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Audi Denkwerkstatt and Techstars search for and support startups for Audi’s ecosystem

New Founder Innovation Lab in Berlin as important contribution to Audi’ s strategy “Vorsprung 2030”

Startups to contribute to the success of Audi’s strategy: In collaboration with the internationally renowned startup accelerator Techstars, Audi Denkwerkstatt is launching a new program for early-stage startups and future founders. The innovation unit of Audi is thereby tying into one of the key fields of action in the corporate strategy “Vorsprung 2030”: building a customer-centric digital ecosystem centered around the car. It focusses on business ideas that aim to improve the mobility experience and offer users tangible added value in their everyday lives. Innovative products, services and technologies in the digital realm will therefore play a particularly important role. The goal of the program is to support and nurture founders as well as startups while getting digital, mobility-related business models ready for the market more quickly in a highly competitive environment.

Through “Vorsprung 2030” Audi has presented a clear strategy for the electric and digital transformation of the company. It includes building a digital ecosystem in the context of electric and automated driving. This encompasses the charging experience for electric cars, holistic mobility concepts, connecting users with each other as well as digital services both inside and outside the vehicle. The goal is to improve users’ mobility experiences. Accordingly, ideas that promote Audi’s new strategic business areas and that offer additional costumer value will be given priority in the new “Founder Innovation Lab”. Another goal of the program is to connect participants with a variety of Audi departments for potential access to resources and mutual knowledge transfer.

Startups and founders who wish to devote their entrepreneurial talent to the search for promising solutions in the fields of digitalization and mobility can apply for two programs. Those who would like to know more can find the details on the application and selection process for the pre-accelerator program starting August 1, 2022, as well as for the accelerator program starting September 26, 2022, on Techstars’ website. The program consists of two three-month phases, that build on each other: the pre-accelerator program, which is targeted at individual founders, and the accelerator program, which is tailored to early-stage startups. In the pre-accelerator phase, Audi Denkwerkstatt and Techstars jointly support the participants in developing a promising idea and building up a suitable team. This program also entails a series of master classes, mentorships, and pitch coaching for the founders who will gain access to a global network of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors by joining. The participants will be connected to each other, so they can assemble their ideal teams of founders.

Successful graduates of the pre-accelerator program, who have passed the final pitch of this phase, are eligible to participate in the three-month accelerator phase. Established early-stage startups can skip the pre-accelerator program and apply directly for the accelerator program, without the need to complete the pre-accelerator beforehand. Successful completion of the accelerator program offers the chance of long-term collaboration with Audi. In order to guarantee they focus on the development of their business ideas, the individual participants and startup teams receive financial support. The accelerator program gives startups access to a vast global network of mentors, investors, founders, and partners. The first month of the program is dedicated to assessing product-market-fit. It includes extensive hands-on training with mentors to help founders refine their products into a solid proof-of-concept. This is followed by the execution stage in the second month. The final phase is focused on helping startups refine their financial business models with additional strategies around fundraising.

Diversity is a key component of the program as to promote the greatest possible potential for innovation. The entire program is therefore aimed at founders and startup teams of all nationalities with different skill sets as well as those from all professional and academic backgrounds. When evaluating founders for the program, technical expertise, and an outstanding entrepreneurial spirit as well as a high level of intrinsic motivation and creativity all play an equal role. Assertiveness and team spirit are also required. Being a melting pot for the European startup community, Berlin offers optimal conditions for the implementation of the program.

“Audi Denkwerkstatt is driving innovation for digital business models at Audi. Our goal is to develop customer-focused innovations quickly, efficiently, and then get them ready for the market. Having Techstars on our side as a strong partner, we’re opening ourselves up to an outside innovator community and to even more exciting business ideas. At the same time, we’re optimizing the interface between our corporation and the startup community,” says Tim Miksche, Head of Audi Denkwerkstatt.

Martin Schilling, Managing Director of Techstars Berlin Accelerator, highlights: “Shorter and shorter product and innovation cycles and new digital lines of business – all of these are influencing the current transformation of the automotive industry. Together with Audi Denkwerkstatt, Techstars will support ambitious founders and ensure that the speed of innovation increases. We are looking forward to creating new opportunities for founders through Techstars’ proven model that combines capital, programs and connections.”

Audi Denkwerkstatt can look back on six years of experience in the startup ecosystem

Since its founding in 2016, Audi Denkwerkstatt has already received the award “Best Innovation Lab in Germany” (awarded in the joint study “Corporations on the heels of startups” by Infront Consulting and the magazine Capital, 2019 and 2020) – twice. The experience gained through this very successful intrapreneurship program forms the foundation of the new strategic realignment. A result of this continual advancement: Under the open-innovation approach, the intention is for collaboration with external founders and startups to be intensified in the future. This draws on the innovation potential at the interface between Audi and the startup ecosystem.


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