Dominik Angerer is a full stack web and backend developer from Linz who cofounded Storyblok, one of Austria’s soon-to-be unicorns. Twenty-eight year-old Angerer is a little bit of a wunderkind himself. While other kids went skiing or played football, he started to code at the tender age of fifteen. After having spent crucial years in London, he recently moved back to Linz, enjoying its laid back vibe, the hospitable café culture and the perfect amount of professional buzz.
Did you always know you wanted to code and do software development?
I went to a technical school and learned how to write software early on. Plus I was a gamer, I still am (laughs). When I was around fifteen I realized I could make quite a bit of money after school by doing web development. I also started to code designs for websites, for stores and so forth. If you’re good at something and are able to make money with it, what’s not to love about it!?
Who encouraged you to go on this early entrepreneurial journey, your family?
No, it was quite the opposite. They told me not to go into the field because it is very risky. But I always felt I had nothing to lose. Writing software was the one thing I was good at, so why not give it a go. I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs, so I suppose they just didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
Did you have mentors back then who encouraged and inspired you?
At this early stage no, I was really by myself. But then I started to work for an agency called Netural, and there were quite a few amazing people there. Peter Lasinger, who became one of my investors. Also Albert Ortig and Stephan Lechner, one of the founders of Netural. Those two definitely functioned as mentors, and they are still silent shareholders of Storyblok today. Plus Franz-Xaver Burner who is now CSO at Bsurance and whom I met in 2018.
Tell me how Storyblok came about.
Alexander Feiglstorfer, my cofounder, and I were working at Netural together. Our customers wanted us to create a new content management solution. With monolithic CMS like Typo 3 or Wordpress you are bound to use a certain coding language. And you depend on going along with any changes that the creators of the CMS decide for. We couldn’t find something that made sense for everyone; for us, the developers and for the page builders, our customers. As we did some research we realized there was nothing out there that offered an alternative to these monolithic CMS types. What we eventually created with Storyblok is a headless CMS that enables developers and marketers to deliver content experiences on any digital platform, one block at a time. We separated the data and the visual components. What we provide our customers with is way easier to integrate. If you already have a team of developers and they are used to working with a certain language like PHP, they can keep working with it. Developers decide which technology they’re good at using. And we provide the content management solution in which they can manage the content, or marketers can manage the content themselves. To give you an analogy: if you have people who can work with a chainsaw and they are supposed to fell a tree, you wouldn’t give them a hammer to work with.
But you were still working for the agency back then?
Yes, we started to build the tool in 2015/2016. Eventually we realized that this was too big of a project, so we decided to spin it out of the agency and found our own business. We launched a website in 2017, and a month later we were profitable. Three months later we had 3,000 users, without having done any advertisement. It all began with trying to find a solution for our own problem and fix it for ourselves. Then we realized that others would want to use the tool as well.
If you’re good at something and are able to make money with it, what’s not to love about it!?
This sounds almost too easy. What did you have to learn on the way?
It’s true that we were lucky with Storyblok, many things came together smoothly. From the get go we had amazing investors, among them Peter Lasinger. They were generous with their advice and told us what to pay attention to and how to avoid certain pitfalls. We learned a lot from other people’s mistakes. I will say though that it took us a while to find the right people to work with. In interviews, people tell you all kinds of fluff and we weren’t experienced to tell the difference. I had to learn not to talk too much about myself in recruitment interviews. Sometimes I would share a really terrible idea with possible employees. If they told me it was a terrible idea and here, this is what I would do instead, I knew I had found the right person. In hindsight, we should have hired way sooner. For a long time it was just Alexander and I running Storyblok, responsible for 25,000 users. We slept four to five hours per night and worked way too many hours. I can’t recommend it. You need some sleep.
What were your reasons to move from London back to Linz?
It was always clear to me that I would return one day. When COVID-19 hit there was no reason to be in London anymore, sitting around in an expensive flat. It was kind of a mental health choice, too. Everything you do in London is about work, every drink in a bar with someone is more of a transactional event. Which is great if you’re looking to do a lot of business, and fast. But if you don’t need the networking buzz all the time it gets nerve-racking.
Tell me what you enjoy about Linz?
In a professional sense, Linz is small enough not to feel overcrowded by now. At the same time there’s a handful of great companies here, like Dynatrace, one of the Austrian success stories. You have accelerators like tech2b, and hubs like Tabakfabrik, an amazing location to work with other people who are willing to share their experience and knowledge. Plus Vienna is not far. Even the coffee shops here are super accommodating, especially Café Central Linz, and don’t mind you working; even taking calls is usually fine. There was no reason for us to consider going elsewhere. I should say that at Storyblok we work fully remote. Our employees, who have virtual share options, work from anywhere in the world. But Alexander and I enjoy Linz very much, even though he is living in Brazil now. I grew up some twenty kilometers from here.
Would you like to share some advice for younger entrepreneurs?
Peter Lasinger gave me some amazing advice that I’m happy to pass on to anyone. Alexander and I were working on five things simultaneously and we were pretty hyped up. One day Peter came up to us and said: “Hey guys, how about you focus on one thing and do that really well? Later on you can add other projects. But for now, focus on the thing you care about the most, the problem that really bugs you.” It sounds so trivial, just to focus. But it’s the most crucial advice I’ve been given, which is why I always pass it on. At some point you get a lot of opportunities. By now I’m a mentor and advisor myself and the founders of the companies I advise all have the same problem: too many opportunities, too many people who want different things from them. They lose sight of what serves them instead of others. Another thing: if you feel like doing something, wait a week before saying yes. Allow yourself some time. It applies to other decision-making as well. If you want to buy something, wait a week. Most desires dissipate, and those that don’t are the ones to go for. You’ll buy 90 percent less stuff you don’t need, guaranteed.
What’s your most used app?
How old were you when you founded Storyblok?
I was twenty-two.
What are your work essentials?
My phone. My whole work life is on this thing.
What’s your greatest skill?
I have a very good memory and can read really, really fast.
What do you do to slack off?
I still enjoy gaming with old friends, playing my guitar, playing the piano or the accordion.
Main Photo by: Antje Wolm