From 25 to 29 April 2016, many start-ups will be showcasing their latest innovations at Young Tech Enterprises. In our interview we meet Sonia Wedell-Castellano, sales director for HANNOVER MESSE, and Carina Freutsmiedl, project manager at factum. They explain what the new showcase for start-ups has to offer, what technologies will be on display there, and what the ingredients are for a successful tradeshow presentation.
Ms. Wedell-Castellano, how can HANNOVER MESSE support young entrepreneurs just starting out?
Wedell-Castellano: Setting up a new company today is very different to what it was a few years ago. Nowadays young entrepreneurs can get all the professional help they need to turn their business ideas into reality. All the same, our profile remains unique. HANNOVER MESSE is the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology. Our new "Young Tech Enterprises" showcase brings young entrepreneurs into direct contact with start-up know-how, start-up capital, innovative technologies, and - most importantly - established industrial enterprises who really know the ropes. Not only that, but start-ups naturally also like the massive media interest that the show always attracts.
The new "Young Tech Enterprises" platform has set itself ambitious targets, with 1,800 square meters of floor space waiting to be filled with bright ideas for industry. What was the motivation behind the concept?
Wedell-Castellano: The success of the start-up stand we’ve had at the Tech Transfer Forum in recent years showed us that young entrepreneurs are very interested in presenting their ideas and business models to a live audience. And investors are very interested in the whole start-up scene. In partnership with factum, we set about analyzing what we have learned from these earlier successes so that we can further enhance and enlarge our offerings. The result is a concept that meets the needs of start-ups, while at the same time giving investors and potential customers a comprehensive look at emerging technologies. The new presentation "Young Tech Enterprises" is the realization of our vision for a marketplace brimming over with bright ideas.
Ms. Freutsmiedl, you were involved in designing the new presentation area for start-ups, and you have been busy coordinating the project over the last few weeks. What can start-ups expect to find at "Young-Tech-Enterprises"?
Freutsmiedl: What is particularly attractive for start-ups this year is the new program of supporting events. We want to give young entrepreneurs a platform - figuratively and literally. We are planning a series of organized pitches, where start-ups can compete for the favor of investors. Our forum also offers many contributions by and for young entrepreneurs. The main focus here is on the entrepreneurial aspect, and we want to get people to share their own experiences with each other. These forum contributions will be interspersed with talks by keynote speakers from government and the business world, some of them from overseas, who will explore issues such as financing opportunities or the successful implementation of new business models.
Wedell-Castellano: Another point is that start-ups exhibiting at HANNOVER MESSE can potentially have an impact on the shape of things to come in their sectors. "Young Tech Enterprises" functions as a kind of beacon: start-ups make their presence felt here, and get their voices heard in government and business circles. This year’s official Partner Country, the USA, has a pavilion right next door, and U.S. president Obama, himself, is expected to attend the show.
We've heard a lot about what you have to offer young entrepreneurs. So what do start-ups need to know - and do you have any tips for how to mount a successful presentation?
Freutsmiedl: Tradeshow participations have to be well prepared. As an exhibitor, that means having a firm objective in mind. It’s important to define in advance what you want to achieve at the show, and which target groups you are trying to reach. For a successful presentation, we would advise start-ups to find out about the other exhibitors ahead of the show, and to plan visits to their stands or arrange meetings with them. It is also important to inform business contacts and associates that you are going to exhibit. In order to project your own business effectively in personal encounters at the show, it is important to prepare in advance for questions people might ask - and also for questions you might want to put to potential customers. But there is no “one size fits all” solution here. At the end of the day, the customer or investor has to be convinced by the business proposition on offer. It is not enough, however, to go to the show with the idea of "meeting people". If that’s your plan, you might as well go and sit in a pub.
What trends are we likely to see in 2016?
Wedell-Castellano: The digitalization of production and energy systems is the main focus of HANNOVER MESSE 2016. Industry 4.0 is not just a vision any more, but rather a tangible reality. Products and technologies for the digitalization of factories already exist. Today it is more a matter of getting businesses to use these technologies and implement the available solutions. At HANNOVER MESSE 2016 there will be over 100 real-world examples of Industry 4.0 on display. Under the tagline "Integrated Industry - Discover Solutions!", HANNOVER MESSE 2016 identifies five key trends in modern industry: Industry 4.0, integrated energy systems, generative production processes, intelligent materials and components, and predictive maintenance. A new market is thus being created at the interface between information technology and mechanical engineering - a market that offers great opportunities for new ideas and new businesses. Some of our start-ups, for example, are working on the visualization and processing of large amounts of data, or the intuitive programming of complex tasks for industrial robots.
Freutsmiedl: Our start-ups will be presenting an array of solutions aimed at solving the technological and social problems of the future. These range from self-sustaining energy supplies for the "Internet of Things" and innovative battery storage solutions to gesture control and the treatment of drinking water, all the way to new technologies for food production in the 21st century.
Besides new trends in technology, we are also seeing big changes in financing models. In Germany, for example, crowd-investing portals have really taken off in a really big way. What can a traditional trade fair offer that these online forums can’t?
Freutsmiedl: Personal presence is mission-critical. It’s all about presenting an idea with passion. And you only get that at a trade fair. It's also important to get close to decision-makers and stakeholders. While it’s true that many start-ups present themselves mainly online, personal contact is still crucial, especially when trying to attract investors. Networks thrive on direct, face-to-face dialogue. And for investors, getting to know the start-up team personally is usually just as important as having a good business plan. That’s the only way to find out how much passion and conviction young entrepreneurs are bringing to the challenging task of setting up a new business.
Ms. Wedell-Castellano, what are your hopes in connection with the upcoming HANNOVER MESSE?
Wedell-Castellano: As the organizers of the world’s most important trade fair for industrial technology, we are committed to strengthening Germany’s international position as a major hub for innovation. With "Young Tech Enterprises" we can offer start-ups an ideal platform for expanding their networks and growing their businesses. We look forward to the many young entrepreneurs and investors who will be at the show, and to the unique marriage of industry know-how and future visions that will be on offer at "Young Tech Enterprises".