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The structure and orientation of the German engineering sector is and remains compatible with the German start-up landscape only to a limited extent. The mechanical and plant engineering world, traditionally dominated by SMEs and companies with a long tradition, collides to some degree with the unorthodox, often somewhat playful, but always innovative and dynamic world of ideas and dynamism of the start-ups.
Extensive experience in both scenes is needed to be able to recognize a (company or industry-specific) benefit of a collaboration, and to separate the wheat start-ups from the chaff. The goal must always be to define truly beneficial and sustainable project and synergy potential. Then it is important to structure the matching, the depth of the integration and the type of cooperation as a process, or at least to sketch it as an iterative path – a challenge that the VDMA also sees itself up against with its "Start-up Machine".
In my view, it is essential to scrutinize one's own goals if one wishes to lastingly benefit from the dynamism and digitalization of German start-ups. In doing so, the following steps should definitely be included in the process:
The start-up is a form of organization geared toward growth and the verification of business models. A start-up has its own methods for doing so. But when scaling up, some of the structures and also the founding team's leadership competence break apart. Here, a stable and efficient existing organization can bring its strengths to bear to help reach the next growth stage of the business model for the start-up. What sometimes lacks in these companies, however, are the bridge-builders between the company and the start-up, who campaign for mutual understanding and expose synergies for both sides.
There are numerous ways to execute a digital transformation and increase innovativeness: internal projects, investing in start-ups, joint ventures, consulting or interim and implementation management. Establishing a digital advisory committee can also help structure the road to digital transformation. In a nutshell: What is needed most of all are innovative minds that have the right networks to link tradition up with the digital world.
Especially in today's world, anyone who buys a start-up merely out of panic actionism will, in an extreme case, destroy his company. But watching from the sidelines as others take over the game is not enough either. The changes are so complex that every company needs to react and find its own unique solution.
And that means, with all the hype surrounding the topic of start-ups and the numerous opportunities arising from cooperation: it is worth looking at the alternatives too.Sascha Hackstein explains the challenges of “The Start-up Machine” in a previous article:
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