On November 9, 2018 the China Entrepreneurs Club visited Factory Berlin and were welcomed by Next Big Thing AG and other key organizations of the German tech ecosystem. The CEC is a group of investors from China who are curious about innovation in Germany, and how that translates into foreign investment opportunities.
The visit illuminates latest activities and innovation efforts from Factory Berlin, Next Big Thing AG, Code University, and Deutsche Bank AG, who each presented that day. Listening to the presentations offers a taste of what the Berlin ecosystem has to offer.
Factory Berlin fosters a community of innovators
According to Yahoo Finance, the intention of their trip to Germany was to “deepen Sino-German cooperation in industrial digitalization and innovation, as well as to seek out business, and investment opportunities.”
The visit kicked off with a tour of Factory Berlin where Udo Schloemer, Founder and CVO of Factory Berlin, explained the original intention of creating Factory Berlin and the challenges Factory has overcome to sustain a community of innovators.
Udo (pictured below at right, with Harald Zapp on left) discussed the future development of startups in Berlin and this city’s entrepreneurial environment. He indicated several successfully innovative startups, indicating that Factory Berlin's big dream is to be the entry point for global businesses to access the German industry and to become the place in Europe to develop new things.
NBT builds smart high-tech companies
Harald Zapp, CEO of Next Big Thing AG, and founder of IoT pioneer company, relayr, followed Udo’s introductory talk. Harald shared how NBT occupies Factory Berlin’s fourth floor with so far a staff of 60, and 6 ventures in-house. He explained that NBT is an incubator, accelerator, and operational VC focused on building companies in IoT and Internet of Services, and blockchain with data-driven business models. He touched upon how blockchain and IoT will continue to merge, and to expect IoT to remain highly relevant for the next 25 years and beyond.
He acknowledged the hype that surrounds some of these terms but clearly differentiated NBT from that noise. He focused on how distributed ledger technology has three main goals:
1) Build Trust
2) Reduce Costs (including overhead and middleman expenses)
3) Accelerate transactions (acknowledging there is still room to grow there.)
Harald discussed the importance of the Machine Economy and transactions managed by things, saying “things will have to pay for data.” We need to build process on top of these transactions. In discussing the uniqueness of Web 3.0 architecture, he said the value of the network will increase while the application layer gets thinner, and the protocol layer gets thicker.
To drive smart companies, NBT works with industry partners to solve real world problems. NBT recruits talent and take care of the deep tech–from idea to MVP, executing tangible innovation with speed. So far, NBT’s portfolio of high-tech companies, valuated at $60 Million, crosses industries including healthcare, property, energy, and agriculture – to name only a few.
With NBT’s central role in the IoT de:hub, a digital hub initiative from the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, NBT is uniquely positioned to provide expertise in IoT, to connect ventures with industry partners, and to help guide the political conversation toward a modern and tech-savvy future.
Deutsche Bank cooperates with FinTech and InsureTech
After Harald Zapp spoke, focus shifted more to the financial sector. Harald Eisenach, Managing Director of the Management Committee Germany at Deutsche Bank AG discussed the German SME entrepreneurial environment.
Harald Eisenach said that when banks support innovative startups in Fintech, they combine strengths. Deutsche Bank Lab currently operates in various cities, where tech scouts look for opportunities for DB tech to work with clients or work with FinTechs, to serve investment banking, private banking, or mobile applications needs.
Deutsche Bank AG’s aim is to “be the number one collaboration partner for leading FinTechs and InsureTechs” and to prove it, they have started on selective equity investment in their partners. Harald discussed the key drivers of M&A in Germany, as well as where we can expect to see policy change.
Code University educates digital pioneers
Tom Brachman wrapped up the morning by sharing Code University’s unique approach to higher education in tech. Backed by 25 internet entrepreneurs, and as an accredited university that prepares digital pioneers of the future, CODE intends to position Germany as a leading country for software development.
With 250 students selected out of 4K international applicants, CODE–which stands for curiosity-driven education–will graduate for example: software engineers who have awareness of design principles, interaction designers who know what humans love to use, and product managers who can bring business and tech together.
Through self-directed study, and collecting skill post that prepares students for a lifelong approach to learning, CODE offers challenges, motivation, mentorship and access to partners. These partners, now including NBT, offer real-world projects where students get hands-on experience and contribute fresh ideas.
Growing the ecosystem
Together these speakers each presented different facets of the growing tech ecosystem that Berlin has to offer: entrepreneurial communities, IoT and company-building expertise, financial innovation, and educational opportunities. The China Entrepreneurs Club enjoyed an informative morning and brought gifts to the appreciative hosts, seen below.
With Germany as China’s biggest partner in technology exporting, and with China as Germany’s largest trading partner, this visit reflected important exchanges across this growing ecosystem.
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All images copyright of NBT AG, 2018.