Innovations come in different shapes and forms. At Scout24, agility plays a crucial role since it’s a core driver for innovations. As the company is now taking another approach for its accelerator lab YOU IS NOW we sat down with Christian Bubenheim, Senior Vice President at Scout24, to talk about the lab’s success, its future role and Scout24’s innovation strategy.
Christian, looking back at the history of YOU IS NOW, which is the success that you are particularly proud of?
Christian: We are proud that both YOU IS NOW and our Valley in Berlin conference have become a known institution in the Berlin and European startup scene within 6 years. 30 startups went through the YOU IS NOW lab and more than 30 internal mentors have supported them with their expertise. In addition, we ran 6 accelerator batches and have gained through them a very intensive exchange with the startup scene. We got in touch with many founders whom we wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise. Almost 700 startups have applied for our accelerator program and since 2014 we have been organizing 5 Valley In Berlin events with more than 2000 participants, 70 top speakers, among them NASA scientist Stephen R. Ellis, the Founder Institute’s CEO Adeo Ressi, GitHub’s CIO Scott Chacon or Claude Ritter, co-founder of Berlin-based startup Book a Tiger. We are happy that we could generate significant involvement not only from the startup and tech community, digital leaders and many international influencers. Many fruitful relationships – and even friendships- have been built.
Why have you come to the conclusion that an accelerator is not suitable for Scout24 anymore to get in touch with startups?
Christian: The accelerator has been the right approach for us in recent years to stay connected to the startup ecosystem but Scout24 has changed significantly in the last years. We have introduced a completely new corporate structure, setting up our business in 12 market segments. This way, we are closest to our markets, customers and their needs. Our market segments operate as largely autonomously business units, led by cross-functional teams – we call them the FabX. These new structures enable us to work agile more like a startup. It also fosters a new innovation culture @scale at Scout24. And we can already see that compelling innovations are emerging from the individual market segments. In fact, timum, a Berlin-based startup in YOU IS NOW lab that provides a web-tool for online appointment booking, is already working in close cooperation with several market segments of ImmobilienScout24 and AutoScout24.
With these changes at Scout24, it is only consistent to review and challenge the role and approach on engaging with startups. The objective is to bring our market segments and startups closer together – and connect them more directly than through a centrally controlled program like YOU IS NOW has been. With our new approach we intend to create the next level of engagement; more open, more direct, more flexible. And we are convinced that this way we will be getting a bigger win-win for both sides.
What is the future role of YOU IS NOW in this decentralized structure?
Christian: As YOU IS NOW has many years of experience in the startup scene the team will support the market segments optimally by keeping in touch with start-ups and networking. Startups can still contact us via the YOU IS NOW website and – most importantly – via our network event “Valley in Berlin,” which focuses on the exchange of knowledge between our market segments, entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors from Berlin, Silicon Valley and all around the world. In fact, we plan to expand the “Valley in Berlin” format to Munich – in close cooperation with the market segments. The next Valley in Berlin conference will take place in April 2017 so stay tuned.
What are the motivations for start-ups to cooperate with the market segments? Now that the Accelerator doesn’t exist anymore, they will not get any support.
Christian: Scout24 is now 18 years on the market and as a mature tech company we know how to build, successfully operate and scale a highly profitable digital business model. Startups that work with us will benefit enormously from our know-how and access our customers in our three verticals real estate, automotive and media.
Speaking of support, what about the teams of the last (6th) batch? What will happen to them?
Christian: With the completion of the three-month accelerator, the teams have now moved out of the lab – with only two exceptions: LookAround and MieterEngel. The lab is still available for them as a co-working space and we are also currently implementing a project together with MieterEngel so the team will stay in the lab until everything has been finalized.
What happens to the startups that have applied to the next accelerator batch?
Christian: We have approached them explaining our new approach to them. The startups with the most promising business models will be invited to the next Valley in Berlin event in April 2017 where they can pitch their ideas and exchange with our market segments.