Blogposts covering the topics of the Launchpad.

Recap of Launchpad IV – Learn From The Champions!

Last week, on September 30th, the 4th edition of our Launchpad series concluded with yet another record number of attendees! The theme of the event was, “Learn From The Champions!”  This was a nod to the racing tradition of motor vehicle companies, but also to the very real race to innovate that is taking place across the industry. Innovations that are fuelling the next generation of vehicles, and radically changing the auto industry forever. 

“Now is the time for leading car companies to reimagine their business & production processes in order to get their products to market faster, and remain competitive,” said Linus Grabher, KREATIZE Country Manager for Austria in his introductory note during Launchpad IV. 

Delving  deep into the topic of innovation in the automotive industry, our speakers provided valuable insights on the many changes affecting the sector.

The event was broken up into the following sessions, and speakers: 

  • Session 1:  “The Automotive Industry in Transition – Insights from OEMs” with Christian Will, VP of Production Development at Porsche AG
  • Session 2:  “The Future of Manufacturing – Cloud Manufacturing” with Simon Tuechelmann, Co-founder & CEO of KREATIZE GmbH
  • Session 3: “The Automotive Industry in Transition – Insights from a Supplier” with Jens Meiser, Managing Director of Nopma – Technical Textiles 
  • Session 4: “Beers with Peers” – Networking 

Here are the key takeaways from our speakers, who were all interviewed by Thomas Hoffmeister, Chief Commercial Officer at KREATIZE:

Porsche – A Rich History With Automotive Innovation

Christian Will, VP of Production Development at Porsche AG kicked off the first session with an overview of the many challenges that Porsche has successfully tackled throughout their storied history. 

“Porsche has a history with a lot of changes. In fact, that is the reason why Porsche remains Porsche. What I mean is that we always try to create the automobile from a new point of view,” said Will. 

Further highlighting how Porsche has continuously developed models that challenge prior automotive conventions. Models such as the Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid, and most recently the Taycan. 

“The Taycan is our first answer to the question: “What will the future sports car look like?” affirmed Will. 

Porsche is also re-equipping its employees to deal with the big shifts that are taking place, such as electric engines, digitisation and connectivity. The legendary German car-maker is taking the future head on by embracing new technologies, and incorporating them into their unique game plan. 

“We might not be the first manufacturer to use new technologies, but in most cases we do it in a strategic, and consequent way,” said Will. 

Watch the full interview with Christian Will here:

KREATIZE – A Smart Solution To Manufacturing

Simon Tuechelmann, Co-founder and CEO of KREATIZE, led the second session with his take on manufacturing, and  how it must change to better meet current demands.  Changes that are also playing a role in the manufacturing, and supply side of things for motor vehicle related companies. 

“The problem was…and still is…how one can match the demand and supply side of this market in order to make better, faster and cheaper products,” said Tuechelmann. “We need a better and smarter solution that gets rid of all the inefficiencies of the market.” 

Cloud Manufacturing is one the solutions proposed fo the above dilemma. A technology that KREATIZE offers access to, and that is radically changing the way hardware companies are procuring the custom parts needed for their products to be built. 

“It really enables hardware companies of all sizes to produce the best, most cost competitive products in the world, without any knowledge of procurement or manufacturing,” said Tuechelmann. “Hardware companies will be engineering, sales and software companies, and the rest will be outsourced,” affirmed Tuechelmann.

Further adding that data, and new shared knowledge as a result of the cloud will help engineers make better products. 

“Cloud manufacturing will bring all the data and knowledge, from across the whole supply chain, to the engineer,” said Tuechelmann. “So it will enable every engineer to learn from their mistakes, and from the know-how of everybody else in the world.” 

Watch the full interview with Simon Tuechelmann here: 

Nopma – Embracing Automotive Innovation With Sustainability

Jens Meiser, Managing Director of Nopma – Technical Textiles was the last speaker, and spoke about embracing innovation with sustainability when having to provide textile solutions for car manufacturers.  

“One important point, this production industry  we are in is not very sustainable, globally it is very dirty,” said Meiser. “On the other hand, this is a huge chance because when we optimise processes and become more sustainable, this has a huge impact.” 

Products and processes are becoming more sustainable, and Nopma is making great progress in ensuring this change. This means sourcing and making use of sustainable materials, while keeping an eye out for alternative ones being developed with nascent technologies (such as banana fiber) which could help when deciphering future solutions.  This also means making use of more environmentally conscious machines to produce new products. 

“After development, and creating a solution for our customer, our task is to produce a real product. We have to adapt, or invent a machine for it and here we can start thinking of the impact from the beginning, and can save resources,” said Meiser. 

Watch the full interview with Jens Meiser here: 

Andrew Porter, Head of Production Operations at McLaren Automtotive Ltd.  was expected to be a guest at Launchpad IV. However, due to technical difficulties, he was not able to join us for an interview. 

During this event, we also re-played our interview with Armin Müller, CEO of emm! solutions and former Vice President of Future Projects at Porsche AG, who was a speaker at our first Launchpad earlier this year.

We’re not done yet! There are more Launchpads to come.

The success of this event and positive feedback that we have received, proved to us yet again that there is a real demand for such events from the hardware community. KREATIZE will continue to host more Launchpads in the future with leaders and innovators from the hardware and manufacturing sector! Stay tuned.

Finally, on November 4, 2021, we will be supporting Austria Wirtschaftsservice’s “Connect X Hardware” event in Vienna. We encourage all hardware startups to apply for this event for an opportunity to meet with potential investors, and partners.

Want to be kept up to date with content on cloud manufacturing and hardware innovation? Then sign up for our newsletter: Cloud Manufactured.

Launchpad | Landingpage

"Learn From The Champions"

Christian Will (Porsche) and Andrew Porter (McLaren) will speak about the best practices in the automotive sector. You will get deep insights from two of the leading professionals captaining production for some of the most storied sports car companies in the world.

