Trabi Safari and Final Thoughts

The final day in Berlin began with a late start in the afternoon. Having completed our company visits, we dedicated our remaining days to exploring the city.  A number of us went to watch a local soccer match and others went on their own to explore various museums and historical sights such as Checkpoint Charlie.

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The Trabant was once the most common car in East Germany

A small group decided to rent several east-German made communist era Trabant Cars for a tour around the city. With an ignition system resembling a motorcycle’s and an unconventional manual transmission, the Trabi was not only a vehicle of questionable safety but a moving piece of history.  While driving through the city we were educated on German history through walkie talkies provided to each car.

In the evening, to cap off our trip we all met for dinner at Spindler Klate- a waterside restaurant that turned into a night club.  After a series of toasts we had our final celebration before leaving for New York the next day.

As we boarded our respective flights back to New York, we began to reflect on the week long trip.   We were able to see German production excellence and innovation applied in different settings, we became familiar with several institutions (UnternehmerTUM) that were resulted in these products, and we learned how this commitment to excellence and process was applied to the world of startups.  Moreover, we learned how the German companies communicated their history and how they looked to the future.  Finally we were able to engage in open dialogue with very business leaders on issues ranging from corporote strategy to career paths.  While we all had different takeaways, it was clear that we all had learned a tremendous amount.

Starting in the industrial heartland of Bavaria and ending in the entrepreneurship capital in Berlin, we had lot of ground in a very short time (14 companies in 5 days).  I cant help but feel that my curiosity regarding this amazing country has only increased.  I leave Germany with memories to last a lifetime but armed with some new theories and techniques to apply to my own career.  Truly an unforgettable trip.

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016

 

FinTech, Internet Audio, and Food startups

Our last day of company visits started off with a visit to Deutsche Bank’s Innovation Lab in Berlin.  One of three existing labs (a fourth is soon to open in New York), the lab exists to help the bank adopt vital new technologies to help modernize its tech infrastructure, hopes to screen some 500 fintech start-ups per year to develop security, payments, efficiency, organization or process applications. At the Lab we were met by Dr. Luc Meriochaud (Director of Innovation at Deutsche Bank) and Christian Borngraeber who walked us through how the lab helps startups and fosters innovation.  The lab views success as the adoption and application of technologies to Deutsche Bank’s business.  Unlike other incubators or accelerators the lab does not have a structured path toward this goal but facilitates innovation through hosting workshops, providing connections to strategic partners, and access to resources.

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Dr. Luc Meriochaud using the Smart Whiteboard at one of DB Innovation Lab’s meeting rooms.

After lunch we then made our way to the offices of SoundCloud.  Originally founded in Sweden the company has set up camp in Berlin since 2007 and is a publishing tool/community for audio creators and listeners.  The company has raised over $100M in financing from firms such as Union Square Ventures and KPCB.   At the offices we were treated to a four person panel that included David Noel (Head of Communications), Nadines Gaulich (Head of Audience Research), Cole Mercer (Product Manager- Streaming), and Ele Diakomichalis (Head of Data Insights).   The conversation revolved around everything from the future of audio media on the internet to the startup working culture of Berlin.

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Students participate in Q&A and a product Demo by  Alex Weber, Manager of Strategic Projects at Number 26

Following our stop at SoundCloud we moved on to the FinTech Startup Number 26.  The young startup aims to revolutionize the traditional banking industry and how people spend, save and send money.  Founded in 2013, the company has experienced tremendous growth and raised money from well-known investors such as Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures. Upon arrival we were given a tour of the startup’s three-floor office.  We met with development teams, customer support heads, and finally with Alex Weber (Manager of Strategic Projects).  Alex gave us a live product demo and proceeded to answer all our questions over an hour of open Q&A.

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Manuel Hein shows how to make a proper Espresso at Coffee Circle

For our final company visits we split up into groups for a relaxed dinner at two food startups.  Group A headed to fast-growing Rocket Internet founded Fresh Direct and the Group B to Berlin’s Coffee Circle (where group organizer Manuel Hein spent his summer working on sales infrastructure).   At Fresh Direct, participants cooked and ate their own fresh direct meal. Following a brief presentation , at Coffee circle we dined on sushi and brewed our own espressos and pour over coffees.  With our bellies full we ended our final day of company visits before enjoying a weekend of sightseeing.

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016

Replicating Businesses Globally, Internet Retail, and a Creative Space for Entrepreneurs

We woke up early in the morning after our day in Stuttgart and boarded a direct flight to our final destination: Berlin.  The capital city boasts a population of over 3.5 million people with an economy that revolves around the high-tech and service sector.  Recently, the city has seen the emergence of a bustling entrepreneurial scene.  We went directly to two leaders in the startup space Rocket Internet and Zalando.

