The Corporate startup: How cooperations between startups and corporations increase the chances of success for both

manualONE. All instructions. All receipts. One app. is the slogan of a new mobile app that provides users with all the information they need about their electronic devices. Quick access to operating instructions, application tips, warranty certificates, service numbers, etc. makes everyday use of smartphones, televisions, digital cameras and washing machines easier.
Behind the app is the young Cologne-based startup Kumukan GmbH, which was launched as a Spin-Off of Deutsche Telekom AG and was created via its VC subsidiary T-Venture. In July 2015, the founding team, consisting of Jane Gerling, Markus Schorn and Sascha Fassmann won the Corporate Startup Award in the category “Best New Development”.

manualONE - SaschaFassmann - JaneGerling - MarkusSchorn - vlnr

The manualONE team: SaschaFassmann, JaneGerling, MarkusSchorn (fltr)

In a brief interview the team tells us how the cooperation between the startup and a large German corporation came about and where the advantages and disadvantages of such a partnership are:

What exactly does manualONE do and what business model is behind it?
Jane Gerling: Our business idea is based on the realization that few users really know all the features of their home devices. We want to change that with our app: manualONE should help to make the growing collection of devices at home easier and better to use. We show that handling electrical appliances can be child’s play – if you know how to do it! And by the way, we finally put an end to the chaotic collection of instructions for use and documents.
Sascha Fassmann: Our business model is based mainly on the fact that manualONE represents an important communication channel to the customer for the manufacturers: with our platform users can be informed about important updates, urgent product recalls or suitable offers. Until now, the trace to the customer has been lost as soon as he has bought a new device. None of us really fill out these product registration cards, do we?

Two of the three founders were previously employees of Deutsche Telekom AG. What motivated them to found their own company?
Markus Schorn: I have been responsible for TopApps marketing at Deutsche Telekom for the last few years and therefore had many points of contact with the startup scene. When the idea for manualONE came up in the group and founders for the business idea were sought, I was immediately thrilled. It’s great to set up a startup and at the same time have the connection to the Telekom Group.
Jane: I always wanted to realize one of my ideas and try it with my own startup. In my old job at Telekom I was also very lucky to have a boss who always supported and encouraged me. In addition to my regular tasks he asked me to develop an advent calendar app for the company. That’s how I got there.

Starting a startup out of a large corporation – an easy game? At what points did you have to convince people and how was the cooperation structured?
Markus: The idea was already born in the time of René Obermann and internally the project was given the green light from all sides from the very beginning. Seen in this way, it was an easy game. Just as far as the timing was concerned, we had to be a little patient. In large companies there are many coordination and approval processes and so it took until spring 2014 to set up the company. Since then, we have been operating independently according to the lean startup model. At the same time, we make use of the corporate’s networks and synergies. We receive operational support in areas such as HR and legal matters.

What could Deutsche Telekom contribute to the success of the founding project and did the partnership pay off for both sides? If so, why?
Sascha: Telekom, more precisely the T-Venture team, is helping us enormously with its know-how from the startup area: how to develop the right business model, how to address potential investors, etc. On the other hand, we were able to transfer the newly gained findings on “Agile Product Development” and “Lean Startup” to the Deutsche Telekom Group, so in internal corporate processes among employees can also be designed to be agile and lean in the future.

Corporate startups operate in the area of conflict between “hands on” mentality and corporate hierarchy. What are your experiences with this? Were and are there points of friction?
Jane: We have had consistently positive experiences so far. We are really very grateful for the excellent tandem constellation with Deutsche Telekom: we develop and work independently – but can always count on corporate support.

What about the speed of implementation? What influence does a large corporation have on the agility of the start-up?
Sascha: In our case, belonging to a large corporation has no effect on the pace of our work. As Jane has just mentioned: we are really completely satisfied with the cooperation.

What were the advantages of a Spin-Off as a corporate startup over an independent startup?
Markus: The first thing that comes to mind is the financial aspect. As a Corporate startup we had a VC Funding with which we could found manualONE and hire a top team. This is a clear advantage over setting up an independent company. In addition, we always have an experienced advisory board available to provide advice and assistance. A practical example: we have been able to access valuable contacts from the Telekom network at times. This really helps tremendously, for example in the search for potential new business partners.

Would you found manualONE again within the framework of a cooperation, if you could make a new decision based on today’s experiences?
Jane: Clearly – YES! thanks you for these exciting insights and wishes you continued success! by the way, you can get to know the team personally: manualONE will be at the “IFA TecWatch Forum” on September 05, 2015 and at the “Lange Nacht der Startups” with a booth in Berlin.

About Ambivation

Ambivation connects established companies with startups for innovation partnerships. As an innovation consultancy and matchmaker, Ambivation facilitates collaboration between founders and executives for general exchange, concrete customer, supplier or research partnerships. Ambivation supports companies in the identification of needs, startup identification, startup evaluation and initiation of cooperation. Formats such as research of relevant startups, startup monitoring, strategic cooperation consulting or event formats such as startup tours or Design Thinking workshops serve this purpose. The monthly newsletter also informs curious company representatives about current collaboration examples and events related to these cooperations.