5-HT’s mentor network has recently been enriched by a startup expert: Josefina Nungesser, Director Trend- and Innovation Scouting at Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI), offers her support to startups that want to expand abroad or get in contact with international investors and startup ecosystems. Before joining GTAI, the business development agency of the Federal Republic of Germany, Josefina Nungesser built up a startup and venture capital program at Oracle, worked as a strategy consultant at PwC and managed the European partner programs for Microsoft. In an interview with 5-HT, she tells how she supports the hubs of the Digital Hub Initiative (de:hub) in their internationalization, how she assesses the development of the 5-HT Digital Hub to date and which questions she can help startups from the ecosystem with.
What does your Trend & Innovation Scouting department at GTAI do?
As the business development agency of the Federal Republic of Germany, the GTAI supports German companies on their way abroad, promotes Germany as a business location and assists foreign companies in establishing themselves in Germany. The Trend & Innovation Scouting department, which I was allowed to set up, is part of the department for investor recruitment. The GTAI Investor Recruitment Department in turn promotes Germany as an investment location abroad and convinces companies to settle here. The colleagues then also provide these companies with advice and support. However, my department is particularly responsible for the international strategy of the Digital Hub Initiative.
How do you support the Digital Hub Initiative in the internationalization?
We support the individual hubs of the initiative with regard to their internationalization by putting them in contact with international players and helping them to be seen on the international stage. For example, we network the hubs with international start-ups, accelerator programs and capital providers, but also with large corporations and medium-sized companies interested in cooperation. In this way, we want to stimulate collaborations between the hubs and international players.
What is your résumé almost three years after the founding of the de:hub initiative?
I see the development so far as a success story. The individual hubs have grown rapidly in recent years, have gathered a great deal of experience and are closely networked with each other. They have also been able to benefit from the de:hub initiative brand, for example at international conferences where we organized our own events or had stands. That’s why I have the impression that the hubs have also become more international over the last three years.
In your opinion, what are important components for a successful ecosystem?
I can report on this from my experiences with the Berlin start-up ecosystem, where I have witnessed how it grows and flourishes over many years. In Berlin, it has played a major role that politics has supported the promotion of start-ups with various programs. The influx of capital providers and large corporations has also been positive – Microsoft, for example, has launched an accelerator for start-ups in Berlin. The fact that the Federal Association of German Startups and the Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (bitkom) are based here has certainly also contributed to the Berlin ecosystem becoming an international hotspot. Berlin is also an attractive, cosmopolitan city with a high quality of life and a founder-friendly atmosphere.
In your opinion, how is the 5-HT Digital Hub positioned in terms of these success factors?
I see the Digital Hub in Mannheim/Ludwigshafen as very well positioned, especially with the focus on digital chemistry and digital health and sustainability as key future issues. At 5-HT, strong partners such as SAP and BASF also ensure close networking with corporations, which is essential for a successful ecosystem. In addition, there are good contacts to politics. Therefore, my impression is that the 5-HT Digital Hub is built on a very solid foundation.
How do you assess the development of the 5-HT Digital Hub so far?
The 5-HT Digital Hub has developed rapidly in the short time since its inception. In my opinion, it was above all the personal commitment of Marco Majer, Stefan Kohl and Frank Funke that helped the Digital Hub in Mannheim/Ludwigshafen to grow so quickly. A digital hub is not a self-runner, but needs committed people to lead it to success, and that is definitely the case at 5-HT. I was also very pleased that the 5-HT team has been involved in international formats of the GTAI time and again. I have seen for myself that the commitment to this Digital Hub is outstanding. In my opinion, the high level of personal commitment has already resulted in 5-HT achieving a very good position and will certainly be able to build on the successes of the past in the future.
Recently you also became a mentor at 5-HT. With which questions can startups contact you?
First of all, I feel honored to have been asked to be a mentor. In this role, I would like to share my experience and knowledge gained at GTAI and in my previous positions, especially at Oracle, where I was responsible for setting up a start-up program. Furthermore, I have a large network, especially in the Berlin start-up scene, so I am happy to establish the appropriate contacts. On the other hand, I would also like to help the startups from the 5-HT ecosystem with advice and support when it comes to internationalization. For example, if a start-up wants to expand abroad, I can help with advice and recommendations. I am also happy to share my experience with international start-up ecosystems and investor networks. In addition, I am happy to be available to the Digital Hub, for example, if a speaker is needed for a panel with an international dimension.
How do you think Germany compares to other countries in terms of national digitization initiatives?
In my view, the Digital Hub Initiative has helped to ensure that we don’t have to hide in this area, but can easily join forces with other European startup initiatives. At the end of June, we initiated a European Round Table in which startup initiatives from many European member states took part. The fact that such an exchange at eye level is possible is a sign that the de:hub initiative can certainly keep up with other national digitization initiatives, even though it is only three years old.
Due to the Corona crisis, many tech fairs are currently being cancelled or moved to the digital space. Do you think that international events will continue to be important in the future?
I believe that the desire for internationalization is unbroken despite Corona. Although travel opportunities are limited and trade fairs or conferences are hardly possible in analogous form, this has not led to a situation where there is no longer any interest in cross-border business relationships. Many organizers have sought other ways and developed digital alternative formats. Recently, we ourselves successfully hosted a digital investor pitch – the de:hub Start-up Games. In the current situation, it is certainly a bit more difficult to initiate international business and maintain relationships, but I am sure that the interest in international cooperation will remain.