Rocket Internet was founded in 2007 and is now a public company that has based it’s operations on copying the business models of other established companies and replicating this in different geographies.  At the meeting we learned more about the process in which they hire founders to execute on a strategy in different countries.  They actively avoid countries where local incumbents are present or have a distinct advantage (China, USA, and increasingly India).  The roll-out of these strategies is very standardized despite each subsidiary company possessing very different markets or products.  The company attempts to marry local knowledge and agility of a startup with the precision of a large corporation.

Following our meeting with rocket we then made our way to one of their run-away success stories.  Zalando is also now public and got their start imitating US retailer Zappos.   Here we met with the SVP of Operations, David Schroder (who spent a semester at CBS), to learn about how the company plans to be Europe’s largest fashion retailer.  We learned about the challenges of growth and how they struggled with credibility issues before reaching scale.  The company now has a presence in many European countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and the United Kingdom.

After checking in the group went to an Alumni Mixer at Bar Le Labo – the city’s first liquid nitrogen bar – for some appetizers and drinks with Alumni, Columbia University Students, and prospective business school students.  During the night the owner Le Labo, Tobias Wittich, showed us his co-working space (Rainmaking Loft) where entrepreneurs can avail of a seat for minimal cost.  Further the loft hosts global startup programming such as Startup Bootcamp.  Current residents of the loft are involved in many different industries such as fintech, food, and transportation.

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Rainmaking Loft – A Berlin co-working space and host site of Startup Bootcamp.  The mural in the back was done over 24 hours by a visiting artist

Following this tour and reception we all enjoyed a night out in Berlin before heading back to our hotel to prepare for the last day of company visits.

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016

Bosch, Auto Production, and an evening with Wolfgang

We arrived safely in Stuttgart and made our way to the headquarters of multinational engineering giant and the world’s largest auto supplier – Bosch.  We learned more about Bosch’s global footprint, how they encourage innovation internally (seeding and allowing employees to pursue startup projects), and how they invest as venture capitalists.  Bosch stood out from many corporate VCs as they are a total separate entity from the company and actually measure their performance against other VC firms not just their own operations.  We also learned that Bosch is owned 92% by Robert Bosch’s own charitable foundation and the company remains private to this day.

Following lunch we headed over to a Mercedes Benz’s car plant in nearby Sindelfingen where they produce models such as the S-Class and E-Class cars.  While we were not allowed to take videos or photos of the assembly process or final finishing we were able to snag a few photos of the customer center and witness some G-Class testing

Once the plant tour began we saw the large scale automation taking place in the plant. Over 90% of the process is automated mostly from robots purchased from another German Technology Leader- Kuka Robotics.   Cars are taken from building via covered bridge and conveyer belt from the automated assembly stage to the more manual finishing stages (which include badge installation, custom interiors etc).  Even at the manual finishing stage, many of the processes were automated or ordered using systems and analysis many of us found familiar from operations management and our study of the Toyota Production System.   It was an eye opening experience to those of us who had never been to a factory floor let alone a world class automotive operation like this one.

After a quick rest stop at the hotel we then suited up and headed for the highlight of the day- an evening with Daimler Truck CEO- Wolfgang Bernhard at the executive dining facility of Mercedes Benz Headquarters.  After a short introduction to the company, a review of his current priorities, and the CBS experience – he quickly launched into open Q&A with the group.  We then sat down for dinner and the gracious CEO sat down with each individual small group table to address any questions we had.   We covered topics such as what to do post-MBA to what is the future of autonomous driving.   Truly an unforgettable experience.

With a full belly and fond memories of Stuttgart we began the process of preparing for our final stop… Berlin!

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016

Engineering and Helicopters – on the way to Stuttgart

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A sample power generation component weighing 50kg  printed as a single piece- deisgned by Dr. Kiener of Siemens

After a packed first day in Munich, the group was set to travel to Stuttgart but first a select group of students elected to travel to another famous Munich organization and the largest engineering company in Europe- Siemens.  We were met by the Venture group at Siemens, the Key expert of sustainable engineering (Dr. Christoph Kiener), as well as the management department of the company.  The company was founded in 1847 by Werner Von Siemens (the inventor of the first electric railway) and has grown into a company with over 70bn euro in annual revenue.  Today the company addresses the engineering needs of a wide variety of industries: power generation, automation, fire safety systems, and software.

Recently, Siemens has supplemented a strong academic research and development program with a collaboration with startup businesses.   The company supports business creation incubators such as TUM’s UnternehmerTUM and invests in startup businesses with technologies may be integrated into Siemen’s current solutions.

