Antony is a Business Development Manager responsible Europe at Seedrs, leading pan-European equity crowdfunding platform.
As a leading crowdfunding investor, could you see any change in investments because of COVID? Does it have a short-term impact or will its effects stay for a long time?
At Seedrs we syndicate investment into about 250 startups a year. Those startups range from Pre-seed to Series B stages, operate from across many EEA countries, and provide products and services in a wide range of industries. This gives us a good overview of industry trends as well as provides a lot of insights not seen from the outside. COVID-19 world is a new reality for startups and investors to which all of them have to adopt. The first wave has brought a lot of uncertainty in the industry and many deals were put on pause by business angels and institutional investors. Some of them still remain very reserved in their investments until now. Interestingly, crowdfunding has proven to be a very stable model for these turbulent times. We have seen a slight drop (for about 2 weeks) in platform investment activity back in March, which has returned to its normal level already in April and has been very strong since then. We also observe that more investors and startups choose convertible over equity rounds given the uncertainty and possible negative impact on valuations during the Corona crisis. Some of the verticals are affected a lot more (travel, for example) and have a lot less investment activity, while other sectors (food delivery, remote work) have seen solid levels of investment to quickly tackle growth opportunities provided by external conditions. These trends likely to remain this way until summer 2021 when the world hopefully comes back to “normal”. Some of the changes are here to stay (more meetings between investors and startups will be done via video calls rather than face to face), some will change (industries that are currently affected with start showing growth again and will again win on investment attractiveness).
What is the motivation behind private investors who are more likely to go for an investment towards any startups?
The world of investment is very diverse. Every private investor has a wide range of assets to choose from for his/her portfolio. It’s often about building a diversified portfolio of investments with different risk/return ratio. Venture investment is known to be a very high risk, but also very high return field. As statistically looking, usually only 1 out of 10 startups in an investment portfolio would bring outstanding returns with a good multiple that covers all other “less successful” investments with a profit on top. With this being said, most of the startup investors look for high return potential. This is the primary reason for investing in this asset class. Some of the additional (less important) factors may include supporting innovation or a certain cause (eg. sustainability) or having a personal connection with the startup founders. In equity crowdfunding return potential plays a major role for investors as well. But in addition to that, the emotional component is an important factor in investment decisions by retail investors. They would not only want to see great return potential, but often would want to associate themselves with the company or a brand or are already their existing customers and supporters.
Are there any segments in the future that will boost startup funding?
There are two areas that are on the rise in the startup world and what will continue with this steady growth in the future. Sustainability and climate change are one of them. This topic is on the agenda of the European Commission and more and more startup support and financing programs are appearing on that level. In the professional investment field, multiple impact-driven venture funds are emerging across European countries and sustainability is one of the areas where these funds are deploying their capital. Needless to say, general society is becoming more conscious and aware of climate change, which leads to increased interest of the private investor community in investing in this field. Sustainable startups have been the top growing vertical on Seedrs this year – which very well reflects the trend among retail investors. The second category is A.I. startups. A.i.-specialized startups have already raised record-breaking sums of investment last year from institutional and private investors. This trend will remain and strengthen within the next years.
Does the internationalization of investors impact early-stage startups who are looking for funding?
More investors deploying capital cross-border is definitely a positive trend for startups. Given the overall tendency to globalization as well as technological advances (video conferencing, digital signatures, etc.) it is becoming much easier for investors to find investment targets in other countries as well as for the startups to find investment abroad. Many business angel clubs are expanding their investment activities from the country of origin to the bordering region (Nordics, DACH) or even larger region (CEE). Retail investors are also investing more in foreign startups as geographical diversification is increasingly becoming one of the ways to diversify investments remaining in one vertical where one has the expertise.
What do you think about the future of crowdfunding? Are there any new forms of crowdfunding?
On the top level, there are 4 main areas of crowdfunding. Rewards-based (Kickstarter, Indiegogo). Raising relatively small amounts from backers who want to receive a certain perk, pre-purchase a product, or support company development. Works for product-based startups. Equity crowdfunding (Seedrs) where startups raise growth capital from a large number of retail investors. High risk/high return area. Works well for scalable businesses with high growth potential. Debt-based (Mintos). Later stage startups and businesses borrowing money from a number of lenders. Medium to low risk/return. Works for business with an established track record. Donation-based (GofundMe). Collecting funds from a number of people for a certain cause or a social project. Fits for NGOs and social projects. All of these 4 main forms of crowdfunding are projected to continue growing in popularity. There is a high degree of familiarity and acceptance of all these forms of crowdfunding among a wider audience in Europe, even though some of the markets are much more developed (the UK for example). Looking into the future, additional innovations (like a secondary market on equity crowdfunding platforms) will continue driving interest in this method of funding for both companies as well as funders.