Join us on September 30, 2021 at 16:00

Join now!

Speakers from leading companies

Mclaren logo


Meet the speakers!


Christian Will
VP Production Development - Porsche


Andrew Porter
Head of Production - McLaren Automotive


Thomas Hoffmeister
Chief Commercial Officer - KREATIZE



Get the best industry insights

Welcome Session
16:00 - 16:10

Introduction to the Launchpad and our speakers.

16:00 - 16:10
The Automotive Industry in Transition | Insights from OEMs
16:15 - 16:50

Christian Will will talk about Porsche's current challenges. The automotive world is seeing a drastic change and needs to shift their operations from classic to electric engines. 

16:15 - 16:50
The Future of Manufacturing | Cloud Manufacturing
16:50 - 17:10

Simon Tüchelmann will speak about how leading companies are using Cloud Manufacturing to reduce their costs and reduce unwanted overhead.

16:50 - 17:10
The Automotive Industry in Transition | Insights from a Supplier
16:10 - 17:30

Carl Meiser will provide exciting insights on the operations behind the production and development of a Hidden Champion.

16:10 - 17:30
Beers with Peers
17:30 - 18:00

Networking session after the event. Feel free to join and interact with all other attendees of the event. 

17:30 - 18:00


The future belongs to the builders

To effectively tackle the challenges of the future, we need a new wave of builders and hardware companies. Forward-thinking technology-based practices for agile hardware development must be deciphered and embraced to build the products that fuel new mobility initiatives, facilitate the use of renewable energy, and many other examples of ongoing human progress.

At KREATIZE, we believe that providing hardware creators with a platform to share their knowledge, challenges and successes is crucial for propelling innovation. This is why we created KREATIZE Launchpad, an event where founders, product designers, engineers and investors can present insights and ideas on hardware development.

With KREATIZE Launchpad, we are building a community of peers who are changing the world by designing better products.



Meet our 2021 speakers

Christoph Bornschein

Christoph Bornschein


Christian Dahlen
VP Portfolio SAP & Angel Investor


Martin Ohneberg
CEO Henn

G. Rühl

Gisbert Rühl
CEO klöckner & Co


Pascal Blum
CEO & Founder unu Motors


Stefan Klocke
Chairman of the Board Volocopter GmbH


Julia Luksan
Attorney at Law Jarolim Partner


Christiane Feichter
Associate at Jarolim Partner

Armin Müller

Armin Müller
CEO emm! solutions


Klaus Heinz


Krzysztof Mikoda
CEO SquadTec

Julia Reilinger

Julia Reilinger
Investment Manager BC-Holding

Philipp Sonnleitner mikme

Philipp Sonnleitner
CIO & Founder mikeme

Nils Berger

Nils Berger
CEO & Founder Viewpointsystem

Robin Dechant

Robin Dechant
Founder Aveo

Speakers from leading companies



Highlights from past Launchpads

Insights from Deep Tech companies

Thomas Hoffmeister and Nils Berger speak about the failing culture in hardware developing start-ups. Nils himself founded viewpointsystem and developed smart glasses for industrial applications.

Armin Müller about the invention of the ESP

Armin Müller had an astonishing career before he founded emm! solutions a company that provides automated intrologistc systems. Before he joined Porsche he was responsible for the development of the ESP at Daimler.



Summaries from past Launchpads

Space X Rakete

Recap of Launchpad – Empowering Hardware Startups That Change The World

Recap of Launchpad – Empowering Hardware Startups That Change The World The third installment of our Launchpad series concluded with a record number of attendees and speakers! Attendees took part in an engaging collection of talks centered on hardware startups, innovation, product development and business strategy.  On June 10th we had the pleasure of hosting …

Recap of Launchpad – Empowering Hardware Startups That Change The World Read More »

Group 844

Recap of Launchpad Austria

Launchpad Austria was a passionate exchange about how hardware companies can accelerate innovation and drive growth We were thrilled to be joined by innovative founders, successful entrepreneurs, and strong founder supporters from 16 countries at Launchpad Austria on April 13th Headlined with a discussion around “How hardware companies can accelerate innovation and bring growth to …

Recap of Launchpad Austria Read More »

Recap of Launchpad – Empowering Hardware Startups That Change The World

Recap of Launchpad – Empowering Hardware Startups That Change The World

The third installment of our Launchpad series concluded with a record number of attendees and speakers! Attendees took part in an engaging collection of talks centered on hardware startups, innovation, product development and business strategy. 

On June 10th we had the pleasure of hosting our third KREATIZE Launchpad event. The theme for this event was “Empowering Hardware Startups That Change the World”. We had an all-star roster of speakers, and over 100participants from 10+ countries. We are so excited to see this platform continue to gain traction, and we’re proud to say this was our most successful launchpad so far. 

“Hardware is hard, there is a lot of truth to that, but if we have a strong community we can make it easier. If this launchpad can achieve that, we have made a step forward,” said Simon Tuechelmann, CEO & Co-Founder of KREATIZE at the start of the event. 

Delving  deep into the topic of starting a hardware business, our speakers provided valuable insights and recommendations for finding success in this rewarding (but challenging) field. Their insights were both practical and forward thinking for anyone looking to start or grow a hardware startup. The three hour event was broken up into four sessions with themes related to the diverse journey of establishing a hardware product related business: 

  • Session 1:  Success Stories from The Best Hardware Founders 
  • Session 2:  How to Make a Hardware Investment Attractive – Derisking 
  • Session 3: How to Bring Your Product to Market – Manufacturing
  • Session 4: Beers with Peers – Networking 

We thoroughly enjoyed the high level of engagement in the chat and Q&A throughout the event. 

Here were the key takeaways from our speakers:

Build a Strong Network

Christoph Bornschein, CEO of the agency for digital business TLGG kicked off the first session. The seasoned entrepreneur provided an overview on hardware and digitization and asset-based value creation in digital ecosystems. Bornschein crystallised the state of the hardware industry from a macro perspective, and cautioned that hardware is going through a lot of changes and companies must evolve with the current technologies when developing new products or face losing their business. 

