The Importance of Community
igital Mile is a business community for the technology companies in Linz focused on improving the lives of workers and boosting employment through collaboration and events. With nine core members and over 120 participating companies of all sizes, Digital Mile has built a living community open to anyone working or looking for work in the field of technology.
Digital Mile (short: DiMi) Linz is a unique organization, summarized in a mile of concentrated digital power and a strong community. Projects that affect everyone are implemented together with neither a trace of envy nor competitiveness. Like many other European countries, IT companies in Upper Austria were having a hard time finding enough qualified employees. This situation encouraged local business owner Georg Spiesberger to say “whatever we work on unites us more than divides us.” He thought that if the community could work together to offer incentives and cover needs, they would not only attract new workers, they could also create conditions to retain their employees.
The Digital Mile Linz comprises nine core companies. “There are 110 other companies with value-added digital potential on this mile, employing approximately 3,500 people on this site; a conglomeration of innovative companies have settled here, young companies with drive and ready for immediate implementation.” explains George. The mission behind Digital Mile is based on the concept that “people are the most important resource.” As Georg describes it, “The Digital Mile is a community that functions as a door opener. We are not an association, we are not an institution, which means we are absolutely free and independent. No matter what emerges from our community, it is not meant to belong to only one person, but to serve the general public. It is to make sense and to be meaningful. The aim of DiMi is to increase Upper Austria‘s attractiveness as a business location. In all DiMi activities and measures, the sense of community and the active involvement of all participants are in the foreground.”
Teams need to have a common mindset. Companies that are actually competing for the best brains have worked together for the sake of the community. This success was the starting signal. The community provides the setting and the offers. Small IT companies also benefit from this, for example concerning further training.
A small startup has highly qualified people ambitious to develop further, but no resources for such training of staff. As Georg puts it: “Together we have developed a training program and the feedback has been sensational. In short, a startup that is part of DiMi can proudly say, ‘I offer my staff a variety of sports, childcare, leadership development’, all these things it would not be able to provide on its own.
We’ve built a living community through our personal development, education, childcare and sports programs, but there is always a social aspect in everything we do.
That is undoubtedly a different level of quality.”For example, one of the most successful programs Georg highlights is the Digital Mile summer camp. “Young people between the ages of ten and fifteen are offered a really cool technology program by HTL Leonding and Grand Garage. In total we are offering seven courses on the summer program for a total of 180 children. They make friends, which in turn is passed on to their parents and further inspires the community.”
This is also the case with their joint annual event. “Initially, we had planned our own, but then we decided to cooperate with Linz AG’s Bubbledays. Why? To draw attention to Digital Mile Linz on a broad scale and to enable all employees to take part in a great festival”. There is for example a dedicated MS DIGITAL MILE ship and its bar is run by DiMi employees. The proceeds from donations go to social institutions. All voluntary activities and measures taken are carried out according to the motto “Digital Smile” in order to make a positive impact on many other lives. Georg explains that, “With Digital Mile Linz, we are succeeding in jointly creating attractive framework conditions for employees at the Linz location, which makes more sense than competing with each other. Recruiting in a new way means retaining employees, and in doing so you have to offer something more than others do or are able to do.”
Through collaboration, Digital Mile is bringing companies together to help each other and improve the business community and the lives of their employees. From his own experience as a tech business owner, Georg says that the business community in Upper Austria is a world leader in collaboration, and through initiatives like Digital Mile they are demonstrating that whenever a community wins, everyone benefits as well.
Most important tips for startups:
- Community is necessary for good and reliable information. For example, founders that are applying and pitching for funding for the very first time would be well advised to talk to other startups that have been successful, and to find out what they can learn about the funding sources they are applying to.
- People are the most important resource. That means it is important not only to keep your employees motivated and happy, but also to invest in them as individuals through personal development and education, and to make sure that their lives become easier by assisting with social benefits such as childcare or further professional training.
- Collaboration is better than competition. Whatever industry you are in, you probably have “more in common with your competitors than aspects that divide you.” All companies face many of the same challenges, such as finding talents or navigating regulations, and collaborating helps everyone to achieve a win-win situation.
Main Photo by: Antje Wolm