Schacht One, thyssenkrupp, innogy, Funke-Mediengruppe and Open Grid Europe set up the start-up competition “Beyond Conventions”. Each of the companies was looking for digital solutions for challenges from operating B2B business. Start-ups could apply for this. On 21 and 22 February, the best applicants were invited to the pitch at the thyssenkrupp headquarters in Essen.
From gold to scrap
The challenge by ELG: how can scrap metal that is delivered on-site be analysed in a simpler, quicker and more cost effective way? Alloys consist of several different chemical elements. To find out the percentage of each chemical and calculate the arising price, employees have to take and melt down samples and analyse them using expensive devices. The winner of this challenge was Bipolymer Systeme from Düsseldorf. Founder Martin Huber uses the conductivity of the different alloys to produce their individual “fingerprint” and distinguishes them in this way. This technology is similarly used in the testing of gold. “I really enjoy working on challenging problems. I like finding creative solutions, and I am looking forward to working with ELG,” said Martin Huber. Magnus Voelkner, who is responsible for the project at ELG, is also looking forward to working together: “We are excited by his ideas and his creative and innovative approach. Although Martin neither had an existing product already up his sleeve nor comes from the steel industry, he put himself up for our challenge because he finds it just as exciting as we do.” In the same afternoon, the team planned to continue their cooperation with the founder. In the new rooms of ELG digital subsidiary EIE, the tests and development of analysis and test methods will begin immediately.
The table that can do everything
We use technologies such as the Internet of things, sensor technology and voice control more and more in everyday life – but not yet products by Certeo. That’s what the TAKKT subsidiary wanted to change: office furniture and business equipment should be smart and personal so they are fun to work with. After four pitches, Smartfurniture won with their smart table “Eliot”. The height-adjustable desk can not only track activity during the working day on an app, but can also connect to Alexa, Apple Homekit and Google Home. It can also easily be individually customised with various coloured covers. “We have been developing Eliot for the past two years and are very happy to have been selected,” said Jörg Sahlmann from Smartfurniture. “The partnership with Certeo is a huge stroke of luck, as we now have an experienced partner on our side who will competently take on online distribution.” Philipp Haferkamp from Certeo also sees it that way: “Smartfurniture was the closest to our business model and had developed its product the furthest. We are very happy to soon be able to sell one of the most innovative office desks in Europe together with Smartfurniture,” he said. “On the following Friday, we defined our further collaboration with Smartfurniture and have already begun. We will start with the first promotions shortly.
Impulses from the political and digital scene
In addition to the two challenges from the Haniel divisions, start-ups pitched their ideas for 17 further challenges from other companies. There was also a supporting programme with various presentations. The mayor of Essen, Thomas Kufen, and Andreas Pinkwart, NRW Minister for Economic Affairs, Digitization, Innovation and Energy, praised the company’s commitment and promised to create good conditions for start-ups and innovation in the region. Andy Goldstein, who also moderated the Haniel Leadership Lab, led the event and provided new ideas: “If you think that you need an idea, a team or money before you can start a business, you will never start. You will become an entrepreneur the minute you decide and completely commit to it. Think of a fly that flies against a window over and over again and cannot get out. All it had to do was change its strategy and try other directions. What is your window?”
At the presentation by two Google employees, company representatives also reflected: “German companies love their business models because they are successful,” said Stefan Henschel, industry leader. “Therefore, the biggest challenge is changing the business model as long as it still works.” his colleague Steffen Kramer also added: “Corporate culture is the most important factor. It is not enough to employ a CDO. The entire management and all employees have to bring the digital transformation to life. Mistakes have to be allowed as long as they are learnt from.”
Companies and start-ups drew a conclusion from the two eventful days: “I found the event very successful, and it was particularly nice to see that large corporations have grouped together in a region to continue to drive innovation and digitisation. However, it was also clear that a great deal still has to be done so that both the region and the companies will emerge as winners of digitalisation,” said Philipp Haferkamp of Certeo. Laszlo Juhasz from Schacht One, who organised the event together with other companies, is also extremely satisfied: “We worked together very well beforehand with colleagues in the divisions and other companies. Everyone contributed their own ideas, and we developed them together. We have seen many great start-ups, and as a result we have learnt: Despite the relatively concrete challenges, we should not be too rigid in our thinking, but be open to ideas.” Planning for Beyond Conventions 2019 is already under way. Martin Huber from Bipolymer Systeme has a suggestion for this: “I really enjoyed the event, and the presentations were very good. However, I would have liked more time for start-ups because you could not listen to them all.”