“What is going to happen to hardware is what happened to software based businesses models earlier on, if you don’t take control now you will be controlled,” said Bornschein. “That is always the worst thing that can happen.”

Watch the full interview with Christoph Bornschein here:

Stefan Klocke – Volocopter

Stefan Klocke, shareholder and chairman of the advisory board of Volocopter GmbH, the urban air mobility company behind some of the most advanced electric air taxi vehicles, offered practical advice to those at the helm of a hardware business. He emphasized the importance of partners and working together with companies that can help you in areas that are not your core competencies.

“Find the right partners. We are a small company so we could not develop on our own,” said Klocke. “You need supporters.”

Watch the full-interview with Stefan Klocke here:

Pascal Blum – unu Motors

To round out the first session, we were joined by Pascal Blum, Co-founder and CEO of unu motors, the company behind one of the most exciting electric scooters currently on the market. Blum highlighted the complexity of developing a new product from scratch and needing to follow two distinct product development methodologies—standard automotive development processes and an agile approach to software development. He further emphasized the importance of networking with other hardware startups. 

“It is really good to network and get to know other hardware companies,” said Blum. He reminded listeners that most hardware startups are facing similar challenges and are not direct competitors. 

Watch the full-interview with Pascal Blum here:

Make Hardware Investments Attractive By Derisking 

Christian Dahlen – SAP / Band of Angels

Christian Dahlen kicked off the second session of Launchpad. Dahlen is a VP at SAP and a seasoned angel investor. In his opinion, raising money for a hardware startup is particularly challenging due to the substantial investment required. But he is also optimistic that the market for hardware investments is in a healthy state, in part thanks to certain very visible players, such as Elon Musk, making bold investments in this space.  

“Everyone likes to touch physical objects, there is something about the tactile experience,” said Dahlen. “Right now there are a plethora of hardware startups.” 

Watch the full-interview with Christian Dahlen here: 

Daniel Spitzbarth – Technologiewerkstatt

Daniel Spitzbarth, Head of Technologiewerkstatt in Albstadt and Business Design Coach at Tech Startup School, spoke about how hardware startups and corporations can benefit from each other.  By working with corporates, startups can not only gain a client, but also a potential investor and partner. He cautioned that startups must not only think about making a great product, but also their business. 

“First of all think business, because a product is not enough,” said Spitzbarth. “A lot of startups have great concepts or products, but they miss the business idea.”

Watch the full-interview with Daniel Spitzbarth here:

Krzysztof Mikoda – SquadTec

Krzysztof (Chris) Mikoda , CEO of SquadTec and former JUMP Engineering Center Manager, shared how the use of scrum is accelerating hardware product development, highlighting that using scrum at the right time is also important to yielding great results when it comes to product development. “Scrum really works well in the early stages,” said Mikoda. “When you don’t want to change too much, when you want a stable platform, then this agility is not the best alliance in my opinion.” 

Watch the full interview with Krzysztof (Chris) Mikoda here:

Julia Luksan & Christiane Feichter – Jarolim Partner Rechtsanwälte

At the end of the second session we were joined by Julia Luksan, Attorney at Law, and Christiane Feichter, Associate at Jarolim Partner Rechtsanwälte GmbH, to discuss intellectual property issues. These two experts gave us a solid overview on the many legal aspects that we should take into account when developing new hardware products, including copyrights, patents, and intellectual property issues. 

Watch the full presentation by Julia Luksan and Christiane Feichter here:

Bring your product to market with Cloud Manufacturing

Simon Tüchelmann – KREATIZE

Our talks concluded with Simon Tüchelmann, CEO & Co-founder of KREATIZE. Tuchelmann highlighted the many ways cloud manufacturing can help accelerate the innovation process of hardware products. We are at a unique point in time, as technologies now give people easy access to quality global manufacturing capacities. 

“All great innovators have heavily relied on custom part manufacturing,” said Tuechelmann. “For the first time ever, builders have access to manufacturing services at the click of a button.” 

Watch the full presentation by Simon Tüchelmann here:

Fabio Sulser – KREATIZE

Fabio Sulser, Tech Lead Data & Automation at KREATIZE, shared how cloud manufacturing lowers the entry barriers for hardware startups. He provided a brief tutorial on how KREATIZE’s technology and cloud manufacturing network can assist startups in their journey to develop game-changing products with less up-front cost. 

Watch the full presentation by Fabio Sulser here:

We’re not done yet! There are more Launchpads to come this year.

The lively exchange during the event and the feedback we received after, proved to us yet again that there is a real demand for such events. We will continue to host more Launchpads in the future with innovators and thought leaders from the hardware and manufacturing sector! Stay tuned for more details on our next event!

Want to be kept up to date with content on cloud manufacturing and hardware innovation? Then sign up for our newsletter: Cloud Manufactured.

Interview with Armin Müller, CEO of emm! solutions and former Vice President for Future Projects at Porsche AG

“When time pressure starts, the art of development is to stop and be willing to work with 80% so that you still have the best outcome in the end”

During our first Launchpad we interviewed Armin Müller about his past experiences and his role during the development of the ESP system at Daimler. Feel free to watch the video or read the full interview below!

Armin, you have gained a great deal of experience in your roles at Daimler, ZF, and Porsche. Today, we wanted to talk with you about the introduction of the ESP system—the Electronic Stability Programme that prevents cars from skidding.

You were Head of Development at Daimler at the time when the ESP system was developed in collaboration with Bosch. Can you share some insights about your experience back then? How quickly did you develop the whole thing and what were some of the challenges you faced during development?

The first hurdle was setting up the design innovation project between two large companies. We had to decide who had the specific skills and how the project would be divided.

