Enabling New Partnerships: BETWEEN THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND STARTUPS
Startups and corporates could not be more different – which is why they need to align forces and become allies! enpact tries to foster and facilitate this through the creation of corporate challenges. This means that a corporate provides a specific topic it needs to work on – like a challenge for innovation, organisational design, new work, etc. and enpact then opens a competition to find an innovative startup that could support in tackling and overcoming it. This creates a win-win situation for both, which is why enpact partners with Smart Hectar to jointly create corporate challenges in SubSaharan Africa and Asia. Check out the interview with Matthias Schmidt-Rex, Founder and CEO of Smart Hectar.
Please introduce yourself: What is your background/career path?
My name is Matthias Schmidt-Rex and I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2004. I have a background in economics, organisational development and worked in several advertisement and digital agencies.
Together with a partner, in 2015 we founded the initiative Go Silicon Valley to support German mid-size companies in defining their innovation strategy with a focus on innovation labs and accelerator programmes.
Based on that idea, in 2017 I founded SmartHectar Innovation with my co-founders as a spinoff of Go Silicon Valley. After one year of trying to get the programme started, we realised that most German companies are not startup ready at all, nor have they dedicated resources to take part in accelerator programmes. We had to pivot our business model and came up with low entry programmes, such as startups scoutings, match-making programmes and innovation challenges. When we think about the challenge of feeding a growing world population and building up a sustainable food system, we decided to build innovation hubs in emerging markets in order to support people on the ground.
Call it providence or coincidence, at that time I met Jan Lachenmayer from enpact at an event in Berlin. As enpact had already been active in Africa for a couple of years, we exchanged some ideas about working together and concepts for supporting startups.
It took us just a couple of weeks to outline enable West Africa as the first project, which was soon followed by enable Southeast Asia. So here we are right now, building up innovation hubs for Agrifood & Watertech where corporates can work with startups to tackle problems in the regions. I’m very proud that we secured first contracts with corporates like CP Foods, one of the biggest food companies in Thailand who will be working with us.
“Experiencing people’s daily struggle with food and water problems on one side, and realising there are already a lot of entrepreneurs with amazing solutions on the other side encouraged me to believe in collaboration as the solution.”