© flissade GmbH

flissade: Flexible Living Space turns Utopia into Reality

The Munich startup flissade has created flexible space that is living space and balcony all in one. With their patented concept, the founding team of architects Lisbeth Fischbacher and Daniel Hoheneder want to offer more flexibility, living space and quality for sustainable cities. We visited the founders in their office in Munich’s Maxvorstadt.

It certainly is a great idea considering the weather in this part of the world: You want to be able to enjoy the year’s first rays of sun with a coffee on the balcony. But as soon as you’ve made yourself comfortable, the clouds start to gather. The weather turns. Now do you have to take everything back inside? What a hassle!

flissade plans to make that kind of situation obsolete. Sliding glass doors glide easily over a track system from the inside to outside – in a matter of seconds, your balcony can be turned into part of your living room. Or a restaurant patio can be turned into a kind of sunroom. Or a flashy Porsche on display outside at a car dealership can be turned into a Porsche displayed in a flissade glass case. Or a separate conference room can be created instantly in the middle of an open plan office. The list goes on, and it quickly becomes clear during our interview: The architect team has a list of uses that is virtually endless.

Living room, balcony or office space – flissade is a quick-change artist
Living room, balcony or office space – flissade is a quick-change artist ©Tanja Huber/Tanja Huber Fotografie und Film

Flexible space to adapt to your needs

With their idea for creating flexible space, the founding team has certainly chosen an exciting market in light of growing urbanization. It responds to the questions: How is society developing, and what is required of future-oriented housing, living and work? How will we be living in cities in the near or distant future? With their idea, the founders might have come up with the solution for the continuously increasing demand for living space. For their concept, the startup was already presented with the “Bavarian Founders Award 2017”, and the company also received the Munich Founders Award last year.

Their first steps and a patent

What sounds simple is the result of several years of development. The two founders had joined forces for a study project at the Technical University of Munich. The aim of the project was to develop a solution for the energy-oriented refurbishment of buildings. It was after their architecture professor commented on how completely novel their concept was that the idea was born: Let’s actually do this!

It all went quickly from there. The first step was patent research. As soon as it became clear that the concept was indeed brand new, the two innovative architects applied for a patent and founded flissade GmbH in 2013. The founders learned the necessary know-how at UnternehmerTUM. Their first steps were facilitated by an EXIST grant followed by support from the Bavarian Flügge program.

Startup and SMEs – a diverse bunch of partners

You often hear that successful founding teams are interdisciplinary. That is not the case at flissade. So how do the founders feel about that? In retrospect, both commented, it would have certainly been helpful to have had someone with business and sales expertise on the team. But Daniel Hoheneder also added:

“You can’t just custom-make your co-founders.”

In the end, commented Lisbeth, they simply used different means to gain the necessary knowledge: They openly shared their idea, frequently went to trade fairs, gathered plenty of customer feedback and got partners involved in the advanced development of the product.

Founders Lisbeth Fischbacher and Daniel Hoheneder in front of their office
Founders Lisbeth Fischbacher and Daniel Hoheneder in front of their office ©Tanja Huber/Tanja Huber Fotografie und Film

Founder Lisbeth Fischbacher elaborated:

“You could say we have extended workbenches and everything converges here with us.”

A lot of people talk about it, but flissade actually did it: The founders continued to develop their product together with SME cooperation partners, and it is now ready for marketing. It was important to the two architects to bring in the necessary expertise from other areas.

Pilot project with Stadtwerke München

The founders installed the first flissade in the company office in Munich’s Maxvorstadt. It is a showpiece, joint office and outdoor conference room all in one. The first official pilot project is planned for May in the form of newly built company apartments for Stadtwerke München (SWM). A flissade will be installed on the top floor of the new building located near Munich’s aquatics venue Dantebad.

“SWM is an important pilot customer for us, because they are a rock-solid, large company that is extremely active in the real estate industry with highly interesting areas in the city center. We are very pleased that SWM has put their confidence in us,”

said Daniel.

“SWM also views itself as a pilot customer. They are really excited to see how the whole process develops! It makes for an excellent situation for both parties,”

added Lisbeth.

Bootstrapping and cross-financing for smaller projects

Landing the first reference project, however, was not easy. Especially in the field of real estate, young companies often struggle with long project runtimes. After all, you have to keep your head above water in the interim. The flissade founders were lucky — in addition to working on the important development of the startup, they had just enough time to cross-finance using their knowledge of architecture.

Now 2018 will be a year of radical change for flissade as they transition from developer mode into taking off with their SWM pilot project. They also intend to proceed with additional projects in an advanced stage of acquisition — ranging from single-family homes to a multi-story building with 400 units. To pack an even bigger punch, the founders are planning to hire staff for sales and marketing.

Daniel explained:

“We have to grow to successfully establish ourselves in the market. In the last few years, we really focused on the process behind the product: How will we build in the future, and what does Industry 4.0 mean for construction?”

He also added:

“That resulted in us developing an innovative process as to how we — not being manufacturers ourselves — can collaborate with others. It needs to run smoothly using a digital supply chain throughout implementation. And that means we need good people for IT and engineering.”

The startup cannot and will not accept simply being pigeonholed as architects. They are active in the realms of construction, Industry 4.0 and smart city all at the same time.

Industry 4.0 in construction for smart urban development

© flissade GmbH

The startup plans to scale quickly with help from a smart process planning tool behind the actual product. The tool makes it possible for any architect to generate a flissade with the most varied dimensions right in their own 3D planning software.

Founder Daniel elaborated:

“We think it is a very important building block for future planning and modernization processes. Construction is always a good 20 years behind mechanical engineering. In construction right now, there is an increase in the creation of digital images that include everything associated with building technology, bearing structure, equipment, etc.

To be a part of that kind of planning process, we developed a planning tool that can be fully configured. And we are going to take it much further.”

At the moment, there is a major divide between what happens on the planning side and what is actually implemented. The new tool, however, can do exactly what an architect wants: actually implement the concept right then and there. The tool will also help the founders tap into the market. In what way? Take Munich as an example, where private customers in particular are interested in adding value to their homes by installing a flissade. In such a case, a private customer can simply enlist the help of their own architect, who can then easily integrate a flissade using the planning tool.

Making residential utopia a reality

In addition to Munich, European metropolitan areas are also an interesting market for the founding team, especially major Scandinavian cities. The cities that actively promote urban development are also where you find sustainable construction. And that is where you are more likely to discover new concepts and residential utopias, which is exactly where the founders see themselves with their living space concept.

But will the founders be able to assert and prove themselves and their flissade concept in the future? After all, their Proof of Market is still outstanding. Yet by installing their pilot project with SWM, they have already taken a major step. And the many project requests currently coming in for the founders show: Their development should continue to be quite exciting.