Can you deep dive a little into the topic of secondary sales?
Seedrs has been a pioneer in the field by launching the UK's first fully functioning private equity secondary market back in 2017. The initial idea was to allow retail investors who have invested through Seedrs to sell and buy shares providing for early liquidity. In September 2020 we have gone further and opened up the secondary market to all private businesses, allowing startups, founders, employees, and investors to realize secondary liquidity by offering it to “the crowd”. The main difference between primary and secondary offering is that a secondary sale offers equity from existing shareholders while through primary offering equity is issued by the company by issuing new shares. It’s an exciting development for all startups and early investors. Especially given current conditions where startups have to remain private for a longer period. Increasing demand for secondaries is not a European development, but rather a global trend, partly driven by the consolidation of private equity service providers in the US and across other markets.
Last question on the topic of DigiWhat: What is the biggest issue for matchmaking between investors, customers, and startups?
It is always about finding the best match with the least amount of recourses spent. And the most valuable resource in our industry is time. This means less time is spent on finding the right investment deal or the right investor, more time one can spend on running and growing the business or supporting portfolio startups. It’s possible that A.I. will become a helpful tool in this matchmaking process in the future.
Throughout Yasmine’s childhood, she loved school and saw the value of diverse forms of education. After university, she moved to Cambodia and worked in communications for an international education company, IDP Education. Her diverse experience and unquenched curiosity has led her to in North America, Asia, and Europe with a particular focus on the education sector. Yasmine was also on the selection panel for the New Zealand Scholarship recipients. She has also mentored countless young people, particularly Cambodians throughout their scholarship application process and other opportunities.
What is your opinion about the difference of attitude towards digitalization in the education sector in different countries?
I think digitalization is necessary for the advancement of education. COVID-19 has accelerated that at a rate nobody could have predicted but also brought on new challenges. Along the way, refinement is definitely necessary but that will take time and lots of trial and error.
Just like with any country and any culture the perspective is very different. The other side of the coin is access to technology and digital literacy. I think because of these varying perspectives and accessibility we have a lot to learn from one another, both on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the way we are using digitalization to educate students.
In Cambodia, where I lived and worked for 3 years, digitalization has had an incredible impact but access to the internet and the resources are limited in the rural areas which is most of the country. Somewhere like the US, might on the surface have an easier time accelerating digitalization yet millions are left behind. In a time like COVID where the internet can be the difference between being able to be taught by your teacher or not, it creates an even deeper divide in education and in-turn future opportunities and your life outlook.
Schools and colleges are seeking ways to create an integrated solution to fulfill the educational demands of all students, including students coming from diverse backgrounds. So, is the shift only towards digitized strategies or is there a need for other concepts of schooling?
There is a huge need to reboot the approach to education and I believe that higher education will take the lead as market demands and decisions change. A four-year undergraduate degree will have a new flavor, sooner rather than later.
As we move forward, I see two major educational approaches necessary. One being the way we learn should be more experimental and the tools to be able to actively be a lifelong learner and instilling that value at a young age. I will elaborate more on this in the next question.
Is there an education system that has been established to be the right standard for education across the world? Or do you think that there is still a need for reform and rethinking in the education system?
This is a really tough question to answer because there's a lot of factors to account for. One needs to take into account the diverse qualities of people, regions, and cultures. Education needs a make-over globally both in what we are teaching and how. From a reform standpoint, there need to be major extensive updates to what we are actually teaching our kids and an evaluation on how that brings value to their present and future paths.
As I mentioned earlier, experimental learning or this idea of learning by doing will help provide practice applications of what young people learn and engage them in the real world at a younger age. The second skill being able to learn how to learn is relevant because our world is changing so rapidly there's no way what you learn in your youth is going to be valuable in the second half of your life. We are already seeing this now with so many young people studying X and then working in a very different field. So much practical learning comes from internships, shadowing professionals, and hands-on applications. We need young children to be encouraged to be lifelong learners and to have the tools to figure out what they need to learn as they become adults and how they can find that information accurately.
What do you think will be the impact of digitalization on the education sector, especially in the new normal? Can you give some examples of such digitalization processes?
