Day One in Wien
Breakfast started at 6:30am, and we departed for our first company visit at 8:30am. Our first trip took us closer into the city center of Vienna, and the building itself was incredible. Inside weXelerate, the floors seemed to continue further and further up. As we travelled up the escalators, we saw floor after floor of offices, collaborative spaces and fun game/break spots. The company began with a introduction of the Viennese market and regularly done business. They further continued to explain that the company is essentially a hub for start-ups. They accept about 50-60 companies into their hub each term. When becoming part of the hub, the company is then paired with a more established company. In doing so, the start-up is able to learn and grow and do work with the larger company, while the company is able to outsource different work to the start-up. In addition to this, weXelerate also connects the start-up to the resources they would potentially need. The company also provides space for the start-ups to work; so for the term, which last about 4 months, the start-up is able to work in the building and have a home office.
The company seemed like an incredibly creative space to be working in, as the company does not limit themselves to certain markets, product categories or anything. The company evaluates the different company applicants based on how developed they are and how well their idea will do in the market. This is really cool because it still allows very new start-ups to be accepted into the program if there is a lot of potential for them.
Following this, we went to see Henkel in their Austrian headquarters. They are second to Proctor and Gamble in the global market for household products. They are constantly growing in product markets, and becoming one of the leading environmentally conscious companies. One of the questions we discussed was deciding where to inform the consumers of better/green ways to interact with the product. They determined to target the actual use of the product, and so with their laundry detergent, they have campaigns discussing the different ways you can more efficiently use your washing machine and dryer in conjunction with your detergent to save water and money.
In addition to hearing from some of the top people in the company, we also had the incredible opportunity to tour the manufacturing facilities for some of their products. Being a business student and going through financial, operations and supply chain classes in addition to my major specific classes was a great way to preface this trip. As we were watching the product line and the process of it being created, it was an amazing way to be able to connect the terms and situational lessons from lectures to real-life. As we watched the product move through production, we were able to identify potential areas for bottle-necking, and it was wild to see how the company had already prevented a bottle neck. In certain areas where product would potentially gather and have to wait on the after step, the conveyor belt slowed down to give the machine the appropriate time it needed to keep the process moving smoothly. It was so cool to see our lessons and lectures come to life in a real and very successful company.
After our company tours, we were able to go on a city tour of Vienna. It was partially on the bus and partially walking, but as a whole—completely amazing. In Vienna, the stunning architecture of the past is complemented by sleek and modern buildings. The roads are stone and brick and the buildings are all varying heights and give the most amazing views. The pictures truly do not do this city justice.
Our tour ended in the city center of Vienna. The temperature was quickly dropping, and the surrounding building shielded much of the sun, making it even chillier. As the group split up, my roommate and I wandered through the shops trying to find a reasonably priced meals and jackets to buy. Unfortunately, we were in the absolute most expensive part of Vienna, so it full of tourists and all of the food was outrageously priced. The clothes were also much more than the 20 euros we were willing to spend on a quick jacket. As we went alley by alley in the city, we found an outdoor patio with yummy smells coming from inside. The host saw we were chilly and he said we could sit inside, so we ran in with a menu and shared a plate. It was a wonderful sample platter of zucchini, feta rolled and fried, and then a few other pieces we had no idea what they were, but also enjoyed nonetheless. After we ate, the owner or manager that had been serving us brought out two “finishing” drinks. We looked back on the menu and it looked like a hot tea with liquor mixed in. We stirred the sugar into the cups and let the drinks cool. Once they were just warm enough, we found the drinks to be delicious. As we were finishing the drinks, he came back with two more for us. It was so kind, and he was so fun. He had kindly explained the menu to us, and walked us through what we ate. When we finished the second round of drinks, we began walking out the door, passing the bakery, and I spotted two trays of baklava. I was immediately excited and he saw me seeing it. He walked back over and told the server behind the counter to get us both a piece of baklava. His kindness was so unexpected, but also so aligned with the kindness I have received from everyone I had met so far on this adventure.
We left the restaurant full and content and ready to call it an early night as our jet lag was finally catching up to us. We found the subway we needed, and got off at our stop. We were slightly unsure of which exit to go to, but we knew we had to get to the main belt of Vienna. When we surfaced on the street level of the city, we looked for familiar buildings and triumphal found our way home to the hotel. To say we were proud of our navigation skills in Vienna, Austria would be a massive understatement. Every victory counts, right?