Supplying digital experts with logistical know-how in order to develop new, successful business models together – that is the goal of XPRESS Ventures. Managing Partner Matthias Friese – himself a thoroughbred incorporator – explains why Fiege has committed to this field.
As an enterprise which sees itself in the role of an innovation leader in the logistics industry, Fiege has always shown to be open to new ideas. The most recent example of this is the family business’ commitment for what is still a relatively young business segment in Germany – at least for mid-sized companies –, i.e. Company Building, which has evolved these past years from the ecosystem of start-ups. What is new for Fiege in this regard is that logistics, in this case, come second only. We spoke with Matthias Friese, Head of Company Building, via Teams in Berlin, home to Germany’s start-up scene.
Company Building does not necessarily mean a lot to most people. What exactly do you and your team do?
Roughly speaking, we look for start-up teams that primarily develop innovative solutions for logistics. We thoroughly analyse concepts that seem interesting to us and rate their chances of success. In the best-case scenario, the process results in the incorporation of a joint enterprise. For this, we contribute the business, digital, and logistical know-how. And we establish contact with venture capitalists that guarantee financing. Our strategy does not focus on maintaining a majority. We help the company to grow up and establish itself in the market, only to sell our shares then at a profit. That is the concept.
How does this specifically work?
Basically, it is all about bringing the right people together, so-called complementing teams comprised of digital experts who know what digital products and projects should look like, as well as logistics experts who know how processes work and inter-relate in practice. The trick is to merge these competencies as such that the result is a solid company.
Around a year ago, you took over the responsibility for Fiege’s new Company Building division. How did this come about?
Fiege had been dealing intensively with this matter for quite some time and realised that you need to think things differently today compared to how especially family businesses may have in the past, to be successful in the market of tomorrow. Based on this, Fiege decided to create and build a completely new segment together, namely a vertical for Company Building within logistics.I am a thoroughbred founder myself and always asked myself the question: Why do we not also tap all the assets that Germany’s mid-sized economy has to offer for start-ups? How to leverage the synergies from both worlds through sensible connections? At Fiege, we have been tackling this for one year now. And successfully so, because in the meantime we are growing strongly – both in terms of business and personnel.
There are quite simply not many family businesses that do Company Building. Does this not more likely call for the umbrella of a corporate group?
No, I believe that the culture and the structures inherent in a corporate group are more of an obstacle because hey slow things down and thwart decision-making. Fiege, on the other hand, has extremely short decision-making channels. That al-lows us to respond fast, which is a major advantage. Just how fast we can build and implement something more often than not decides the success or failure in this business.
What are the expectations in relation to your work?
I believe that it is the central goal, next to our core segment, contract logistics, and the real estate business, to set up a further mainstay. We aim to create a new business segment via Corporate Venturing, together with our colleagues from F-Log Ventures. That our work positively impacts Fiege’s innovative strength is naturally a highly welcome effect.
Your main focus is on new solutions for logistics. How do you rate the potential in this segment that could be leveraged with help from digital solutions?
I think that we are still in the very early stages of that journey. Just like there are few software specialists that deal specifically with supply chain flows, there are still barely any logistics experts that have seriously dedicated time to the topic of digitalisation. In conclusion there are still many aspects that have not been solved digitally. One example: the customer journey of the big online shops nowadays, all the way to the payment, is tiptop. But that’s where the journey ends. The process then transfers to a logistics provider which at some point delivers the merchandise, usually at a time when the recipient is not at home. So they simply take the package with them again and hand it – as they like to in Berlin – one kilometre down the road to the local newsagent, where it waits for collection. That is neither sustainable, nor reasonable, nor an experience worth remembering for the customer. We tap into those very points and use the competitive lead that Fiege’s logistics infrastructure gives us.
Speaking of innovation: When do you consider an idea to be innovative?
For us, innovation starts were processes are effectively re-thought which consequently creates a significantly better result. That can be a lower price, a bigger margin, improved customer experience or a plus in terms of sustainability. Innovation should not be an end in itself.
Announcement Innovation Challenge
For the fourth time now, Fiege will be seeking exciting and new ideas this year for business models centring on logistics and neighbouring markets. All Fiege employees and interested students are invited to participate. The second round of applications addresses employees and will run until 28 February 2021. Innovation coaches at the individual locations and the digital Fiege Innovation School all assist with the formulation of ideas and the preparation of the application. The best ideas will be presented in summer 2021 during a pitch to a jury of experts and an audience. The winners can expect attractive starting funds to advance their idea, and active mentoring from XPRESS Ventures on the incorporation of a joint enterprise, all the way to a round of potential funding. More information on how to apply is available at ic.fiege.com or at xpress.ventures.