Corporates: Adapt to the mindset of startups
Johannes Wagner, Head of Startup Cooperation at Versicherungskammer Bayern and Member of the Board at InsurTech Hub Munich, reflects Munich’s very own character as the epicenter of insurance and sees change approaching.
Ask anybody about Munich and you’ll sure get an opinion. You’ll hear about “Gemütlichkeit”, about the city’s beergardens, its nearby lakes and the Alpine landscape. You’ll learn about the sheer economic power of the metropolitan region, which is home to the headquarters of many internationally known enterprises and industry champions. You’ll find your counterpart praising the numerous prestigious academic institutions like TUM, LMU, Fraunhofer, Max Planck or the Strascheg Centre for Entrepreneurship. But you might as well hear stories about extremely well-off townspeople on the verge of hauteur, driving around in big BMWs and spending enormous amounts of money on their chic apartments. And you’ll most obviously be told that there’s one big antipode to Munich: Berlin. Not really rich, not exactly a business powerhouse – but cutting-edge creative and agile.
All of these clichés, to some extent, are true. And as someone happily working in and living close to Munich my first reaction would be: So what? Though, reflecting on it more closely, I would have to add that Munich isn’t the most forgiving place. I’ve seen people fail – and failing certainly isn’t something you brag about in this beautiful city of ours. Hence safety moves are a prevalent strategy. People raised in this environment tend to believe that it requires an awful lot of courage to take risks, to approach (and maybe even partner up) with someone from a different background.
Munich’s got money and the region is a benchmark for engineering and technical innovation. But first-rate experts and potent businesspeople don’t necessarily make good entrepreneurs. The willingness to really question the status quo, to think big – including the risk to hit the wall and crash – isn’t part of our DNA. Not yet. This said, I believe that working with startups should become an exercise in humility for any manager. You don’t have to embrace each and every idea a founder is pitching to you. But we better adapt to the mindset of startup teams soon. We have to archive our belief in titles and hierarchies which is either keeping young and promising people at university for too long or shying them away from joining our corporations. We can’t afford to lose this talent. And we have to stay hungry ourselves, even more so as we’re operating out of an industry that’s highly saturated.
Good news is: We’ve realized our strengths and weaknesses and the city is advancing big time. It’s not by coincidence that InsurTech Hub Munich has its’ offices at WERK1, a former dumpling factory building neighboring the digital flagship units of big companies. Just around the corner you’ll find hubs representing other industries like mobility and media or Plug and Play’s Munich offices. There’s countless startup spaces next to cool food spots and bars, concert venues and our new landmark ferris-wheel. It’s exactly that combination of both metropolitan hipness and Munich’s business-minded tenacity which points well into the future.