Today, I’ve changed my LinkedIn status from “Stealth Startup” to “Founder & Managing Partner” of Atlantic Ventures. After I’ve been working in stealth mode for a few weeks and wonder, what I’d like to do and what “the planet” needs, I am very happy to share that I’ve merged my personal efforts with Atlantic Ventures. Here’s the journey you might like to read if you are about to found a company:
I remember well, when I started my first commercial “CRM” product for car dealers in 1988 – the name was not even invented and it took another five years until Tom Siebel coined the term. I also remember how I hit the limits of a PC with my first neural network of 256 neurons in 1989 as part of my physics study – nobody was so bold to call the technology artificial intelligence yet. Finally, I remember very well how to distribute a physical calculation dynamically, out of the code, across multiple compute nodes of supercomputers in 1997- nobody would have called it infrastructure-as-code ten years before Amazon invented EC2 – but it helped me to get 20 times more compute power than anybody else at the Max Planck Institute and turned my PhD thesis from mission-impossible to success. So, you might think “Gosh are you old – when do you retire”. Sorry folks, I did the opposite and just co-founded a new company!
Only when you realize the concept of success from the past, you turn your memories into experience. This is the key for me to drive innovation as the combination of an invention and its commercial success. Luckily, I had the chance to collect a lot of experience with software product vendors, software services companies and as an industry analyst over the last 30 years. Building successful products, service offerings or even whole companies, is my passion and must be the focus of my new company.
Luckily, I had the chance of searching and assessing just recently many acquisition targets for Cloudflight together with an extraordinary team. If the acquisition volume of a company reaches the size of the core company itself, acquisition decisions drive the evolution of the whole business model. So I had to reflect a lot on services business models in the tech industry, which was the start of my personal move. I set the milestone to help Cloudflight grow from below 300 to at least 1000 employees in two years, proving that the strategy worked out as planned. Frankly, I was not pationed enough and resigned at Cloudflight in May when the company reached 950 employees at an outstanding profitability.
So, what’s next? At any junction in my personal career, I asked myself three major questions:
- Is it fun to do?
- Do I get money for it?
- Am I capable of doing it?
In the middle was my ideal business focus. Sometimes, one of the three forces is not ideal. I could definitely make more money as a CTO/CDO/CIO somewhere – but it would be less fun than building a new company. Or, I have strong capabilities on existing technologies – but I would get less money (and fun) applying commodity-technologies than differentiating with the latest technology.
In the end, the best business decisions in my life are a good balance between fun, money, and capabilities, with some challenges on each angle. But it must not be a boring, underpaid, or outdated tech job.
Sustainability is the purpose, not a luxury
No matter, if you are economically healthy or young & well educated. In contrast to the past decades, founders and every single employee wonders about the purpose of the company. My new company had to have a clear purpose. Saving the planet is key – not just a luxury. It should be the imperative of every business – last but not least a duty we owe our children. So the strategy was set:
Build a tech innovation company with a clear sustainability purpose, which makes fun, is profitable and I am personally able to build, operate and inspire.
It’s that easy? – No – Absolutely NOT easy!
A startup is about a great team to work with.
In addition to the companies I’ve worked with, I helped some startups grow over the last year with my humble advice. One very successful company is Innosabi co-founded by ,,,,, Catharina just reconfirmed to me that she would never found a company alone. Always look for a good team of founders. Everybody has his or her own super power. Some keep the money together, some have the risk attitude which you need for a startup jumping into an untaken market opportunity. Some have outstanding technology skills, some business skills. Finally, an individual culture makes a new company a fun place to work. Along with Peter Drucker’s phrase “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, all your business strategy, purpose and ideas implode if only a few (founders) have fun and others hate the job. Clearly, I had to look for some partners in crime…
Product or Services?
