An interview with Matthias Friese, Partner at XPRESS Ventures | FIEGE
What do our members think about the German Mittelstand? What problems do they see? Where can the Maschinenraum help and which projects do they implement together with us?
interview | 15.06.2020
Dear Matthias, could you please tell us something about yourself and Fiege?
My name is Matthias Friese and I am Partner at XPRESS Ventures, the Company Builder of the family-owned company Fiege Logistik Stiftung & Co. KG, which is now led by Jens and Felix Fiege in the 5th generation. Fiege Logistics is a highly innovative logistics company that is over 150 years old, operates internationally and is currently one of Europe's leading contract logistics provider. We strongly believe in and live our credo: Fast Focused Fiege.
I have been working in the digital industry for more than 10 years and have been involved with digital business models at Team Europe Ventures, Project A and others. I also founded my own sales consulting company for the deep tech sector, as well as a Cyber Security Startup. In 2019, I came into contact with Fiege Logistics and thanks to Jens and Felix innovative mindset and drive I was immediately triggered.
Now, I have the mission to further promote digitalization within the company, the logistics sector, and to build up new exit driven LogTech companies together with Fiege Logistics.
Why is the Mittelstand important for Germany?
The German Mittelstand is unique in the world in its connectivity and complexity. The label "Made in Germany" has a great value and quality feature and we are miles ahead of our competitors in the EU in this respect. The goal of medium-sized companies should therefore be to remain competitive in the future. However, I believe this can only be achieved through consolidation and close cooperation between the two worlds of start-ups and corporates. Separation is not only bad in politics, but also for the economy. But it does require mediators to bring the two worlds closer together and this is where XPRESS Ventures comes in.
Where do medium-sized companies stand when it comes to innovation and digitalization? What are their biggest challenges?
I pursue the steep thesis that the German Mittelstand is our Silicon Valley, we just don't know it yet. We have excellent people with high value opportunities. Now, it's a matter of promoting these people and finally using their potential. You have to take people by the hand and accompany them on this journey. And that's where the decades of experience that a Mittelstand manager has comes into play. We need it to build future products. No matter how many cooperations we enter into, there is no substitute for experience. The above-mentioned interface between startups and medium-sized companies provides the necessary link between expertise and efficiency on the part of the startups and market experience on the part of the medium-sized companies.
Why is the Maschinenraum so important? How can it help?
The Maschinenraum helps with consolidation and is for me exactly the right place for both worlds to meet. The past years have shown that most incubators and accelerators have a negative connotation, because unfortunately they often don't lead to the hoped-for digitalization of the core business. One of the reasons for failure was that digitalization can't work effectively from the core of the corporate headquarters because corporate controlling and startups are simply not compatible with each other. At least in the first phase.
And this is where the Maschinenraum is joining the game. It is the source of impulses and the pacemaker for the innovation-driven medium-sized companies that sit in the Maschinenraum. It creates a new environment in which the urgently needed impulses from outside fall on fertile ground. It also enables us to network within our bubble of medium-sized companies.
We can only master the digital transformation of the German Mittelstand if we build up our own ecosystem - just like startups. Together we can create a momentum that almost leads to an unfair competitive advantage. If we work together and not against each other, we are incredibly strong.
What project are you implementing in the Maschinenraum?
We are based in the Maschinenraum with our company builder XPRESS Ventures and here we collect the many ideas that come up within the parent group, in our network and channel them accordingly. In short, we skim ideas, which we then validate and test in the Maschinenraum with the help of experts, so that ideally, new companies can be created.
The best thing about the Maschinenraum in one sentence?
The Maschinenraum is the optimal location with the optimal workplace design, with innovative thinkers, and very good connections to medium-sized companies.