A bit more than a year ago Vodafone Germany introduced its Start-up Power Team (short SUP) – a team that is solely responsible for creating strong partnerships with young companies. Besides promoting and mentoring startups, Vodafone offers them to test prototypes in their test facilities and enables access to a large distribution network. To find out more about Vodafone’s recent startup activities we talked to Michael Reinartz, the new Director Innovation at Vodafone Germany.
First of all thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Could you explain, which role startups play in Vodafone’s overall innovation strategy? And why exactly do you believe it is important to include them into your strategy?
Michael Reinartz: The work of the start-up power team forms one of the three pillars of our company’s innovation strategy. Through cooperation with startups, we aim to bring more external innovation into Vodafone. Contrary to most other corporates, we are focusing exclusively on technology and distribution partnerships and do not conduct financial investments in startups. We are convinced that with our extensive consumer and enterprise distribution network, our technology centers across Germany as well as with our expertise in a variety of different fields, we can support start-ups better than with a mere investment.
If you could describe Vodafone’s startup activities in one sentence, what would that be?
Michael Reinartz: It’s rather simple: Our goal at Vodafone is to match promising startups with our technologies, products and our network and work together to bring innovative ideas to market.
You mention the matching of Vodafone and startups. Why is such a potential partnership with Vodafone interesting for startups?
Michael Reinartz: We offer startups to develop and test their products at our Innovation Park. At our so called VIP labs we have over 1000 test projects each year, which makes our Innovation Park Labs one of the leading test facilities for telecommunication innovations worldwide. At the facilities we have more than 300 experts from the widest range of technological fields, which represent a unique pool of digital communication know-how. These experts can provide valuable mentoring to startups and it helps them to extend their personal network. Furthermore, regarding more technical benefits, the capacity of our test network is sufficient to provide mobile coverage for a country such as Switzerland – this offers startups unique testing opportunities. In addition we offer startups the possibility to test their products or services among our customers. Together with the startups we will identify the right customer segment for their market research to receive the best possible customer insights. Each problem that we can identify at an early stage of testing, reduces the lead time of innovation projects, meaning that we will actively help startups to bring their products and services to the market sooner.
Of course testing is one important thing, but how do you help founders that have already passed that stage and are ready to sell their products or services?
Michael Reinartz: Well, one of the most attractive benefits startups get by partnering with Vodafone is the chance to scale their business. We support them in entering new markets, which without our help would require large sums of marketing. We can give startups access to an established distribution network of more than 200 fully-owned shops and 1100 partner agencies, a successful online store and a wide enterprise network. And of course getting the chance to get access to 45 million customers in Germany gives you the best way to start-up your business.
Now you mentioned quite a lot of benefits of a partnership between startups and Vodafone. In case some young founders got interested – how can they get in touch with you? And for which startups you are looking for?
Michael Reinartz: If the startsup has to do with the digital industry, it has reached at least the seed, startup or growth phase and has already developed a working prototype, then we would be more than happy to find out more about the business idea.
Startups can either contact us via our website or reach out to us at one of the events we are supporting, as the new.new Festival of CODE_n, the High Tech Venture Days or some upcoming start-up events we will organize with our partners Bitkom and yourself.