MCiT alumni Dominik Strobl, together with Jonathan Dornfeld, fulfilled his wish of self-employment about four years ago by founding the STROFELD Manufaktur. Since 2016 they have been building high-quality loudspeakers in a small workshop in Die Bäckerei in Innsbruck. Each one is unique and tells a story, because the basis of each loudspeaker is always a historical suitcase. In this interview Dominik gives us an insight into his path from MCiT Bachelor student to successful startup founder and tells us how his studies helped him prepare for this important career step.
Where does your passion for loudspeakers, sound and music come from?
We have both been passionate about music since childhood. Jonathan soldered his first amplifier at the age of thirteen. I, on the other hand, spent a lot of time in front of the computer and was passionate about creating Excel spreadsheets. However, when I first worked with Jonathan in the workshop and created a finished product afterwards, it gave me an enormous endorphin rush. Music is a strong driver of emotions. It makes me extremely happy when people enjoy their music by using one of our products.
You completed your Bachelor's degree in 2015. How did studying MCiT prepare you for founding a startup?
The MCiT program prepared me very well. I learned how to create and present a good business plan. This is especially important when applying for grants or to investors. The decision whether STROFELD remains just a hobby or we concentrate 100% on the business idea was based on our success at the MCI Creativity Award. Here we had the opportunity to present our idea to experts. They recognized the potential of our concept and were thrilled that we could already show a finished prototype. We also used events like this and MCI in general to build up a network.
How long did it take from the initial idea of self-employment to the actual founding of the startup?
It took about one and a half years from the first product to founding the STROFELD Manufaktur. In the beginning we built the loudspeakers purely out of self-interest. However, we were asked more and more often whether our loudspeakers were for sale. Once we had our degrees in our pockets, we applied to STARTUP.TIROL for a grant and received it.
Was it difficult to get the startup funding?
Surprisingly, it wasn't that difficult at all. But finding the right funding was challenging. With STARTUP.TIROL we found the right one. The team was very motivating and helped us with questions such as how to calculate costs sensibly and to find out who our customers actually are.
What were the biggest challenges on your way to independence?
First of all, to gather and structure the knowledge we had learned and new knowledge about founding and managing a company. That's why I spent a lot of time in libraries even after completing my Management, Communication & IT studies. But a lot of it was trial and error. In the beginning it is difficult to cover fixed costs, such as the rent for the workshop and offices. This is where the funding we received helped a lot.
We are currently living in unusual and unpredictable times. How have you experienced the last months marked by the coronavirus?
We are definitely among the corona winners. Of course, we were feeling a bit down in the first weeks of the lockdown. As soon as we realized that STROFELD can survive, we used the time to rethink our strategy.
Finally, do you have advice for our MCiT students who are now thinking about founding a startup?
Take advantage of all the offers that are available to you at MCI and in Tyrol in general. Take a look at the events that take place regularly and network with people who also want to make a difference. Such a network is extremely motivating. I also recommend reading the literature recommended by your lecturers. It really makes a difference!
Thank you for the exciting insights into the STROFELD Manufaktur, Dominik!
Fostering Entrepreneurship at MCiT
In addition to its extensive network, the Management, Communication & IT Department offers courses in both Bachelor's and Master's programs to promote the entrepreneurial activities of its students. These include courses focusing on entrepreneurship and strategic management as well as participation in events such as the Innovation Days or the Creativity Award.