New Global Partner Perspective: bwcon and How to ‘Think Around the Corner’

Pictured above: team members from Covexo, a cloud startup preparing for its breakthrough in the US.

The Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at the University of California, Berkeley is proud to welcome our newest global partner: bwcon. Below is a perspective from bwconthat has been translated from German and lightly edited. The original story can be found here.

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A new cloud startup called Covexo in Mannheim is taking off, thanks to a partnership in California.

The Baden-Württemberg-based business initiative, bwcon, and the University of California, Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology are working together. Already, an artificial intelligence workshop has taken place in Stuttgart, and Convexo is preparing for its big breakthrough in the USA.

“Think around the corner,” the motto of the workshop, was organized by bwcon at Stuttgart Airport. The two-day course, attended by representatives of established companies and start-up founders, was the result of the new UC Berkeley partnership, which is unique in the southwest of Germany. The partnership gives the company access to a world-class league of innovation and to programs that are extremely ambitious in bringing high-tech to market breakthrough.

At the latest Cyber One, the high-tech competition held in Baden-Württemberg, the IT specialists from Covexo had to admit defeat in the finals due to, among other things, a competitor that created a innovative placement platform for craftsmen. But as the third place winner of 2018, the Covexo team received an even better opportunity with their ticket to Berkeley.

Covexo makes it possible for software development to take place in the cloud. Since it is already common today to run software on external computers, the founders have adapted this principle to this special application. As programmers write their code, each line is automatically transferred to the internet in the background, providing more computing power resulting in less waiting time.

Without the cooperation between bwcon and UC Berkeley, the Mannheim founders would have found it difficult to find the necessary support and investors in Baden-Württemberg.

Focus on blockchain and artificial intelligence

The cooperation agreement for bwcon and UC Berkeley was finalized at the end of last year. The aim is to exchange methods and technologies, especially in the field of artificial intelligence and blockchain, a secure internet transaction system. Bwcon wants to bring the US university’s expertise in startup and technology funding to Baden-Württemberg. In addition, Baden-Württemberg startups will be able to travel to the USA. Prior to the workshop in Stuttgart, bwcon organized three courses for startups on the topic of business development or artificial intelligence in the USA, in which flight and accommodation costs were covered for the participants.

The program has already hit the bullseye. The startup Covexo from Mannheim was the first participant from Baden-Württemberg to be included in the Skydeck funding program, an accelerator and incubator. UC Berkeley is investing $100,000 in each team that participates in this program to prepare these start-ups for a big market launch after the six-month program.

In Silicon Valley, the implementation of new technologies into business models is much faster and further advanced than most universities in the country. The first learning success?

“Americans never think of only the first application when evaluating data,” said Jürgen Jähnert, Managing Director of bwcon. “They always think beyond that — and that’s where they often see the most profitable business models.”

An example: A German automotive engineer would first think about how to lock an autonomous vehicle, ensure it remains accident-free across the road, and try to develop a tailor-made solution. In Berkeley, the question immediately arises as to what data this vehicle collects on the side and how it can be turned into money in a completely different way. Maybe the robot could also report the road condition to the city?  Or transmit data of passing vehicles to shops? There is a shortage of such thinking in Southwest Germany, which is oriented towards concrete problem solutions.

“The people here are very precise, but could improve on presenting their ideas,” says Berkeley lecturer Ikhlaq Sidhu, who has come to Stuttgart, about his first experiences with the Southwest German public. For Californians, the opportunity to take a closer look at the world of industrial production and car manufacturing is particularly attractive thanks to the exchange.

Cooperation between bwcon and UC Berkeley to encourage visionary thinking

“On the other hand, we want to bring this kind of thinking to us,” says Marc König, who is responsible for business development at bwcon. Six years ago he met Sidhu on the sidelines of an event in Belfast and the two have been in contact ever since. It’s these kinds of connections that don’t follow a preconceived plan that California defines as creative networking.

UC Berkeley SCET has now found 15 partners worldwide, most of which are cooperation programs with universities. Cooperation with bwcon, a business-oriented and application-oriented initiative, is therefore different and interesting. The Baden-Württemberg researchers are the only partners from Germany.

“We don’t have a master plan for what we’re looking for in the abstract. It’s important to us that people convince us,” Sidhu said. “We are looking for people who see the world the way we don’t see it.”

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