Start-ups as innovative crisis helpers
In the corona crisis, quite a few start-ups have become emergency helpers due to their agile structures and enormous flexibility. This is a win-win situation for all parties involved – now and for the time after the corona-related restrictions.
The start-ups of the wayra Innovation Hub (Telefónica’s Open Innovation Hub, which scales technology-oriented start-ups as an accelerator and follows a venture client model) are currently providing impressive proof of this and are increasingly showing themselves to be solution providers who, in addition to developing their own ideas, are also helping other companies to combat the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic.
The solutions offered by these start-ups range from research in the fight against the lung disease COVID-19 to organizational support for companies. Here are some examples:
For example, the AI start-up Curiosity AI has set up a website to support COVID19 research. With the help of the website, physicians can examine more than 45,000 medical articles and gain optimal access to knowledge about the coronavirus. “Structuring and preparing thousands of research articles is a huge challenge and we are pleased that our AI solution can help. The key is that, especially when working remotely, it is all the more important that corporate knowledge is easily accessible to employees. AI-based knowledge graphs can make this possible,” said Leon Zucchini, Co-Founder and CEO of Curiosity.
The mobility start-up MOTIONTAG, on the other hand, tracks the effects of the corona crisis on people’s commuting behaviour. At the same time, the start-up itself had to struggle with the effects of the crisis. Fabien Sauthier, COO of Motiontag: “Transparency towards the team and the employees has the highest priority – as founder or managing director of a company, one must not hide in the home office. Uncertainty in the team should be kept to a minimum, even if you as a managing director do not quite know where you are going yet. For example, we introduced the possibility of short-time work at a very early stage and left it up to everyone to decide whether to accept it or not. Employees with children reacted positively to this, the rest of the workforce was relieved to have been presented with short-time work only as a voluntary option. My advice to all entrepreneurs and employees with management responsibility: ask the team! Feedback keeps motivation high, especially now”, says Sauthier.
Xaver Lehmann, co-founder and CEO of the AI start-up e-bot7, shares the opinion that collaboration in companies is changing as a result of the pandemic. “There is no doubt that the corona crisis has accelerated some developments that had already taken place before, especially in areas such as online education, home office and digitalization in general. I think companies are more aware than ever that there is no way around digital and scalable technologies, and that it is precisely such technologies that can create competitive advantages and even ensure survival in difficult times like these,” says Lehmann. The AI start-up has developed a chatbot that can be used to quickly find all relevant information about the corona virus.
The data training start-up StackFuel offers free licenses for training in data technologies to non-profit organizations involved in corona-related problem solving. Now that companies are slowly returning to normality, Leo Marose, CEO at StackFuel, warns that it is important not to lose sight of the post-crisis period. “Even in crisis situations, one should not lose sight of the future and think about the time after the pandemic. Especially in difficult times, company directors and managers should not underestimate the opportunities offered by possible cooperation with innovative start-ups. These offer an ideal basis for emerging as winners at the end of the crisis.
The Munich-based innovation hub wayra networks the start-ups with groups such as Telefónica and ensures that the exchange between the incumbent group and the start-ups also functions in times of the corona crisis, so that both sides can benefit optimally from each other. “With the help of digital formats – from project meetings and online conferences to digital coffee breaks – we cover our core tasks well – after all, we live from the exchange and joint development of ideas. This has now also led to start-ups being able to quickly develop solutions that companies can use to combat the effects of the crisis. At the same time, it is important for the start-ups to learn how large companies.