Photos by Martin Schoeller
Grow together. Progress. Be brave. Challenge elegant conformity and crippling interchangeability. Be aware that you’re creating something new that moves people. Across boundaries. “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Aristotle. The spirit of partnership between young, ambitious companies and Porsche is the driver of progress: Porsche Ventures.
What brings them together? New cultural ground for both of them, a partnership of equals. Here you will find the confident energy of the international startup scene, young companies in their early and growth phase – impulses, ideas, permanent hunger for the unconventional, not bound to any convention except the idea that failure is an option. While, on the other hand, you will find financial strength, the unbreakable bond between tradition and innovation, the experience and excellence that come from a good seven decades of making sports cars.
The objective: Access to business models connected to customer experience, mobility and digital lifestyle as well as to trends and new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual and augmented reality. That is why Porsche is increasing its in vestment in venture capital activities for the next five years to 150 million euros – opening doors to the most successful brand of exclusive, sporty and digital mobility solutions.
No project is just like the next one, and creativity needs space to breathe. Porsche supports each partner in an individual way de pending on their stage of development and direction. Accelerator APX, a project by Axel Springer and Porsche Digital, has, since 2018, supported companies in their foundation phase and invested in digital business models across sectors and industries, particularly from the fields of life style, mobility, travel, finance and insurance technology, media and health. Startups receive a financial shot in the arm of at least 50,000 euros.
Two years before, Porsche had started a collaboration with the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. In a topical partner ship with the SpinLab, HHL Leipzig’ saccelerator, young scientists were able to make their own concepts ready for market. The focus was on financial services of the future/fintech, databased business models, the experiential world of sports cars and digitalisation in production. As part of the innovation platform “Start up Autobahn” in Stuttgart, Porsche is working with established startups – together with Daimler, Deutsche Post DHL, HP Enterprise, DXC Technology, ZF and BASF. “Start up Autobahn” is Europe’s largest innovation platform. Porsche alone has completed around 40 projects from around the world since February 2017. One third of these have fed directly into the series development of vehicles.
"I grew up with motor racing.” Today, smart vehicle technology is the speciality of Bryn Balcombe, Chief Strategy Officer at Roborace. The startup is developing the world’s first electric, autonomous racing series, a project intended primarily to stimulate research and development among car manufacturers. Balcombe is pursuing the even loftier goal of “Vision Zero”, an initiative that aims to use artificial intelligence to reduce accident deaths. The thing that particularly excites him about the “Startup Autobahn” programme is the diverse exchange of ideas: “I find the collaboration between various groups to be a crucial factor in innovation."
"Collaboration is the success factor of the future.” As Innovation Manager, Christian Knörle introduces the world’s best startups to Porsche employees. In two years, “Startup Autobahn” has developed into Europe’s largest innovation platform with over 20 partners – together with Daimler. Since then, over 40 projects have been completed and several technologies have gone into series production with the Taycan. “Startups offer new innovation impulses, while our departments offer the specific application. As with Robo race, what seem not to be intuitive worlds – autonomous driving and motor racing – can combine to form something totally new."
"Even as a child I knew that I would later work in a technological field.” With WayRay, which was founded in 2012 by Vitaly Ponomarev, his vision became a reality. The company’s idea was to make holographic headup displays that make driving safer. Unlike a conventional navigation device, the company’s solution overlays information directly within the driver’s field of vision – meaning that he or she no longer needs to avert their gaze. The collaboration with Porsche offers Ponomarev fresh perspectives: “The management team helps us to implement our goals quickly. We learn to think not only as a company but as a startup."
"I pool the knowledge of the experts at Porsche.” Theresa Baumstark, as Manager for Mergers & Acquisitions and Venture Capital, concentrates on startups. Her most important task is communicating. The participation expert looks at all the information that will be used to make a decision be fore Porsche commits itself. As well as the project partners’ shared vision, she puts great store in direct exchange of views: “With its customerfocused and futureoriented technology, WayRay fits in perfectly with the Porsche vision. And so not only our engineers but also our strategy colleagues were keen on our involvement."
"We are building an app ecosystem with millions of developers.” Even before Risto Vahtra founded the startup High Mobility in 2013, he was already working on a platform for connected car software. Together with Porsche, High Mobility – as part of an open innovation team – used this basis to create a digital interface that external developers can use to present their applications virtually in a vehicle simulator. Vahtra can see enormous potential in the venture: “We are working together to make Porsche the most digitally advanced com pany. It is a blueprint for the whole automotive industry."
"The human factor is enormously important in crossfunctional teams.” Andy Grau is Project Manager for Innovation Management and Open Innovation Platforms at Porsche. The Accelerator programme “Startup Autobahn” is what drew his attention to High Mobility. It only took 100 days to turn the idea of an open innovation platform into the finished product. Grau sees the collaborative establishment of a platform as a significant development step: “Fast, flexible, motivated and ready to adopt a new spirit. That all works very well within our teams."
"Our vision is to make road haulage around the world more humancentred and yet more efficient. The idea behind the Spanish startup Trucksters, cofounded by Gabor Balogh, was to keep trucks on the road constantly – not autonomously, but in the traditional way with human drivers. Once a truck has been on the road several hours, a new driver takes the wheel at a handover point. The benefits are that time spent at the wheel is reduced, as are operating costs. Balogh developed his idea further in the Accelerator APX with Porsche: “Having an expert’s view, whether in supply chain management or marketing, is a huge motivation."
"I think of myself as Rob the bridge builder.” At Porsche Digital in Berlin, Robert Martin looks after the Accelerator programme APX, which Porsche set up this year in tandem with Axel Springer. It looks to find promising teams of company founders, to invest in them and to provide the best possible assistance in their development. Martin organises networking meetings to allow startups to find the right partners at Porsche and within the Volkswagen Group. International teams of founders benefit particularly: Trucksters from Spain was able to exchange ideas with experts about the particularities of the German market early on."