Markus Holzer

CEO of contextflow

Markus Holzer is an energetic CEO whose dedication to transparency and individual fulfillment makes him well-respected by the entire contextflow family. Born and raised in Vienna, he is passionate about the well-being of his city and its diverse population. Markus completed Bachelors and Masters degrees in Computer Science from the Technical University of Vienna (TU). Alongside studying, he worked as a Software Engineer at x-pin GmbH developing a biometric face detection system and as a Research Associate at the Medical University of Vienna. He became heavily involved in the EU research project Khresmoi during his time at the Computational Imaging Research Lab from 2010-2014, working in the areas of software development, data collection, framework management and user tests. The project’s goal was to develop a multi-modal search and detect system for medical images. Upon completion of Khresmoi, he and co-founders René Donner, Georg Langs and Allan Hanbury decided to commercialize the technology, and thus, contextflow was born. Towards that aim, Markus completed the Diploma Supplement on Innovation & Entrepreneurship from the Innovation Incubation Center (i²c) at TU. He further honed his leadership skills as part of the Innovation into Business (INiTS) incubator, the Health Hub Vienna accelerator, and the Philips HealthWorks accelerator. He now serves as a mentor to new medtech startups. A former table tennis and video game champion, Markus loves nothing more than spreadsheets and google shortcuts.

Where did the idea for contextflow come from?

contextflow is a spin-off from the Medical University of Vienna and European research project Khresmoi, whose goal was to develop a multilingual, multimodal search and access system for biomedical information and documents. This included effectively automating the information extraction process, developing adaptive user interfaces and linking both unstructured and semi-structured text information to images. Essentially, we wanted to make the information retrieval process for medical professionals reliable, fast, accurate and understandable. After receiving positive feedback from radiologists, we decided to continue the work as a company, and contextflow was formed.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Typical is relative to what our roadmap priorities are, but I wake up by 6:30 for my morning meditation and quick workout routine before logging in around 7:45-8. I try to strategically block off time in the morning to complete my own tasks before starting in with meetings mid-morning. From there, the rest of the day could consist of prospective client meetings, dev team updates, investor calls, etc. with small pockets of time to work in between. We have an all-team daily standup at 11:45, which is a good reminder to eat lunch. In the evening, I focus on catching up with emails or finishing anything with a pressing deadline and hopefully unwind with a little reading or Daily Show highlights. It’s intense, sure, but rewarding too.

How do you bring ideas to life?

contextflow develops deep learning-based tools to improve radiologists’ workflow, saving time and improving reporting quality. We work closely with our clinical partners to gain real, unfiltered feedback. From there, we summarize the findings for the dev team and then decide what to prioritize, how to accomplish each task and when is a feasible delivery date. It’s actually a very streamlined, methodical process.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Remote work. Before COVID-19, our team was based exclusively in our office in Vienna. However, quarantine proved that we work quite well remotely, so we hired an engineer in Budapest by design, our first completely remote worker. That too has worked out quite well, so it’s exciting to be able to expand our pool of potential candidates for future positions.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Efficiency. I use every google and keyboard shortcut I can. I put on whatever clothes are at the top of the stack. And I take pretty extensive meeting notes so I don’t have to double-check points later on.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Delegate more, sooner! At times, I would do things that others could do simply out of habit. Now, I try to give away as much as possible. You hired the people you hired for a reason; allow them to dig in.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Wiener schnitzel with ketchup is the best way of eating it! (The traditional Austrian way is with red currant jam).

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Plan your sprints. At contextflow, we work in 2 week increments, planning tasks down to the level of “send email to XX.” 1) It ensures we plan our time realistically, which is absolutely crucial when working as a team. 2) It helps avoid burnout by not planning too much. 3) It’s psychologically satisfying to cross off all those little tasks.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

In order for our tools to be utilized, they must be integrated into a radiologist’s workflow via a PACS (Picture Communication Archiving System). These are the software systems that store medical images in hospitals, and the same PACS is utilized by thousands of hospitals globally. We form close partnerships with these integrators to ensure they have the latest technology to offer to their clients, and maintaining these bonds is key to our growth.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve improved over the years, but I’ve definitely underestimated the amount of time it would take me to complete various tasks, which means that people are waiting on a response, feedback, etc. from me. Always plan for less than you think…things will come up and you will be grateful you padded the time!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

This answer is courtesy of our Chief Marketing Officer, Julie Sufana. She’s an American who lived in Los Angeles for many years, and she’s always lamenting that there is no real Mexican food in Vienna. Someone please open up an authentic Mexican restaurant here! You will have no competition!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Sometimes we work for weeks and forget to acknowledge the progress we’ve made because we’re still not at the “end goal”. Recently, we realized that and organized a remote dinner where we all ordered delivery and enjoyed an evening online together. It cost more than $100, but seeing and hearing my entire team laugh together again made it well worth the price.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I take notes from every meeting in Workflowy. From there, I can add tags, make lists, expand and collapse items and mark them in terms of urgency to make sure I never miss a deadline.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Big Five for Life by John Strelecky

What is your favorite quote?

It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates

Key Learnings:

  • Delegate! You hired others for a reason. Let them help you.
  • Ask for honest feedback. Then put it into your product.
  • Remote work doesn’t have to mean remote relationships. There are ways to maintain your team’s bond despite the distance.