Few big companies consistently shed old activities on the road to new business markets: Two years ago, Axel Springer sold the majority of its newspapers and magazines to focus on developing digital platforms and products – for its own industry and far beyond. “Our company has undergone significant structural and cultural change,” explained CEO Mathias Döpfner as he presented the numbers for 2014. “We will continue to invest in our digital expansion in the coming year.”
Finance interesting startups ...
Changing course to the Internet economy accelerates an innovation strategy that can capture impetus arising from digitalization. Ideas for new business models and products are provided by employees, as well as by an accelerator program with the startup investor Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, which can support 30 startups a year. They receive funds, can use investors as a bridge to the Silicon Valley ecosystem or to Berlin, and benefit from comprehensive mentoring, workshops and
access to the partner’s network. Springer is gaining insight into the current trends in digitalization and company shareholding. The innovation strategy is rounded out with acquisitions such as Runtastic, the successful Austrian startup, which develops apps for measuring athletic performance.
But even though digitalization and the Internet of Things are new territory for them, many companies do not allow themselves to be inspired enough by outsiders who have a sense for rising new technologies. The Accenture study “Mut, anders zu denken: Digitalisierungsstrategien der deutschen Top500” (“Courage to think differently: Digitization strategies of Germany’s Top500”) found that, as a result, they miss out on the opportunities that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can offer industrial companies in particular. This study found that 28 percent of such companies collaborate with traditional research institutions and think tanks, but only 15 percent with startups. And only 6 percent launch independent business areas as offshoots to unleash the creative energy of employees.
The rethinking process is slowly beginning. For example, RWE wants to transition its core business to digital offerings and gather impetus and inspiration from outside through an innovation hub. In its startup pitch at CeBIT’s Utility Industry Day, the energy company was looking for young entrepreneurs to collaborate on developing solutions for the Internet of Things, for example, starting with keywords like “smart meter” and “smart home” – but happily going farther afield as well.
... and profit from their ideas
“The goal is to find products and services that offer our customers added value and have the potential to shake up existing markets,” states Stefanie Kemp, director of the Disruptive Digitisation project. “The innovation hub is the interface for internal and external experts in a variety of areas. We use it to identify interesting projects and can quickly develop real products or services.”
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