MediaMarktSaturn and the Plug and Play Tech Center are looking for innovations in retail in their Munich-based Retailtech Hub. Martin Wild, Chief Digital Officer at MediaMarktSaturn, gave us some details about the startup program.
Please tell us about Retailtech Hub!
Retailtech Hub was established by MediaMarktSaturn this August. The open platform is directed towards tech startups in all areas of retail, far beyond just consumer electronics. It is also open for other trade enterprises. In collaboration with accelerator experts from the Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, we offer an innovation platform that is unique in Germany for startups and established companies in the retail industry.
How do you work in cooperation with Plug and Play?
Plug and Play has an unbelievable amount of knowledge in terms of the practical implementation of startup programs. MediaMarktSaturn makes six million customer contacts daily and has a wealth of experience in executing pilot projects with startups. Together, we are able to offer startups an unparalleled infrastructure for continued development. That attracts top-notch entrepreneurs, which then brings fantastic retailers our way. The result is an extremely positive cycle that continuously improves Retailtech Hub.
“The Spacelab was our MVP and we pivoted”
What went wrong with MS Spacelab? What did you learn from it, and how does Retailtech Hub differ from Spacelab?
The program was an excellent first step — there’s a reason we’re rolling out one of the offers from our first batch, Deutsche Technikberatung (German Technical Support), across Germany. That being said, the program was only open for the consumer electronics market. However, many startups are relevant for all areas of retail — just take payment systems or logistics solutions as examples. We wanted the program to be interesting for them as well. That is why we founded Retailtech Hub as an open platform for all sectors of the retail industry. It is open to all retail enterprises and startups from all “verticals” — meaning food, clothing, home improvement stores, and so on. We also concentrate on the same element that made Spacelab a success — pilot projects. We now also forgo things that made it all more complicated — such as requiring startups to give us shares and move in with us. The Spacelab was our MVP and we pivoted. As one should in the startup world.
You are looking for partners from different retail sectors, and are already working together with Lidl and Kaufland. What do you hope to gain from this coopetition? Where do the boundaries lie within your cooperation?
We will only be able to shape the future of retail if we get rid of our old patterns of thinking. Retailtech Hub is an open accelerator for the entire retail industry. The goal is to give startups the most diverse and broad range of opportunities possible for trying out their ideas in the real world. Everyone benefits from that in the end. Retailtech Hub is an open platform — that applies to startups that impress us as much as it does to retail companies that want to get on board and are a good match for the accelerator. At the same time, we have also seen significant synergies emerge while working closely with other retail companies on innovation. The experience gathered from working on pilot projects with startups is shared with our partners — so everyone benefits from it, both startups and retail companies.
“Retailtech Hub is a very open program”
Retailtech Hub works together with startups in which sectors? What do you offer them?
Ten startups participated in the first batch, which started in October. A great number of exciting solutions were presented for retail, from paying right at the shelf, to market research using a digital super brain, or even video reviews of products. The participants in each round, what we call a batch, go through a three-month program with different weekly focuses. They work closely with experienced mentors and coaches from the program on subjects such as HR, marketing, funding, business development and operations. The most important element is a joint pilot project with us and our retail partners. It provides a framework in which their innovations can be implemented and tested under real-life conditions. At the end of the three months, a demo day is held. That is where the startups showcase themselves for the decision makers from MediaMarktSaturn, Plug and Play and our partners from the startup and investor scene.
Images from Retailtech Hub (photos: Retailtech Hub):
Which startups are immediately excluded from working with Retailtech Hub?
Retailtech Hub is a very open program; however, startups should be related to the retail industry and also offer potential for practical implementation of their solution in the industry. The startup needs to already have a product that they can use for a pilot project. Startups that have just come up with an idea will find more support in other programs. We would be happy to establish connections for them. One example is Brigk in Ingolstadt, which is a MediaMarktSaturn partner.
Do startups need to worry about you getting too involved?
No, we see ourselves as a startup’s business partner — anything else would not be appropriate. Startups frequently face the problem of it taking too long for their ideas to be heard by the decision makers in companies. That is where we come in. We also offer support in numerous areas of operative business. But one thing applies: we can do a lot, but nothing is a must.
How much will shopping change in the next five years? How well is MediaMarktSaturn prepared? And what role does Retailtech Hub play in that preparation?
Retail will become hyper-personalized — regardless of whether it is online, mobile, in a store or at home. The aim is for us to always give the customer the right offer — to make that possible, there are lots of aspects that we can tinker on together with startups. It is going to be great for customers. And it will also be great for retailers who realize and implement that potential. We are very excited about it.
Thank you for the interview!