On Stable and Innovative Business Models

Last week, I got an email from my buddy Sebastian who heads the Goethe Unibator at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt where I’m an advisor. He asked for some help in judging the companies who entered for the Goethe Innovation Prize to be awarded on September 6th.

Sitting down reviewing the short summary letters and pitch presentation from the ten different companies, I was faced with some seriously difficult decisions. First, I had to make up my mind on what for me qualifies as innovative.

Many of the companies who have entered have some very strong business models. They, and the people behind them impress me. And that isn’t always easy.

A few of them are even doing what I personally love. They are taking a classic business model and using technology and digital tools to enhance it and delivering a better customer experience. It should then come as no surprise that they are showing some pretty impressive figures too.

But is this innovation? In a sense, of course. They are doing something new in at least their geographical market. Yet part of me says no. It’s the part that actually want something more radical to win. Taking a classic business model, recognizing its flaws and improving it requires skill, there’s no doubt about it. But doing something brand new, that is another ballgame.

What did I end up with? I’m forced to say the latter. I’m giving my loudest praise to the smart and excellent companies with excellent strategies. But I am giving my votes to the truly innovative and ground-breaking. For after all, isn’t that what an innovation prize should award?