Interview with Thomas Andrae on Berlin, entrepreneurship & AI

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Thomas Andrae is Chief Strategy Officer at factory – a community for innovators to work, connect and grow or in other words: Germany’s largest startup campus. He is one of the external jury members for the Artificially Enhanced Banking Crowdstorm: along with Prof. Dr. Peter Roßbach, Julie Lake, Michael Mellinghoff & Jonathan Shieber.

Thomas’ answer to the question “What are you going to be looking out for in the Crowdstorm submissions?” was “Some of the keywords are innovative, disruptive, radical, agile – I’m looking for great new ideas that move the needle.”  –  check out the ideas that have been submitted so far, do you think they meet the mark? Have you got better ones? Make sure you submit before the deadline on 28th June!

Thomas had lots more to say about Berlin being the Silicon Valley of Europe and supporting entrepreneurs and innovators among other things… read on and enjoy!

Thomas Andrae

Thomas Andrae

Factory’s mission is empowering entrepreneurs and innovators. Could you talk a little about how you go about that?
Factory’s membership model gives all our members access to the Factory community – SoundCloud, Twitter, Uber, Pinterest, Google for Entrepreneurs, relayr. These are just some of the over 90 startups and grownups that work at our different Factory locations throughout Berlin. Our network of innovators consists of freelancers, startups at various different stages, established corporations as well as investors and leading influencers from politics, science, and society. What unites us is one goal: We want to help create the European digital economy for the 21st century.

Factory Berlin

Factory Berlin – © Ansgar Koreng

What does your particular role, Chief Strategy Officer entail? And what have been some of the key experiences and positions you’ve had during your career that led you to this role?
As Chief Strategy Officer and shareholder at Factory, I support German SMEs corporations to take on the current challenges of a fast-paced and rapidly changing economy by helping them transform their business model and connecting them with our international partner network of startups, universities, venture capital firms, accelerators, company builders, etc. Factory is a curated Digital Business Club, and my role is to connect the right people in order to build business relationships that truly matter.

And how do we achieve that? At Factory, our corporate partners get access to the vibrant and powerful community and to more than 700 events per year that take place at our locations. These include fireside chats with industry titans, hackathons, pitch meetings, and many more.

Multiple years of experience in management consulting, predominantly in North America and Asia set the foundation for starting my own company, which I sold to a large corporation about seven years later. Afterwards I started building the Venture Capital business for 3M, called 3M New Ventures – with a portfolio of more than 50 companies, investing north of USD 1.5bn.

There are a lot of books out there marketed to entrepreneurs – which, if any, do you think is essential reading? Or are there other books you would recommend?
I would recommend ‘The Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy’ by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble; ‘Zero To One’ by Peter Thiel and ‘The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Great reads.

Age of Context Launch Party, Hiller Aviation Museum -- San Carlos, CA

Age of Context Launch Party (source)

Berlin has become a veritable hub for startups, what, in your opinion, is it about the city that lends itself to the scene so well?
In my opinion, Berlin will become the Silicon Valley of Europe. Due to its magnetism, largely based on arts, culture, low cost of living, the city attracts a lot of bright and ambitious young people. Moreover, Berlin is an open and liberal city to which entrepreneurs, techies, and expats quickly find access. You are heard because of what you have to say, not because of what level of society you belong to. In addition, it has many good universities, rents on property are still low in comparison to Munich or Hamburg or other European cities. What is missing here is still the capital. But Germany is catching up regarding access to capital, talent, and ideas – and the Americans are also taking note. A good example is the recent financing of relayr by Kleiner Perkins out of Menlo Park, CA.

AI is being used in a number of different industries, what do you think are some of the most interesting examples?

  • IoT – turning data into actionable information.
  • Digital Health Care – quantified self, customized drugs and nutrition, genome based technology.
  • Advanced Mobility – self driving cars, next gen battery management, advanced urban infrastructure.

What are some of your favourite AI applications / products that you have used?
I think Waze has some of it, Uber’s heat maps make good use of it. And Boston Dynamics shows us where things are going regarding robotics

And a curveball question to finish off: If you could travel back or forward to any one point in time what would it be, and why?
That’s not an easy question to answer – but probably I would travel to the future and enjoy a ride on a vehicle that moves with the speed of light. Or faster 🙂

Traveling near the speed of light.

Traveling near the speed of light. (source)

The second Crowdstorm with Deutsche Bank on jovoto – Artificially Enhanced Banking – is currently live! – Finance disruptors and creative minds are invited to submit concepts on the potential role of AI in the banking & finance sector. There are multiple awards on offer, from a €25,000 prize pool – so if you have an idea, head over the the project page and find out more…

Are you new to jovoto? – We enable companies and NGOs to brainstorm at scale to solve design and innovation challenges online. We call this crowdstorming. Our crowd comprises of 80 000 creatives all over the world. Want to join this mass-collaborative, social brainstorming on jovoto? – sign up here.

Helen Gimber

Helen is into creativity, collaboration & collectivity! She joined jovoto in 2015 as a guide for Textile Design projects and has been a regular fixture of the community marketing and management team since.


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