It takes courage to take risks
In 2017, FIEGE began building its own Ventures unit as the company’s fourth strategic pillar. FIEGE’s three autonomous units – XPRESS Ventures, F-LOG Ventures, and Strategic Ventures – assist start-ups during their various development phases, an approach which is beginning to bear fruit.
Are the good times over? Questions like these are heard more and more often in the start-up scene these days. One thing is certain: The long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the Middle East conflict and other global economic crises have resulted in many investors taking a more cautious approach, which in turn led to a decrease in funding for start-ups last year. At the same time, for the market to cool off to such extent has its advantages. “Less venture capital in the market means we will have the possibility to invest in solid enterprises at a more moderate evaluation. The boom we have been witnessing these past years triggered a rather overheated venture capital market”, says Felix Fiege, Co-CEO at FIEGE, who manages the company together with his cousin, Jens Fiege.
The evolving market environment is increasingly spotlighting the profitability – next to the growth – of the individual business models. Many investors are focusing more on cultivating their existing portfolios and currently are conversative when it comes to new investments. This in turn has seen start-ups in need of funding become more open when choosing new investors. Jens Fiege, Co-CEO at FIEGE adds: “This presents us with a new opportunity that we wish to harness. Therefore, it was important to strengthen our position for us to continue with our investment strategy and for the market to perceive us as a reliable ally. As a family-managed business, we are becoming ever more attractive for many start-ups because they recognise the value that we bring to the table compared to purely financial investors.”
Support sought – support found
To further grow the Ventures unit, FIEGE brought Dr Bernhard Gold on board in August of last year. As the Managing Director of FIEGE Ventures, he will oversee XPRESS Ventures (the company builder), F-LOG Ventures (venture capital funds) as well as Strategic Ventures, and will pool all investment activities at a corporate level. Felix Fiege tells us: “The time had come for us to take the next step and further bolster our Ventures pillar. It is our goal to be the market’s all-round point of contact for start-ups in the various stages of their life cycles and look out for new, disruptive business models. We are delighted to have been able to win over Bernhard Gold for this task.”
Gold has a wealth of knowledge in such fields as corporate development, corporate venture capital, and venture capital financing. For many years, he held a leading position in the venture capital division of Deutsche Telekom in Germany and in USA. He last worked for different venture capital funds, since 2010 primarily so in Silicon Valley. The 50-year-old says about his new role at FIEGE: “The LogTech sector in Germany in particular as well as in Europe holds tremendous potential which can generate competitive advantages for the FIEGE Group and its partners. The teams have done an outstanding job in developing our three ventures units these past years. With a well-stocked toolbox full of investment opportunities, FIEGE is already ahead of the game. The goal is to continue on this pathway. I very much look forward to this challenge and am grateful to be able to contribute my experience and my network.”
New investments and successful exit
The endeavours of the Ventures unit are already bearing fruit, as recently shown by talpasolutions. The start-up from Essen in Germany devises software solutions for the heavy industry and logistics sector which enable predictive data-based analyses. Since 2021, talpasolutions is part of the F-LOG Ventures portfolio. In march 2023, it successfully wrapped up a Series B round of funding for over 15 million euros. Tim Gudelj, Managing Partner at F-LOG Ventures details: “In view of the challenging market situation, that is quite a success. We consider talpasolutions to have substantial potential and look forward to backing the team of founders.”
Via XPRESS Ventures, FIEGE continues to invest in future-forward technology and the smart minds behind it. The Company Builder is managed by experienced start-up founders and actively supports young entrepreneurs as early as the founding phase with product and market evaluations, corporate structuring, team building and on how to approach investors. Last year, XPRESS led a funding round for the Dortmund based start-up, Logistikbude which develops innovative software that digitally manages load carriers. 2.2 million euros were secured from renowned investors. Matthias Friese, Managing Partner at XPRESS Ventures says: “Logistikbude is the perfect example of how we do this. The team has a lot of experience in this field. It serves a fundamental segment within logistics which – despite maximum relevance in terms of supply chain optimisation and sustainability while offering an attractive margin outline - has barely received attention technology-wise. We very much look forward to working with them.”
Moreover, FIEGE is also counting on strategic co-operation in the start-up segment. Andreas Pott, Director Strategic Ventures & Innovation at FIEGE explains: “We aim to create long-term partnerships which advance us with our digital transformation and support the strategies of our business units. At the same time, we see major potential in actively promoting and expanding our investments.” This can be done in many different ways and covers everything from co-creation to building a value proposition to the blanket roll-out of the solution at FIEGE, says Pott: “In an ideal scenario, it will be a symbiotic relationship which extends far beyond your typical venture capital participation.”
A shining example of this is asellerate, a Stuttgart-based start-up whose strategic development FIEGE has been accompanying since 2021. The team has come up with an eCommerce infrastructure which it uses not only for its own automotive online shop, Retromotion with great success but which it offers in addition to consulting services to manufacturers about to venture into direct sales for the first time. Pott adds: “We are learning to benefit from one another and advance automation, last mile, property technology or sustainability in a joint effort – in the end, it’s a classic win-win situation for both sides.”
Just in Case
F-LOG x Retraced
Many companies are thinking of ways to make their supply chains more sustainable. Germany’s Supply Chain Act has further stepped up the requirements for an ESG-compliant supply chain management. In 2022, F-LOG Ventures invested in Retraced, a start-up that has made it their mission to predominantly back businesses from the fashion industry on all things supply chain management. Tanja Rosendahl, Managing Partner at F-LOG Ventures says: “Retraced makes it possible not only to comply with national regulations, but also to fulfil one’s own sustainability mission, or that of customers. The digital platform doubles as a central interface between all stakeholders of the supply chain.” On top of this, users can integrate the entire supply chain of individual products with their online shop, thus sharing a product’s journey with consumers. Transparency doesn’t get any better than this!
XPRESS x HomeRide
In-app online purchases – that sounds like an old hat. However, not in the case of HomeRide: The retail tech start-up is designing technology which is to premier a multi-shop online buying experience across a range of established retailers using an overarching merchandise infrastructure. To meet a preferred delivery date with various last mile service providers, HomeRide taps existing warehouse and delivery structures only, thus manifesting an economically and ecologically sustainable retail platform for both renowned store chains as well as local brands. Matthias Friese, Managing Partner at XPRESS Ventures says: “Nowadays, on-demand defines the retail trade in real time. We realise that the HomeRide team and its technology have the potential to think supply chains one step further and bring the retail chains behind this on board rather than work against them. Therefore, we are very excited about the opportunity to accompany HomeRide’s future technological as well as operational development.”
Strategic Ventures x Magazino
Collaborative, mobile robot control systems which offer solutions for processes which could not be automated in the past – this was the promise that caught FIEGE’s interest in 2014 when the robotics start-up Magazino was formed. Fast forward two years and the first three autonomous TORU robots were already picking footwear at the FIEGE Mega Center in Ibbenbüren. In 2017, FIEGE signed up as a strategic investor, helping to elevate the robots to the next level. Although the technology was still in its infancy, its development was helped through use during live operations and additional customer contacts that were made. Andreas Pott emphasises: “During our shared journey which ended in the sale of our investment, we learned a lot. We are grateful for this and are thrilled that many other start-ups have since benefitted from these experiences. And naturally, we will remain a client of Magazino.” FIEGE Ventures’ exit from Magazino was its third successful withdrawal.