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Meet the Mieters: IBM

April 30, 2019

You can meet robots in our hub!

An innovation hub is per definition a modern, innovative place. Is there a way to make it even more fashionable and part of the new world of work? There is. Since September 2018 IBM Austria has two seats in the hub. Hannes Höttinger and Florian Ott have invited me to their headquarters about 5 minutes per foot from the weXelerate hub to talk about innovation, humanoid robots and startups.

weX: Thanks for the invitation. It is quite impressive to be up on the thirteenth floor and have Vienna at your feet.

Hannes/Florian: Our pleasure.

weX: Well, let’s get started. What made you decide to become part of our hub?

Florian: If I may, I would like to ask you a question first. Do you know what IBM is does?

weX: Well, I used to work here many years ago, so I know that the company does more than hardware.

Florian: The reason I ask this question is that IBM has transformed from a hardware company to a software and services company with focus on new & emerging technologies. Most of the time people still connect the company with hardware. That used to be true, in the past typewriters, cash systems, computers, laptops and mainframes were the main business model IBM had. Today IBM is a different company offering open source solutions, driving digital transformation projects and is consulting companies to create new business through digital solutions. IBM is one of the biggest consulting companies. That leads me back to your question of why IBM decided to become a strategic partner at weXelerate. We think that IBM offers a great potential to bring startup/corporate collaboration to the next level as partner for digitisation.

weX: Are you currently in any projects with startups from the hub?

Hannes: At the moment we are sourcing interesting startups from Batch 4 and already found very good connection points that will be further evaluated. A batch 3 startup, Txture, for example has integrated the IBM Cloud offering catalog into their solution. We are also planning an event for startups at the IBM office in Vienna. At the beginning of May startups will be invited to our headquarter to present their solution. I think working with startups has great potential and has a quite positive effect on both parties.

weX: Why is working with startups important?

Florian: Corporates are seeking innovative solutions through startups. Using the innovation power from startups to scale their solutions with the power of IBM shows great potential in the current market. IBM Services is focusing on technology agnostic solutions for their clients. Furthermore, IBM offers startup programs with free cloud credits and the chance to be listed at the IBM marketplace for global traction. In my experience startup corporate collaboration can be sometimes difficult, as startups often do not have the resources to scale their solution to run in production for a bigger client.

weX:  What do you like about working in the hub?

Hannes: I like the short distances within the hub. It is also quite close to our headquarter. And you always meet super interesting people.

Florian: There are lot of networking opportunities. It is furthermore quite easy to get to know new people.

weX: Are there any negative points?

Hannes: From my short experience there is a lot of talking but the ideas stop at POC level. We would like to build the bridge from talking to building. Getting POCs into production and help making the startup corporate collaboration successful. The offices seem open, but inside they are closed office spaces. I think the hub misses a brainstorming-room or area where you can meet up and, well brainstorm. More phone rooms would be also great.

weX: Thanks, I will take that feedback with me. Only if we get insights we can do something about it. Before I go, it’s not only us humans here today. NAO has been waiting patiently since we started talking. Maybe we should include him.

Hannes: Sure, but it’s best if we let NAO speak for himself.

weX: Wow, that was impressive.

Hannes: NAO is basically a “Smart Speaker” with arms and legs with basic interaction possibilities that can be further enhanced with “skills”. NAO can be connected to the IBM Cloud, which handles the inputs from the robot (microphone and camera). Speech and visual interactions can be used to make the robot seem “intelligent”. The humanoid robot and the behaviors do however have a different feeling for people compared to a “smart speaker” for example. The look and feel makes it more natural to interact and always brings a smile to people. NAO can be trained to cope with different levels of conversation and to analyze images from his camera to detect people, gender, age … It is a very good way to showcase emerging technologies in a fun way.

weX: It is definitely a way the future could look like. Thanks for the insights.


Picture: from left: Hannes Höttinger, Florian Ott with NAO