by Harnessing Swarm Intelligence
by Harnessing Swarm Intelligence
Investors, venture capitalists, competitors - both newcomers and industry veterans - each have unique roles within a market segment. Understanding their behaviour, investment patterns, experiences, and how their business models evolve is crucial. "Such data is readily available and accessible to everyone," Manfred emphasizes. Mantro specializes in conducting these market analyses, using historical data to predict future success. To thrive in the long term, start-ups must understand what motivates other market players. They should use this information to present their growth plan to investors with precision and data-backed evidence. "In this process, it's vital to learn collaboratively and tap into collective wisdom.
Don't try to outsmart the market, especially not your investors. Instead, immerse yourself in the market, and craft a compelling investment hypothesis: This is who we are; this is where we are going; this is how we'll use your investment, and this is why we are a valuable asset."
Originally from Bavaria with Austrian roots, Manfred Tropper grew up in an automotive-oriented family, where his father and brother worked at Daimler. While his enthusiasm for the industry is evident, his real passion lies in the digital world. "In fact, I had more talent and a greater interest in digital technologies," he reflects. "So, I pursued computer science at the Technical University of Munich, where I met mantro's co-founders on my very first day."
They didn't finish their studies but instead worked as IT freelancers in major corporations, helping businesses across various sectors with their digital transformations. "We were driven by the prospect of creating something new and contributing to change," Manfred recalls. "However, we grew increasingly frustrated with not being able to see all of our projects through to completion." As a result, they established mantro, a niche boutique consultancy, in 2008, transitioning from service providers to creators capable of bringing their own product ideas to market.
Today, mantro specializes in developing cross-sector joint ventures. They collaborate with established companies like Baloise, who adopt an entrepreneurial long-term approach to create new digital business models. Manfred, overseeing partner management, played a pivotal role when Baloise invested in MOBIKO in 2022. The Munich-based start-up offers employers a mobility budget as an employee benefit, seamlessly fitting into the mobility ecosystem.
"Baloise relies on partnerships to shape the future of mobility," Manfred explains. "There is a shared understanding that a complex and potentially disruptive megatrend like mobility cannot be orchestrated by a single entity. It's a collective endeavour, designed with the customer's perspective in mind: How will people move from point A to point B in the future? How can suitable mobility solutions be discovered? How can Baloise accompany this transformation as an insurance partner? As a company builder, mantro shares in this vision and contributes its expertise."
The investment landscape has changed significantly in the years following the Covid-19 pandemic. New investments have become challenging as investors prioritize the capital market. They consolidate their investments or allocate funds to existing portfolios. Start-ups must adapt their investment hypotheses to market dynamics.
"Covid-19 and other economic or geopolitical disruptions haven't completely halted trends, but they have considerably slowed them down," Manfred observes. "Moving from Series A to Series B now takes longer; instead of 18 months, it might take 26 months. However, the market segments themselves remain relatively stable. I advise every start-up to first define the niche they want to enter. Scrutinize the data, examine patent filings, analyse web traffic, and identify emerging markets. If you find no one venturing into a particular market, it's likely too risky. Conversely, if many start-ups are already investing, you have an opportunity to grow and learn alongside the market. This is swarm intelligence and can serve as your guiding indicator. If 30 companies have received investments, there must be a good reason.
Learn from the market; don't try to impose your own wisdom. When you have evidence and data supporting your decisions, convincing investors and partners to join you becomes much easier."
«Scrutinize the data, examine patent filings, analyse web traffic, and identify emerging markets. If you find no one venturing into a particular market, it's likely too risky. Conversely, if many start-ups are already investing, you have an opportunity to grow and learn alongside the market.»
Manfred is known for his straightforward communication style and the value he puts on transparency. In a world where strategic-political games are well played, this directness can sometimes be perceived as offensive. "Even so, I believe that a sincere interest in shared success holds value," he remarks, smiling, hinting at the lessons he's learned.
"I know honesty can feel uncomfortable, and can even lead to friction, but based on my experience, it establishes more trustworthy collaborations and, consequently, gives better results. For instance, when working with a corporation, if I notice that they lack clarity in their market segment goals and strategic orientation, I must address it, even if it risks offending my corporate counterpart. If I don't, it will lead to frustration further down the line. At mantro, we've learned to ask questions early on, and I encourage start-ups to do the same. It may be time-consuming, but it's essential work. Understanding your markets as early as possible ensures a long and prosperous journey ahead.”
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