The first big phase was to get the ESP system from the research phase into a series product (this was between 1992-1995). Bosch had prepared a solution that was partly ready, but some essential features were missing. Mercedes had another solution in pre-development that was very pragmatic, but it was not extensive enough. In the end, a fusion of both was the right thing, so we merged together the algorithms that Bosch developed for ABS with the Mercedes driving safety system (called FSI at the time).

The timeline was also one of our early challenges. Our development timeline was shortened from 5 years to 33 months. Compared to ABS/ASR, the ESP was developed in half the time, with a third of the people, and a factor of 6 in complexity (if you only take the amount of software code). 

We were creating a completely new system that automatically brakes in the event of an error. This didn’t exist before. The ASR did some of this, but only for the rear wheels, because the front wheels did not brake. With ESP, all 4 wheels would be able to brake. This also brought in a new dimension of security. 

We were a well-functioning team. We deliberately worked with very few, but very good people. And speed was the key. But the product had to be flawless. For that we had a clear process—define, deliver, check, improve, redefine. We went through this twice. 

The difficulty with the ESP system was that these phases could not be run in a sequence, they were all run in parallel because of the schedule and our coordination with the Bosch team. The whole system was so modular that if, for instance, the yaw rate sensor (a completely new development) was still in the last phase, but control units and other parts were already further ahead, everything could be tested together.

A year before the start of series production, we didn’t do anything except eliminate mistakes and work on those issues. In the end, this was the right thing to do so that we could maintain the quality. 

When time pressure starts, the art of development is to stop and be willing to work with 80% so that you still have the best outcome in the end. Of course, this also requires a bit of tolerance and alignment from everyone—what do you need to add, and what can you leave out? This was an excellent exercise with the ESP system and it worked very well. We had excellent operating figures and the first system went into series production almost flawlessly after 33 months. That was really something.

Amazing, Armin. Let’s go deeper into this topic 80%. It sounds so simple—the Pareto principle that roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. But to what extent did you really go about it with products where safety is so critical?

In the end, there will still be some functionalities that can be developed further or improved. For example, driving comfort in certain types of snow, or calmer braking behavior when you have rough surfaces. But these have nothing to do with final performance and safety.

These last improvements are still so important to a specialist, but we really had to stress to the team that when we said we would stop developing, nothing more would be done. There was massive resistance because our specialists knew that they could still improve a lot, but we stopped anyway. We simply decided that safety, quality, and robustness were the most important. In the end, it turned out that the functionality was always good enough for the average user anyway.

At the end of the day, we had to start making compromises around what would really play a significant role in our success in the market. In terms of quality and safety, that had to be 100%. But other features, where it’s about driving comfort or improving noise, you make compromises so that you can use the resources available to bring safety and quality forward.

We all know of Tesla from the US. Daimler was an investor in Tesla, but then dropped out, perhaps out of fear that the products had been developed too quickly and were not safe. How do you see this in relation to the development of the ESP system? Is product development becoming more and more agile?

The question is always at what point do you make compromises, and at what point do you not. Concerning battery technology and computer technology (or board network technology), Tesla has broken new ground. This is where they invested their efforts. Maybe the stiffness of the body is not the dominant feature for their marketing and sales success, so it’s not where they invested.

In the end, you always have to weigh what your product is and what it represents. If Tesla were to build the best car body in the world, no one would care. But when they create great computer technology and an electric drive, then that’s super interesting.

Tesla chose not to go the traditional way. They saved on traditional features and invested in new features. Every start-up does this, by the way. You can’t go the traditional way, because the others are way too far ahead and are too good. So now you have to take a different view and push that forward. If it’s good and your product is successful on the market, then you’ve defined something new.

That’s right, Armin, you’re bringing up an important topic. In order to develop something new, you have to go new ways and maybe develop the product in a more agile way.

You touched on another point. In 1997, the A-Class flipped during the so-called ‘moose test’ in Sweden. Because of this, the ESP system was introduced very quickly in the A-Class and thus entered the market fast. It took ABS 20 years, but the ESP  system was available in all vehicle classes within just a few years. So the product was not only developed very quickly, but it was also launched on the market quickly.

Regardless of effort, you also need to have luck in the end. Thank goodness it worked and thank goodness we had already started development. We had a version completely set up to fit in the A-Class, so the system was available. Otherwise it would not have been available at all.

We worked extremely well with the task force to bring it into the A-Class. Hubert and his team with Mr. Brunke, they did a great job, reacted quickly, and took the chance. You also need this kind of management that seizes opportunities, because many don’t.

When the car flipped, I was with my family in Grindelwald. I got a newspaper saying that the A-class had flipped and the ESP system should be built into the A-class. I invited everyone to a bottle of wine that day. I was happy because two years earlier I had reported to management that the ESP system would be built in all Mercedes vehicles by the year 2000. This was met with roaring laughter. They thought I was a crazy young guy. With the A-Class incident, it was absolutely clear that we would win the race.

Another thing that was interesting—thanks to the quick introduction, we were able to statistically prove the effectiveness of the system. With ABS it was extremely difficult to prove, because there were always many different cars on the market, so you could not correctly identify the features and functionality from accidents. This was not the case with the ESP. Due to the rapid change, there were pre-cars and after-cars, and there were different studies to prove the effectiveness in accidents. For example, fatal accidents with a vehicle skidding and turning into oncoming traffic or skidding off the road and hitting a tree, simply stopped. So in this respect, it was also a gift for the security of the product that it moved so quickly.

There are statistics that in Germany and Europe alone, tens of thousands of lives have been saved by the ESP. So Armin, thank you very much for that. It is also impressive to see that products can be developed so quickly. For instance, we just saw the development of vaccines at Biontech and CureVac. 

Now let’s jump to later in your career when you were at ZF and then also at Porsche. Can you compare the two companies (Diamler and Porsche) for us? What was the philosophy behind product development? Were they comparable, were they different?

