The Best of both Worlds

What Start-ins can learn from Start-ups

When it comes to digital technologies, start-ups are often one step ahead of established companies today. This is a sufficient reason for small and medium-sized businesses to work with start-ups and take advantage of their developments. The promotion of such cooperations is an important component of the activities of our hub. Hub Manager Maria Beck knows how companies benefit from cooperation with start-ups.

A recent survey by the digital association Bitkom showed that at least many logistics companies do not currently rely on cooperation with start-ups. However, companies like the logistics service provider META from Arnsberg, the machine and plant manufacturer BEUMER from Beckum or the Europe-wide supplier of products for water supply Beulco from Attendorn operate quite differently. They have all sent digital teams and digital experts to the Digital Hub Logistics Dortmund. In addition to these so-called start-ins, start-ups also work in the hub. “Our idea is to bring two worlds together in the hub: Representatives of traditional companies should not only work side by side with founders, but also hand in hand,” says Hub Manager Maria Beck. “This is a win-win situation for everyone involved.”

Young and experienced: Both sides benefit

Bitkom’s survey of more than 500 companies with logistics processes with 50 or more employees showed that nine out of ten participants (89 percent) do not co-operate with start-ups at all. In a survey two years ago, the proportion was practically the same (90 percent). Bitkom President Achim Berg also sees great opportunities in the cooperation between young and experienced companies: “Both sides benefit from the cooperation since start-ups are far ahead in technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain or data analysis – and they make a long-term contribution to securing and expanding the international competitiveness of the German logistics industry. A statement that certainly also applies to other sectors – such as production, trade and co.

In fact, many medium-sized companies still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to working together with start-ups, observes Hub Manager Maria Beck. There are many reasons for this. “Most companies are certainly not at all aware of the innovation potential they can exploit through appropriate cooperation,” Maria Beck is convinced. Furthermore, a certain amount of skepticism can also be observed. Because: “Classic companies and start-ups actually approach innovation processes quite differently. There are considerable cultural differences, especially in methodology. Many established companies may be worried that their processes will suffer as a result of cooperation and that they will be weakened rather than strengthened.”

Space for Innovation

However, experience from the Digital Hub Logistics shows how irrational such fears are. SMEs and start-ups have more in common than they separate. Together they are even stronger. For example, SMEs have always been regarded as classic problem solvers. There is no such thing as impossible. New solutions are always found for customers on request. Start-ups also think from the customer’s point of view: They are “value-added junkies” by nature. Due to the lean structures in medium-sized businesses, decisions can also be made more quickly and without coordination across several hierarchical levels. This also applies to pilot projects with start-ups. Start-ups in turn can react quickly to new requirements from the pilot projects and implement them. A good example of this is the cooperation between the shelf manufacturer META, whose Start-in META AND YOU hub member is, and the start-up MotionMiners.

One key to success is the hub’s coworking space: representatives of established companies can rent spaces here for employees from digital teams or digital units. Apart from day-to-day business, they have the opportunity to design and implement great ideas. They will also meet representatives of start-ups, who can also become members of the hub. Hub Manager Maria Beck: “In this way we create the conditions for different companies with common interests – namely the digital transformation – to meet and work together.

Photo: Digital Hub Logistics