Systematically utilizing start-up innovations – Interview with Fabian Dudek, founder and CEO of GlassDollar

We sat down with Fabian Dudek, Founder and CEO of GlassDollar, to learn how established companies can systematically leverage start-up innovations. GlassDollar helps companies quickly identify the right solutions and gain competitive advantages through successful partnerships and proof-of-concepts. Fabian provides insights into various innovation methods and shares his tips for effective cooperation.


Fabian, what innovation methods are there for established companies that are looking for start-up innovations?
Fabian: In today’s dynamic business world, companies, whether SMEs or large corporations, must remain innovative to remain competitive. Innovation methods can be divided into three categories: Build, Partner and Invest. Build refers to the development of innovations that are not yet available on the market. This can be done internally or through external collaboration as part of venture building.

Fabian Dudek, Founder and CEO of GlassDoller (Photo:GlassDollar)

If the solution you are looking for is already available on the market, there are the Invest and Partner options. Invest means that the company invests in start-ups and acquires a minority stake. Partner includes Venture Clienting and Corporate Startup Partnering. Venture Clienting is about using external innovations for internal advantages. This involves accessing the technologies of start-ups quickly and efficiently. Corporate start-up partnering promotes mutual growth through closer cooperation between companies and start-ups. The synergy is crucial: start-ups contribute innovation and flexibility, while companies offer size, market knowledge and resources.

When does it make sense to invest in start-ups yourself, and when should you use the technologies directly?
Fabian: It doesn’t necessarily have to be either/or. Venture Clienting Units (VCUs) often work together with Corporate Venture Capital (CVC). A VCU is often the start because it is cheaper and faster to implement – a proof of concept (PoC) typically costs less than €100,000. VCUs can therefore execute more transactions and deliver results faster.

However, this does not mean that start-up partnering is superior to venture capital. Both approaches complement each other. VCUs identify and test new technologies in PoCs, which can then become potential investment targets for CVC. This ensures that the investments are strategically relevant and validated.

What best practices would you recommend to a company considering Venture Clienting as an innovation tool?
Fabian: Venture clienting is essentially the professionalization of cooperation between established companies and start-ups. As existing solutions are tested, the process is often quickly profitable. GlassDollar published a large-scale study in March 2024 that illustrates the financial impact of over 66,422 corporate-startup relationships. It is important that the process does not end after a successful PoC. The validated solution must be anchored in the company. This is where internal communication and activating the right departments are crucial.

To begin with, companies should carry out three to five PoCs to prove that the effort is worthwhile. At least one person should devote a third of their time to this for six to twelve months and calculate with a small, six-figure budget. After a successful PoC, the solution should be implemented in the company. In the long term, it is crucial to understand the company’s challenges and involve as many internal stakeholders as possible.

And how can the added value of these projects be demonstrated in a quantifiable and comprehensible way?
Fabian: Added value is measured at business case level, i.e., the direct business benefits. These include, for example, reduced working hours, compliance with regulations, reduction of waste or tapping into new sales potential. It is important to track these successes in the long term and make them understandable with an ROI.

Do you have any other tips for new Venture Clienting units?
Fabian: Innovation teams should start with simpler projects to build trust and awareness within the company. Lean PoCs that demonstrate quick success and positive ROI are a good place to start. Examples include new software solutions in marketing or HR that save costs or a solution that optimizes logistics routes. Such projects are minimally invasive but offer fruitful momentum. It is also advisable to bring in experts at the beginning. They will help to successfully implement the first PoCs and benefit from the advantages of Venture Clienting.

And what advice do you have for start-ups that want to work with established companies?
Fabian: Start-ups should make access to their product particularly easy. Clear and comprehensible presentations make it easier for the Venture Clienting Unit to pitch the solution internally and quantify the added value. Of course, we are always happy to receive new entries in our database.

Thank you, Fabian, for these insights!

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