ZF was extremely distributed around the world with many plants and many different types of businesses. This was completely different from Porsche, a sports car manufacturer with a clear identity, based in Weissach and Zuffenhausen. Porsche was focused on precision in how the product was developed and was also very customer-centric.

One of my first goals was to understand the data around all of our features so we could maintain specific KPIs. Right from the start, we had a targeted system for developing the cars. Our motto was: how do I make a difference with this vehicle? It’s a similar vehicle to an Audi or Daimler, but how do we differentiate ourselves? Why is the car better? If the data is the same, what can I do to make it better?

For example, when the 911 Turbo came onto the market, it was better than the vehicles that had been developed up until then. When we were building the first generation, we were already thinking ahead about optimizing the technology for the second generation. In the management meeting with Wiedeking, there were disputes about where money was being invested and how we could make lightweight vehicles. We could make lightweight improvements on the fenders or we could make lightweight improvements in the center. The center is more expensive, but when you improve the center, you can still fix the fenders and gain weight improvements again. So we had massive discussions about this.

We finally agreed on a high-performance package that didn’t fully play out from the start. We got the first generation to 80%, and the remaining 20% of the optimizations were brought into the second generation. The key thing was that the management at Porsche was extremely product-oriented and had a clear direction and a team behind every measure. That was great.

You mentioned an important issue here. The management was product-driven. We see that a lot with our customers too. Some are procurement-driven, some are product-driven, what is your experience here?

In the automotive industry, if you ask someone from the board of directors, they will always say ‘I have gasoline in my blood, I’m product-driven’. But what is a manager really doing all day long? They are dealing with finances, the market, and the share price. At Porsche, under Wiedeking, we had an extremely small, high-performing team behind the scenes, and we were able to implement a lot.

With a small production quantity, it was crucial to keep the development costs low, because in the end it was reflected in the product cost. With mass production, it was more or less the component price. From a financial standpoint, you need to work extremely effectively and have a clear product definition and efficient processes. All of these things were excellent at Porsche.

That sounds exactly right. After a career like the one you’ve had, most would think of retirement, buying a nice house in the mountains, but no, you founded the company emm! Solutions. Now you have a great, young team at your company developing great products, such as the self-driving vehicle (ILO) or the Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV). 

You’ve seen both worlds now. You saw the corporate world in product development, but also the start-up space, with more agile methods of bringing products to market. How do they differ? Where do you see advantages and disadvantages and where can the two complement each other?

The first thing we do differently in the startup space is that we basically rely on standards, rather than reinventing them. We don’t differentiate ourselves by developing something that others can already do much better. We are not too proud to take a good solution from someone else. We’re focusing on system integration, not on the development of components. By concentrating on system integration, we were able to realize the vehicle extremely quickly. However, of course, the functionality cannot be compared to an OEM.

For example, what a vehicle can do on all kinds of roads, we don’t address that in the same way. We only do this for certain essential core areas. This doesn’t mean that the core cannot expand, but we don’t focus on overtaking everyone in the first step.

You need to focus on two things regarding the USP: what do you really want to achieve and how do you get it done in the shortest possible time? The realization time is the absolute differentiator. When you know exactly what you want and you can do it in a short time, you’re on the market earlier and it costs you less. It’s absolutely essential to understand how you can get to the market as quickly as possible to shape your economic future.

You will certainly inspire many with this interview, Armin. If someone wants to found a hardware start-up, what three tips would you give them?

My first tip is to get a clear picture of the market and customer. The second is to be sure product offering matches the effort and budget that goes into making it. You need to know who you want to serve and in what kind of market. If the product fits, you can do brutally innovative development. But that’s the framework for development. As a startup, this framework is the most important thing. Developing the product itself is not the challenge, but setting up the framework for success, that’s what I would focus on if I were starting again.

Great Armin! Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us today. It was really inspiring and it was fun. Thank you!

 Make an appointment with one of our cloud manufacturing specialists today to find out more about KREATIZE

Revolutionizing the Audio World—A Conversation with HEDD Founder, Klaus Heinz

For the past forty years, Klaus Heinz (founder of HEDD and ADAM Audio) has dedicated himself to developing loudspeakers that have become established constants in diverse fields: from music production to professional mastering and finally home HiFi. As both an acoustic professional and a lifelong music enthusiast, Heinz’s life has oscillated between the worlds of physics and sound.

Klaus Heinz

Revolutionizing the world of audio

Heinz revolutionized the professional world of audio production with the introduction of its first Air Motion Transformer. “99% of speakers use a normal cone or dome where you produce the high frequencies,” explained Heinz. “But I met a German physicist, Dr. Oskar Heil, who came up with a speaker using folds that open and close instead of a disk-like action. So I developed a loudspeaker using this AMT technology.” 

Today, AMT systems are used wherever an extremely precise and vivid reproduction of high frequency material is called for.

“HEDDphone” from HEDD

Rühl went to the Silicon Valley for inspiration and learned how platforms work. Shortly after, Klöckner began its transformation to become a platform company. “Platform companies typically have low variable costs, because many of their processes are completely automated,” explained Rühl. “With low variable costs, you can have much stronger growth than a traditional company with high fixed and variable costs.” He used Facebook as an example of a business with practically no incremental costs at all—when 1,000 new users join, the company doesn’t have to invest anything.

Entering the headphone market: a big learning experience

Over the years, Heinz noticed that the market for high-end headphones was growing. “Ten years ago, if you wanted to buy high-quality headphones for around €1,000, there were two or three options. Now there are 30 or 40 options on the market,” said Heinz. He wondered if the same AMT technology could also be applied to headphones, using different geometries. 

“Our first approach was awful and needed to be corrected,” said Heinz. So he came up with a new idea using different geometries to linearize the frequency response. “This was a big learning curve for us in understanding how different it is to introduce this technology to the headphones market, but the reviews we got from customers were enough to make the whole thing a success story.”       Heinz’s speaker designs have always stayed true to their ideal of sonic excellence—producing complete accuracy and outstanding signal fidelity. HEDDphones® are now widely used by producers, sound engineers, and high-end enthusiasts.

