Klaus vom Hofe

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Entrepreneurial spirit unbridled: everything from horse apps to sloths

Christina Terbille, HR specialist at Deutsche Telekom, decided to put her job on hold and to start work on developing a business idea she had been harboring for some time: the Pferde App (Horse app). She was supported in her new mission by her line manager and colleagues, along with the Uqbate program for internal entrepreneurs.   

Christina Terbille and her horse Flo. The tablet is displaying her prototype app on screen.

Christina Terbille and her horse Flo. The tablet is displaying her prototype app on screen.

An app that makes it easier to manage equestrian businesses. It makes the blackboards and magnetic noticeboards often used for planning out the daily schedule in stables redundant. The app lists out the special needs of each animal, of how it needs to be fed and exercised and how to look after its health and wellbeing, so that all stable hands have at their fingertips the information they need to do the work. It is an app that bundles all the needs and preferences that used to be sent by the various horse owners via text message, and sends back the information to the owners as to which tasks have been completed. 

And that is just one of the many uses of Christina Terbille’s Pferde App. Her eyes light up whenever she talks about it. She tells us about 15,000 equestrian businesses all over Germany, from orthodox horse-riding schools, through racing stables to veterinary clinics, all of whom are waiting for just such a solution. She tells us about horses worth more than racing cars. And of the 6.7 billion euros made per year in Germany for horse breeding, services, and horse-related retail sales.  

A long-time Deutsche Telekom employee, Christina grew up in the town of Warendorf, the citadel of German equestrian sports. She competes in the sport of dressage, though she was more active in the discipline in her youth. But she still participates in tournaments on her own horse Flo. She has been mulling over her app idea for a while now, working on it evenings and weekends, but found it hard to make good progress, as she tells us. But when she happened upon a flier for Uqbate in August 2017, she suddenly saw the way open for her. Uqbate is designed as an innovation program for employees. Headed up by Johannes Nünning, it provides in-house scholarships to help employees to develop their start-up business ideas to the stage of pitch-ready concept in search of financial backing. It gives them the space to work exclusively on their idea at full salary for a period of three months.

“Incredible energy”

Christina applied for the initiative on the spot and had soon passed the selection and interview phases in the process. “It gave me a great opportunity to ‘park’ my job for a while – thanks to my line manager, the colleague who replaced me and a very understanding team,” she remembers. “I could now dedicate myself full-time to my very own idea on full salary – I suddenly had incredible energy for it.” As someone who came straight out of a corporate environment, the start-up scene was a totally new world for her. She had never had anything to do with setting up a company, drawing up articles of association, searching for investors, developing apps, or creating websites. It was all new to her. “That just made it all the more exciting. I’m still astounded at how much I learned in the three months that I was on the program,” Terbille tells us. “Never in my life have I done so many things that I never knew that I could do.” 

And Terbille has now reached her goal for this stage of the project. After a long series of interviews with possible users, she has finalized both the concept and her business plan, the team is ready, and the app has been refined into a prototype, what they call a click dummy. Everything is now “pitch-ready” as they say. Development on the app will begin as soon as the investors have signed and the start-up has been set up, a process that will be followed by the app launch and the start of the sales activities.  

Christina is now part of the Uqbate alumni association.  The Uqbate program, which is run under the umbrella of the Technology & Innovation department of Board member Claudia Nemat, is now in its third round. There are now eleven teams participating in the scholarship program, six more than in 2017. Terbille emphasizes how well received she felt in the Uqbate program. “Johannes Nünning looked after us very well. He put us in contact with the right people, asked the right questions and brought in the right coaches – in things like legal advice and how to draw up financial plans.”

Whether the app takes off or not in the end, it is quite clear to Terbille that she has learned a lot about herself through the experience. “It turns out I am an entrepreneur after all,” she tells us. “I always used to think that I was too conservative, that I didn’t have the courage.” Now that what’s obviously the right idea has come along, I’m happy to take the plunge.”

This is Uqbate

  • Whether your idea is for new apps, products, services, or technologies, the mission of Uqbate, which has been nicknamed the “three-month accelerator”, is to turn the ideas of in-house entrepreneurs (intrapreneurs) at Deutsche Telekom into a reality. Through the “UQBATE Scholarship” you have the opportunity to go through a three-month job visiting arrangement to allow you to dedicate yourself full-time heart and soul to developing your business idea into a pitch-ready concept.
  • Uqbate provides the necessary workshops, networking, coaching and space on an open platform.
  • Uqbate’s manager Johannes Nünning looks after participants in the initiative as their "internal business angel".

Anyone interested in knowing more about the program and the available scholarships should check out the “UQBATE Demoday” on June 28 in Bonn, beginning at 9.30 am at Deutsche Telekom Headquarters, Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 140. The event will be finished at 2.00 pm.