Corporate Innovation InsightsIntrapreneurshipCorporate Venture Building

one2zero’s Remarkable Corporate Venture Journey and the Success Factors in the Early Development of the Corporate Venture | Part 1

By May 27, 2024June 6th, 2024No Comments

Corporate Entrepreneurship Stories #3 – one2zero – Part 1

Part 1 – one2zero’s venture journey and the relationship with the mother company Salzburg AG

Corporate Entrepreneurship Stories is a series of conversations between Pioneers and corporate venture founders. We aim to shed light on successes, failures, and learnings and to share best practices to inspire and encourage corporate entrepreneurs and managers to drive innovation. 

On January 24th we met up with Tobias Wiener, the CEO of one2zero, a corporate venture of Salzburg AG. Tobias already found his entrepreneurial passion early on in his career. When he was a young accountant, he took over the responsibility of improving processes, which ultimately led to the innovation of automated bank statements.

At the age of 25, he took on a key role in a project developing new business models for a conglomerate of energy players and subsequently worked on several new business fields for the German energy provider EON. Today, he combines his background in “numbers”, a sense of innovation, and corporate experience to drive the development of one2zero.

In part #1 we look at the early developments of the venture, the difficult spin-out process as well as the relationship with the mother company.

Michael Lunzer, Pioneers:
Tobias, great to talk to you. Let’s start with a short intro to one2zero. Can you tell us in a few words what one2zero is all about and what you are currently working on?

Tobias Wiener, CEO one2zero:

At one2zero, we consult and build energy solutions for companies that are looking to operate efficiently, save costs, and integrate renewable energy into their business.  Our long-term vision is to create microhubs where several players jointly tackle climate change and bring awareness about the topic to the wider population. Lastly, we also bring highly innovative, green technologies to our clients by following a partnering approach with innovative players on the market.

So, from my understanding, what you are working on is a new business model adjacent to Salzburg AG’s core business?

Yes, we operate within the energy business but at the same time enter the business with a different focus. At first, we help our clients understand their own needs [consulting] and then, using a solution-agnostic approach, find or build the best energy solution for them. 

Do you consider yourself a corporate startup then? Consulting does not sound like a scalable business model.

Consulting is only one part of our offer. We are currently working on a scalable, recurring revenue model where companies become long-term clients of our platform and we help them to constantly integrate new, innovative solutions supporting their energy transition. 

Was one2zero your idea or how did it come to the launch of the new venture?
In 2020, the management of Salzburg AG launched the new strategy #vorwärts including the goal of developing new [Green Tech] solutions and services to enable a fast energy transition. While the goals were clear, sitting down with the management team, we realized that we wanted to present more than statements on paper. We agreed that we want to take rapid action steps to reach the goals. Therefore, we jointly decided to launch a lighthouse project – one2zero – which quickly turned into a venture with its own team, customers and market traction. 

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So, in the end, one2zero resulted from your discussions with the management and a deliberate decision rather than a bottom-up initiative?

Well both, but yes in the end it was a deliberate decision which is why there is also strong backing from the management to further scale one2zero. It fits very well with the overall company strategy and strategic goals of Salzburg AG.

With 25+ team members, you are now past early-stage and plan to scale which will, of course, also require bigger investments. In the startup world, scaling and growth often go hand in hand with “burning cash” – before achieving profitability. How do you manage a sustainable growth path, whilst having a corporate investor in the background who is probably aiming for short-term profitability? 

A very good question and in my opinion one key factor for the success of corporate ventures. If the corporate venture’s only goal is fast growth and the exit and the corporate’s only goal is a short-term EBIT, the business will never fly. We need a mutual understanding of each other’s goals. As a startup, we aim for growth whereas the corporate expects a short- to medium-term ROI. To overcome this trade-off we need to continuously align, communicate, and set joint goals.

We see many things on the market that might be overlooked. On the other hand, we profit from Salzburg AG’s know-how and contacts.

When you say constantly, what do you mean by that? Usually, development cycles, budgets, etc. are planned long in advance and corporates’ decisions are slower than the speed needed by a startup…

Yes, that’s why we have set up a different process for one2zero. While usual decision processes have longer cycles, we regularly align with the management to be able to make quicker decisions. Besides the shorter-than-usual cycles, full trust is key. Lastly, it is important to use the venture’s strong launch momentum and speed and keep up the excitement of all key stakeholders from the mothership. 

Talking about the mothership, we see that it’s essential for corporate ventures to take advantage of the core organization’s capabilities, networks, and know-how. However, we also often see a resistance of core resources or deprioritisation of support due to their core tasks…

In our case, we see a lot of mutual benefits. We bring new ideas and innovative concepts to the core business. We see many things on the market that might otherwise be overlooked and we talk about these things in internal presentations. Furthermore, we support Salzburg AG in scouting and evaluating external partners and startups.

On the other hand, we can strongly rely on core business services like legal and accounting services that we [for now] do not want to build up ourselves. Also, we strongly benefit from Salzburg AG’s know-how and contacts in the energy sector and tourism.

So it’s a give and take but for sure we are not at the end. We are already thinking beyond what we are currently doing and can imagine having an employee rotation program where employees of Salzburg AG join us for some time and vice versa. 

A very interesting collaboration indeed, Tobias! Thanks for your insights.

This was part #1 of our conversation. Stay tuned for part #2 where we will dive deeper into the role of the corporate “founder” or manager, one2zero’s team, the right culture for corporate ventures as well as the unique position of Europe in the international game of innovation. 

In the meantime, feel free to download the summary of the one2zero case study.

Do you want to learn more about how we can support your corporate venture building activities?

Schedule a brief introductory call with our Innovation Manager Michael Lunzer. Simply send a quick email to michael.lunzer@pioneers.io.

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Michael Lunzer
Innovation Manager

Michael Lunzer

Michael Lunzer

Head of Venture Design @Pioneers