Startups need to be focused! Mixing products and services is very dangerous and most likely unsuccessful. Products can only be really successful if you develop them very intensively for some time and then roll them out internationally. Both cost money – so much money that I could not do it bootstrapped. Ideally you have a major angel investor followed by a VC and do it in the US, where the VC industry works much better than over here. In Europe a lot of innovation comes out of large SMBs or corporates as spin-offs or joint ventures. In contrast to technology products, services firms can be bootstrapped without an external investor. They can reach a reasonable valuation if they grow a concept beyond just selling skilled people. So, I decided to pursue a services model with a value proposition scalable better than the sheer number of employees.
Corporate Innovation and Venture Builder on Greentech and Sustainability
There are many company builders, incubators, corporate venture firms and VCs. Especially in Berlin and Munich. And there is very little chance to compete with them, if you are located elsewhere and fight into a crowded market. Building startups at scale is also a financially driven gorilla game with firms like Rocket Internet. So we need a clear differentiator and competitive advantage against established firms.
Actually the majority of Germany’s GDP is in large SMBs and outside the capital and outside of digital business models. So, let’s focus on services, which help these corporations to innovate. Depending on strategic consideration, digital innovation might be just a new product inside the corporation up to a spin-off with large independence. Combined with the clear purpose to save the planet, there is the unique value proposition: German’s first sustainability focused Corporate Innovation and Digital Venture Builder.
This Is Atlantic Ventures
Atlantic Ventures has been on the market since the end of 2021. The company was evaluating a number of business opportunities and service models. Carlo, Jens and their amazing team have already significant knowledge around sustainability, energy management, electric vehicles and digital innovation in general. They serve the first customers in a stable and profitable service model.
Today, I am very happy to announce that we merge my startup ideas of a Corporate Innovation and Digital Venture Builder with the great research and consulting offering and the sustainability expertise of Atlantic Ventures! We join forces and Atlantic Ventures has now three founders, shareholders and managing partners. What a dream! We have known each other for years, have all different super powers and merged our ideas into one business.
Atlantic Ventures Is An Ecosystem Player
With all the excitement, we really stay realistic and focus on our key strengths. Atlantic Ventures offers Innovation Engineering. We mean by this a well defined strategic advisory approach to create a new product or business branch as a corporate or SMB. In many cases the profitability of digital business models depends on multi-sided markets, a viral marketing momentum and the way you use or build platforms. A proper software architecture is already key to a digital business design. Once we have a common understanding of the innovative product, we bring in the important skills of product design, digital twins, data models and an agile development methodology. Finally, we help create the software development teams, if the customer does not have its own developers. Clearly, we work with software development firms together and look for selected partnerships to scale this branch of the customer value.
Bootstrap Means Flexibility For Customers
My last advice to other founders: An exclusive focus on one business model is the luxury of mature companies. Frankly, if you just founded a company, you take any revenue to survive. The older (and financially independent) you are and the more revenue you have already, the more focused you can be on the strategy and purpose. Clearly Atlantic Ventures will help customers for example with strategy advisory or software architecture and development, even if it is not about a new venture. It’s a legit way to bootstrap a new company as long as you keep your goal in mind!
Engage With Atlantic Ventures
If you are an CIO, CDOs, digital product manager, product owner, CMO or the owner of a traditional family business: We help you create and extend your new digital business, no matter if an internal product innovation or an external spin-off is the right way. Atlantic Ventures accompains you from strategy down to the go-to-market. You can approach us with any digital product or platform idea and we have a number of venture cases prepared for the first areas. We’d love to help you specifically on anything that helps the planet! We have a specific domain expertise around energy management, smart building, Greentech, EV Charging, automotive software, new mobility & transportations, smart cities and efficient cloud computing.
However, if you feel that your strategy, technology, and digital architecture are already well set and you just need money to develop it on your own – go to an angel investor or VC. Atlantic Ventures is not a venture capital firm and will not work (mainly) for equity of the digital ventures and we will not fund ideas. We focus on the enablement of innovation inside existing corporations or their spin-offs/joint ventures.
If you like the idea and you are looking for a new career step or exciting beginning of your professional life, check out our positions. We are hiring!
Finally, just chat with us on Linkedin, self-schedule a virtual video coffee or pick up the phone. We are a startup – having no secretary or corporate communications departments blocking us from anybody.