Interview with Sustainable Seeds founder Rainer Surkow
Turning scientific developments into entrepreneurial practice is the linchpin of Rainer Surkow’s professional work. The graduate biotechnologist studied law and business administration for several semesters and founded a consulting company at the end of his studies. At the same time, he remained involved in research and completed his doctorate in the field of regenerative energy production. Several start-ups followed, including in the fields of nanotechnology, software development and 3D printing.
In this interview, he talks about the basic idea behind Sustainable Seeds and what founding means in Corona times.
What do software and process modeling have to do with sustainability?
It may not be immediately obvious, and I only came up with the idea last year: I don’t see all these topics as contradictory. Software and process analysis optimize processes, regardless of the area – if I have the right support here, I can concentrate on my core tasks. On the other hand, we have the need for sustainable projects. A lot is already happening here, but I still think we’re only at the beginning. In my opinion, the key lies not in old-fashioned approaches – otherwise everything would already be ready – but in innovation. And who is essentially implementing innovation? It’s startups. Startups will be the key drivers of sustainable developments in the future. And this is where we want to support them with customized software solutions.
With so many different enterprise software already in the market, why is there a need for another solution?
There is a basic problem, which affects startups just as much as established companies – and affects myself as well. The problem is that what is offered on the software side to map processes in companies very often doesn’t really fit, it’s often not flexible, doesn’t grow with the company and actually forces the company to adapt to it very strongly. If you think about it now: Startups naturally go new ways and are diverse in terms of their demands, then it is precisely a particularly high level of flexibility that is required. I haven’t found that for myself, nor for the companies I’ve worked with for the last ten to fifteen years. Grönemeyer once said, “I’ve licked everything, but nothing really tasted good to me.” That’s when I saw the potential that there’s a really big gap here, where you can a) solve the problems that are de facto there for other people and b) build a good business on top of that.
Are the problems the same for all companies or do you have to look at it individually?
All startups that don’t deal genuinely with administration – there may be those, but let’s take a technology-oriented startup, for example – have to take care of their own issues and already have a lot to do with that. In addition, they have to deal with administrative and formal requirements, such as approvals or regulations that have to be complied with, and accounting – so that at some point they reach the limits of their capacity. Especially in the initial phase, it is critical if too much capacity has to be spent on organizing oneself. And this problem is the same, ranging from the high-tech industry to construction companies to the catering industry and, unfortunately, especially in the area of sustainably oriented approaches.
Starting a business in the middle of the Corona crisis – does that make sense?
I asked myself the same question! But noticed quite quickly that the response was positive in almost every case – AND: the Corona crisis was almost a co-idea generator, the last drop, so to speak, that triggered everything: Digitization is now – not tomorrow. It continues to be an opportunity but I believe also imperative to survive in the market. And digitization is a central key to getting the economy and projects moving again. Anyone who doesn’t go along with this will end up having big difficulties.
Is money an issue?
Now I first have to ask my media advisor what to say… So: money is always an issue, neither we nor any other startup can make anything happen without money. We are fortunate that our concept has also met with a good response from financiers.
However, Corona is already an issue here as well. Those starting up now face even greater challenges. Financing is much harder to obtain, and Corona aid is strongly geared toward maintaining existing structures. Those who start up now often fall behind, which I think is completely wrong. In a situation where you expect bankruptcies to start at some point, it’s criminal not to throw new seeds in and say maybe they’ll make it because they’ve already grown on other soil.
What comes next?
What’s next, and here I still have to be a bit secretive, are several projects that we’ve already acquired that we’re working on together with interesting, sustainable startups. There, we are cooperatively developing tools that we will subsequently make available to others.
We are also in the process of expanding our team and are looking for good and inspired people!