BeyondConventions: When start-ups and thyssenkrupp learn from each other

Corporate culture | Digitalisation and industry 4.0 | innovation | trends of technology | How do a company with over 200 years of history and digital start-ups fit together? Quite well, says Ufuk Ergen – if the corporate culture is right. Together with colleagues and other companies he created Beyond Conventions. The goal of the event: to enable real cooperation between start-ups and corporations. He told us how it all started. And what companies can learn from start-ups.

Working for a large company has many advantages – from job security to career opportunities to influence. However, anyone who has ever tried it can confirm: As with everything in life, there are also some downsides. “Anyone who has ever worked for a company knows that things often run slower than they could. The bigger the tanker, the slower it moves,” says Ufuk Ergen, Manager Innovation, Strategy and Project at thyssenkrupp. “That’s why it makes sense to work with other organizations that can complement you – be it in terms of speed or content. With the latter, Ergen means, above all, that start-ups can often focus on a very specific product or service, while corporations are often positioned very broadly.

As an expert on innovation at thyssenkrupp, Ufuk Ergen was one of the thought leaders of the BeyondConventions concept.
As an expert on innovation at thyssenkrupp, Ufuk Ergen was one of the thought leaders of the BeyondConventions concept.

First and foremost, there is a prerequisite for both sides actually supporting each other: “The attitude of being fundamentally open to new things. I would describe this as a management goal or corporate culture.” In other words, both the start-up and the company must be prepared to get committed to each other. “This is the only way we can learn from each other. Like in a relationship.”

Beyond Conventions brings start-ups and companies together

Since last year BeyondConventions has created a stage for these collaborations. “The idea was: We invite start-ups from Germany and Europe to use their solutions and ideas to promote concrete problems from our businesses,” says Ergen.

At BeyondConventions, start-ups met corporates and experts in a perfect environment – at thyssenkrupp's headquarter in Essen, Germany.
At BeyondConventions, start-ups met corporates and experts in a perfect environment – at thyssenkrupp's headquarter in Essen, Germany.

Today, the event is hosted by seven well-known companies with roots in the Ruhr region – in addition to thyssenkrupp, Siemens, innogy and ALDI are also present, for example. “All seven companies are publicly announcing the digital challenges they face as part of the event. Start-ups can then contribute solutions. They can’t win any prize money, no investment, but a real contract from one of the international corporations – a real incentive for a young start-up.”

Last year, the first edition of Beyond Conventions already showed that there is a lot of potential for the future: The concept is working, Ergen says. “When it comes to a location for founders, the Ruhr area is still a hidden place in many people’s minds. We wanted to change that. We have 155,000 companies here in the region, with annual sales of over 300 billion euros. In addition, it is one of the densest landscapes in Europe for education and research. We would like to exploit this potential and build on it.” That worked: More than 200 start-ups applied the first time. 35 of them finally made it to BeyondConventions in Essen in February 2018. In many cases, the contracts created on site are still running today.

This is BeyondConventions! In short pitches, start-ups present their concepts for the digital challenges of large companies.
This is BeyondConventions! In short pitches, start-ups present their concepts for the digital challenges of large companies.
Some of the winners of the first edition of BeyondConventions, including two representatives of the start-up Orbica (both on the right), which drew attention with drone analyses of thyssenkrupp's industrial construction sites.
Some of the winners of the first edition of BeyondConventions, including two representatives of the start-up Orbica (both on the right), which drew attention with drone analyses of thyssenkrupp's industrial construction sites.

Second edition of BeyondConventions in February 2019

Already today, one year after the premiere and shortly before the second edition of BeyondConventions, Ufuk Ergen is certain: “BeyondConventions is a success story. Once again, around 200 start-ups have applied this year to present their solutions to real digital challenges

Networking at its best at the premiere of BeyondConventions: Between keynotes, pitches and challenge presentations, the participants found enough time to have fruitful conversations with partner and their kind. In February 2019, it is not supposed to be any different.
Networking at its best at the premiere of BeyondConventions: Between keynotes, pitches and challenge presentations, the participants found enough time to have fruitful conversations with partner and their kind. In February 2019, it is not supposed to be any different.

This year, an exciting supporting program with speakers such as Dr. Frederik G. Pferdt, Chief Innovation Evangelist at Google and Professor at Stanford University awaits the participants. This year’s motto: “Be bold. Be brave. Blow us away.” Which means: No ordinary solutions. No “One size fits all”. Because only with a creative and innovative mindset, the cooperation between companies and start-ups can turn into great things.

Author

Martina Merz
  • written by Martina Merz
  • 9. February 2019

Great initiative. I wish the event every success! Best, Martina Merz

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