The future of loudspeakers

Today, Apple and Google are the largest manufacturers of speakers in the world. At a time when customers seem increasingly happy with music coming out of their mobile phones or cheap headphones, what is the future of loudspeakers?

“It is a bit of a tragic situation,” said Heinz. “But the numbers for loudspeakers are higher each and every year. The market is there. It’s not rising dramatically, but it remains a good market.” He admits that the demand for in-ear headphones and low-quality speakers continues to rise more rapidly. 

But the good news is, this means companies like Apple and Google are putting a lot of energy into making these more affordable options sound good as well. Innovation and technology is continuing to advance. 

Brands like Bose and Sonos are creating technologies that allow users to stream music to different rooms, using a management platform. “The sound is not bad either,” admits Heinz. “For the volume, I am astounded at what they can do. No question.” So it seems there are still opportunities in the speaker market, but the sounds experiences are beginning to look different, and high-end loudspeakers for classical music enthusiasts have become a niche market.

Product development is not without challenges

As with any product, development and manufacturing hasn’t been without its challenges for Heinz and HEDD. Early on in the development of the tweeter in their loudspeaker, Heinz had expectations for how the responses should look, but the responses they were seeing were terrible. 

“I tried everything,” said Heinz. “Finally we had an idea to rebuild the prototype and glue every piece so that it was air-tight.” This turned out to be the big leap that made the whole speaker design work—air holes smaller than one millimeter spoiled the speaker’s performance to a surprising degree. “The air-tightness was enough to either send the design down the river or to make a good new speaker,” said Heinz. “I’m still amazed by this.”

In the beginning of 2018, HEDD brought on KREATIZE (then fabrikado) to help them plan and develop their new headphones using the same AMT technology. HEDD and KREATIZE worked together through the entire product development process to define the requirements for the prototype, test several manufacturing partners, review samples of product materials, and finally arrive at an ideal solution for high-volume production. 

Advice for young engineers and product designers

Heinz offered a few words of advice for new, young engineers who have product ideas and want to help make our lives better, more fulfilling, or more fun. 

“Don’t be overly enthusiastic about your own ideas,” he cautions. “Always ask yourself—what is the advantage for the customer?” This customer-centric mindset has served Heinz well throughout his career. 

But on the other hand, he also cautions engineers to not be their own self-critics. “Don’t fool yourself when you’re doing R&D. If you have a new prototype and you think it sounds great, don’t go back into the lab the next day and question everything. Keep cool with yourself so your own self-doubt doesn’t endanger your designs,” said Heinz

Start now by making an appointment with one of our cloud manufacturing specialists today

Gisbert Rühl: Leading digital transformation at a century old German steel distributor

As CEO of Klöckner & Co, one of the largest independent steel and metal distributors worldwide, Gisbert Rühl is no stranger to industry disruption. Rühl has spent much of his career at Klöckner focused on taking the company into the future in the face of global changes in the metals industry. In 2014, he spearheaded the company’s digital transformation to prepare for a future of increased automation and online platform sales.

Changes in the steel market inspire Klöckner’s transformation

Rühl first joined Klöckner as CFO in 2005 to help bring the company public. Up until 2008, the steel market remained strong, with increasing demand in China driving up steel prices. After the financial crisis in 2008, however, prices and demand for steel started to decrease rapidly. 

“In this market, we weren’t able to create an effective competitive advantage, and we remained a low-margin business. This is when we knew we had to do something different,” said Rühl.  

Rühl went to the Silicon Valley for inspiration and learned how platforms work. Shortly after, Klöckner began its transformation to become a platform company. “Platform companies typically have low variable costs, because many of their processes are completely automated,” explained Rühl. “With low variable costs, you can have much stronger growth than a traditional company with high fixed and variable costs.” He used Facebook as an example of a business with practically no incremental costs at all—when 1,000 new users join, the company doesn’t have to invest anything.

A new way of working   

For Klöckner to become a platform company with physical assets, this meant automating their core processes (mainly sales and purchasing). This was more difficult than Rühl first expected, because it required a significant cultural change within the company to become more agile and embrace a new way of working where failure is not only allowed, but it is part of the process. 

Klöckner implemented an internal social network using Microsoft Yammer that is now used extensively. “Without Yammer this transformation wouldn’t have been possible,” said Rühl. “It’s a hierarchy-free communication tool, so I have the opportunity to communicate with everyone in the company, and the other way around. We have a completely different kind of communication culture within Klöckner now.”  

The company also initiated a digital academy, offering courses to employees during working hours to help incrementally increase the digital IQ of the company. “It’s not really one big thing,” Rühl explained. “It’s a lot of minor steps and to be honest there’s no blueprint, because not many companies have really transformed themselves in this way.”  

Gisbert Rühl

Another step in the company’s digitization was founding kloeckner.i in 2014. Since then, 90 experts in software development, data analytics, online marketing, and UX design have been working on cross-functional teams to digitize the supply chain from procurement to delivery. The vision here: 

A digitized steel and metal industry in which all market partners interact efficiently.

Introducing XOM—a new digital venture

In addition to the digitalization of Klöckner, Rühl also made the controversial decision to create a new digital venture, XOM Materials, as a purely virtual platform for buyers and sellers of materials. “We launched XOM separately because it turns out it is rather difficult to really disrupt yourself,” said Rühl. “As an incumbent, you always spend the money where you earn the money, and when you earn the money with certain products, it’s really difficult to invest in something that could disrupt your core business.”   

XOM was launched as an independent business, and competes with Klöckner on the digital side. “XOM is allowed to cannibalize our core business,” explained Rühl. “There are no rules, we are competing.” 

