The more you know, the more you grow
Start-ups Xploraytion and eGovCD market highly specific knowledge at CHIC
Despite their wildly different business ideas, the two Berlin-based start-ups Xploraytion and eGovCD have more in common than just being sixth-floor neighbours at the Charlottenburg Innovation Centre CHIC. Both founders stepped up to market highly specific knowledge – and do so quite successfully.
A small tiger crawls out of a large cardboard box in Bernhard Hesse’s office. At least, it claims to be a tiger. He is the son of an employee. ‘There was a shortage at his nursery today,’ the head of the young Berlin-based Xploraytion GmbH explains. Being able to help out in these situations was one reason he founded his own company. His wish was to march to his own drum and at his own pace.
Hesse analyses sophisticated data derived from highly complex synchrotron experiments, which his company conducts on behalf of its customers. ‘We view ourselves as intermediaries between large-scale research institutes and users from industry and research,’ he explains. Many potential users are unaware of what x-ray experiments in a synchrotron can do for them. ‘After we explain it to them, many are amazed to learn that x-ray sources can provide them with high-resolution 3D analyses at a very high speed and surprisingly low costs,’ he says.
The founder became aware of this while studying and graduating in Grenoble, where he then worked and did research at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). There he acquired the specific know-how that he now markets through the start-up he founded in 2017. It is also where he got to know the founders of one of Xploraytion’s partner companies, who his team of six employees works in tandem with. During times of high workload, they help each other out by putting together series of experiments at large-scale research facilities. This is happening more and more because word is getting out in industry and research that Xploraytion provides easy access to synchrotron facilities, analyses of experimental data, and complete assessment and research reports. This includes analyses of biomaterials in medicine and biotechnology, or, for example, materials analyses for 3D printing and casting processes. ‘While we analyse these data, we can also tame little tigers on the side. Like you saw today,’ says Hesse.
Just a few steps down the hall, Stefanie Köhl opens another door on the sixth floor of CHIC. Instead of taming tigers, to stay with the metaphor, the head of eGov Consulting and Development GmbH, a spin-off company from the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS), gives a leg up to dinosaurs. To be clearer, eGovCD supports public administrations with digitisation projects. ‘Most often, the focus is also on how to use digitisation projects to optimise structures and responsibilities,’ she says.
Köhl acquired the professional skills required for these tasks while studying administrative modernisation at university. Much like her neighbour, Xploraytion’s founder Bernhard Hesse, her aim is to provide real-world users with this highly specific knowledge. ‘I grew tired of authoring one report and journal article after another without seeing any changes,’ she says.
There is a high demand at public administrations. Particularly small communities lag behind due to a lack of funds as well as digital competencies. However, as of 2022, the German Online Access Act obligates them to provide digital administrative services through online portals. ‘That alone is already a large business area. In addition, we offer our support to small and medium-sized companies, which includes making cloud services more secure or helping them to implement the GDPR, the EU General Data Protection Regulation,’ she says.
EGovCD, too, grew steadily and now has five employees. An EU-funded research project has resulted in additional income and fresh know-how. As two young business founders, Köhl and Hesse understand that the more specific knowledge they acquire, the better their chances are on the market. One thing is clear: their companies are here to stay.
By Peter Trechow for Potenzial – The WISTA Magazine