The Munich startup Innosabi started a good nine years ago to introduce crowdinnovation to companies. Starting with consulting services and a crowdinnovation platform, Innosabi has since evolved into a sound SaaS company The founding team explained why openness and speed are so important for startups, what has changed, why Innosabi prefers bootstrapping and what it means to the team to “always be in beta.”
Munich Startup: You have not only evolved into an SaaS company, but now also use machine learning and artificial intelligence to further improve the use of data on your platform for innovation projects. What is in highest demand among your customers?
Innosabi: Transitioning into becoming an SaaS company was the biggest and most important major change in our history so far. It was also very exhausting, but it did lay the foundation for our successful development. And we’re building on that foundation: We want to offer the digital infrastructure for networking all of the relevant stakeholders in an ecosystem.
In companies, the “pioneer” era in terms of digital initiatives and innovation methods has passed and they have successfully established many programs. The next step is finding a solution that connects these initiatives and makes them accessible and traceable — basically an “operating system for innovation.” That is what our customers are asking for: a central point of contact for innovation in their own ecosystem, a “one stop shop for innovation“. From co-creation and prototype testing with customers to rapid identification of innovation ideas and collaborative implementation with employees or early integration of specific knowledge of suppliers: Innosabi makes it possible for companies to accelerate their innovation processes through networking and actively shape the future as a result.
Innosabi also helps identify startups for innovation processes
Munich Startup: How do startups benefit from your software in concrete terms?
Innosabi: Startups often have hardly any knowledge or information asymmetries due to their smaller size, flat hierarchies and short lines of communication, which means they are able to act quickly and flexibly. Large corporations, in contrast, have a more difficult time due to their size and long-standing structures. Innosabi software is therefore initially intended for large corporations to give them a tool to optimally map out their innovation processes.
With our software, companies create a central point of contact for all innovation processes in their ecosystem. They can search specifically for new technologies, experts, patents, trends or even startups. This opens the door for startups and large corporations to collaborate and exchange ideas: Startups’ solutions and ideas can quickly and easily be incorporated into companies and they can solve current challenges together. Their respective resources can be optimally combined and business opportunities result for both parties.
“Always in beta”
Munich Startup: How do you keep track of trends?
Innosabi: No one can tell the future. But there are still ways to keep track of trends. Viewing the future with the right attitude plays an important role. We are open to and curious about the future. The future is something we would like to actively shape and improve. For us, that means we’re “always in beta.” We want to be courageous, try out new things, learn every day and continue to evolve.
Your surroundings are also important. If you’re in constant exchange with an innovative network, new impetus and new input emerges almost automatically. Constant exchange with our customers and other visionaries has made it possible for us to develop our product based on the needs and requirements of the market and allows us to quickly adapt to current developments.
Openness as the foundation for successful corporate development
Munich Startup: What were the biggest challenges in recent years? How did you deal with them?
Innosabi: Over the last three years in particular, we’ve experienced rapid growth. We are obviously really happy about that, but it has also posed challenges. It’s mostly about striking the right balance between giving new team members the attention they need without neglecting the rest of the team. The guiding principle for the way we work together at Innosabi is “Celebrate Individuality.” That means every individual should have the opportunity to make a contribution and incorporate their own personality in the best possible way. And we obviously want to live up to that aim.
With every new team member, we bring new and individual perspectives into the team. That has significant potential, but also introduces a new dynamic that requires a high degree of adaptability and openness within the organization. That is not always easy, but is something that in our mind is simply one of the basic prerequisites for successful corporate development.
How agility, an interdisciplinary approach and onboarding work together
Munich Startup: What has been your most impressive lesson learned?
Innosabi: Our most impressive lesson learned: Yes, we want to grow, but we don’t want to overstrain the organization with growth that is too rapid. It’s a matter of deliberate growth. That starts with selecting the right applicant: Is the person a good fit for us? Do they have the same values? Do they believe in our vision? And it continues with our onboarding, which takes a lot of time and resources. Our new team members gain insight into every part of the company.
With such a complex product, it is particularly important to understand how things are interlinked. An interdisciplinary approach is also important to us, which is manifested in cross-team interfaces. An understanding needs to be established to do that, and that requires time and attention.
Challenges are also presented by how we work together every day: We are able to reach the high level of adaptability and openness that we aspire to through our agile method of working. It allows us to quickly and flexibly adjust to changes within the team and also beyond the Innosabi universe and to adapt to them as quickly and as effectively as possible.
Bootstrapping to determine your own path
Munich Startup: Apropos financing: When we talked last, you were looking for funding. How did that work out?
Innosabi: After many promising discussions with investors, we decided to first build our product without external capital and to prove our product-market fit. That is certainly a less common way to develop a tech business model, but it allowed us to build a truly healthy and solid company.
We’re proud of how far we’ve come with courage and our hands-on mentality. Bootstrapping allowed us to determine the path we wanted to take and to grow deliberately and organically. We now have large customers in our portfolio with good and strong customer relations, which gives us further stability. We are also particularly proud and happy about receiving the EU funding Horizon 2020, which has given us additional momentum.
But that doesn’t mean that this is the only path we’ll ever take. If we decide, for example, that we want to grow even faster, then the topic of financing might become more relevant again.
“Practice what you preach”
Munich Startup: What do you think is most important for sustainable and successful corporate development?
Innosabi: Now more than ever: If you want to be successful, you have to be faster than the competition. For accelerated innovation and development processes, it is essential for all players in the ecosystem to be networked. That includes considering the various ideas and skills of your own team and also collaborating with customers, which allows us to ensure customer-oriented and in-demand product development. Communication and collaboration with startups, experts and suppliers makes it possible to tackle current challenges and recognize trends early on.
In our case, the guiding principle for sustainable and successful corporate development could be summarized with the motto “practice what you preach”: Our software provides the tools with which every organization can create said network in their entire system. We obviously want to implement the same thing at Innosabi. With our “Innosabi beta” platform, for example, we’ve built our own customer platform that supports close communication with our customers.
Innosabi: Never settle for the status quo
Munich Startup: Where do you see yourselves in ten years? Will you have an office in the Argentinian Pampas or San Francisco?
Innosabi: There is still such a strong desire to want to achieve so much. Where we find ourselves right now is a step forward on our path — and it most definitely hasn’t come to an end yet. We do not want to settle for the status quo yet and still have so many ideas. That will still be the case in ten years.
What defines Innosabi are the people and their passion for what we do. It is with this passion that we’ll continue to advance our product in the future. The focus will continue to be on training our artificial intelligence and linking data with machine learning so that data can be used to quickly make the right decisions and continue to accelerate innovation processes.
Where we’ll be doing that from is something we’re open to. We just moved to our new office in the middle of last year near Munich’s Friedensengel monument and feel very much at home. But of course there’s no reason to not also work from the Argentinian Pampas, San Francisco or in new and undiscovered places.
Munich Startup: Many thanks for the update!
If you would like to learn more about where the Munich startup is from and how things were going when we last spoke in 2016, this is the link for you.