An interview with Helen Tacke und Fabian Schwarzer, Founders of Cozero

What do our members and innovators think about German Mittelstand? What problems do they see? Where can Maschinenraum help and what projects do they implement together with all of us? An interview with Helen Tacke and Fabian Schwarzer from Cozero.

interview | 14.10.2020

Dear Fabian and Helen, tell us a little bit about yourself and your startup.

Helen: Hi, I’m Helen Tacke, Co-Founder of Cozero. It all started with my first real startup experience at the online social impact coffee retailer “Coffee Circle”, where I got to experience the ups and downs of an early-stage venture and which had me hooked from day one. However, my research on the success and failure stories of serial entrepreneurs led me to work on the investor side first, doing early-stage investments in the venture capital world with btov Partners. I got to know the startup ecosystem, support portfolio companies, build the respective network and learn the toolkit required for early-stage investments. But after spending three years on the investment side, it was time to get in the driver seat rather than stay the somewhat distant observer and advisor that I was as an investor. And I can truly say, with this shift I gained an entirely new level of drive and energy.

Fabian: After my studies at HHL where I got to know Helen, I spent several years in strategy consulting at Roland Berger. I worked in the Digital Competence Center and consulted companies regarding their digital strategy in the industries of energy, financial services and mechanical engineering. After a while, I noticed that not only digitalization is a huge topic for medium-sized businesses and corporations but also how to make a transformational shift to a more sustainable business. And I quickly realized that most of the management teams struggle in making this rather “soft” topic part of their business strategy and decision metrics. There was simply no reliable data to measure & manage and eventually decide upon what to do. The whole carbon management process was highly manual and little data-driven. That’s when the idea of Cozero was born.

Why did you decide to found Cozero?

Helen: I think that despite the serious public threat that Corona poses to our societies and economy, there is still a much, much bigger issue which is climate change. The economic and health-related risks of climate change are many times over the risks & costs resulting from Corona. We do know that companies have the necessary leverage in turning things around if they decide to change their way of doing business. And we do see the demanding expectations from almost any kind of stakeholder of a business to increase transparency and performance on sustainability-related topics - from talent to employees, from clients to partners, from investors to regulators - all are calling in an improved emission management of businesses.

Fabian: The need for what we are building with Cozero became obvious quite fast, however, no native digital and data-driven solution was available on the market. There were only niche solutions that covered only parts of the carbon management process and which left most companies puzzled in how to deal with inherent complexity. So it seemed that there was no other way than to build that up by ourselves. And that's how Cozero came into being: out of the need to help companies to be in control of their emissions. It is actually also a great purpose to work on, so the decision to found the company was comparably easy.

What is Cozero and which goal do you pursue with Cozero?

Helen: Cozero is a Berlin-based ClimateTech startup that transforms every company to a low-emission business. Our SaaS software offers a fully digital Carbon Action Platform (CAP) to track, forecast and manage corporate emission data and most effectively match them to low-emission solutions on the market to reduce the carbon footprint. By optimizing the RoCI - Return on Carbon Investment - for every company, Cozero translates sustainability into a KPI-driven management topic. Our digital communication module helps companies to engage their stakeholders right into the process of transformation. Our vision for doing all of this is to enable companies to master the challenges of becoming more sustainable. Not only in the sense that companies understand exactly where they stand, but also what they can do to reduce their emissions. We want to tackle both problems: the recognition and implementation problem.

Where does the Mittelstand stand when it comes to innovation and sustainability?

Fabian: When it comes to sustainability, SMEs certainly have a lot of catching up to do, which could be due, among other things, to the fact that most SMEs are not affected by regulations and have no reporting obligations - at least as of yet. At the same time, however, we are also noticing that sustainability is increasingly becoming a focus of attention for SMEs due to societal pressure, pressure by employees and particularly pressure by larger clients that dictate sustainability criteria throughout the entire supply chain. Viessmann with its purpose of creating living spaces for generations to come is certainly one of many positive examples as they decided to transform their whole organisation long before every other company was thinking of sustainability and transformation.

At the same time, medium-sized companies have great potential to innovate in the areas of sustainability because of their short decision-making processes, which enable them to initiate innovation projects much more quickly. Here at Maschinenraum, we also notice that incredible things are happening among each other which facilitates how companies can move the needle. Similarly, the generational change in the management of family-owned Mittelstand Companies is likely to play a major role in fast-tracking the transformation. And last but not least, we have focused our platform on SMEs in the first instance because we believe that this is where we have the greatest leverage. Due to the deep and long-term relationships that medium-sized companies cultivate with their entire value chain, a positive chain reaction can develop. So the potential for innovation within the German Mittelstand is huge and with a place like Maschinenraum, it’s finally also very likely that the German Mittelstand will use its potential.

Why did you decide to become part of Maschinenraum?

Helen: Maschinenraum is the network node for medium-sized businesses in Germany and is unique in its focus. Here we meet unbelievably innovative, future-oriented medium-sized companies that are intrinsically motivated for change because they all have a common goal in mind: the transformation of German Mittelstand. This has a tremendous impact both internally and externally. And this transformation involves a shift to a low-emission economy. This circumstance is of course of a great benefit for our chosen goal of enabling companies to gain control over their emissions. If you like, you could say that Maschinenraum is the bastion for the transformation of the German Mittelstand. Being here accelerates our plans many times over.

The best of Maschinenraum in one sentence?

Fabian and Helen: Maschinenraum is a professional home for like-minded people who all share the same goal.

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