Business stories you love
They love a good story in the business world, and with their regional blog ku.bus, which they started in 2016, they might be taking on Handelsblatt some fine day. At the moment the guys in charge, Oliver Brümmer and Wolf Müller-Christmann, are in the process of expanding their business model. Under the name de.bus they are creating branches of their blog in several large cities, and all the while these two are also organizing the first TEDx conference in Mannheim, in February 2018. So it’s about time we met Oliver and Wolf for an interview.
Oliver, what is „Kurpfalz Business Briefing“?
Oliver: „ku.bus“, as it is commonly called, is a blog. We wish to tell great stories about local businesses. Our claim is: „local business stories you love“, and our goal is bridging the gap between start-ups and large corporations. Virtually every city now has a blog about the start-up scene. What is often missing though, is a network between corporations and start-ups. I can offer a lot of insights into this field, as I come from a business consulting background.
Why the twofold focus?
Oliver: I have always been more active on the corporate side of things. I don’t feel start-ups are the only innovators and creators of the most interesting stories. Corporations can very much also push the envelope – especially as they’ve got the cash! I’m not saying that corporations are better organized. If anything, they are usually keen on fighting off innovation and anything new. But the corporations have the ability of utilizing large budgets and can forward half a million to a start-up-team. The hype surrounding the start-up scene should really be put into perspective.
Give us an example …
Wolf: Last week we visited Fiege in Worms, a large contract logistics provider, that operates several logistics centers all over Germany. They have just implemented a pick-by-vision system, that uses Google-Glass to allow hands-free scanning of products. With this kind of innovation the big guys are more flexible, as they have the budget to do so. This is the kind of example that shows us how important it is to keep an open mind and check out what the corporations are doing, as they have innovation stories of their own. If you have both worlds in the mix, we feel you’re best off.
And your enthusiasm for such stories led you to start your blog?
Wolf: Indeed. Many of these stories are very impressive. To get a real 360 degree view of a business is super exciting. We love to get deep into things, to identify the truly relevant stories, and to make these stories as involving as possible. This is something a daily newspaper, such as Mannheimer Morgen can’t achieve. Our motto is: one story is all you need – if you tell it right! This fascination for great stories is what de.bus is all about!
And how do you make money with your concept?
Oliver: With ads on the blog. We see ourselves as a media company, and have the ambition to give Handelsblatt a run for the money. That is, of coarse, reaching far into the future. But with our brand architecture allowing us to provide regional content, we actually have an advantage over Handelsblatt!
The regional focus?
Oliver: Exactly! As we are always on the road, we offer regionally sourced content on a nationwide platform. Anyone that has their eye closely on the market, is a serious player. Though we still have a lot to learn, and quite some structural work ahead of us.
You guys hadn’t worked as journalists before, right?
Oliver: I published two guidebooks for senior citizens. (laughs) One on Windows 7 and another all about the iPad 2. The latter I even published myself. So I did bring a bit of experience to the table. I wrote the first couple of stories for ku.bus. And I feel everyone that works here should do so, to get a feel for bringing a story to paper. Especially as it is not easy to tell a story about business with the necessary emotional drive. Above all though, one needs the right stories.
Where do you look for the right stories?
Wolf: It’s all about having the right contacts! As we both come from around here, we know the right people and have learned all about the business landscape of the region. This leads to the best stories.
You started with ku.bus – and are now off to take on the country with de.bus?
Oliver: Yes. We are building a larger team, offering our employees the opportunity to work on great stories, about really interesting issues. Though before we can really expand we need some techies on board, so all the technical processes function smoothly. At first I didn’t think we could expand at such a pace, but by the middle of 2018 we should be ready to go.
Why did you choose Mannheim for your business?
Oliver: I’m from Mannheim! I went to school in Feudenheim and graduated from high school in Mannheim. After spending time in New York and Paris I returned here. I don’t plan on leaving here either, as I feel extremely comfortable in Mannheim. The support here, be it workspace or counseling, is super!
Wolf: I’m not from Mannheim, but from Heidelberg, and I also feel very comfortable in the region. It offers a perfect mix of urban and rural regions.
Your newest project is a ku.bus bus-tour, offering a round trip with visits at local businesses and a selection interesting guest speakers.
Oliver: The focus is on professional expertise. It’s also about networking, sure, but we carefully select our guest speakers. We aren’t interested in getting beer from Welde, who we are visiting along the tour, or in being sponsored financially at our stop at the MVV. We choose the issues that are in the focus and the speakers that are on board, as we want independent expertise of the highest quality! This guaranties an intensive exchange of expertise between specialists. The time on tour should be about this kind of exchange and a real transfer of know-how.
Who is the target audience for the tour?
Wolf: Half start-ups, and half corporations. Founders and managing directors of young businesses, just as well as employees of established companies, such as Roche, Heidelberg Cement and the like.
And these people have the time to spare for a whole day on the bus?
Oliver: Many are skeptical, sure. But we have WiFi on the bus, so everyone can work if they have to. But we think there will be better things to do, such as having great conversations. We’ve booked a host to lead through proceedings. There will be introduction rounds to get to know each other, and to incite exchange. There is a lot to gain compared to a single lost day at work.
Project Nr. 3 for you is the first TEDx conference in Mannheim. How did you make that happen?
Oliver: The TEDx European Space Agency event in the Netherlands was awesome. They had an astronaut on stage who told about their experience in space. And after that the chef in charge of making the space-food was up next. It was a really great event, that very much inspired me. Afterwards I researched how the whole thing works, and where to apply to hold a TEDx conference. I wrote a few emails to the TEDx HQ in New York, which didn’t work. So in the end I activated some contacts which slowly initiated the process. Though it still took six months to get anywhere.
But you succeeded!
Oliver: We did. But we were told: „Guys, we want you start with a small scale event, before you organize anything big!“ They have the student license for 100 participants and the big license for 500 and more participants. To receive the latter one has to have participated in a global TED conference. Which is how they make money. For one you are required to upload videos to TED.com, and you also have to pay for your ticket to the conference, which is 7000 Euros.
Can you make money with TEDx?
Oliver: No. There is no money to be made with TEDx. It’s all about the event.
Interview: Paul Heesch / LA.MAG Content. Corporate. Communication.
Fotos: Sebastian Weindel