Interestingly, XOM and KREATIZE are both part of the same value chain to a certain extent. Both companies offer very similar platform solutions, XOM for buying and selling metal and steel products, and KREATIZE for ordering and producing custom parts. 

Developing a customer-centric approach

Throughout the process of digitizing and automating, Rühl and Klöckner found that one of the reasons startups are so much faster at developing something is that they are more customer-centric than traditional companies. Rühl explained: “A customer-centric approach means that you work with the customer to find out what they really need. You’re not immediately developing the product itself, you’re starting with an MVP with limited functionality. Then you go back to the customer to find out what works and refine it. The advantage is that you are faster in the end, and the product/market fit is much higher.”

Rühl compares a Tesla to a traditional car, for example. “A Tesla is an intuitive, customer-designed product that doesn’t really require a manual,” said Rühl. “If you know how an ipad works, you know how a tesla works.” On the other hand, traditional cars may have 40 or 50 unique switches and the design is engineering and performance-driven, not customer-driven.

2020 accelerates Klöckner’s change

Despite all their efforts to digitize Klöckner’s business, the materials market has resisted digital transformation, making the process longer, harder, and more expensive than Rühl expected. At the start of 2020, Rühl and his teams were focused on how they could dramatically increase uptake. And then in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, all their efforts to rethink their sales, operations, people practices and organizational structure started to pay off.

“This was not my first crisis,” said Rühl. “What I’ve learned through the years is that crises are a good opportunity to accelerate change, because you can spend more money on restructuring during a crisis.” Within two weeks of the beginning of the pandemic, Klöckner began reducing their workforce by 15% and made all of their layoffs within a few months. The impact on its business was minimized by the improvements and digital transformation they’d accomplished over the last several years. 

“Next year we’ll be saving nearly €100M due to the automation,” Rühl said. “It took 6 years, and the journey was not easy. But in the end, the benefits are kicking in faster and faster.”  

From the beginning Rühl believed digital transformation was the right way to go. “When you see all the developments in virtual reality, robotics, artificial intelligence, it’s clear that no one is going to order steel with a fax machine anymore,” said Rühl. “We had to pivot here and there, but my belief in digital transformation never changed—it needed to happen.” 

What’s next for Rühl 

As of the close of the Annual General Meeting in May 2021, Rühl will leave Klöckner & Co to concentrate on entrepreneurial activities in the field of B2B platforms and VC funds. In connection with the planned separation of the digital platform XOM Materials from Klöckner, he will take over the position as Chairman of XOM.

Start now by creating your account for KREATIZE Manufacturing Services or by making an appointment with one of our cloud manufacturing specialists today

Recap of Launchpad Austria

Launchpad Austria was a passionate exchange about how hardware companies can accelerate innovation and drive growth

We were thrilled to be joined by innovative founders, successful entrepreneurs, and strong founder supporters from 16 countries at Launchpad Austria on April 13th

Headlined with a discussion around “How hardware companies can accelerate innovation and bring growth to Austria post-corona”, our speakers discussed mistakes, learnings, challenges and opportunities in the post-Corona era. We heard from both established global companies and startups who shared their take on this universal topic, with a specific focus on Austria.

HENN’s CEO Talks Transformation

Martin Ohneberg, CEO of HENN kicked things off by reporting on his company’s transformation from primarily servicing the automotive sector to a more broadly based product range: “At HENN, we don’t just want to stay only in the automotive sector in the future, we want to become a leader in smart couplings – in different materials, together with the right process. This is our USP. In order to be successful in the future, we must remain successful in the automotive sector, but also in other areas,” said Ohneberg. However, such a change does not happen by itself, In addition to the right team with innovative minds, the partners are also crucial: “We also work with new partners – KREATIZE, for example, is flexible, especially in the prototyping area. We have to be open to such new solutions, because they act quickly and in line with the times. You have to be faster than the others. We can’t wait too long if we want to remain successful in the future.“

You can watch the whole kick-off again here:  

Challenges & Opportunities in Hardware Product Development

“Software is different from hardware: Being fast in hardware means months of development,”

said Philipp Sonnleitner,   Co-founder & CIO of mikme. Speed, new approaches, and agility—that’s what startups stand for. But founding a hardware startup does not always go smoothly and there are often many constraints. We asked two successful founders to tell us about their learnings, mistakes, challenges, and opportunities: Nils Berger, CEO and Owner of Viewpointsystem and Philipp Sonnleitner, Co-founder & CIO of mikme.

Embrace failure

Nils Berger’s advice: “Embrace failure”.

What exactly does this mean for him and his team? 

Don’t just think about it, just do it. Even if you get a bloody nose – without trying, it won’t work. Without mistakes, you won’t get anywhere. Innovation means: Mistakes are always an option – keep it close and make it your friend.” 

And although this is always easier said than done, Nils Berger makes it clear that he wouldn’t get far on his own either: The right people and good communication are important! “Always think about, how you talk to people and how do you hold them? You can’t avoid legacy thinking even in a start-up area. People bring their own legacy, because everyone has a different background. Take the good from this and try to transform the not-so-good through communication with a positive culture with a purpose.”

Nils Berger’s Expertstalk with our CCO Thomas Hoffmeister is available here:

Hardware is hard

Now that you have the right team around you, have you instilled a culture and a sense of purpose? Are ready to get started? It’s important to note that hardware developers face  some challenges, but also have many unique opportunities. With 8 years of experience in founding hardware startups, Philipp Sonnleitner had a lot to share regarding this matter.

This already begins during development: Software is different from hardware – being fast in hardware means months of developments. We launched our new product, mikme pocket, in 9 months – that’s relatively fast”,  said Sonnleitner. “However, the positive thing about hardware development is you can touch the product. And People still love to touch things.” 

