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Startup scouting in Berlin: making bridges between startups and the corporative world

What are the technological trends of the future? Which are the most suitable startup solutions for a specific problem? Those are questions to deal with as a startup scout at the Startup Intelligence Center at Daimler Financial Services.

The Startup Intelligence Center (SIC) is the entry point for all young companies interested in cooperating with Daimler Financial Services and its subsidiaries. The global network consists of internal innovation drivers and subject matter experts as well as external partners such as Startup Highway, Capital Factory, The Bridge and Factory Berlin.

The SIC creates transparency and links all startup activities within the financial and mobility environment. With the expertise as scouts and mediators, we build a bridge between the startup and corporate world and support the projects in the business units and markets. With new technologies, we also tap new, potential business models.

Startup Scouting as a Service

Typically, my search for the perfect startup starts with a job from the department – we call the process “Startup Scouting as a Service”. First of all, I have to understand exactly where my colleagues are wearing the shoe. Priority has feedback from our customers.

For example, we found that after they filed a vehicle damage on our in-house insurance, our customers could not track the current status of their damage. In these and other order clarifications, I ask critical questions and see to what extent my colleagues would be open to taking another path with an innovative company, which they had not yet on the screen at this time. Once we have defined the scope together, the search begins.

Quantity before quality

First, a comprehensive list of startups is created, the so-called Long List. This is composed of databases, market research, internal sources and with the help of our external partners such as accelerator programs. Accelerators are bad debt programs for young companies and help them grow quickly with the right mentors and resources.

In the first step, the focus is on quantity to obtain as much information and data as possible, on the basis of which a detailed analysis can be performed. Depending on the topic and market maturity, such a list will quickly contain between 50 and 400 startups.

Find the top startups

In the second step, the analysis process begins. Based on the criteria of the specialist department and our own quality standards, the long list is shortened. Until she has about 20 startups left. Points are awarded to account for all aspects. The startup team, the maturity of the company, the customer base, the relevant partners and the strategic suitability are included in the evaluation.

In doing so, they are weighted differently depending on the subject area – Mobility start-ups, for example, who want to build an ecosystem, are particularly interested in partnerships, while in the case of start-ups in the financial sector, we make sure that the regulatory requirements are met. Afterward, we will step into the qualitative analysis and, above all, scrutinize the business model.

Personal meeting

If there is already a concrete project proposal for cooperation or if further information is needed, we contact the startup and invite it to a presentation – known in the jargon as pitch. This gives both parties, us and the startup, the opportunity to get to know each other and to understand each other’s business models.

The project starts

If both parties want to work together, as an innovation manager, I will continue to support my colleagues in the field during the pilot phase: we will jointly develop a prototype to receive real customer feedback. For example, in the case of the insurance claim above, we created an application for our insurance company to show how the tracking could look real. You will then find us with questionnaires prepared in the Mercedes-Benz Museum or at our dealers to directly obtain the feedback of the potential end customers to our idea.

If the feedback looks promising, we aim for a long-term cooperation with the startup. If an investment opportunity also arises during the project, we work closely with our colleagues from M & A Technology and Venture.

They advise us with their expertise in finding the right structure for such an investment. While our startup scouting is about working together in the form of pilot projects, M & A Technology and Venture is more focused on investing.

What fascinates me about the profession of startup scouts is that on the one hand, it is very analytical. You fight through numerous startup profiles, look at the market, draw conclusions in quantitative terms. And yet, on the other hand, you also have to be communicative, network and negotiate. Two completely different aspects.

It is a profession with trends, business models and above all people. How do you combine the interests of the startup with those of our company? Where are common points of intersection, how do you really create added value? Should you risk something for the future? What you need for this: Creativity, to think once around the corner, the courage to say it and the stamina to convince everyone.

New week, new tasks

No two days are alike, and I have the freedom to shape my own ideas and drive topics forward. Sometimes I start the week clicking databases, then have a Design Thinking Workshop on a new Innovation Project on Wednesday, and then get on the plane to end the week at a startup event – always looking for new business models interesting innovation projects for our company.

My big highlight was that I was able to set up our “Startup Scouting as a Service” with my colleagues, as there was no such process at Daimler Financial Services. Sometimes it feels like we’re just a little startup ourselves. The ability to work with so many different types of people from around the world is also incredibly rewarding. And after weeks of scouting and months of negotiations to see the signatures on the cooperation agreement – for me the motivation to start each day happy and grateful.

Also published on Medium.

Published inStartups

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