In part two of our interview, Ringier CEO Marc Walder explains why it’s important for Ringier to be involved in the start-up scene. He also looks back at the past «Kickstart Accelerator» and talks about future plans.
by ANDREA GERMANN and REMO BERNET
There’s always a smile on your face when you’re talking about start-ups. What fascinates you about this topic?
If you look at the largest companies today, you’ll see companies who were start-ups just a few years ago. In today’s world, you can become a dominant player in five years or less. Any start-up has the chance to do so. Through digitization everything is possible and this is fascinating to me!
You were a journalist before you became an entrepreneur. What are the similarities between journalism and start-ups?
There is one key similarity: You start from zero as a journalist when you produce a new story and that’s the same for a start-up. You literally start from zero.
Why is it important for Ringier to be part of the start-up scene?
Because that’s where we get a taste, an indication of what the future could be. We don’t know what will happen in the next years, but it’s very important to tap into that nervousness, that agitation that start-ups possess. They try to move fast and be positive. Start-ups are like speedboats and big companies also need to think quick and agile like speedboats, so they don’t become a big, Titanic giant.
That’s interesting that you’re talking about being a speedboat. Ringier is a media company – can a media company be a speedboat?
We act like speedboats in many of our subsidiaries, or at least we should. We try out new things, no matter if it is with Blick, with Scout24 or the Energy Group. A lot of our companies have the mentality of moving fast, of having the courage to try new things and I like that. My job is to make sure that they act like young companies even though they are quite old.
Ringier CEO Marc Walder about the digital transformation:
The biggest risk is not to move at all!
To move fast also means taking risks.
In today’s world, anything can be a risk, but the biggest risk is not to move at all!
How does Ringier move?
We move lightning quick, taking big steps and often, big risks. We spent more than 1.7 billion swiss francs in the last seven years. It’s the largest transformation our company has ever seen. We have to! Especially in our business, media companies who don’t evolve, move, digitize and diversify are dead or are going to die!
What does Ringier do for Start-Ups?
We identify promising start-ups and help them to grow. First of all, you always need money to grow, even though money is not the most important thing. The most crucial elements are the initial idea, the execution and the team behind the idea. Secondly, we try to help them in many different ways, be it awareness, traffic, marketing, know-how, technology or data. I think a big company always has something in–house that could help young companies. But it’s very important to keep the young companies in control of their own business. We don’t want to incorporate them into our big company, because that would be completely wrong.
Ringier is part of the organisation «digitalswitzerland». Why is an organisation like this important for our country?
Switzerland is a great place to do business. Switzerland is strong in entrepreneurship, in precision, innovation and education. If we don’t move to the next step, all the potential we have here goes to waste. I strongly believe in clusters: good people and good companies attract more good people and more companies, which in turn attracts more money that will be invested. Switzerland is a remarkable place with very high potential.
Does «digitalswitzerland» have enough impact to create substantial change?
It’s one of many initiatives. We just want to be helpful. Our goal is not to say the world changed because of our work. There are so many other beautiful initiatives. What’s special about «digitalswitzerland» is that 40 of the largest Swiss companies and institutions sit at one table to set up projects that will expand our already flourishing digital cluster.
A lot of projects for young entrepreneurs are financed by bigger companies. Should there be more support from the government?
The government shouldn’t support start-ups directly. Their job is to help start-ups by having the right political framework, like in terms of taxation, or in support in finding the right employees. The government also plays an important role via institutions like universities and technical high schools, where they ensure the best education for our people. For the rest of it, start-ups should do whatever they think is right for their business.
Ringier CEO Marc Walder about the «Kickstart Accelerator»:
The goal is to do it again next year in Zurich and also in the French part of Switzerland.
How do you feel about the efforts of the «Kickstart Accelerator»?
The Kickstart Accelerator was a huge success, because it was the largest start-up program in Europe this year. We started at zero. You could say we were also a start-up and we became quite big. We are going to do it again next year, but we need to get funding, because it’s an expensive program. The goal is to do it again next year in Zurich and also in the French part of Switzerland.
And what did you personally learn from the «Kickstart Accelerator»?
People make the difference!