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“We don’t look for hype which is perhaps profitable in the short term”

Interview with Peter Guse, CEO of Robert Bosch Start-Up GmbH

European Business: Mr. Guse, Bosch as a company and a brand is recognized the world over. To what extent does grow, and accordingly, Robert Bosch Start-Up GmbH, profit from this?

Peter Guse: We generally use the brand for company presentations, product labelling as well as recruiting, whenever useful and possible. But we have also set up start-ups, where we have not used the brand. A good example is Mayfield Robotics in the USA and its product Kuri, a home robot. We have deliberately left the brand invisible. We want to do some consumer testing first, to see whether it is a product that they want and would pay for.

The German word ‘Heimat’ offers much more definitions than the English word ‘home’ or ‘homestead’. Peter Guse

European Business: On the grow platform, you use terms such as ‘Heimat’, ‘Durchstarter’, ‘Selbstverwirklicher’ and ‘Querdenker’, despite the fact that the platform itself is set up in English. What is the reason for this?

Peter Guse: grow began in Stuttgart, in Germany. At Bosch, we talk a lot about transformation, and that affects all our employees and relates, on the one hand to the products, and on the other hand to the company culture. This is how it must be, to be successful in the market and this is mirrored in the terminology we use as well. Take ‘Heimat’ for example. The German word ‘Heimat’ offers much more definitions than the the English word ‘home’ or ‘homestead’. We don’t mean a place, but an environment. An environment where you can find practical support, but also critical challenge.

European Business: In one clip, you show what is behind the claim ‘It’s just an idea – until it grows’. Where did the idea of implementation with the help of grow come from?

Peter Guse: Before I became head of the platform, I was involved in innovation management at Bosch. At some point, I said: “There are always ideas, which are in danger of falling through the cracks. We have to give these a home.” So we began with the employees of the central research department, and the next step was to open ourselves up to the worldwide Bosch Group. Now we are strengthening our network outside of the organization.

There are always ideas, which are in danger of falling through the cracks of the business branches. We want to give these a home. Peter Guse

European Business: grow presents itself as a platform for start-ups. How, and in what form, will start-ups be supported?

Peter Guse: We have three areas of activity. It all starts with Experience, where we explain to our own teams and other Bosch employees, the basics of how start-ups work. The next step is that employees can move into our facilities when they have a theme that is related to new business. There we offer a co-working environment, in which they can do more work on their idea. Finally, we have Incubation, the most intensive stage, where we finance and support innovation teams to create the end product.

European Business: You are supporting six start-ups at the moment, one of which is Mayfield Robotics with its home robot Kuri. How typical is Mayfield as a project?

Peter Guse: We were really enthusiastic about the opportunity to be involved in a start-up project in Silicon Valley. Home robots do not really belong to our core business. Regardless, with Kuri, Mayfield will probably be one of the first companies to manufacture and sell such a home robot in the USA in the course of 2017. From initial idea to the finished product has taken a good two years. That is a good benchmark for the speed of a project. Of course, we are excited about its launch.

„Start-ups are an important building block of the innovation landscape.“ Peter Guse

European Business: Cooperation between large concerns and start-ups can take on various guises. How would you describe the relationship between two organizations which are at opposite ends of the corporate scale?

Peter Guse: It is obvious that two completely different worlds collide. Many large corporates are highly specialized, which is true of Bosch. This is not typical of start-ups, which are much smaller, and each member of the team does everything at the beginning. A further point is the attitude to risk: For start-ups, possibilities are at the forefront: what the opportunities are, and how they can benefit from them.

European Business: Let’s extend that question. Can corporates and start-ups be successful on their own in the long term?

Peter Guse: Start-ups are an important building block in the innovation landscape. Of course, companies also need to work with academic institutions and they must observe competitors, partners and suppliers. Start-ups belong to this list. If one of these elements is ignored, and other competitors with them instead, then the prospects for your company are not good.

We don’t take ideas without their team, and we don’t take teams without an idea. Peter Guse

European Business: One, final question: What must an idea have, to find its home with grow?

Peter Guse: That is relatively simple. We are characterized by Bosch and its size as a company, and we look for projects which fit that. Key is our slogan ‘Technology for life’. In that connection, we have formulated a few theme categories, for example Networking, Automation and Digitalization. The idea should also be scalable as necessary, in terms of location and from a time perspective. We don’t look for hype, which is possibly only profitable in the short term. Our motto states: We need a team with an idea. We don’t take ideas without their team, and we don’t take teams without an idea.

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