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va-Q-tec: From startup to investor and technology partner

Interview with CEO Dr. Joachim Kuhn

va-Q-tec AG is a specialist for insulation solutions. The high-tech company was founded 20 years ago as a startup, won the University Founder Award of the Business Plan Competition Northern Bavaria at the time, and has become an outstanding example of corporate growth within a short period of time. Today, the company, which is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, invests in startups itself, including the northern Bavarian competition winner of 2020, ING3D.

Dr. Kuhn, why do you bring external innovations in-house at va-Q-tec?

We ourselves are a young, dynamic technology company that stands out above all for its innovative strength. We greatly value collaboration with startups because it helps us to drive innovation and set new impulses in research and development. By working with startups, we can identify new developments and trends at an early stage and also secure important access to raw materials or interesting technologies, for example. Further we can use the developed products for our business ourselves. Young companies in the fields of energy efficiency and clean technologies are of particular interest for us.

What role does va-Q-tec play in the cooperation with startups?

At the moment, we are active as a strategic and partnership investor. However, we also have some promising technology partnerships with startups, which in principle can develop into any type of cooperation. Our investments are primarily about mutual benefit. We stand by the startups as a reliable, experienced partner and open up our network, our database, and also, for example, our laboratories and development facilities to them. The startups also receive support in the area of product development up to market maturity or in strategic or financial issues that not infrequently arise in the startup phase.

How does the preparation for the integration of startup technologies into the company's processes work?

Close coordination with individual business units is particularly important, especially with Research & Development. However, early collaboration with product management and/or business development for the marketing of possible joint products and the elicitation of customer benefits based on this are also of enormous importance.

Startups often report difficulties in working with established companies. From this perspective, is va-Q-tec still a startup or already an established player in the market?

We have never lost our roots as a startup and have retained the dynamic spirit of young technology companies. If you also consider our average growth rate of more than 30 % over the last five years and our agile entry into new markets, we are definitely still a young company. Therefore, we also know the needs of a startup very well. In my opinion, many conflicts in the collaboration result from too much restriction by the partner. That's why it's important for us to give startups enough space and also to allow the spirit of discovery and invention by encouraging our partners rather than regulating them. In addition, of course, an early agreement on joint strategies and goals or even joint products are helpful in order to recognize challenges early on and to master them together. A constant exchange at eye level is elementary.

Photo: BayStartUP / Andreas Gebert

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