Imagine a world in which missing dementia patients can be located instantly, school students have access to high-quality learning content and you can time the deliveries of your online orders to arrive when you're at home. Under our UQBATE initiative, Deutsche Telekom employees can start their own businesses to make visions like these a reality. What's the essential ingredient? Plenty of passion to pursue your idea.
The UQBATE DEMODAY took place at Deutsche Telekom last week. The name sounds a little cryptic at first, but the event aroused plenty of interest. So what's behind it all? I went along to the event to have a chat with its initiators and with startup founders.
UQBATE is Deutsche Telekom's intrapreneurship program. The idea behind it is quite simple: to give every employee the opportunity to apply for the UQBATE scholarship. Through the scheme, beneficiaries can dedicate their regular working time to promoting and developing their own business ideas for a period of three months. The goal of the exercise is to create an investment-ready product over the period. "When I read that you can found your own start-up without risk within Deutsche Telekom, I was immediately fired up" says Sebastian Stoll, a Deutsche Telekom employee based in Leipzig, who works in the mobile communications technology area in his regular job. He presented his "BeOn Track" project on DEMODAY.
The occasion was the ninth time that a UQBATE DEMODAY was held since the program was first created six years ago. "For me, being an entrepreneur means identifying problems or needs that real people have and then going hell for leather to find solutions for those challenges" declares Johannes Nünning, founder of the internal incubator program. He adds that what makes such solutions successful is that they be multiple times better than all other offerings already available on the market. I wonder aloud how one can best go about finding out if that's the case. "Simply by asking other people," says Johannes. Getting feedback in other words – and that was precisely what the latest UQBATE DEMODAY held at Group headquarters in Bonn was all about. And founders got feedback not just from colleagues, but also from other visitors to the event. Because UQBATE is also all about another purpose: that of opening ourselves out to the public.
A total of seven teams made their pitches in the foyer of the building, which was packed to the last available seat, competing with heart and soul to win the coveted scholarship for their innovative ideas. "The overwhelmingly positive feedback from external and internal visitors to the event has given me the inspiration to put all my energies into this project. I'm determined to make my dream a reality and to make the world a better place – and to help save lives," says Sebastian, speaking of "BeOn Track". "One missing person is one too many!" His idea is to develop the classic GPS tracker so that the GPS signal itself is no longer what is used for locating the tracked person, but to use new technology instead. The main advantage of the new technology is its longer battery time, he tells me. His new tracker can continue working for a full ten years without needing maintenance. Missing dementia patients – or children – can be located and brought back to safety fast using the device. All that's required is that they are wearing the tracker. "I was considering whether to build the chip into a chain or something similar", says Sebastian.
UQBATE provides Deutsche Telekom employees with the creative space they need to develop their own personal impulses and visions. But what's the most important factor for success? "Doing it", says Christoph Räthke, founder of the Berlin StartUp Academy and UQBATE supporter since its beginnings. "The threshold is very low: Johannes Nünning and the alumni network are there to provide support to everyone right from the start." All that's required is that the would-be entrepreneur takes the first step – and that's as it should be.