Experiences of Frankfurt from an emerging technology business’s perspective
Located in Frankfurt, TechQuartier provides access to a valuable network of start-ups, corporates, investors, talents and mentors. One of its programmes is Landing Pad, which aims to help selected companies to discover Frankfurt as Germany's fintech hub over the period of one week. The programme offers a guided exploration of Frankfurt’s ecosystem, with direct channels to relevant markets, investors, and industry experts. Agile Automations took part in the 2018 programme, and we spoke to CEO Martin Keelagher about the experience, benefits and lessons he garnered. Here’s what he had to say:
Please tell us a bit about Agile Automations.
Agile Automations offers clients the opportunity to access the skills and expertise of a proven, specialist, dedicated team, who are successfully creating and implementing bespoke robotics across several sectors; creating savings of tens of millions of pounds, enhancing customer service, improving staff retention and improving governance and risk controls, not to mention the level of efficiencies that robotics offer an organisation.
Agile Automations develops and writes its own software coding; we do not use any third-party platforms. This allows us to offer a truly complete, flexible, robotics solution for our clients. Offering a bespoke solution to your unique individual requirements means that we can ensure you always receive the end result that you require, without any need to make a compromise.
In short, any aspect of workflow, which is repetitive, predictable, rule-driven and data-led, can be automated. Imagine THE best member of your team and what you might be able to achieve with a team of a 100 people with an identical skillset. Now multiple that individual’s skillset by an infinite amount – that is the potential of effective robotic process automations. On top of that, the robot doesn’t get sick, doesn’t take holidays, will perform day in, day out without human error, with complete consistency.
How did you get involved with the Landing Pad programme?
We’re looking to work predominantly with tier one and tier two financial institutions, so we were looking for ways to connect within that community more effectively. We were invited to join the Matchi platform by a senior KPMG director in the UK, and then through Matchi we saw the Landing Pad event would be happening in Frankfurt. As a business, we’re very much looking towards Europe as a market in which we could grow, and to diversify post Brexit. We saw this as an opportunity to get a feel for the Frankfurt ecosystem and to explore whether it could be the launchpad we’re looking for to enter the European market more effectively. Those were our key drivers for applying for the event.
What was the experience like for you?
The hospitality that TechQuartier offered was fantastic. They put on a number of events over the week, including the type of clientele we’re targeting. They also introduced us to businesses who are using Frankfurt as their launchpad, which allowed us to see the potential benefits of being based there. We could talk to people about their challenges and ask their advice. They also walked us through the ecosystem and helped us look at where our product could fit well into that. They also ran super-connector events, bringing in key individuals from the marketplace for networking, which added huge value. We’ve had several follow-ups since with the businesses we’ve been introduced to and we hope to continue to build on those relationships.
What were your highlights?
I’ve never been to Frankfurt before. It was great to see a new city and somewhere we’re they’re keen to grow and the opportunities in the ecosystem. The other benefit is seeing where our product can add value to the market. What was very interesting about the Frankfurt ecosystem was that it felt very collaborative. Although the population is around 5 million, it still feels like a small community (in the business sector at least) and it feels like everyone wants to work together and help one another out. Whereas some other jurisdictions feel quite cold, Frankfurt felt quite warm to the idea of collaboration, which was refreshing.
It was also a pleasant surprise to see how continental Frankfurt is – a real mix of cultures and backgrounds. For us another benefit was that most people seemed to be able to communicate in English, which helped in building relationships. Frankfurt also offers many lifestyle benefits, like commuting times and a well-developed transport network, to reach other key hubs.
What were the key takeaways for you?
In the short-term, the networking and opportunity to build a new pipeline by talking to the right people was very valuable. In the long-term, we were able to start seriously looking at whether we would want to re-domicile ourselves there, post Brexit, and use Frankfurt as our European hub. I think the city is particularly well-suited because of the transportation network, the financial infrastructure and even the credibility. While we were there, we were looking at legal structures, like the GmbH structure. KPMG worked with us around what we would need to look at if we do decide to re-domicile there – things like employment law and the taxation system. That also added value for us.
Did any trends become apparent to you during the programme?
I don’t think it’s limited to Frankfurt, but over the last six months we’ve definitely noticed that there’s increased interest from larger financial houses and companies of a similar size in working with smaller businesses. Certainly, the Matchi portal is fantastic for that – bigger businesses are seeing that younger, more agile businesses can add a lot of value to their organisations.
For example, at Agile Automations, we often find that a lot of IT and tech teams we work with within a bank can add value in terms of infrastructure change in IT systems, but it takes them two to five years to schedule that in, whereas the front office might need that value now. Our team can go in and look at how we can integrate legacy systems; how we can create an element of control through enhancing compliance, risk and governance functions. And we can do that very quickly – within a two- to six-month period. That, I think, is one of the drivers for larger companies looking to work with what I’d term “scale-up” companies – those that are three to five years old and have a proven business model, client base and income stream.
What would your advice be to other businesses on making the most of a programme or opportunity like this?
First off, you need to go in with a completely open mind. Someone you meet who might not seem relevant could be a key connector in the business.
You also have to make sure you’ve honed your pitch. Be clear and articulate on the value you bring, and how you work. You need that on a few levels – a standard pitch deck that you might use to a room of individuals that you don’t know very well, then a pitch for a more targeted group that is more technical, and then also an investor deck. Be slick in understanding your value proposition and what your USP is. And be careful of death by PowerPoint. Hone your presentation technique.
Finally, do your homework. Try to understand the ecosystem beforehand. And it’s also important not to just network with the people that are brought into the room, but with the other participants on the course. You might find synergies, given that you are all looking to target the same people. It might make sense to combine resources and work together. Throw yourself into it. Go to the events – you never know what will come from them – and follow up afterwards, but in a non-intrusive manner. Be respectful that other people’s diaries are also busy, and have a little faith that if someone is really interested, they will get in touch or put you in contact with the correct person.
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Martin!
Martin is more than happy to be connected by anyone looking to learn more about Agile Automations or about future events, he can be contacted through: https://www.linkedin.com/in/martinkeelagher/