Managing Director Markus Jordans on start-ups as engines for innovation – and what their founders need to bring to the table.
Mr Jordans, what does someone who wants to found a start-up with you need to bring to the table?
There are two things that are decisive for me: The idea itself and the team behind it. The application of the idea, how the market environment looks and the potential for the business case should already be clear. Just as important are the personalities behind the idea: They must have a burning passion for their business. The founders should have an inner conviction – and they should also be able to convey this to the outside world.
LaKart is a current example here at umlaut: An app which digitalises the order process in restaurants. The founder is also an umlaut colleague – who is now also the boss of his own start-up.
Exactly, Moamen El-Tahwagi was already on board and had been carrying this idea around with him. He then presented it to my colleague Marc Althoff and distilled his focus over two or three iterations. What fascinated me about it was that the application is astonishingly simple and we can use it to become active in this area. It saves time and effort for customers and restauranteurs. You almost ask yourself: Why hasn’t the gastronomy industry been doing this for the lunchtime slot – which is all about sales per hour – for years now? With the coronavirus, its relevance has once again increased because the product also serves as a way to avoid contact.
You yourself also founded a subsidiary company at umlaut in 2017. How does that differ from this kind of start-up investment?
The difference is that we are investing in whole new fields of business. Gastronomy is, for example, already far removed from our everyday arena. This is brave but we dare to do it. After all, our confidence is based on our comprehensive know-how, for example in the field of digitalisation. That’s why we are also to provide our knowledge and expertise, alongside the financing. We are a powerhouse of skills and we already have market access for many industries.
What do you expect from the initiative for umlaut?
We are always driven by innovation, even when it comes to our existing companies. In principal, we have been founding start-ups for over 20 years. What we are thinking about more is how this can also work with external parties. For example, with large industrial companies who want to form spin-off companies, or small conglomerates who say: Hey, should we collaborate on this?
Start-ups offer an additional possibility here to go a step further – for example, to completely break out of the business that characterises our daily lives. Of course, this also involves higher risk in part – not every idea has wings. However, this is what we want to convey to our employees too: Push these issues and help shape your career path. Be brave and do good things. Nothing can hold back good ideas – once they have gained momentum.