INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Developing AI-based Hidden Champions with SMEs
Alexander Fridhi, founder and chairman of DDG AG tells us how they build digital hidden champions.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alexander Fridhi: The situation required us to act quickly and change our thinking. Fortunately, we are doing good and got off very lightly.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded DDG AG.
Alexander Fridhi: Artificial intelligence has become a key technology, and AI solutions are expected to solve many challenges. Above all, AI should provide measurable financial benefits too – quickly and for all stakeholders. I recognized this early on and founded DDG AG: a company builder with its own AI workbench. I have been a serial entrepreneur in digital ventures for many years, and I am (co-) founder of several companies.
How does DDG AG innovate?
Alexander Fridhi: DDG AG is the entrepreneurial platform for the creation of AI-based products and services, together with SMEs. Our ultimate goal is the creation of joint spin-offs that bundle DDG’s technology and company building skills and the industrial domain knowledge from the German business landscape in order to create new Digital Champions.
We are currently concentrating on the development of an ultimate ecosystem for artificial intelligence, including funding, venturing, Workbench and Strategy consulting for AI.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Alexander Fridhi: At the beginning, the pandemic provided us with a major challenge, just like many other companies. Fortunately, our customers also realized pretty quickly that now is the ideal time to digitize and optimize processes in their companies in order to build up a digital second pillar that is not affected by pandemics like Covid-19.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Alexander Fridhi: For us, the employees are our most essential component. Therefore, their health is very important to us. Since we have always been very digitally oriented, we were able to allow our employees to work from home at a very early stage.
We attach great importance to a constant exchange – on the one hand, to maintain the team spirit, even if you, unfortunately, can’t see each other at the moment, and on the other hand to be able to work on the projects optimally.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Alexander Fridhi: Not only a close relationship with our employees is important to us but also with our customers. We see our customers as partners at eye level. In a partnership, transparency and good communication are essential. Therefore, regular exchange with our partners in our projects is enormously important to us.
We mainly use “Microsoft Teams. ” The tool works really well for us so far as it contains many functions such as a planner, through which you can organize and manage tasks well over distance.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Alexander Fridhi: In the first few months of the pandemic, we announced short-time work, as we simply could not estimate the customer inquiries or their development, but of course, wanted to keep our employees. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of this form of government subsidy for a few weeks. However, it quickly became apparent that customer demand would remain stable because many customers wanted to upgrade their companies digitally, and we were able to return to normal operations.
Your final thoughts?
Alexander Fridhi: The situation around Covid-19 has changed the way we think and work, and we continue to take the pandemic very seriously. Nevertheless, it has brought about a change in our mindset and has strongly driven the digital transformation of many companies: Home office technologies, cloud applications, and artificial intelligence are in demand like never before.
We are proud that we have been able to support companies in their digital transformation and, together with our partners, realize exciting projects.
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