Tour of “Next Big Thing”, German IoT Incubator, at Factory Berlin

By on August 22nd, 2019 in Event

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 “Next Big Thing”, German IoT Incubator, at Factory Berlin [Source: SolidSmack]
“Next Big Thing”, German IoT Incubator, at Factory Berlin [Source: SolidSmack]

We head to Berlin, Germany in the 2nd installment of my Euro tour learning about HW tech development across the pond.

Here, I interview the CTO of Next Big Thing, Jasmin Skenderi. There’s also a video of their facilities at Factory Berlin, and an interview with a portfolio company, Sensry.

Some Thank-Yous

As with the contacts I made in Warsaw, Poland for the corresponding article, Hardware Massive is also to thank for introducing me to Next Big Thing, which is a part of their international network of chapters. So thank you again to CEO, Greg Fisher!

I also want to thank Pierre-Philippe Cordier, our cameraman for the interview with Skenderi. Thank you for agreeing to let me kidnap you 20 minutes after meeting you. You’re a champ.

The Tour

Watch the video below for an inside look at Next Big Thing and Factory Berlin. We also interview Jasmin Skenderi, CTO of Next Big Thing, and Mario Grafe, engineering manager of Sensry, shows off their sensor platform.

Watch for interview with Jasmin Skenderi, CTO of Next Big Thing, tour of their space at Factory Berlin, and interview with Mario Grafe, engineering manager of SENSRY.

Next Big Thing: a “Company Builder”

There’s no concise way to label Next Big Thing (NBT). CTO Jasmin Skenderi described it as a “company builder”. However, that term isn’t a super well-known buzz word, so instead, I’ll offer, “VC/incubator/accelerator/coworking space/BFF”.

Also a “Co-Founder”

Skenderi told us NBT considers itself a co-founder to portfolio companies. They’re a co-founder that happens to have a lab, office space, an engineering team, access to legal, PR, and marketing help, and a bunch of money. That NBT guy is a great friend to have!

IoT, Blockchain, Machine Economy

Next Big Thing focuses on companies developing tech involving IoT, blockchain, and something I’d never heard of before called “machine economy” (read: Skynet). Skenderi tells me this term means when you allow machines to talk to each other and negotiate contracts. It’s also when you give a machine a bank account. Horror. I am horrified.

There was a vending machine project Skenderi showed us to demonstrate machine economy. Next to it, was an exercise machine which converted calories burned to a form of cryptocurrency.

 Cryptocurrency-earning exercise machine. [Source: SolidSmack]
Cryptocurrency-earning exercise machine. [Source: SolidSmack]

The sweat-garnered e-cents could then be used in the old vending machine NBT hacked. The way it was stocked that day, you could buy chocolate to replace the energy you burned. I’m sure in practice, it would likely work a different way…

 Old Coca-Cola vending machine hacked to accept cryptocurrency. [Source: SolidSmack]
Old Coca-Cola vending machine hacked to accept cryptocurrency. [Source: SolidSmack]

Is NBT the German

The most similar American version of NBT I can think of which fuels companies pulling HW and SW tech together and which also brings a bunch of business-end support is If Bolt and NBT ever have coffee and compare notes, please let us know! I’d be intrigued to learn more about commonalities and differences.

The CTO: Jasmin Skenderi, HW Nerd

Skenderi is a EE at his core. His academic background is in electrical engineering or “Elektrotechnik” which happens to be one of my favorite German words to say because it’s a wonderfully confusing mess of consonants.

 Jasmin Skenderi, CTO Next Big Thing [Source: SolidSmack]
Jasmin Skenderi, CTO Next Big Thing [Source: SolidSmack]

After college, he got into a telecom project which pulled him into HW development. From there, he developed cool stuff which I won’t specifically mention for military, satellite, and other IoT applications. After a while, with all that experience, European companies assumed he could build their IoT or other embedded electronic devices and asked for his help. And what do ya know? He could.

It’s pretty rare to meet a German with so much varied experience. It’s more likely for a German to get hired and retire from the same company, or make some very limited hops. But Skenderi is not German; he’s from the Bosnia and Herzegovina area/country. (Or is it just Bosnia now? Or is it Bosnia-Herzegovina? You get where I mean.)

In any case, he lives in Germany now, and Next Big Thing is lucky to have him. Those portfolio companies entering into the fold are just as varied as Skenderi’s experience! I think it’s important for leadership to be able to quickly grasp their diverse technical and market challenges.

German Investors are Hardware Startup-Shy

Next Big Thing is unique in more than one way. Sure, they offer more than is typical to support startups. But just working with HW startups is itself odd for a VC-type company in Germany.

New hardware development is considered extremely risky for the typically risk-averse German business culture. And then put that in the hands of a startup instead of a century-old manufacturer? Yeah, no.

Hardware Is… Not Hard?

As a result, Skenderi tells me it’s more difficult to find backers for HW startups there. One of his goals at NBT is to change the perception among VC’s that hardware is hard. How? Well, simply by guiding several HW startups through to success.

Results of NBT’s Gamble

So how do Next Big Thing’s numbers look in terms of successful portfolio companies? Skenderi used a standard for comparison of about 95% of startups failing overall. In the US, I’ve heard a lot of different stats, most common being 90% failure rate. What is that 95% based on, though? Is that for Europe? Germany? Worldwide? Is it after 10 years or 1 year? Is it both HW and SW?

One point of agreement is: the chances simply aren’t good of your startup succeeding.

Read the rest at SolidSmack


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