Ruth Reitmeier spoke to Olivia Schauerhuber, Senior Vice President of Strategy & Portfolio Management at T-Mobile Austria, about core and future business, T-Mobile’s innovation strategy, and why cooperating with startups is an important part of it.
wireX Magazine: Olivia, your pitch, please.
Olivia Schauerhuber: I have been responsible for T-Mobile Austria’s Strategy and Portfolio Management since 2013, and have end-to-end responsibility from strategy development right through to project implementation. Recently we started looking into new business areas and we are seeking close co-operations with startups to tap new revenue pools.
How is the innovation strategy of T-Mobile Austria integrated into the group?
Olivia Schauerhuber: We are closely linked to the innovation strategy of Deutsche Telekom Group (see below), especially when it comes to identifying trends and innovations. Still, we are quite independent in our local strategy execution, setting our own goals.
The cooperation with weXelerate is part of the national strategy then?
Olivia Schauerhuber: Exactly. Our weXelerate engagement is one of the cornerstones of our activities in the startup arena.
Where do you see the great challenges of your industry?
Olivia Schauerhuber: At T-Mobile, there are essentially two challenges: First, we must protect and strengthen our core business – mobile telephony services. This is still our largest revenue pool. On the other hand we are facing rapid growth in data traffic, which is also driven by the success of our mobile broadband product Homenet. We are in the transformation process from being a pure mobile telephony company to being a broadband player. In addition, there are other revenue pools that could be interesting.
Which would be?
We see a lot of potential in the areas of IoT – the Internet of Things: the connectivity machine-to-machine, Big Data, Data Security, Artificial Intelligence and Smartization – you know, Smart Home, Smart City. Here we can build on our connectivity expertise.
So you are not developing everything yourselves?
This is a crucial point: What can we do ourselves, and in which areas do we need to find partners to offer solutions for our customers.
Olivia Schauerhuber: T-Mobile is a classical corporate, in its size, structure and processes. We believe it is important to turn to young, innovative companies to gain an outside view and learn from fresh minds.
IoT seems to be your priority?
Olivia Schauerhuber: In the future, more and more devices will be equipped with SIM cards and will be communicating with each other. Here we see substantial opportunities for us to offer new services such as machine maintenance, tracking, and tracing.
What do you want to focus on at weXelerate and what are your expectations?
Olivia Schauerhuber: We joined the weXelerate Accelerator Program to find startups to help us with our innovation needs. We are confident this will work out with the first batch in the accelerator and will improve over the lifetime of our engagement. We are primarily concerned with finding solutions that we can connect easily to our IT-systems and launch quickly onto the market.
What type of solutions are you looking for?
Olivia Schauerhuber: There is huge potential in the IoT field from buying ready-to-launch solutions, to just acquiring a clever algorithm, for example in predictive maintenance for machines. Or it may be a digital entertainment service, which we choose for our customers. And last but not least, better security is always in demand.
These are very concrete ideas.
Olivia Schauerhuber: I am giving you examples here. I do not want to narrow down the mind-set nor anticipate too much.
As a corporate partner of weXelerate, you have already contributed, but what expertise do you bring into the ecosystem?
Olivia Schauerhuber: Like many successful corporates, we are good at go-to-market. Here we can pass on our expertise to start-ups and also leverage our large distribution network. And of course, we have a substantial number of customers.
How many customers are we talking about?
Olivia Schauerhuber: 4.6 million.
What is your customer breakdown?
Olivia Schauerhuber: We have more B2C than B2B customers, but internally the two areas are of equal importance. In the business area, we are growing and in the consumer sector, we are aiming at securing our business by offering our customers services beyond what’s there with the smartphone.
There are several touch points with startups …
Olivia Schauerhuber: I think that T-Mobile and our innovation needs can excite startups. We are doing a pretty good job in protecting our core business, adapting to customer needs and applying to new regulations, but we sometimes lack the time to think “outside the box”. Here startups can help us identify trends rapidly and find new solutions to specific challenges.
Talking about speed, are you hoping to get a feel for how things can be done faster by interacting with startups in weXelerate?
Olivia Schauerhuber: Absolutely, because we see how difficult it is to get a tanker like T-Mobile to go fast. The startup orbit is quite different. “It can’t be done” does not exist in the startup logic. Startups focus on solving problems, and they are motivated to “go for it”. It is difficult for us in comparison just to try out things, because we have so many customers relying on us.
To sum up?
Olivia Schauerhuber: I think T-Mobile is a strong and attractive partner for startups, and we want to take on the challenge of getting something done at weXelerate. Just being part of it is not enough for me.
T-Mobile Austria is the second largest mobile telecommunications provider in Austria with 4.6 million customers and 1,300 employees. The brands T-Mobile and tele.ring address various target groups with tailored products and services.
T-Mobile Austria is part of the Deutsche Telekom group of companies with some 165 million mobile customers, 28.5 million fixed-network lines, and 18.5 million broadband lines.