Beyond Conventions – Develop digital solutions for real challenges

New format in the cooperation of established large companies and start-ups on topics of digital transformation

On 20 & 21 February 2018, “Beyond Conventions – Develop digital solutions for real challenges” took place as the final event of the eponymous initiative at thyssen krupp’s head office in Essen under the motto “Be Bold, Be Brave, Blow us away – shape the future at thyssenkrupp Quartier Q2 “.

“Beyond Conventions” is an initiative of five major Essen companies from traditional sectors: 1. thyssenkrupp, 2. innogy, 3. Open Grid Europe (gas network operator), 4. Schacht One (Haniel’s Digital Hub), and FUNKE MEDIEN NRW. The motivation of these companies is to get new ideas for concrete problems from the outside.

“Change is continuous and change means work. Anyone who wants to change needs outside inspiration. That applies especially in times when everyone and everything is going digital. But why join the crowd traveling to Silicon Valley? Just to see what others are doing that you aren’t?

No. We do things differently. We’re bringing the ideas to us. Because that’s where we need them – in the form of start-ups which can supply digital solutions to concrete business problems. That’s why we have launched, a platform to bring companies’ challenges and startups together.”

(from the letter of invitation to the event)


19 Challenges published via Internet

In November 2017, 19 corresponding so-called challenges (see the following chart) were published via the Internet on the specially established website with a call to start-ups to submit proposals for solutions. As the whole initiative was written in English, the call was not only aimed at local start-ups, but it was an international call for tenders.

200 start-ups from more than 10 countries applied with their ideas. Out of these, 38 were selected by the initiators as best candidates and invited to a pitch for the event in Essen.



Pitches by corporates and start-ups

On the first day of the event, mostly young employees of the large five companies presented the defined challenges that they supervised in the form of pitches (see agenda on the lower chart).

On the second day, the start-ups presented their solutions also in pitches. The event ended in the awarding of the winners. Keynote speeches by experts from the start-up and digital scene in Germany (including Google, Earlybird, Foodora) and official greetings from Thyssen CEO Hiesinger, Essen’s Mayor Kufen and Andreas Pinkwart (NRW Minister of Economic Affairs) underlined the importance of the event for the participating companies and companies start-ups.

Moderator and speaker Andrew Goldstein, who is not only a partner of Deloitte Digital Ventures, but also the initiator of the German Accelerator and the director of the LMU Entrepreneurship Center in Munich, assesses this format as new, unique and “groundbreaking” because it means a fair cooperation of large companies from traditional industries and start-ups. Also because working together on a business basis, the large company does not act as an investor and thus leaves the start-up room for self-determined growth. Moreover, the result is much more practicable, more promising and thus more efficient compared to other activities of large companies in this direction.



Win-Win situation for participating corporates and start-ups

This format creates a win-win situation for both sides:

The participating large companies receive actionable, plausible solutions for the problems they have defined.

The participating start-ups receive new business contacts with established companies and the opportunity to realize pilot projects. They can then also use them as a reference to other customers.


For the initiators, there are even more benefits from this format:

  • Motivation of own talents by working on digital topics;
  • Building so important cooperation competence, learning to work with start-ups and other external partners;
  • Positive press as established company in the field of digital transformation;
  • Strengthening the own employer brand as an attractive employer in the competition for young talents;
  • Demonstrating corporate citizenship in cooperation with regional partners.

The effort involved in this initiative is estimated to be significantly lower for the companies involved compared with other alternatives and associated with lower risk. Therefore, this  initiative will certainly experience a second round.


Valuable format for all established companies

This format is valuable for all established companies that have a Digital Transformation Agenda – that’s almost all. By cooperating with other companies in such an initiative, this is not only relevant for corporations or large companies but also for larger SMEs. Therefore, an imitation would be worthwhile as a concerted action with others.


For more information on this event, please click here.

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