There are a lot of possible impacts that digitalization can have on the education sector but one thing that I am hopeful about is that it will increase access. You know areas and regions that don't have the infrastructure yeah it will be hopefully accelerated and you'll see more students having access to a wider range of education tools. But on the other side, there’s the issue of the lack of social skill development and human interaction that is going to be especially challenging and it's not just till this pandemic it under control but it's really long-term because those windows of development have been passed.
What about human interaction and education, what parts can be considered okay to digitalize, and how will the personal human interaction be integrated in the process? And how much do you think the impact of COVID harmed the present generation who are in schools and universities?
Right now the connection between human interaction and education is really unclear. We are now in the stage where a lot of data, best practices, anecdotes, and research is being done to figure this connection out. In the beginning, I think there's a lot of buzz and excitement around the potential of digital classrooms worldwide and I think as time has gone on students and teachers and those in the digital sphere most of the day are really seeing the downsides.
I would say a blended approach to education through digital tools is definitely ideal. We don't want our kids and students and those to be totally isolated in the digital world so ensuring that there are still ways whether during a pandemic or whether things start to merge to be more of a hybrid model that students are having access to human interaction as well.
To be honest I'm very worried about this generation that's currently in the school system particularly the younger age groups where social skills and development are so crucial during a peak. How this positively and negatively affects students 10, 20, or 50 years down the line we won't know till then but there has definitely been an impact and I sadly believe that the majority of that will be in a negative way.
The new social norms caused by the current pandemic have forced a paradigm shift of what we used to call events. The combination of a ban on large gatherings, the difficulty to travel across borders, social distancing requirements, etc. did not entice an evolution of how we run events but a revolution in the fundamental idea of how humans meet on a large scale. Such a radical change in a very short period of time (and without any prior preparation) has unavoidably caused for lost opportunities, notably events that had already been planned and were cancelled or scaled down last minute. At the same time, it has and is still creating new opportunities. In the old world (of 7 months ago), events were much more exclusive; they required participants the time and resources to travel and their physical capacity were limited to a certain number of participants. Now that events are virtual, I could potentially speak or attend any event around the world; sometimes even a few at the same time. Their physical location has become almost entirely irrelevant. Yet, such transformation in the events business means it requires entirely new skills, creativity and innovation. Major players in the old world of (physical) events are not going to be the same in the new world of (virtual) events. This leaves room for new players to come in and shape this field, an opportunity they wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for the current crisis.
Did you attend or moderate any events in the last months? Could you tell us one or two examples where the overall experience was not that good, and you had a bad experience? Alternatively, what in your opinion, can be the highlights of holding an event virtually?
Yes, over the past months, I’ve moderated the Michelin Startup Challenge, a hackathon for the German EU Presidency, public debates for Euractiv, the Brussels Times and Start Magazine, Tincon Festival, a virtual discussion between the European Startup Prize for Mobility and the European Commission, and more. When the crisis first hit I found myself moderating from my bedroom with a green screen behind me that I ordered on Amazon in order to create a virtual background. Fortunately, once we were allowed to leave the house, I was able to upgrade from purely virtual events to hybrid ones, where there’s no live audience but at least the moderator and some speakers are on a physical stage with a professional filming crew. This allows for more sophisticated productions and a more enjoyable user experience.
What I find crucial for virtual events is live user participation. Even in the ‘old world’ of stage events, I always preferred using engagements tools (like Slido or Mentee) which allow the audience to participate in the event by sending in questions, voting (on a topic or in live competitions for example), pitching new ideas to policy makers, or answering sophisticated polls. Now that events are mostly watched on digital devices, I find the user participation to be even more crucial. It is much more difficult to sustain the audience’s attention remotely, when they are not fully immersed in the atmosphere and can click away at any given moment. That is why I don’t treat the audience as passive viewers but as contributors. In certain ways, this has become even easier in virtual events. I no longer need to push the audience in the room to take their phones out of their pockets and engage with what I show them on stage. The audience is anyway watching me on a digital device so it’s enough that I make sure the broadcast has interesting interactive features. Suddenly, any event can crowdsource ideas, solutions, policies, or voting on any given topic!
What are the most important KPIs for event organizers, moderators, and exhibitors?
Most virtual events are primarily looking at the number of viewers but I believe it’s a very narrow prism. KPIs must be derived from the event’s strategy and business model. If the sole purpose is to sell tickets and more viewers means more sales, this logic holds. Yet, if the purpose is to influence policy-makers or raise awareness among a certain demographics, the measurement of the audience should also be qualitative and not only quantitative. Of course that’s much more difficult to do.
