Campus - 20.02.2023 - 10:41 

HSG start-up "MyConcentrAid" increases productivity with online co-working

Two HSG doctoral students have set up the MyConcentrAid platform to bring people together in order to form digital working blocks. While the users work for themselves, they remain interconnected – this social commitment is intended to boost productivity.
Die Gründerinnen des HSG-Startups «MyConcentrAid»: Elisabeth Essbaumer und Caroline Obolensky
The two founders Elisabeth Essbaumer and Caroline Obolensky (from left) want to increase productivity through online co-working with their HSG start-up "MyConcentrAid".

Like so many others, HSG doctoral student Elisabeth Essbaumer suddenly found herself working from home during the first corona lockdown. The now 32-year-old continued to write her doctoral thesis at home, but after a few weeks she had difficulty working in a concentrated way for prolonged periods of time. "As a doctoral student, I basically need a lot of self-discipline. I can largely organise my work schedule myself; at the same time, the submission date is far in the future." Consequently, she arranged to meet colleagues at online working sessions where all of them worked for themselves individually but were interconnected through video calls. "Before the working block, each of us told the others what they wanted to achieve in the normally 50-minute session."

This digital coworking and the concomitant commitment provided Essbaumer with a productivity boost. "This gave rise to the idea that other people who were working from home on their own could also profit from this," says Essbaumer. Therefore she and 34-year-old Caroline Obolensky, likewise doctoral student at the HSG, set up the start-up MyConcentrAid, on whose platform users can arrange to meet for joint working blocks through a calendar.

Coworking with unknown people works perfectly well

At present, users are primarily still "matched up" through jointly available time windows, which leads to situations whereby unacquainted people sit opposite each other. "If you meet up to work with someone unknown, the effect is even stronger. You don’t use any pretexts for why you don’t want to do a disagreeable task right now, as you might do with friends." The phenomenon of social commitment, says Essbaumer, has been scientifically well researched.

The platform has been live since November 2021 and now counts approx. 300 users. "We’re both of us about to conclude our doctoral studies. Afterwards we want to work for our start-up full-time and to grow," says Essbaumer. The plans are for the two to move into an office of St.Gallen’s Startfeld. This innovation network, in which various St.Gallen educational and economic institutions are involved, provides start-ups with office space and coaching, among other things.

MyConcentrAid intends to continue to place one particular focus on researchers at universities. In addition, they are talking to companies which would like to use the platform for employees on WFH days. "There is a huge market in the field of productivity improvement, with various services such as apps and seminars. We think that our platform stands out because it really results in sustainable behavioural changes among users," says Essbaumer.

"The HSG environment inspires people to set up companies"

The two MyConcentrAid founders were able to participate in the HSG Entrepreneurial Talents programme of the Startup@HSG support initiative for a semester. "As an economist, I greatly profited from this start-up support. Before that, I didn’t have much contact with entrepreneurship," says Essbaumer. Also, there are various HSG doctoral students who are starting up companies of their own. "This environment is inspiring."

MyConcentrAid is still in its infancy, but the two founders already have ideas for its further development. "Users often work in similar fields. Therefore they’re also able to discuss professional issues with each other," says Essbaumer. Additionally, the platform can provide users with further tips on boosting their productivity – for example how you make sensible breaks or position big working blocks. "Procrastination is a massive problem in our increasingly digital society," says Essbaumer, adding that MyConcentrAid wants to contribute towards society learning to deal with this challenge.

Photo: The two founders Elisabeth Essbaumer and Caroline Obolensky (from left) want to increase productivity through online co-working with their HSG start-up "MyConcentrAid".

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