This week I fly to Bavaria, the heartland of Germany’s venture industry, to provide an update to technology association the Munich Network on the state of corporate venturing in Europe and globally.
The trip should be well worthwhile. Firstly Bavarian companies have long been some of the best in the world in engineering and the creation of new products, with Microsoft founder Bill Gates once going as far as to label the region, “Europe’s high-tech mecca”. Yet also two of the region’s best known companies Siemens and BMW, have set up interesting corporate venturing units, while US-based industrial company 3M, also bases its well-regarded corporate venturing unit in the region.
I had the pleasure of interviewing BMW iVentures’ Ulrich Quay in a fireside chat at the IBF Corporate Venturing and Innovation Partnering conference in Newport Beach, California last month. Intriguingly Quay mentioned BMW’s proud Bavarian engineering heritage had actually been a hindrance in the company’s pursuit of corporate venturing. Quay explained the mentality of “not-invented here” was difficult to overcome given the company’s sheer confidence in the quality of its technology and its design. This is despite a realisation, like at many companies, that the pace of change in the start-up world means the company has to more actively engage by becoming an investor in small companies.
It will be curious to see if many of the other attendees of the Munich Network conference will refer to a similar paradox at their organisations. Doubtless the event will provide a compelling window into how this centre of German industry is looking to ensure it remains at the cutting edge of technology. I am sure there will be many lessons for the world to learn from what the country’s companies are doing.