LET IDEAS TAKE FLIGHTS WITHOUT LOSING TOUCH
One company exists for several decades, has thousands of employees, and is active all around the globe. Another company is brand new, so to speak, is made up of five believers, and a great idea. It's a known fact that these two worlds can work very productively together and create innovations. It's all about bridging major differences.
Searching for start-ups
Since 2016 Kärcher has been looking for exciting start-ups and has already found some interesting technologies and business models. The example of SightCall shows exactly what can be achieved. The service tool was selected, is currently being tested in several foreign subsidiaries, and is at the end of its pilot phase. Difference finds out from SightCall and Kärcher how things went and how things will go. Also interviewed: Sobhan Khani, Vice President of Mobility and Internet of Things at Plug and Play (Sunnyvale, USA), an innovation platform which brings together corporate groups and start-ups.
“GETTING STARTED AFTER SEVEN YEARS’ WORKING IN A GARAGE.”
Interview with Hans Göttlinger, Vice President for DACH region at SightCall
Mr. Göttlinger, how did the idea of SightCall come about?
The idea was actually born around ten years ago. Our founders are from the telecommunications area and recognized the classic service hotline problem: A customer describes his grievance, and the service technician on the telephone cannot understand which solution fits. And so the concept of giving the service technician eyes on the ground by means of video transmission was developed. The whole thing took roughly three years to market because authentication, data security and the universal applicability for industrial customers were challenges that had to be overcome. Today, SightCall is entirely cloud-based, i.e. installed in five minutes and easy to use. And we’re finally taking off now after seven years’ working in a garage.
What are the benefits of the cooperative venture with Kärcher for your company?
Kärcher is a very successful company, i.e. a good reference for us. Apart from that, we receive feedback from the service team and customers, which is extremely valuable. What we were also able to ascertain: It is not always about classic problem solutions and service work. Even if users are not satisfied with a product due to handling errors, this can be quickly identified and rectified via SightCall. This is a wonderful side effect of our solution.
What are your plans for the future?
We developed our open platform; we are therefore very flexible. This allows us to quickly implement current trends such as Augmented Reality, for example, the integration of operating instructions into the live picture. The future is heading in this direction.
“DESCRIBING THE PROBLEM WITHOUT A VISUAL AID IS TIME- CONSUMING.”
Interview with Maximilian Grau, Project Manager, Aftermarket & Services Kärcher
Mr. Grau, how did you come about testing SightCall?
We already have various options of processing service issues, and since 2014 we also have a service app for professional users. What is clear, however, is that describing problems with a machine without a visual aid is time-consuming and misunderstandings are possible. This leads to long wait times for our customers, which we want to avoid. The live video chat by SightCall works very simply and reliably – we examined various candidates in this direction, but this solution really convinced us.
How is the initiative going down with the service staff?
In the test phase, some foreign subsidiaries had the opportunity to test SightCall, including France, Austria, Switzerland, USA, and Brazil. The colleagues are very satisfied with the technology. The time savings is significant and allows the service teams to work more efficiently. The quality of the connection varies depending on the site.
And have you already received feedback from customers??
We have received extremely positive feedback because the fast method of troubleshooting is well received. What is sometimes criticized: The customer must install an app in order to use the video chat. This is why we are now in talks with SightCall about a web-based solution. At the end of the test phase in October 2019, we will decide where we will go from here. I am very confident that we will include SightCall in the service portfolio.
“CORPORATE GROUPS CAN BE AGILE IF THEY REALLY TRY.”
Interview with Sobhan Khani, Vice President of Mobility and Internet of Things at Plug and Play
Mr. Khani, what is the objective of Plug and Play, and what are you responsible for specifically?
Plug and Play was founded in 2006 and aims to bring together innovative start-ups and large corporate groups. To this end, we defined 14 areas of innovation across all industries, e.g. digital health, cyber security, or even also the area I am responsible for - Mobility & Internet of Things. In every area, we work with a special selection program which has one clear benefit for both sides: Start-ups look for partners, and for corporate groups we make a pre-selection which matches their technological needs.
How does it work exactly?
The corporate groups define a technological problem, for which they are looking for a solution. We look all over the world for suitable young companies who work on their problem. We filter out the top 100 candidates and assess them with regard to team, technology, appeal and other criteria. In the end, we have 30 start-ups who we invite to our “Selection Day”. They can each meet the judges for five minutes, who the corporate group sends us. Beyond the final selection, this moves the young companies a big step forward, because generally a cooperative venture follows. And the corporate groups see what is happening in the industry, what trends there are, and how this knowledge can be used in their own product development.
What challenges do you see when two very different worlds clash - the large corporate and the young company?
This is in any case very exciting because in one company the structure is young, fast and agile; and in the other company the structure is experienced and big. One obstacle for the cooperation lies in the many different processes. Here is a simple example from our everyday life: One of our start-ups showed us a 40-page confidentiality agreement, which was to be signed. However, it didn’t have the means or lawyers to have such a mammoth document checked legally. We passed on this information and in the end a two-page version was issued, which was practical for both sides. The fact that this was possible shows that corporate groups can be agile if they really try. And, in my opinion, they must also be agile in order to survive in the future.
On the trail of the start-up discoverers
In 2016, Kärcher created its New Venture department, which today operates as an independent private limited company. The colleagues at the headquarters, as well as those in Sunnyvale (USA) and in Shanghai (China), are globally searching for young companies with which they can jointly promote innovations. Gabriele Straßburger from the New Venture department explains: "We have three segments: Investments, cooperations and corporate start-ups. Investments are being made in technologies and business models in the hazy world of cleaning technology. Of special interest are themes such as connectivity or robotics." The objective is to understand today what will come in the future – from which ideally both partners will benefit.
In the cooperations segment, the focus is on start-ups whose innovations are of interest for Kärcher products, or may improve internal processes, from HR to payment processing. "In many cases, we assume the role of a test customer on the way to proof of concept. Or we facilitate access to selected customers and to global sales, depending on what's involved," explains Straßburger.
The third segment, corporate start-ups, aims to promote entrepreneurial thinking. Since 2017, an internal Innovation Lab has been inviting employees to develop marketable innovations. If the idea has potential for a spin-off company, New Venture assists implementation.
Kärcher New Venture
Kärcher New Venture brings people, ideas, business opportunities and capital together – and enables as a strategic partner and investor innovative, dynamic founders to further develop their start-up and to shape the cleaning industry of the future in partnership.
We connect the speed and flexibility of a start-up to the expertise, global network and infrastructure of an experienced corporate group.
With our expert knowledge, we can help you well beyond the financial possibilities.
We are not only an investor, but also a customer – and therefore the gateway to the global market for cleaning solutions.
We provide venture capital for start-ups who want to take the next step with us.