Dr. Christian Figge, Vice President, General Atlantic, Jennifer Kelly, Chief Executive Officer, Founder, Minxli, Dr. Sven Oleownik, Partner, Head of Germany, Gimv Germany, Christoph Weigler, General Manager Germany, Uber Germany and Dr. Thomas von Werner, Managing Director, EMH Partners, discussed the impact of digitalisation on the way they do business. Dr. Michael Cziesla, Partner Private Equity / M&A, McDermott Will & Emery, moderated the panel.
The industry as a whole is changing massively as a result of digitalisation. The panel started by discussing the impact of digitalisation on the respective businesses of the panel members. As new and successful business models emerge, big data and artificial intelligence systems are becoming more sophisticated and markets are moving fast to keep track. This requires even smaller “Mittelstand” companies to constantly evaluate the way they do business. A capable CTO and digitalisation strategy are important elements for the success of any business in the digital world. A clear operating plan is also key to understanding the value and risks associated with any digitalisation strategy.
The panel agreed that some industries will be affected more by big data and artificial intelligence than others. The health care and services industries were two areas where some panellists saw particular development potential. Digitalisation should be seen as opportunity for change. One of the challenges of the rapid change stemming from increased digitalisation is keeping track of the ever increasing regulation. Because digital businesses are global, a multitude of statutes and regulations need to be followed which is often challenging. Some panellists described the importance of actively driving the business in a regulated environment and not shrinking away from being a first mover, even if the legal framework is still uncertain. In any event, constant legal support is key to properly understand and assessing legal risks. The panel identified that M&A can be an important element to implement a digitalisation strategy. Digitally driven deals are not necessarily large or transformational. Nonetheless, they require a lot of preparation and a different approach to valuation. A business call has to be made between either internal investment to build capabilities or buying external expertise through M&A. The panel agreed that in a few years, it is certain that almost no company in any industry will be able to ignore a digital business model or digital capability to remain competitive. Therefore, driving the business in a digital world is not only following a global trend but it really is core to being competitive in the future. The panel concluded that the process of digitalisation offers attractive opportunities for strategic, as well as private investors, but requires a more flexible approach.