Behind the scenes

Combeenation: The pioneer of configurators

Author: Elisabeth Sonnleitner

He was always a hands-on tinkerer who was enthusiastic about new technologies and went his very own way. He quickly abandoned the university studies he had started because he realized that more knowledge could be built up in practice. We are talking about Klaus Pilsl, founder of Combeenation. It was in his parents' company that he first confronted the subject of configurators 25 years ago. Since the market did not provide any suitable solutions, he programmed one himself without further ado. It was probably one of the very first German-language configurators and the foundation of today's success story of Combeenation.


When visions come true

When in 2008 the parental business was sold, it was time to refocus. Where should the professional journey go? At a family seminar, a sentence came up that would serve as an answer to this question - a statement that the managing director still remembers today: "If you subtract sleeping time from life, working time is the largest remaining part. If you do something there that doesn't fill you with passion, you've wasted your life." At this point, the IT enthusiast still had an indescribable passion for configurators and with it a great vision: "What if all products could be customized? That was always a given at the tailor or carpenter around the corner. But on the Internet? ... And worldwide? ... And around the clock?"

These central questions motivated him more and more to finally turn his passion into a profession. So, without further ado, a startup was founded, accompanied by a rather romantic idea of founding, an idea that quickly brought the entrepreneur back down to earth. "I almost failed during that time not because of technical know-how, but much more because of team building. It was virtually impossible to find technically qualified employees."
But as the saying goes, good things are close at hand. Shortly before failing, Klaus Pilsl was recommended a colleague in a roundabout way. The absurd thing? He lived just three houses away, on the same street where the current CEO found his home. "That was an eye-opener for me, because the best tools and the best programs can never replace relationships."

Welcome to startup life

Especially these early years, when programming was done exclusively on today's leading technology, were not easy ones. A small basement office in the founder's parents' house, which would have raised quite a few questions under labor law, served as the programming headquarters. "You need a thick skin and plenty of mental stamina to run a startup. That makes the difference between the startups that survive and the ones that don't," Pilsl said. A statement that was tested and proven by the team, although it was often pushed to their limits. Because the development took 5 years instead of the planned 26 months. A circumstance that once again reveals the immense complexity behind the technology.

It was a time that put a heavy financial burden on the company, during which the employees had to be sent on educational leave. But they firmly believed in Combeenation. They did not look for a new job, but continued programming voluntarily in their free time. An incredible achievement, without which the company would not even exist today. Every time it came to a critical point, the team remembered the saying: "Whenever you think you can't go on, you're only at 40% of your capacities".

Combeenation: The pioneer of configurators

Combeenation on course for growth

Mental stamina paid off and rewarded them with their first customers shortly after. It was finally proven that Combeenation's configurators are unique and deliver fantastic results. This demonstration of performance also landed the first investor (the Upper Austrian Hightech-Fond). Therefore, nothing more was in the way of an investment in growth.

However, Combeenation made the big breakthrough with the investment from AVV. In a tough due diligence process, the company was put through its paces. A 14-month phase in which Klaus Pilsl was pushed to the limits. But it paid off and the growth course could be focused even more intensively.


Co-founder Dr. Paul Blazek has made a significant contribution to the company's success. At a very early stage, he was actively involved in shaping the company and the product. He contributed his expertise in the field of individual mass production. In addition to his commitment to Combeenation, he is the founder and CEO of a research-driven digital agency, a university lecturer and innovation researcher. As a founding member of the "International Institute of Mass Customization and Personalization", he is known far beyond the country's borders. Paul is the initiator of countless research projects and scientific papers, including the "Configurator Database" - the world's largest collection of web-based configurators. The passionate entrepreneur and sought-after speaker has been involved in the establishment of countless startups and has thus built up a strong network in the startup scene. 

What is crucial?

When asked what is crucial to Combeenation's success, the answer from Klaus Pilsl is absolutely clear: "It's the team that I can rely on. The most important resource is employees who are fully committed to their work. Finding good people and keeping them with the company for the long term is the be-all and end-all. Social traits are at least as important as professional skills. Because you can't be successful with egoists."

Within the last 1.5 years, the number of employees has doubled and the company continues to grow. Today, Combeenation stands above all for configurators with demanding requirements. As a result, its customers include not only companies from Austria, Germany or Switzerland, but also from overseas. At the end of 2020, Combeenation was also awarded "Mass Customization Innovator of The Year".



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