Following the Siemens visit the group set out for Stuttgart but made another stop at Airbus Helicopter (formerly Eurocopter).  Unfortunately due to strict policies the group was not allowed to take any photographs or videos.   During the tour the group was able to view the different stages of development for helicopters used for both military and civilian use.  The tour was led by former design engineers who had spent their life designing helicopters used in key military campaigns in Afghanistan and had on occasion earned their job in the company through the submission of their aircraft design.  Finally, the group was able to observe the construction of AirBus commercial airplane doors which were also being constructed at the facility.

After the tour reached it’s conclusion we headed to the nearest grocery store o stock up on food and drink before traveling to our next destination city- Stuttgart.

Diego Cuenca ’16

Chazen Germany 2016

 

CBS visits Bavaria’s Capital City

The CBS Chazen Germany tour started off with a Segway/electric bike tour through Munich. The group made its way through the city center and maxvorstadt.  During the tour they saw the Eisbach wave, various museums, TUM, and other landmarks. This was followed up by a three-course welcome dinner at Kafer Schanker.

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On Sunday, the group woke up bright and early to rent some BMW performance cars and drive out to the Neuschwantein Castle about 2 hours outside Munich. After a guided tour through the castle, the students then headed out for a tour of the BMW Welt and Museum- a multi functional customer experience exhibition facility where customers can experience the automaker’s various model lines and even take delivery of their cars.  The students learned more about BMW’s history, the company’s focus on design and the driver, as well as the architecture of the Welt itself.  The day was capped off by a visit to the Hofbrauhaus (Munich’s oldest beer hall).

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Professor Farrokhnia and Dr. Helmut Schonenberger speak to students before entering the Makerspace

The next day, began  with a morning trip to the Technical University of Munich’s Garching Campus for a visit to the UnternehmerTUM -the university’s center for innovation and entrepreneurship.  The students toured the Makerspace- a unique facility that allows the public to rapidly build and prototype.  The space features woodworking facilities, 3D printers, and textile stations. The Columbia students along with TUM Engineers then participated in a design sprint -led by Professor Farrokhnia-designing the perfect remote control in 2 hours.

 

 

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3D Printed Race Engine Mold at EOS

The group then visited EOS – a leader in 3D printing and additive manufacturing. The group learned more about the company from Head of Sales- Denis Demirtas- they sampled 3D printed items such as a titanium Formula 1 Pedal.  They then toured the company’s headquarters, and observed a range of polymer printers and metal 3D Printers before returning to Munich.

 

 

 

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Testing out the equipment at eGym

In the evening, the group visited eGYM- one of Europe’s fastest growing startups focused on the fitness hardware and software space. After a brief presentation by Chief Engineering Officer- Christian Schraml- the group tested out the gym’s tech-enabled gym equipment and enjoyed dinner while mingling with team members and investors.

Overall a great first city to visit during the trip. Now onward to Stuttgart

Diego Cuenca ’16 Germany 2016

Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Germany Trip is Underway

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Tour Leaders Misha and Manuel lead a Pre-Departure Meeting in Uris Hall

This spring, 32 students will embark on the inaugural Chazen Entrepreneurship and Innovation Trip to Germany.  The trip will be led by Professor R.A. Farrokhnia and three student organizers: Manuel Hein (a 2nd year CBS Student, Entrepreneur, and German native) , Diego Cuenca (Co-President of CEO and 2nd year student) , and Misha Ipatov (a 1st year student and entrepreneur).   The tour will begin in Munich then move on to Stuttgart and end in Berlin.   The goals of the tour are to explore the German business environment, compare the German and American models of innovation/entrepreneurship, and uncover the cultural factors that drive the German economy.

The planning for this trip began in late 2015 and has consisted of weekly meetings, outreach to a wide variety of companies, and soliciting student feedback.  The result is a tour that combines cultural sights, company visits/fireside chats, and social events to provide a complete immersion and facilitate learning.  Students will be visiting established companies that include BMW, Siemens, and Airbus in addition to startups such as Soundcloud, Number 26, and Coffee Circle as well as small medium enterprise “hidden champions” such as EOS.   Further, students will be participating in interactive experiences such as a design challenge with German students at the Technical University of Munich or driving the latest BMW performance vehicles to Neuschwanstein Castle.

The background of the students participating in the trip are varied with former media professionals, private equity analysts, engineers and entrepreneurs.    Their participation will play a key role in the success of this trip as we look not only to observe Germany but to compare its business/innovation environment and culture to that of other countries.   We look forward to starting strong on Sunday in Munich and updating the Columbia community along the way.

Diego Cuenca ’16

Germany 2016