I also make sure that at the end of an interactive event I always ask the audience to rank how much they enjoyed it. Yes, I want my events to be insightful and useful but most importantly I want to know if my viewers had a good time. Even if you just consumed the most useful information, you will probably not push the ‘share’ button unless it was presented to you in a way which was entertaining. A good moderator can turn even the most serious or dry topic into a fun experience.
As someone, who organizes and moderates' events, do you think Corona not only changed the way, we are doing events, but also will change the players in the market?
We already see that happening. All major events since March had to cancel or go virtual. As mentioned, going virtual is an a fundamentally different ballgame. I therefore see how some organisations which were very good at organising massive conferences are not necessarily good and creating innovative online events. At the same time, niche digital agencies can suddenly compete against the major players. The size is no longer necessarily an advantage when making the transition from physical to virtual events. The necessary resources are lower (and non-linear) and the new currency is creativity. That is why, like all other sectors that were digitised before, this transition allows the most innovative companies to disrupt the field, not necessarily the largest or best-established ones. One of the most creative agencies I’ve spotted recently is very small but has already broadcast conferences on large drive-in screens (so the audience stays in their cars), allows the audience to drive from their device a remote-controlled toy cars on stage, project speakers on real size screens, etc. This kind of new players will dominate the new market in my opinion.
What is your opinion on making events more entertaining? As a digital entrepreneur, what tips can you give us to make events livelier? And are virtual events in the future?
Always keep in mind that the transition into virtual events is not only an obstacle but a new opportunity for experimenting with new digital tools. Engage with your audience in every possible way. And of course, try to have fun on stage. If you’re enjoying yourself, your audience will as well…
When I was 12 years old, I walked to school. Suddenly I stood in front of this shop and saw a jeans from Lewis 501 - I wanted to have it. My father would have me called crazy, if I had said I needed 149 Dollars for a pair of trousers. The little angel and the little devil had a short fight in my head, but the angel won and I wondered how I could get money. I took the city map and marked the areas that could be called well-off. Then I looked up when they pick up discarded things for the recycling yard and we walked the streets with my friends and discovered and collected incredible things which we sold at the flea market. That's how I got my 501 jeans. You should have some kind of goals. They will guide you automatically every day. You will develope at an early age a certain feeling to recognize and implement business models. This is the world we need in entrepreneurship: More dynamics, more movement and focus. It is precisely this spirit that is the indicator for becoming successful and earning money. The product must be in absolute focus! It´s not about earning money fast. Foccusing only on money will defocusing on the essential business model.
What does this mean for new business models?
Concerning digital business models, it is very important that there is a very large market for them in order to tap the full market potential. In addition, small pilots must be implemented from the very beginning in order to learn from mistakes. These learnings in the context of the pilots are important for the product adaptation and are not critical, since the mistakes are already made in the pilot phase. After this the business is ready to scale and to be rolled-out in a large market. My motto is: "Go for a specific differentiated business model rather than a wide model. ”
Especially in the digital transformation, we need to change our perspective. In the course of progressive digitization, advertising, as we have long been accustomed to from print media, radio and television commercials, has also changed. The recipient no longer just consumes advertising, he interacts with it and demands added value. In the high-speed world of e-commerce, scalable services that simplify people's lives, from eating out to taking a cab to buying clothes on the Internet, are of great importance. Behind these services are online platforms that suspend space and time.
And what do you advise founders to do?
An important advice for founders is: No matter how good your business model looks, it is only as good as the people who work and live in it (smile). I stole that from Dee Hock*, but it hits the nail on the head. Of course, the core requirements such as the size of the vesting, proof of concept, time-to-market and scalability must also be met.
What has Corona changed?
Corona was a fire accelerator for the digital transformation. Home office and remote working are now the standard. The QR Code is also experiencing its second spring, which can be experienced every time you visit a restaurant. Especially generations that had reservations about the digital world before COVID-19 became everyday users of digital services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many established companies are looking for new business models, what tips can you give them?
There is an atmosphere of optimism. Startups are trying to make a breakthrough with a radically digital and user-centered approach to create simple solutions that enable them to outrank the established ones. Large corporates are now aware, that they do not score points with their complicated processes.
Corporates are looking for ways to break up deadlocked structures with agile teams and to build new, not only purely digital services. The indicator for success is the spirit. In my opinion, the only way is implementing digitization top-down. It requires active input from C-Level and it's not enough if it's written in some brochure. Digitalization needs a face and that is people and the product.
