10 principles Ange Royall-Kahin has learned for managing innovation environments
People always ask me, why Berlin? I’m an American with (embarrassingly) little knowledge of German after two years of living here. So how did I find my new home with a venture builder funded by Viessmann, a 100-year-old German heating and cooling systems manufacturer? On a cold day in January 2016, former wattx CEO, Bastian Bergmann, bought me a croissant along with a coffee and got me excited about a vision. A corporate innovation vision I couldn’t totally articulate (“Who’s Viessmann?”) but I knew I’d be in for an adventure and certainly, as any startup environment will tell you, “navigating ambiguity.”
The last nearly two years have been nothing short of a wild, wild ride. What started out as an experimental corporate innovation lab for energy-related technologies has since blossomed into a professional company builder focused on industrial B2B-solutions. I’ve been lucky to be part of shaping the company, first concentrating on partnerships and later as a part of the management team, planning the long-term strategy and development of the company as a whole.
In our short existence, we at wattx have changed the way we conduct research, putting a greater emphasis on (and creating a team for) user experience; we’ve narrowed our focus for the products we want to build and where we want to make an impact; we’ve considered the sustainability of different funding models, and we’ve built a portfolio of successful companies that have raised capital. And as I prepare to leave wattx at the end of the year, I find myself reflecting on various wins and losses. Below are ten things (in no particular order, and among dozens of lessons learned, I’m sure) that I believe ensure better, more innovative environments in Europe — related to topics ranging from user experience to venture development, technology development to management.
There is definitely enough buzz language around how to create innovative environments: agile development, design thinking, flat hierarchies, and adaptability. I hope the lessons above give some tangibility to these concepts: how they break down into real-world actions, why they are important, and what it means to successfully integrate them into your business.
Au revoir, wattx. It’s been real.