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APRIL - JUNE 2016
 
Thomas Mack on...
 

WIN-WIN SITUATIONS


Or: How start-ups can provide the necessary catalysts for making established companies sustainable over the long term – and
vice versa!

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Thomas Mack studied at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, where he delved deep into the topics of innovation management and entrepreneurship, strategic company management, and occupational and organizational psychology. As part of his subsequent doctoral course at the EBS University in Wiesbaden, he focused on “crowdsourced” innovation.

For a few years now, Thomas has been working as a Senior Consultant at IMP while founding a software start-up “on the side” that has quickly gone from a digital marketplace for landlords and tenants to a specialized technology service provider for real estate companies. It is what you could call a win-win situation, not only for his customers (renters and landlords both disappear in pairs), but also for IMP because his digital knowledge can be effectively integrated into customer projects – and the other way around.

Win-win situations can also occur for established companies working with start-ups if both sides commit to the symbiotic relationship. To find out which tangible synergy effects can occur between start-ups and more traditional companies, and what disruptive innovation and digital business models have to offer, read this interview hosted by Linda Stifter.
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ABOUT DISRUPTIVE INNOVATIONS

Linda: Thomas, you indicate “disruptive innovation” as one of the first fields you were interested in. Where do you get your “appetite for destruction”?

Thomas: (laughs) I never really thought of it that way, Linda. Maybe something happened in my childhood that I can’t remember anymore!? No, but seriously, the real fascination for me is finding new solutions for existing problems. These days we are all occupied with so many things, whether it’s work or recreation, and we barely have any time or room to really get perspective and think about the details of our problems. So we stick with the solutions that work without questioning anymore if there is BETTER or DIFFERENT way. In doing that we often overlook the simplest of solutions despite them being right under our noses. On top of that, things have become so fast and confusing through globalization and technological change that we can’t possibly know about all of the new elements of the solutions that are out there.

Linda: Can you go into a bit more detail about these “new elements”?

Thomas: Let’s take digitization as an example because it’s on the tip of everyone’s tongues. What does this “age of digitization” even mean? Software and Internet technologies have developed so fast that we are “suddenly” able to solve our problems differently and more effectively using new technologies. That applies to systems of adding value for entire industries just as it applies to the question of what and how we want to eat our lunch today.

Linda: … or for the question of how tenants and landlords find each other. That is what your software start-up “Vermietagent” does, right? What advantages does your software provide for your customers? Did your experiences at IMP help you in any way when you founded the company?


ABOUT DIGITAL BUSINESS MODELS

Thomas: Vermietagent simplifies the renting process for residential properties. Without our cloud-based software, landlords need an average of 20 hours until they find a new tenant. With Vermietagent they now need just under 10 hours, and the service quality is much better for interested tenants so it’s a win-win situation created by digitization.

My experiences at IMP helped me unbelievably when I was founding the company. It was just like we “preach” it to our customers: radical innovations don’t develop in a straight line! Radical innovations are only successful if you maintain a certain level of flexibility for change and a readiness for repetition. We pivoted twice with our business model before the launch, and in the end we gradually went from a digital marketplace for landlords and tenants to a specialized technology service provider for real estate companies.

Linda: The other way around, do your experiences as a company founder influence your consulting activities when you work with our customers on digital transformation projects, for example?

Thomas: I have been working with start-ups for more than 10 years and have accompanied many of my friends and acquaintances through the start-up phases of their companies. Your own experiences bring a different depth with them. Beyond the mentality and the various tips and tricks that I have been able to take from my own experiences starting companies, what has become much easier for me these days compared to the old days is combining these two worlds. Even better, I actually get to transfer these experiences directly into consulting projects. It may be in the conception and organization of a start-up incubator/accelerator or the development of a radical business model innovation based on a new production technology.

Linda: Speaking of that, the topic of incubation and collaboration with start-ups and established companies is on everyone’s minds at the moment. The increased (innovation) potential that comes out of it can benefit both sides. How do you see that? Maybe you can explain the concept of an incubator, or the idea behind it, and give us an idea of what an associated win-win situation really looks like?
 

ABOUT INCUBATION: EXPLORE & EXPLOIT

Thomas: I see the successful combination of start-ups and established companies as both a challenge and a chance for both sides.

  • All of the procedures and organizational features of established companies are set up to efficiently reproduce and further develop their existing processes. By definition, radical, and in particular disruptive innovations do not fit into that system. At the same time, radical innovation is a must if you want to secure long-term sustainability. This is the dilemma facing established companies.
  • Start-ups typically have radical ideas and the necessary "drive" to implement those ideas, but they lack nearly everything else, from market access to capital.

One would think that these two worlds would perfectly augment one another and theoretically that is right, but in practice it is much more difficult. In-house (or closely related) incubators are one way of bringing these two worlds together. Start-ups get the resources they lack from the established companies in the form of office space, market knowledge, know-how and capital. In return, the established companies get access to the innovations (employees and the culture) of the start-ups involved by investing in the operation, being in close proximity to them and by actively collaborating on the project.

That means, if it’s done right, incubators like this can become real breeding grounds for sustainable, successful, radical and disruptive innovation. But these win-win situations can only be achieved if the collaborative efforts are extremely carefully planned and managed...

Speaking of that, we should probably get back to some of our customer projects!

Linda: Thank you for the "win-win” conversation, Thomas!

 
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We regularly introduce our IMP employees in the form of an interview. Come back and have a look at our web site to meet our colleagues. The interviews may have some interesting information that applies to your field!

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARTICLE 04-06/2016

THOMAS MACK

For a few years now, Thomas Mack has also been a Senior Consultant at IMP, in addition to his independent work as the founder of a software start-up. A win-win for both sides!

 

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