Of course there is also the topic speedboat vs. tanker. When you work with processes that were set up 30 years ago, it is difficult to quickly implement the necessary corrections that have to be made at the beginning of every idea. It is also a bit unfair, because in a young company you can set up the processes for this specific business idea from the scratch. That makes many things easier. In addition, the incentives for the new digital generation, are no longer as material as they were 15 years ago. Status symbols, such as cars, money and title are decreasing as a motivational factor and topics such as work-life balance and remote work are gradually replacing these status symbols.
One of your new projects/companies digitalizes pharmaceutical sales. How can one imagine that?
We are not digitizing pharmaceutical sales, that would be presumptuous. Through the AMIRA World (the largest closed pharmacy platform in Germany), we have created an emotional training platform for pharmacy employees. Especially the 8,400 participating pharmacies and 20,400 verified pharmacy employees, whom we have been able to recruit since the launch of the product in 2018, show the high level of interest in further training in digital and analogue form. Our goal was to emotionally charge the existing B2B relationships between industry and pharmacists, PTA, PKA and to impart knowledge with pleasure. The name AMIRA, which means princess in Arabic and queen in Persian, also supports this message. AMIRA is the consulting queen in the pharmacy. In addition, the "A" also stands for „Apotheke“ (pharmacy). The core task with AMIRA was to create a digital consulting heroine, who acts as a companion in everyday professional life via various devices (57% mobile, 34% desktop and the rest tablet).
After the proof of concept and the learnings from the last two years, we have adapted the customer journey for members on the portal: What is the daily routine, what are the concerns and duties of a pharmacist? Where can he/she be supported and where is the interaction between industry and pharmacy? This resulted in a social network such as LinkedIn or Xing, but dedicated to pharmacy employees. In order to become part of the interactive and closed community, where like-minded people can exchange, educate and inform themselves, one must register with a professional certificate. Our turnover is in the 7-digit range and with the re-launch in October we will reach the next evolutionary stage of the AMIRA World 2.0.
Sounds like a success story. How do you find the right software tools for your individual challenges?
We have our own digital unit for this. We mainly look at ready-made tools and especially those that are web-based. But my credo is: Backwards it becomes important! Digitalization means the digitalization of processes. Those who are focused and have the best processes are fast and successful. So you shouldn't make any mistakes when choosing software tools, because the issue is not trivial and the company's entire processes depend on it. If you don't pay attention to this, a bottleneck can arise that you may not even see at the beginning. But this can be dangerous when it comes to speed. My conclusion therefore: Tools must be able to keep up with the growth and optimize the whole process and not solve a problem singularly.
*An organization, no matter how well designed, is only as good as the people who live and work in it. (Dee Hock)
CH: Prof. Sehouli, can you give us an insight into how far the topic of digitization has already entered everyday clinical practice?
JS: Digitalization is already there - no question about that - but it's still a long way from being able to take an iPad in your hand, for example, and use it to control all the processes that go on in everyday hospital life. Likewise, not all network systems in use are connected to each other. We at the Charité are already very far in the field of digitalization and have just started a pilot project in which we are introducing the digital medical record. Patients do have a medical file, but due to the involvement of various doctors, but also other disciplines such as social medicine, psychology, etc., not all of the information can be found in the classic file and, above all, it is often not filed systematically. That's why we have just launched this digital project, where we can already conduct rounds via electronic medical records with the iPad in the patient's room and present the patient with x-rays or laboratory findings. It is quite annoying that one makes rounds in the clinic, which usually take five to twenty minutes per patient and where one often finds oneself in the situation of answering the patients' questions about the organisation: "I don't know", "haven't seen it yet", "can't find the findings now". The patient of course wants a plan, wants to see results and wants to have them visualized and explained. And digital technology is certainly helpful here. I am also convinced that this is a way to simplify processes. This does not mean that digital medicine can actually replace the relationship with the patients, but it can simplify things and avoid unnecessary "ballast discussions" and create more space and time for the really important conversation with the patients
CH: In your new book "On the Art of Delivering Bad News Well", you describe very vividly from your own practice how important it is to attach a higher value to the patient consultation and to proceed there in the same calm and structured way as in the treatment itself. What is your opinion, will digitalization rob the patient of important "human" closeness to an important reference person like the doctor or will it allow more humanity, as the doctor has more time for an exchange with the patient again?
JS: That is of course a big challenge. I don't think that digital medicine can be measured by the fact that the doctor-patient relationship must measurably improve as a result. Because the doctor-patient relationship has a lot to do with trust, has something to do with contact, with re-encounter, and this should not be in competition with any technique.
