We talked to Henner Heistermann of Nitrobox about turning ideas into revenue and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Henner Heistermann: Yes, thank you very much. So far, my family and I have gotten through this time very well. Of course, you have to live with many restrictions. Especially the pre-Christmas period, which is usually the time for socializing with family, friends, and colleagues, is completely different this year. Less personal contacts are currently the most important thing. But we are taking advantage of the digital opportunities to meet people, both in our private and business lives. This has become well established in recent months and works quite well. But of course, we are all looking forward to meeting our family, friends, business partners, and customers again in person, hopefully, next year.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Nitrobox.
Henner Heistermann: After several positions in medium-sized companies and at the web analytics specialist etracker, I started my own business in 2009. Together with my business partner Sven Grimminger, I founded the consulting company ShopStrategen GmbH. At that time, we provided strategic consulting to entrepreneurs and supported them in putting their e-commerce ideas into practice and making them successful. My business partner and I started with a consulting company for e-commerce. That’s when we realized that companies had problems with their financial processes. At that time, we sensed that such processes would become more and more complex and fragmented and would have to be individually tailored to the customer at some point because every consumer wants to buy his product as he would like to. That’s when we came up with the idea for Nitrobox – but the company name came much later.
How does Nitrobox innovate?
Henner Heistermann: The Nitrobox Agile Monetization Platform is enterprise-ready cloud software that enables companies to quickly monetize sophisticated digital business models and automate complex order-to-cash processes – from transaction-based, usage-based to subscription, pay-per-use, or hybrid models. A special feature is that Nitrobox enables a fast go-to-market process. As a smart SaaS solution, our platform can be quickly and easily connected to our customers’ existing financial systems and providers via state-of-the-art APIs. Without any great expenditure of time and money. That is unique. Nitrobox technology combines all the necessary functions in one central platform, enabling companies to map their digital financial and accounting processes in real-time anywhere in the world.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Henner Heistermann: Our biggest concern at first was: What impact will the crisis have on our customers? Because if our most important customers are affected, so are we. In addition, it is important to know that some of our biggest customers are well-known automobile manufacturers. And as we all know, the crisis had a very strong impact on this industry at the beginning of the year. Entire plants had to be shut down – the assembly lines suddenly stopped almost everywhere. Revenue through the sales of cars slumped dramatically.
However, it soon became clear that although car manufacturers were very hard hit in the production of cars due to massive sales problems, the crisis had a positive effect on many of the car manufacturers’ digital projects – more than that, the pandemic even gave them a boost. The automotive groups began to use the current situation to become more digitally productive on the other hand and to push new digital business models that had been planned anyway. This was and is a great advantage for us because, as a monetization specialist, we were and are firmly integrated into the implementation of these new business models.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Henner Heistermann: Besides my family and my personal, private environment, it is, of course, very important to me that my team is also doing well. Here we pay special attention that nobody feels left behind. In addition, it has to be said that here in Germany, we have come through the crisis comparatively well and are currently still doing comparatively good. Of course, we also follow the reports and pictures from the EU neighboring countries and the whole world. In this respect, I think we have coped well with the situation so far. I hope that this will continue – and I know from many conversations that the Nitrobox team is also looking forward to the coming year with confidence.
Even before Corona, our infrastructure was strongly geared towards mobile working. That was a big advantage when we decided back in March, virtually overnight, to switch exclusively to mobile working for health reasons. This enabled us to reduce the number of contacts for all colleagues in the office and save the team from having to travel to work by public transport. This decision was very well received by the team because, of course, many colleagues were concerned about their health (and that of their family members).
To a large extent, we have retained mobile working to this day. Many colleagues still feel safer at home and would particularly like to spare themselves the trip to work in sometimes overcrowded buses and trains – I understand that very well, and we support this. Nevertheless, contact with the team is still very important to me in these times. That’s why we meet at least once a day for a virtual coffee break, during which only personal matters are discussed – just like during a chat that would otherwise take place in the hallway or the coffee kitchen.
In addition, our Christmas party will not be completely canceled this year but will take place virtually. We have prepared some surprises for the team. Snacks and drinks will be sent to the colleagues in advance through the post, small presents, and surprises included.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Henner Heistermann: The percentage of companies offering similar technologies and solutions like Nitrobox is very manageable. There are hardly any competitors who can offer comparable flexibility and at the same time guarantee an enormously short time-to-market for new business models. International rollouts can be completed within a few weeks by using our Smart Finance Platform. The quick and easy integration into existing systems via API connection and low transaction costs guarantee our customers maximum success.
In addition, we are already strongly represented worldwide – our solution is used in more than 70 countries. We are by no means resting on this success. We will open up two more exciting and very promising markets with the USA and Great Britain in the coming year. We will add offices in New York City and London to our company at the beginning of next year.
Your final thoughts?
Henner Heistermann: The worldwide corona crisis has hit many companies unexpectedly and hard. In many areas, management has to deal with unprecedented challenges and is often faced with suddenly falling profits or even losses and liquidity bottlenecks. The medium and long-term effects on the global economy and individual companies can only be guessed at the moment, so the future of many companies is uncertain. As an entrepreneur, I am naturally concerned about this and feel for those who are currently not making it through this crisis as well as we are.
At the same time, the crisis has brought about a new perspective on things that many of us entrepreneurs, for various reasons, have lost sight of. Topics such as digitization, improving processes, strengthening customer loyalty, opening up new markets and customer segments, exploiting savings potential, and much more. They take on a new significance and are rethought or reconsidered. In this respect, despite all the challenges it brings with it, a crisis often also offers a number of opportunities. We all have to seize these opportunities – both privately and professionally – and make the best possible use of them.