A veritable pool of visionaries An interview with Ulrich Dietz about CODE_n CONNECT

09/22/2014  |  CODE_n15 Startup CONTEST, Interview

The latest round of the CODE_n CONTEST, running under the motto “Into the Internet of Things” kicked off in early September. With it, the new digital matchmaking platform CODE_n CONNECT also went live. We spoke with Ulrich Dietz, CEO of the GFT GROUP and initiator of CODE_n, to find out what this new platform is all about and where he plans to take CODE_n in the future.

Mr. Dietz, you believe that digital business is changing the demands placed on companies and the way these companies handle innovation is a key success factor. What do you mean by that?

Innovation development is no longer a linear, one-dimensional process. The cycles in which new ideas come about and existing ideas are tested have become far too short for that. This is a genuine challenge for many companies with complex processes – and many proven business models find themselves facing a digital litmus test.

People in nearly every field of business are recognizing that completely new constellations are forming within the value chain. The financial sector, which GFT of course is also involved in, is a great example of this. New players from e-commerce are just bursting onto the market, introducing stiff competition for the banks when it comes to future areas of business, such as mobile payments. They generate the energy for this by joining forces with partners and developing their own special ecosystems in which to innovate.

Ulrich Dietz GFT CEO

CODE_n was borne out of the early recognition that there’s enormous potential in cooperation between young and established companies. Startups add momentum, courage and new impetus to the innovation relationship. Large corporations bring other things on board, such as know-how, financial security backing and professional structures for scaling up business ideas. Each partner has what the other partner needs. Yet all of this is just a pipe dream if the two parties don’t get to know each other. This is what CODE_n CONNECT is all about.

What does CODE_n CONNECT offer?

CODE_n CONNECT is an online platform that let’s us bring together startups and innovative companies from around the world. It’s best described as “digital matchmaking.” Put in general terms, it means startups can present themselves to established companies and investors at any time, from anywhere in the world. This allows them to find exactly the right development partner and network amongst themselves.

Or let me put it another way: Depending on a given company’s stage of development and the industry in which it operates, it will have very specific collaboration needs. The aim of CODE_n CONNECT is to capture the individual objectives, analyze them and identify the right innovation partner.

Over the past three years, more than 1,100 startups from more than 60 countries have applied to the CODE_n contests. In assessing the submitted business models and the many conversations we’ve had with the founders, we’ve come to recognize the origins of bottlenecks for young companies. We’ve also seen the enormous innovation potential that is unleashed when you bring the right people together. Often the two parties aren’t speaking the same language or they can’t relate to each other. Over the last few years, GFT has often succeeded in acting as a mediator in such situations and has put startups in our network in touch with our customers. With CODE_n CONNECT, we are taking this role into the digital realm as a neutral matchmaking platform. It’s just the logical next step for taking the concept and process of CODE_n forward.

Why are you taking this step with the GFT GROUP right now?

Our customers see the GFT GROUP as a partner for digital innovation. CODE_n has been invaluable in building the required reputation. We’re not just talking about innovation, we’re turning innovation into something tangible and implementing it successfully. This is something we’ve heard our customers and partners say time and again. They’re excited about the potential CODE_n has offered them for forming alliances over the five days of CeBIT. And it’s this potential that we want to offer them through CODE_n CONNECT, worldwide, throughout the year: simple, flexible, without any complications.

Now’s the right time for this because we’ve built up an extensive network of digital pioneers over the last three years. They form the foundation of CODE_n CONNECT. If people come to the platform to look for an innovation partner, they can tap into a solid foundation of verified startups and renowned companies from across the globe. And when we roll out CODE_n CONNECT in time for CeBIT 2015, both young and established companies can look forward to accessing a veritable pool of entrepreneurs and pioneers from many different countries, all of whom are looking for others who are on the same wavelength when it comes to open innovation.

What’s the next step for CODE_n?

There’s plenty on the horizon in the coming months. The application phase for the next CODE_n contest has just kicked off. This year we’re looking at the Internet of Things. There are startups all over the world developing exciting applications, services and devices, many with the potential to change our everyday lives and to make life that much “smarter” and more convenient.

I’m already looking forward to meeting the 50 founders who will ultimately become the finalists at CeBIT. The week these young entrepreneurs share in our innovation hall is always incredibly inspiring. Clemens Weisshaar and Reed Kram, the designers who created our big data installation for CeBIT 2014, are back on board for 2015. They’ll turn the Internet of Things into a live experience in all its diversity in CODE_n Hall 16. To touch on the topic of Industry 4.0, we’ll even install a small production plant with robots which will manufacture furniture on site. So you’ll be able to design your own furniture and place orders from anywhere in the world.

And as if that weren’t enough, we’re just about to unveil something new from CODE_n: CODE_n SPACES. The idea behind CODE_n SPACES is to create one-of-a-kind locations where creativity and business can merge into one. It will be a place for innovators to meet and work together to shape our digital future. The first CODE_n Space is currently being set up in Stuttgart. More details on what this entails will be presented in just a few weeks. These are definitely exciting times.