That a triangular relationship between doctor-computer, computer-patient is created is not desirable. The focus must always remain on human relationships. The exchange, the dialogue, must remain the leading factor in all processes. The triangulation between computer, doctor, patient should not negatively influence the relationship between man and man I get feedback from patients again and again "I was with the doctor for 15 minutes and he did not look at me once". And this is very important: Maintain mindfulness! Nevertheless, digital medicine can simplify processes and reduce the need to search for findings. Because if I have five to fifteen minutes and then hear that the food was ordered wrong and I don't know when the computer tomography will be done, I don't even get to the conversation that the patient has pain or psychological problems.
The digital processes are important, but should be in one platform. What I keep seeing is that there are many independent digital solutions that are theoretically compatible. But when it comes to making it compatible, so that you transfer one system to the other system, then again there are problems. From my point of view, it is therefore very important to think big and not always find new individual solutions. We need a platform for each individual patient in horizontal support and a multimodal therapy strategy. We must try to prevent the isolated fragmentation of processes in the patient.
CH: This seems to be one of the central issues, even beyond medicine: The silo issue is a major obstacle to showing the real added value of the overall solution.
JS: Right! And above all, this fragmentation is a central problem that distracts from the basic question: "What am I doing this for?" If I do this in order to have a control system, do I do this in order to relieve the burden on non-core processes or do I do this, for example, in order to make my working methods more transparent to my patient. I think these are the key questions and that's why I would always warn against saying that digitalization actually improves the doctor-patient relationship. This is not a hypothesis that can simply be made provable. The physician is, due to this compression of all work processes, understandably more and more in a hectic pace, but if one had asked the physicians 50 or 100 years ago, who were not called physicians at that time, they would also say "time? we have little time".
CH: Let's turn to the field of research: here too, you are driving forward projects that use the latest technologies. Can you give us more details on this?
JS: We conduct national and international clinical studies. They are monocentric and multicentric, i.e. in one clinic or in many other clinics or practices. The documentation of medical results is thus generally recorded electronically nowadays. This means that the study nurse at the centre enters the blood values and we record the data centrally, thus reducing transfer errors from the paper file to the electronic database. It also speeds up the process of identifying what data is missing and allows interim analyses to be carried out much earlier. So-called electronic documentation files CRF (Case Repot Form) are firmly established.
A more recent topic is that people are increasingly trying to measure not only disease, but also quality of life. This is done by means of questionnaires sent to patients via mobile phone, iPad or computer. And the latest trend is that you generally measure activities, how the heart beats, what the steps are like during the day, whether someone is sleeping well... For example, we are in a project with GARMIN, in which patients during chemotherapy are continuously questioned about the side effects of cancer therapies, activities, etc. This is a major new trend, not only in terms of life time and length of life, but also in terms of what the patient evaluates, the so-called 'patient reported outcome (PRO)'. All this is of course digitally structured as well.
CH: So many new perspectives are opening up in research. - One last question to encourage all those who are currently still shying away from the topic of digitisation: How technically minded are you personally, or how much technical understanding is needed to initiate such projects?
JS: I'm, do I think, just a little bit technically minded, I'm more of a user than a technical expert. As a classical physician, one is not so close to the technology. That is why you study medicine and not physics, mathematics or engineering. I have basic knowledge and use a mobile phone, but a very old one. I use WhatsApp a lot, answer my e-mails and of course make my electronic presentations with the classic software programs like PowerPoint etc. I think it is important to realize that the 70-year-old person today is also different than twenty years ago and that digitization is not a question of will, but our reality. When I see what our children do with electronic media, I was naturally far from it as a child. Currently, however, new medical courses of study are also starting which have defined digitalisation as the focus of their education. This branch will certainly become even bigger in the future.
What is important for my current projects are simply good partners. Partners who also understand the subject matter and do not just have the technical background. A partner also needs to understand the processes where he can support, where goals such as patient relationship, compliance or adherence to therapy are needed and a sense that the technology will not interfere. And that succeeds.
CH: What do you pay attention to and how do you manage to find really good partners?
JS: That's really a big challenge, because unfortunately there's no real platform where you can look for references and see who's done which project. You don't even know if my neighbour in the clinic or the neighbouring institution has such a concept. That's why this is really difficult and has a lot to do with word of mouth. That's what I sometimes miss when we talk to partners, that they have the solution right away, but very much on a technical level, but don't know the field trials yet, don't have clinical experience and don't even have the reproducibility of their processes. This, I think, requires a continuous dialogue and therefore I would be very happy if there were also a structure in which you could record your successes, but also your failures.
