Wednesday 10th April. Seven incredible speakers; one tech magician, so many people in the audience that you could barely move and a troupe of waiters and waitresses weaving their way through the crowds, laden down with trays of canapés. The occasion? hubraum’s brand-new studio opening. Not only does the hubraum studio give users the chance to test out their 5G prototypes on a live edge computing platform, but it also comes complete with a business-friendly perk. According to hubraum’s managing director, Axel Menneking, “The studio works in close collaboration with the people from the network department, from Senior Vice President of 5G at Deutsche Telekom Alexander Lautz and these people will assist those who want to try out our infrastructure with tech and business advice.”
To mark the occasion, we gathered the great and good from Berlin’s startup world to talk about a topic close to our heart: the benefits of corporations and startups working together instead of butting horns. Present at our panel discussion was Tanja Kufner, who’s a former managing director of Startupbootcamp and currently works as the head of dynamic.vc (a Porsche company). There to join her was Betrand Rojat, the deputy director of Orange Fab, a company owned by the French phone giant Orange and Techstars’ Managing Director Connor Murphy, accompanied by hubraum Managing Director Axel Menneking who represented the perspective of Deutsche Telekom.
So why exactly is there such enthusiasm for collaboration between the two worlds? “One thing I find fascinating is why do corporates do that?,” asked Murphy. “Everyone’s doing something with corporate acceleration or corporate capital, but why exactly is that happening? In the ‘60s, a company that made it into the S&P 500 Index would be there for years. Back then, you could innovate at your pace. I believe that by 2024 companies will spend an average of 11-12 years in the S&P 500. This is because there’s massive disruption at the corporate level – some of these sectors are being attacked one by one. You can choose to ignore this disruption or you have to go to the periphery, because experimentation happens there and that’s often where startups and R&D labs are. You can ignore it – and the world will probably ignore you in 10-15 years – or you can invest in exactly those companies.”
Menneking agreed that “working with developers and startups has become a necessity [for corporates] to be successful” but for entirely different reasons. “In the past companies built products and so long as the product worked, then there would be an uptick in customers and the products became successful. Nowadays there are platforms which have been built in parallel to each other which are in competition. The platform that attracts the developers who build the best solutions on that platform will be the winning brand. If you’re not able to attract the best developers, even if you have the best software, you won’t necessarily have the best product. It’s become a question of survival.”
And what does working with startups as a corporate look like nowadays? According to Rojat, there’s benefits for both sides at Orange, where they “work simultaneously with startups and customers. What we do is to work with the customers, who come with use cases. Orange provides the technology, IoT – this kind of thing – and we invite startups to contribute a solution. They then have four to five weeks to develop a prototype corresponding to the use cases and they win the chance to bring the solution to the market. It’s a win-win solution. They have a pool of customers right away. We have a solution that we can test.”
Kufner has seen it all – “I’ve been watching Daimler learn how to work with startups and they started working with startups way before everyone else. They’ve got really good because they’ve been investing in startups for such a long time. They’ve gone out and learned from external people. In contrast to that, my current mothership (VK Porsche) just builds stuff themselves.”
And finally, what’s one good tip for startups wanting to work with corporates? Menneking preaches an attempt at walking around in a corporate’s shoes for a day: “really try to understand both sides, don’t think only from your perspective. Try and adopt the corporate partner’s perspective: what they want to achieve, what their processes are.” Rojat suggested looking to other startups for inspiration – if one startup seems particularly good at corporate collaboration, to try and figure out what they’re doing differently and adopt some of the same habits. Kupfer thinks the onus should be on making sure that the corporates you’ll potentially be working with are legit: “Do your research because a lot of corporates waste your time. They want to look, sniff, pet, get info – find out if they have honest intentions because a lot of them might waste your time. Talk to other founders who worked with that corporate, get feedback, do due diligence.” Murphy couldn’t agree more with her, urging the audience to “Qualify, qualify, qualify.” This entails using “questions to find out if they’re a real partner. Ask them how many investments they made in the last 6 months. Out of the Proof of Concepts, how many of these converted to deals? How long did it take those deals to close? Corporates are hungry for innovation, reaching out right, left, centre. Qualify.”
For further information about the hubraum studio or to apply to use our infrastructure to test your service or product, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org