Since it is a well-known fact that you learn the most from your mistakes, we asked Philipp about his biggest mistake since founding his company: “When we did our first mobile product, battery charging was the biggest mistake we made: We underestimated that process. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that until we produced our first margin. It was tough and costly. Take it one step at a time. We were so deep in product, quality, in sound, etc. But we didn’t pay enough attention to the battery. “

Philipp was also interviewed by Thomas – watch the whole session here:

Exchange and networking with supporters and founders

The founding of a hardware startup is thus more time-consuming, more strenuous and in many cases more cost-intensive than for virtual software products. But there are many supporters who are ready to stand up for young, innovative founders and ideas. Some of Austria’s most successful and active hardware supporters joined our panel to discuss the possibilities and limitations of different support models, as well as to share their views on the current business climate together with Philipp Sonnleitner. The very special closing of our event was our “beers with peers session”, in which very interesting and lively discussions took place. 

Click here for the full panel discussion:

We’re not done yet! There are more Launchpads to come this year.

The lively exchange during the event and the feedback we received after, proved to us yet again that there is a real demand for such events. We would like to continue to network with  innovators and thought leaders in the manufacturing sector! Stay tuned for more details on our next event in the future!

If you too are interested in the manufacturing of tomorrow, we recommend you see the presentation by our CEO Simon Tüchelmann:


Want to stay up to date with content on cloud manufacturing and hardware innovation? Then sign up for our newsletter: Cloud Manufactured.

The future of bringing products to market looks bright! Highlights from our Launchpad event.

On February 25, we hosted KREATIZE Launchpad—the first event in our new quarterly series. We brought together over 124 Kreators, industry leaders and experts to discuss the future of bringing hardware products to market. What does the manufacturing of tomorrow look like? How can we produce better, more sustainable products and bring them to market faster? What does it feel like to develop products that change the world? We discussed these topics and many more in a total of 14,776 minutes (yes, you read correctly—that’s the cumulative time we spent together). 

We were honored to have a huge turn out for the live KREATIZE Launchpad broadcast! Leading hardware manufacturers and product engineers joined us to share their own experiences and advice about bringing products to market.  

Here are the biggest takeaways from the first KREATIZE Launchpad:

Product innovation is a key driver of future growth

Disruption is inevitable, forward thinking is critical: all KREATIZE Launchpad speakers have worked at companies that had to reinvent themselves to stay competitive.

The world is going digital, so either you’re on board or you’re left behind. Disruption is a positive thing—it means replacing existing business models, products, technologies or services with innovations that are better, faster and cheaper. Gisbert Rühl, CEO of Klöckner & Co, talked about the company’s digital transformation to become more product-led and customer-centric: “Our digital transformation to become a more product-driven company was very difficult. We had to go through a significant cultural change, for instance with an internal social network to dramatically change the way we communicate, and education tools to increase the digital IQ of the company.”  

“Traditional manufacturing companies need to think about what can disrupt their business. The world is moving so fast! Robin Dechant, Aveo founder and initiator of shared his perspective on the new world of product product development.  

Apple and Google are now the largest manufacturers of speakers and headphones in the world, but that hasn’t stopped HEDD from developing the best high-tech headphones in the world at a time when sound quality seems to be less and less relevant. Klaus Heinz, CTO of HEDD, talked about the changes in the speaker and headphone market over the last 10-15 years, with Apple and Google making a play. 

Product-oriented and customer-centric companies have the edge

When it comes to the speed of product development at startups versus traditional companies, Armin Müller, CEO of emm! solutions and former Vice President of Future Projects at Porsche AG, understands both worlds very well. He talked about some of the differences in product development at big corporate companies vs. startups. He also shared his experience developing and introducing the ESP: “When I told management that ESP should be integrated in every vehicle in 5 years, I was laughed at. But then the A-Class tipped over and everything happened very quickly.”  

Startups are more customer-centric than traditional companies. They need to be more agile, have a deep understanding of customer needs, start with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and then refine it with customer feedback.

“Don’t be overly enthusiastic about your own ideas. Always ask yourself—what is the benefit to the customer?” This customer-centric mindset has worked well for HEDD over the years.

“You have to be set up to learn quickly. Take “Space X” for example—they iterated very quickly. They built, measured, learned and now they will send humans into space”, explained Robin Dechant.

Keep it simple when it comes to product development. Failure is part of the game.

As someone who has been involved in dozens of new product launches from Latitude Notebooks to the iPad, I have experienced first-hand the importance of a methodical approach to new product development,” KREATIZE CSO Zod B. Mehr explained the phase-gate process, which sets a vision for your product and takes precise, incremental steps to make it happen.

“Product development is quite simple—build something, measure it, and then learn. Failure is part of the game. This is the most important thing. With failures you gain insight along the way about what does and does not work,” said Robin Dechant

“We had to completely change our culture to become more agile and adopt a new way of working where failure is not only allowed, but part of the process,” Gisbert Rühl also mentioned.

It’s not about digitizing but eliminating the RFQ process

Daniel A. Garcia Rodriguez, KREATIZE CTO, explained how KREATIZE’s technology enables customers to buy machine hours instead of parts.

KREATIZE CEO, Simon Tüchelmann, and CSO, Zod B. Mehr, also talked about the future of bringing products to market and how cloud manufacturing is changing the world of product development by enabling rapid access to manufacturing services through our network of partners.

A big thank you to all of our KREATIZE Launchpad speakers and to everyone who attended—especially to:

Gisbert Rühl, CEO of Klöckner & Co SE

Armin Müller, CEO of emm! solutions

Klaus Heinz, CTO of HEDD Heinz Electro Dynamic Designs and

Robin Dechant, Aveo founder and initiator of

A few more facts about our participants:

Total unique attendees: 124

Watch time:

Total time watched: 14.776min

Average time watched: 119min


Unique countries: 15

Unique continents: 3

Are you interested in learning more about hardware product development?

Good news! We have something just for you: Download our free whitepaper on new product development to discover the six key steps to guide a project from idea to launch. You can also read our Blogpost about the phase-gate approach!