CH: Thank you, Prof. Sehouli for the interview.
"On the art of delivering bad news well", Kösel-Verlag, ISBN 978-3466347025
After all, digitization means exactly two things "physically": increasing speed and data volume. These two changes offer huge opportunities for companies, and the complexity that comes with them - but as a "side effect" of speed and data i is also a major challenge for companies that have been operating and innovating at a slower pace. Here, their size in particular is becoming the downfall of many companies, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to pool the knowledge available in-house in such a way that effective competitive products can be brought to market quickly. This puts companies under pressure to revise their accustomed processes and procedures - also in terms of creativity and innovation. In many cases, this can only be achieved with completely new means and ideas, and, yes, with the help of other types of employees. Doers, lateral thinkers and pattern breakers are in demand, because the recipe "more of the same" no longer works in this disruptive, fast time.
One always hears that innovation-promoting methods trigger enthusiasm, commitment and creativity in employees and thus make them "happy" in the truest sense of the word. So why does this not develop a pulling effect and often remains a singular project?
The problem is that the almost planned economy budget thinking, the thinking in cost centers and projects, i.e. completed, cleanly plannable units, which prevails in large, successful companies, especially in plannable, often very short-term Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), stands in the way of a real, experimental innovation culture.
My esteemed companion Ulf Pillkahn wrote in his book "The Logic of the Roulette Ball": You go to the decision makers with a 50 million budget idea. The CEO murmurs to you: "But with 25 million, it'll work, right?" And before you get nothing, you nod. Then 12.5 million are approved - and after 14 days the first question about the ROI comes up. We cannot control such innovations with the measuring criteria of the old working world, we need more freedom and more trust - even if failures occur. By the way, these happen equally in the "through-budgeted" world. It only feels safer if a so-called business plan on a piece of paper describes in advance where the journey will take place for 6 years.
In your experience, do you have an example à la: "Good idea - but it didn't work."
I can think of a groundbreaking innovation from the company I worked for for 25 years, Siemens. At the last Expo in Hanover in 2000, my ingenious colleagues from Corporate Technology had developed a display about the size of a Din A 5, which could be controlled by touching the screen. But the big question then was, how does content get into the little thing, it would cost millions to make the device so smart that it would really benefit the user.
In 2010, the first iPad came onto the market. A certain Steve Jobs had just developed not only the hardware - who knows, maybe even copied the idea from Siemens - but with the invention of apps - thousands of applications by and for users - he had brought an incredibly intelligent "content development machine" onto the market that solved that last piece of the problem for which the Munich colleagues were simply too early.
Dear Sabine, three tips from you on how to embed the topic of digitalization in companies?
Mobilize people, namely those who have the desire to participate in shaping the future of the company. We call them guides, multipliers, ambassadors: they anticipate as role models, support colleagues and demonstrate through their own actions how exciting and fulfilling it can be to venture into the unknown Nextland.
Creating space for social learning: For this, employees need a common platform, an internal social network where they can share knowledge and meet each other, and courageous managers who let their employees learn, communicate and collaborate without time or place - without "permission" and yes, sometimes even without direct reference to the current task: The 40-hour week with a time clock has had its day.
Working openly with people's fear of change: Communicating openly and demonstrating that digitisation is also an opportunity, that it is not (only) about automation and, in the worst case, about the loss of existence, but also about new options for each individual to get involved and help shape the future. We still have a lot to do here, especially in the commercial sector, but we have already had very good experiences in making people want to have a future.
DigiWhat thanks you for the interview.
The pharmaceutical industry can often simply buy up because it then essentially only acquires "the new formula" or the new biotech process. Done. However, in most cases the new requires different business models, new cultures, new qualifications and a genuine will to replace the old. This is mercilessly underestimated. Afterwards they say with sadness: "The integration did not succeed." Before buying up the new one, corporations first try to fight for efficiency and ruinous competition. This makes them mediocre and tired. In this state of mind, they usually only buy mediocre start-ups that are willing to be bought up and are not absurdly expensive. That doesn't help at all then. A car company would certainly not buy Tesla, because Tesla costs more than the company. The company is stunned. This lack of understanding is fatal. The winner is always the newcomer who is out for world class and finally achieves world class. Amazon was not the first to arrive, neither was Google or Tesla. But the buying up companies usually don't become world class in the new by buying up.
You were head of innovation at IBM. Do you have two "do's" and two "don'ts" that you can share with us if you want to promote innovation in the company?
