“This is the solution, companies are looking for”, Startup Flip – new residents settle in at CODE_n SPACES

06/26/2018  |  Data protection, Entrepreneurship, Interview

Modern life without social media, without ways to communicate electronically with others? Probably inconceivable. And now comes the startup Flip, which has discovered a new niche. Until now, there were very few ways for apprentices or trainees to exchange ideas or chat about things at their company. Founded in Stuttgart in the summer of 2014, the expanding team at Flip is investing every ounce of energy in a big mission, which is to improve communication at German firms that offer apprenticeships, and not just for the apprentices themselves. The idea is to offer companies the top-rate functionalities they know from the most popular privately used social media apps. To do this, Flip wants to provide everything through a platform that has been optimized for internal use in a training environment. We’re delighted that the young team spearheaded by Flip’s co-founders – Giacomo, Benedikt, and Johannes – recently moved into CODE_n SPACES. They’ve been busily working on their digital solution at our Innovation Campus since June 2018. We decided to talk to the co-founder and product designer Giacomo about moving in, pursuing a vision, and life as an entrepreneur.

Lisa: Hello everyone. So you’ve just moved into SPACES – once again, welcome to CODE_n! Maybe you could start by explaining to our community what it is you do at Flip and how your startup fits in with digital transformation… 😊

Giacomo: Thanks for making us feel so welcome here! 😊 We’re delighted to be part of the CODE_n ecosystem now and you won’t believe how excited we feel about the coming months and all the things that lie ahead.

To explain what we do in just a few words, we’re like a WhatsApp for companies – a tool for internal communication. Our aim is to facilitate the kind of quick and uncomplicated conversation you’ll be familiar with in private circles – thanks to apps like WhatsApp, iMessage and co. ­­– and finally offer big German companies a secure and legally compliant option.

At the moment we have a strong focus on apprenticeship departments. This is because we’ve noticed that this is where the biggest gaps are in terms of employees’ expectation and the actual situation in the company. Also, introduction hurdles are lower there.

Apprenticeships are typically offered to young and open-minded trainees, so this is an ideal starting point, a kind of door-opener for bringing about the necessary change in culture, especially in terms of digital transformation across the whole company. It’s in places like this that a modern, up-to-date communication tool like Flip can act as a key driver of digital transformation.

Lisa: You embarked on your venture at Flip in 2014. What did you do before 2014, and has life changed for you since setting up the company?

Giacomo: Before Flip, we were a smaller team that helped local companies upgrade their websites and adapt them to the modern age of mobile devices. It was then that we noticed how much fun we had developing mobile web apps.

Lisa: How did you hit upon the idea behind Flip? And how have things been for the company until now?

Giacomo: Most of us went to university or had a dual education. This involved doing internships or having practical semesters and it was then that we experienced firsthand how stiff and antiquated digital communication feels at lots of big companies – especially if you’re a trainee. At some point we realized that we had the necessary know-how to do something about it. So from then on, we stopped taking on new assignments and worked day and night on a way to solve this problem.

After about a year we successfully pulled Porsche on board as our first major client, which gave us a tremendous shot in the arm. Sometime after that, we had a fully up-and-running app in use at the Porsche apprenticeship department. It was the birth of Flip, and the feedback we got from the users was staggering.

In the meantime, we have a self-financed team and soon there’ll be ten of us, with more to come. Now we’ve got an extremely solid tool in the market, which we’re optimizing continuously and receive great feedback on by our customers.

Lisa: What was your motivation for moving into CODE_n SPACES?

Giacomo: CODE_n offers us the total package. Not only do we have our own contingent of rooms, which we can adapt according to our requirements, but we also have access to things like conference rooms and the kitchens; there’s a reception desk and lots more. This takes a lot of the effort off of our shoulders and it’s a help in focusing on the key priority – our product.

Another thing SPACES offers us is a whole variety of ways to interact with other startups and corporates. We’re always fascinated to see what other people are working on at the moment, and ultimately being able to compare notes with others adds value for both parties.

Lisa: Why do you believe that a company offering apprenticeships needs Flip?

Giacomo: When we ask companies how things are going in terms of the communication with their apprentices, we’ve noticed that there are mostly two major situations – both of them far from ideal.

People are still having problems coordinating apprentices and trainees, either via email or on the phone – for the people who are responsible for looking after the apprentices this can be a major challenge, because lots of the apprentices are really difficult to get hold of. Especially when they’re away from the company during their theoretical phases there’s often no way to communicate with them, and when they come back to the company again there are usually a few surprises waiting for them.

The other case we’ve found is that the apprenticeship departments are getting so desperate about things that they shift internal communication onto a public messaging service like WhatsApp. It works in terms of effective communication, but that comes with a big price tag: People’s private life and work life get mixed up, it contravenes data protection regulations, and the companies start to lose control.

Flip offers the same level of uncomplicated and efficient communication, but adapted to the demands not only of the company offering the apprenticeship program, but also of the works council. And as a German service provider, we meet the very highest German and European data protection requirements. So by using Flip, companies are on the right side of the law.

Lisa: How well has your solution been received by the German market until now? And are you also planning to go international in the long term?

Giacomo: Flip has gone down extremely well. When we meet decision-makers for the first time we often get the feeling this is exactly the solution they’ve been looking for – for a long time. What we also notice is that Flip’s not just extremely useful for big apprenticeship departments in manufacturing, as was the case with Porsche. We also have clients in other sectors of industry, like the medical insurance company mhplus or the pharmacist association Mache, and our software has resulted in whole communities popping up out of the woodwork. Standing there and watching this happen was unbelievably motivating for us and it confirmed that we’re doing the right things.

In Germany, a massive amount of emphasis is placed on data and worker protection. Because Flip was developed by working with German companies and their staff representatives, we adhere to the companies’ requirements to a tee. We can also tell that there’s still strong demand out there. But of course the priorities of companies in other countries are pretty similar, so we’re convinced that Flip will work just as well there, too. Having said that, we don’t currently have any exact plans regarding expansion, especially given the high level of demand already in Germany.

Lisa: So what happens next? What are your plans for the near future?

Giacomo: We’re currently working on the next big version of our product, Flip 2.0. We’re restructuring our entire code base, adjusting our technological course to ensure Flip performs even better for our customers in the future and is even more adaptable. In specific terms, this means we’re moving to progressive web app (PWA) technology. Flip 2.0 will then also work when there’s no internet connection or only a bad connection, it’ll support active directory, and it’ll be possible to completely customize the app to the corporate design of the company – including the app’s icon and name. This will make it extremely easy to also use Flip as a messaging solution across the whole company – for all employees.

Again, we’re collaborating closely on the concept and our development work for the PWA with several big companies in and around Stuttgart. Our aim in the long term for Flip is to offer a smart communication solution that fulfills all the demands of German companies. Decision-makers will be able to create a customized messenger app with their corporate branding in just a few clicks and employees will be delighted by the intuitiveness and performance of the app.

Lisa: Thank you for these amazing insights into your company and where things are going in terms of product development. We’re really pleased that we’ll be able to virtually walk with you as you reach each milestone 😉 and of course we’ll also keep the CODE_n Community up to speed with what’s happening … watch this space!