When I received a message from Chris Schädel, the quirky owner of Vienna’s beloved phil café, telling me that he had some good news which he wanted to capture in an interview, my curiosity was provoked, and I wanted to know more.
If you’re planning a visit to Vienna, you will most likely have come across phil in your coffee shop research; however, this café/bar/bookstore isn’t just a tourist hotspot, it’s also very popular with the locals and it’s easy to see why. The charming space is full of character, from the wonderful books available to purchase and the little reading nooks and crannies, to the posters adorning the walls and the disco ball and crazy lampshades hanging from the ceiling.
Eager to find out what this good news is, I ask Chris to divulge a bit more information. He is at the beginning stages of launching his new business, phil.love, an online platform which will go live on the 14th February 2019 – “like Amazon but better,” he tells me. “There were many paths, such as expanding and opening another phil café in Vienna or in Berlin because it’s such a good idea. But I’m choosing this phil.love path. It will be a platform where you love to buy and then stay, unlike Amazon”, which he sees as just a buying platform.
Essentially, this website will be the online representation of the real phil café, with many subsections to it, but to start, Chris is focusing on the books first, with music and more coming at a later stage.
The website and concept are for true literary lovers: it will be an online community for writing and the purchasing of real, physical books. One of the USPs is that you will receive your purchased book(s) on the very same day, delivered to you by bike. Quick, efficient and environmentally friendly. Chris really emphasises to me that they are real books only, absolutely no eBooks, which have been carefully selected to represent the ethos and spirit behind phil. In today’s world which is so saturated with online content, this sounds wonderfully refreshing.
Artificial intelligence will also be incorporated into the phil.love experience, which will work with your profile to tailor personal book recommendations; "phil.love is like an onion," Chris explains. "You get deeper and deeper the more time you spend on there. It will be a social media-type selling platform where users can be whoever they want to be. They can play with identities and feel the phil love."
Some of the extra features that will encourage users to 'stay' on the website include tuning in listen live to the music playing in phil or streaming from music providers such Spotify or Tidal. There will also be forums for book discussions and archives for writers to contribute original creative content. All pieces that are submitted to the website will be individually reviewed and vetted to ensure that it remains a safe creative space full of love and free of negative karma or any vulgar, hateful or braindead comments. Chris and his team are also in the early stages of creating an idea for an app. "It's like Tinder for books – we're playing with this idea of love for books. But we haven't quite worked it out yet," he laughs.
The exciting news is that Chris has been in talks with staff at Google's Launchpad Studio in San Francisco, a global acceleration programme for start-ups, and hopes that they will provide funding for phil.love. He takes me through the application process and shows me the form he completed – some of his answers are humorous nonsense, such as “When was the founding date of your start up?" Chris' answer: "June 2018" and a YouTube link to a Lana del Rey video. Clearly his wacky entrepreneurial spirit and persistence caught the eye of the Launchpad staff. Although a date to visit San Francisco has not yet been confirmed, he is very positive about this first step. “I feel selected. I'm looking forward to hopefully meeting them soon."
Chris is also applying for funding and support from the Austrian government, Apple and Google Cloud. I personally am very excited for the launch of the website and will be watching this space.
Written by Steph Theodosiou
Steph is a freelance writer currently based in London. Her works appear in printed publications as well as online, with a focus on food, events and travel.