Do's: Focus on entrepreneurial types that really pull something off. The big ideas and then corporations usually have a personal name behind them (Neckermann, Siemens, Thyssen, Bosch, Daimler, Porsche, Otto...). Have the patience of a saint to let these guys do things until they are world class. Help them with all means. It's not about the future of the entrepreneurial types, but about your own.
Dont's: Don't obsessively focus on issues or ideas instead of entrepreneurial types. Politics makes just this mistake and "occupies" topics instead of leading them.
Digitization within companies to increase efficiency and as support for new business models - all well and good. They often talk about the fact that social progress can be achieved, such as fewer road deaths, fairer access to good education, in the sense of the virtual professor, or the reduction of mortality rates for certain diseases due to better prevention/treatment. We could ask the question: "How do we want to live?" anew in many areas today. Why do we find it so difficult to put these positive social aspects in the foreground and to understand digitalisation as such?
Germany wants something new only if it is good for everyone and does not allow misuse. It moralizes about this for a long time until the train has left the station. Of course, the new puts some people at a disadvantage - they are garishly and deterrently highlighted in the press - and of course weapons can be forged from anything new, ploughshares can be forged into swords - and so metal should actually be banned. The positive effects of digitalisation then secretly assert themselves without the moralisation having led to anything. The German finally gets used to the Internet and the "algorithms", the self-driving cars without traffic fatalities and the payment by credit card. The abuses happen as predicted, anyway, and they are fought and kept within tolerable limits. The dream of excluding them from the outset or avoiding them completely is probably a German phenomenon. A Chinese man told me (is not representative, maybe not true, but inspired me) "In China we have the great ideals of religion and philosophy - and next to them the often sordid reality. We live with both. We are amazed at the energy of the Germans to bring these two worlds as close together as possible. Somehow admirable." Yes, the hesitation can also be somehow admirable. Unfortunately, during the hesitation, the outside world determines how things will go on in our country, and we accept this grumbling, because it's not really the way we would like it to be. The new is then not bad, but also not right.
There are a lot of issues, depending on the industry and business models, of course. What everyone has to work on is building digital competence in-house. This means becoming an attractive employer for digital talent. The most common positions are often developers and talents with data analytics skills that are missing here, but people who can develop new business models are also in high demand.
Otherwise it is very important to be close to your customers, the companies that have direct access to customers will have the margins in the future. Take the examples like Airbnb/Uber/Check24, they all don't have classic products in the sense of flats/car/service contracts, but they are the starting point for consumers and they are very close to the customers. This is what makes these companies so valuable.
You say that start-ups are close to the customer. In order to know what the customer wants, there has to be an exchange with the potential end customers. How do B2B start-ups do it in the initial phase? Are there enough companies open to participate in beta phases, pilot projects and "new products"?
Especially in the initial phases, the exchange with potential end customers is extremely important for start-ups. They help to make the product even better, generate initial sales and collect feedback.
Good B2B startups get in touch with their potential target group early on. There are many different ways to get in touch with your target group, from direct contact via networks such as Linkedin or Xing to attending industry events. The cooperation with the innovation departments of the relevant groups often bears fruit.
I can only encourage companies and medium-sized enterprises to try out and test the products of start-ups. That way, you will always stay on the cutting edge and not be overtaken at some point.
Do you have a tip for us on when it is worthwhile for a company to rely on a service provider who can carry out individual programming and when it makes sense to cooperate with a start-up?
In principle, I think it is important to work with external companies, but to develop the core business by yourself. One way to decide is whether it is skills that I need regularly or whether I need the expertise only once. If I need something regularly and I can manage to hire people with the skills I would do so, if it is rare or requires a lot of special knowledge I would use a service provider.
A maximum product offering.
What is your opinion: A smaller internal core team and then, depending on your needs, fall back on external experts or expand the knowledge internally through qualification and growth?
Because of the complexity, the possibilities and the constantly new technologies: Small core team and external experts.
Is it about learning from Amazon or is it about being "different" in your opinion?
You deal with online commerce on a daily basis - can an established company that "also" operates online do what it takes to compete in this field?
We want to profit from your experience. Do you have 3 tips what NOT to do or a nice example what did not lead to success?
Do not underestimate customer feedback!
Do not scale too fast.
Don't just depend on search engine marketing, but think about branding. The question must be, how does the customer remember my online shop once he has been there? It is much easier to work offline with lasting impressions.
And now even number 4: work with partners early on. Many tend to want to develop everything themselves for far too long.