Interview“It’s not the end of the world”

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„We want to encourage start-ups“

The digital revolution is now moving to all industries. Germany is very strong in some of them. Don’t you see a good opportunity for German companies?

No.

Why not?

Because most transformation does not occur from within the industry.  It happens outside in the creation of new companies. Let me give you an example.  The German car industry just got together and paid $3 billion for this company Here hat belonged to Nokia. Tell me why?  When I get into a car in the future, I want Android or Apple and I use an app called Waze that’s free.

The German car industry tries to build up knowledge and its own ecosystem.

Bad idea. I like your cars. I own three Porsches, but till, after two years, don’t know what all the buttons in the Porsche Cayenne will do. I’m driving down the road, and I look up on the hood and I say, “If I push that, am I going to get ejected?”  The German engineers think, “Well, we’re going to do a better standard”. But people don’t want another standard. If you get in a car you want to say: “Siri, play X.  Siri, call Y.” My point is: Apple and Google are coming on with cars, I’m not sure if in ten years the car industry in which Germany has a dominant role will have the same role.

What should Germany do?

Well, you’re as smart as anybody in the world. You are better educated than most people in America. You are hard workers and you have a revolution going on from industry to information. You just have to rise up and say: We want to encourage start-ups and will be ready to change laws.  If you have a venture-backed start-up of under 100 people, we’ll give you a special rule that if you fail, the German detection doesn’t apply to you.

Maybe German companies behave differently. If you take the example of the car industry, the assembly line was invented in Detroit by Henry Ford.  It took the German car industry about 20 years to introduce an assembly line and it now it the best cars in the world.  

You probably could do this in those days.  What I’ve learned about the information age is the single competitive advantage that companies need is speed. The future belongs to the fast.  That’s the secret of Silicon Valley. The only advantage we have is speed, so if the Germans believe they can sit back 20 years…

They’re not sitting back…

It is going to be a challenge. I heard about a new Rolls Royce factory in England with just 17 people.  I have been to a robotics factory that runs 24/7.  They employ two people per shift just to walk around in case a robot drops a tool. Let’s suppose the Germans become the best and learn how to take the assembly line and build a Mercedes factory with 17 people – what do you do with the German people?

This also applies to the US.

Yes, that ist the bigger problem that we all face, Europe and the US. Technology is going to take jobs that were created in the industrial age and this is a social problem that every country is going to end up dealing with themselves. Will this cause social unrest in that transition? Absolutely.