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How startups and corporates work together?

A mega interesting session on the Hinterland of Things was a panel where collaborative startups and corporates chatted about.

Claas and 365Farmnet (spin-offs for data analytics startup for farmers), Dr.Wolff and Valuedesk (startup for purchasing and cost optimization), and Miele and Plant Jammer (Danish startup with an AI-based cooking app) were at the start.

365Farmnet was born out of intrapreneurship

Karl-Heinz Krudewig is Vice President Product 365FarmNet and started his career as a farmer. Then went to Claas and worked together with his current contact Thomas Böck (CTO Claas).

From many individual, isolated digital solutions for farmers, the platform 365Farmnet was created, in which machines are connected and brought to the cloud for the farmers. This had to be operated for 2 years first in-house marketing.

But it soon became clear that competition had to be included in order to provide the best possible solution for the customers – the farmers. That could not happen in their own walls, so the company was spun out and raised in Berlin.

This step into an independent environment, with its own budget and without the need for an SAP connection has proven to be just right.

But of course, the young company also faced difficulties. In Herzebrock-Clarholz, some former colleagues naturally asked themselves: “Why the people and not me with my project?”

For the startup, a partner like Claas from the Agra industry was incredibly valuable because he knows it can take a few years and a long breath before an innovation is accepted in the marketplace. That would have been much harder with a VC.

In addition, it is valuable to be able to fall back on the resources of a group, if bsw. the know-how of a marketing specialist in France is needed quickly.

The best tip for companies that want to go a similar way was:

You have to explain it to your people. You need bridge builders who are fluent in both languages – startup and corporate.

And: The spinoff must not fly too far from the base. The link must always be made so that an exchange can take place and mutual successes can be celebrated.

3 tips for startups were:

Do not build too much functionality at once, but focus on the core of what the customer really wants. Complex Verzeteln overtakes you again and again. Just show data is not enough. The data must generate added value, a real insight for the customer. If there are problems, there are several ways: just go on, if you are convinced. Braking and stopping development are obvious. But sometimes it’s also worthwhile to look left and right and discover a hitherto unseen pivot option.

Plant Jammer was scouted by Miele

Michael Haase, Founder and CEO of Plant Jammer had arrived from Denmark. The cooking app uses AI to change the way we cook and eat to health, playfulness and sustainability. Of course, a cooperation with one of the biggest and most successful manufacturers of kitchen appliances like Miele is a natural choice.

That’s how Dr. Stefan Breit, Executive Director at Miele, cooking recipes from the perspective of an engineer: material plan and work instruction. Plant Jammer’s approach to using AI’s existing materials (ingredients) to assemble the working instructions for a working (yummy) end product was of particular interest to Miele.

But how did Miele and Plant Jammer get together?

Miele Venture Capital conducted a screening of more than 10,000 startups worldwide, which could be of interest to business models for cooperation or investment. With just over a hundred founders was bsw. contacted via Skype and ultimately there were 6 startups left to invest in.

Michael described the benefit of the collaboration as follows: “Miele has over 100 years of experience in cooking. We have 100 days experience. We can definitely learn something there. ”


A product that should be attractive to end customers can rarely be developed in a quiet room. Michael wanted to see how customers use Plant Jammer, trying out what mistakes they make.

That’s when Miele’s experimental kitchens came into play: the test customers got the app in their hands. Without explanations. This allowed the Plant Jammer team to see what the real behavior of the product looks like.

Of course there are differences in the approaches where both sides can learn from each other. The startup gets up after a failure and continues. Miele builds products for 20 to 30 years. Of course, the fault tolerance is a bit different.

The current focus is primarily on making AI even better at producing better recipes with excellent taste. So content creation in the direction of the customer while securing the tech in the background.

3 Insights for Founders and Corporates:

Exit strategy? If you ask Michael about it, you will hear: “Our exit strategy is that we have none. How do you want to build a sustainable business and I want to do that for the rest of my life. “Speed is the key. Collects specific experiences about projects and individual tasks and does not deviate immediately when prios change.

Michael’s Founders Bonus Tip:

“LinkedIn people WAY above your level.”

Valuedesk and Dr. Wolff = Bielefeld Connection

Torsten R. Bendlin has spent decades in the industry optimizing costs to tackle this problem for 2 years as a founder of startup Valuedesk. The product is intended to support industry in a digital and process-driven way to find their own way and to help themselves.

A member of the Management Board of the Dr. Wolff Group became aware of Valuedesk in a very classical way: through a press article in the Bielefeld local newspaper. Getting in touch with the startup turned out not to be that easy, as the website was not 100% working yet and the phone number was not available, Dr. Wolff told CFO Christian Mestwerdt on stage.

Good that East-Westphalian SMEs have the proverbial stubbornness of the region.

After initial talks and two weeks of negotiations Valuedesk had the promise. “That was a real macho mentality!” Says Torsten Bendlin. Nonetheless, it took a few months to get started until the signature and the actual launch.

Torsten has drawn the following insights:

  1. The first workshops were super prepared, but way too technical. Dr. Wolff’s employees were not picked up where they stood, but in the beginning were over-flooded with user details before they knew how the product could make their job easier.
  2. Gamification is a great way to get employees excited about a product: some Dr.Wolff employees wanted to buy the cool Valuedesk hoodies. Torsten immediately integrated the challenge into the product: “When you work your way into the product, you get a hoodie!” # Invest4Hours.
  3. An Appeal to the Industry: Take the machinist mentality for startups from the executive floor to the other departments to speed up the process and get the PS out on the road. Otherwise, legal or contract departments rightly ask themselves: “Why should I treat a startup differently than SAP?”

Christian Mestwerdt advised:

A startup mindset must be demonstrated and shown that you are not afraid to make good mistakes:

Making mistakes with new things is learning. Making mistakes with standard tasks is sloppiness.

The mindset of startups and medium-sized companies often does not differ as much as one often thinks Torsten concludes, the Valuedesk with meanwhile 14 employees sees the startup idea outgrow and calls it a young company.


A key insight of the panel was how important time and speed can be. In both directions: One wish was to give each other a little more time. Another advice was to take up as much speed as possible and to make out in the first interviews the people who express special readiness for quick decisions and direct action.

Published inStartups

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