When scanning the established media, articles about startups or so-called “unicorns,” digitization, the Internet of things, Industry 4.0, or FinTech seem to be everywhere. There is no doubt that bespoken topics are super-hot at the moment. So hot, that even Germany’s ruling party, the CDU, dedicated a whole conference in Berlin to “DIGITIZATION” to discuss topics like data security, conditions for startups in Germany compared to those in hotspots like Silicon Valley, big data and how we can use it to our advantage, and how the German entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to adjust to keep pace with digital change.
The event consisted of various elements – from company tours, to panel discussions with Hasso Plattner, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of SAP, and Frank Thelen, CEO and Founder of e42 and jury member of “Höhle der Löwen,” the German version of Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den. On top of that, attendees were treated to workshops with stakeholders of the German startup scene and political influencers, as well as a speech by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.
For the event’s “c-tours,” digital companies based in Berlin opened their doors to show interested groups what they’re working on and debate rather controversial topics. At Google in Berlin, for example, data security and autonomy was the focus of an insightful discussion. With Bitkom, the association of Germany’s digital companies, we exchanged views on what Germany needs to do to establish a “deeper” startup culture, how digitization of certain industries will affect the job market, and how the educational system needs to adjust to keep pace with digital change.
Headlines from the event were dominated by the contribution of Chancellor Merkel. Having her infamous statement from only two years ago, when she called the internet “Neuland” (new territory), in mind, the expectations regarding her input at the conference weren’t too high. BUT she absolutely proved that she understood the immediate need for action in terms of digitization. Ms Merkel emphasized that the future prosperity of Germany heavily depends on successful digitization, and that we all have to work hard to make sure of that success. Data is certainly one very important factor, and was labelled “the raw material of the future” by the Chancellor. She also implored the audience to focus on the opportunities that the digital world offers us and not become fixated on its potential risks. It’s well known that a big chunk of Germany’s wealth is based on exports. Hence – she said with a smile – the country must occasionally produce something that people outside of Germany want and need. In order to maintain prosperity in Germany, she suggested, the country must keep pace with other foreign powerhouses. Because while Germany is world-champion when it comes to exports, the country is far behind when it comes to digitization – especially compared to countries like the United States.
Traxpay, together with our colleagues from main incubator, we exhibited at the conference and spread the word. The word about startups in Frankfurt, about FinTech, and about how we envision B2B payments in the future. Chancellor Merkel herself even came by to say “hi” and thank us for our role in ensuring the vision she outlined of a strong digital sector in Germany was already in the process of becoming a reality. “Let’s all be the engine of the digital development, and most important – stay curious!” is her request to the German society.