Category Archives: growth company

Building an Enterprise Startup in Germany

An Interview with Dr. Michael Keppler, Business Angel and Co-Founder of ICON Supply Chain Management

While attending the mentoring circle at CyberForum Karlsruhe, I had the pleasure to meet Dr. Michael Keppler. He is a mentor, business angel, co-founder and former CEO of ICON Supply Chain Management, Karlsruhe.

Dr. Michael Keppler

Dr. Michael Keppler

Together with a friend from the University of Karlsruhe, Dr. Keppler started ICON in 1992 and developed the company to become technology leader in the supply chain planning and collaboration domain.

Dr. Keppler and his co-founder managed the company through the key transitions that characterize a high-tech enterprise business: from the startup stage with a lot of custom project work, to a scalable products business, and finally, to the exit, selling ICON to E2open in July 2013.

His experience is invaluable to startup founders. So thanks to Michael for sitting down with me and sharing some of his lessons learned, as well as his take on Southern Germany as a location for tech startups.

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Internet Find: How to Make (Board) Meetings Suck Less

I came across this recent article on the “The Review”, the online magazine of First Round Capital: “The Secret to Making Board Meetings Suck Less

Drawing primarily on the experience of Jeff Bonforte, a serial entrepreneur who sold his last startup to Yahoo, the article is full of practical tips how a CEO can turn a board meeting into a working session that is productive for everyone – instead of a trial-like situation where everyone gets to shoot the CEO.

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Moving to a Digital Business Model – Opportunities and Challenges

Caution HOT! Digital Business Models

© Pitopia, Wolfgang Demmel, 2010

At the first Product Management Festival that took place in Zurich last month, I had the opportunity to speak about a topic that has been fascinating me for a long time: how cost structures for digital products are fundamentally different from those for physical products – and the implications this has for business models, and even company culture:

“On one hand, digital business models present unique opportunities: they enable new pricing and revenue models, such as Freemium, and they can generate profit margins that are simply impossible with traditional models.

On the flip side, digital business models present unique challenges, for example the need for extreme speed and agility, cultural challenges, and a higher risk due to a tendency to promote “winner-take-all” market structures.

In conclusion: even if your company’s heritage is in the world of traditional (physical) business models, with “software eating the world”, there may be attractive digital business opportunities available to you. However, do not underestimate the amount of change that this switch demands from your organization.”

The slide deck is available here (PDF) – it highlights how the unique properties of digital business models are tied back to their cost structure, which is characterized by low variable cost and therefore, low marginal cost.

Special thanks go to Dirk Haun: Dirk is the author of “Presenting for Geeks” and he kindly helped me turn the initial draft into my first slide deck in the visual presentation style, following the rule of “one idea per slide”.

The PDF (extended slide deck)  includes these core presentation slides, plus additional pages that provide part of my “voice over” from the talk and the detailed cost structure data. These additional pages (obviously) do not follow the visual presentation style.

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Internet Find: Peter Levine On How SaaS is Shaking Up the Enterprise IT Market

The latest blog post from Peter Levine is part one of his SaaS manifesto. Here, he discusses the market impact of what he calls the “departmentalization of IT”: business departments increasingly procuring SaaS solutions on their own, bypassing the IT department and the CIO.

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This Fall Is All About Software Product Management

Keywords - Certified Software Product Manager (CSPM)

Product management, in particular product management for software-based offerings, is attracting more attention recently.

Evidence: several specialized events this fall that provide software product managers with opportunities for experience sharing and upgrading their skills. Events include the ProductCamp Berlin,  Product Management Festival in Zurich, and several Certified Software Product Manager trainings – including the training I offer in Stuttgart in November.

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Is Zalando a Disruptive Company?

As Marc Andreessen succinctly put it: “Software is eating the world” – disrupting markets and obsoleting traditional players in ever more markets.

As Steve Blank and Bob Dorf highlighted, this is happening in two distinct ways: by just moving to a digital sales channel (i.e. selling over the Internet), or by making the product itself digital.

In both cases, the transition is disruptive to the respective market, but I believe there’s a big, qualitative difference in the impact of the disruption – a difference that is easily overlooked but that is fundamental to company valuation.

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Product Management Festival – Take Advantage of Special Promotion until July 14


A couple weeks ago, I shared my excitement about a really special upcoming event: the  Product Management Festival that will take place in Zurich from September 16-19.

I am thrilled to see that finally, there will be a European conference that is dedicated to the product management profession and that is focused on product management for complex products, product lines, technology products, and software.

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Internet Finds for Growth Companies: On Scaling and Exiting

This week, I present three internet finds that should be interesting for for growth companies: a deep, insightful blog post by Ben Horowitz, explaining why Andreessen Horowitz prefers to scale their portfolio companies under the reign of the founding CEO – instead of putting in a professional CEO. A recent article claiming that IPOs have become less attractive as an exit option. And several stunning infographics from LUMA Partners related to scaling and exiting.

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