rebecca: In the last years, the startup scene in Vienna really developed. But it’s still pretty small. You know everyone very quickly.

Thomas: Because of its size, Berlin simply has more tech and startup people than Vienna. If you’re new in Vienna, after about one month you’ll have a pretty clear overview of who’s who. Berlin is looser, it’s bigger, it’s not as connected as Vienna which might be a drawback or an advantage. I mainly see it as an advantage.

What would you like to see more of in the European tech landscape?

Thomas: The good thing about Europe is that there’s a good social system. In most countries, you’re backed by the government in terms of how easily you can get money, for example. The drawback would be that it’s still evolving from a community perspective. I don’t think it’s easier or harder in Europe to hire people. I think it’s mainly a culture thing. Still, some European countries are way more conservative than the US.

Florian: The environment sets your state of mind. There’s an openness for entrepreneurship in the United States that you cannot find in Europe anywhere. That’s a good thing. But in Europe, people are generally cheaper to hire than in the United States. Combining those systems together — like developing here and having sales teams in the US — is something a lot of companies in Europe are doing right now.