“The door opens completely by itself”

DHL, Hermes and the veg box want access to your home when you are away. Florian Fehr is there to ensure that your door only lets those in who should come in.

Florian doesn’t have a fixed desk. He works where there happens to be room, or otherwise on the go. This 30-year-old is a bit like the pig for hunting truffles in the digital age. He has a nose for opportunities. His task is to find new business areas and opportunities for Viessmann. They could be things that, at first glance, have nothing to do with the traditional business of heating, industrial and cooling systems. Such as an intelligent door that opens for specific service providers and leaves everyone else outside.

The company is right in the middle of the digital transformation process – but Viessmann is already a step ahead. That’s the reason why Florian works here. “It is the first company that thinks of digitisation holistically”, he said. “For Viessmann it’s not about investing in start-up companies and following the trend. We also want to transform the core business we have developed to date and, beyond that, take responsibility for the entire planet.”

Viessmann provides solutions for the energy revolution

Viessmann is a 101-year-old family-run company with its headquarters in North Hesse in Germany, and more than 12,000 employees in various locations around the world. Its customers to date have been exclusively tradespeople and construction companies who install heating and cooling systems in houses and industrial plants. A purely B2B business. But that’s changing now. Viessmann wants to provide solutions for the energy revolution – and some of them also directly to private customers in their homes. Florian’s job is to find such solutions.

He has been running the Venture Development section of the Viessmann VC/O Digital Unit in Berlin since summer 2017. It was because he could do something good for the company here that he decided on Viessmann. “The challenge was big enough, so I came on board in July”, said Florian, who was previously in a start-up company in Copenhagen where his work included driving forward its internationalisation programme.

Before they could work out their solutions, he and his ten-member team first had to identify the problems. One of them, for example, is that although people today can buy many products over the net or book services – such as a washing, house cleaning or a food-bringing service that will even load the fridge – all too often the occupant is not at home when the service providers are at the front door. The VC/O solution involves the Cary start-up company, with a platform that brings together the service providers and the manufacturers of smart locks, which enable access to homes even when the occupant is not there. “Ease of use and convenience for private customers was our original goal at Cary”, said Florian. “We set it all up in a few months with standard tools and a few freelancers.”

So who may enter my home?

Cary does have some initial customers. “But we have noted that, above all, the security aspect was important. Who can enter my home and when?”, Florian explained. So it was also important to integrate a security solution with a video camera. Yet another app. “There were more and more apps that had to be integrated”, said Florian. But there was already just such an aggregated solution for smart home applications in the building technology industry – from Wibutler, a start-up company from Münster. The pivotal moment then came when Viessmann took over Wibutler. And the B2C solution from Cary has now become a B2B2C application. “Our idea behind this is that technicians can now also have access to our customers’ homes with this solution”, said Florian. The demand is there. That is why Viessmann will now be carrying this issue forward with Wibutler.

The power of having a large company at your side

There are people in his Venture Development team who want to work entrepreneurially, just like in a start-up company, but backed up by the power of a large company. Florian is convinced that “we can tackle totally different issues from normal start-up companies thanks to Viessmann’s backing. Viessmann contributes its reliability, its experience and its sales power here.” This enables faster processing of any issues that may arise.

The work in Florian’s team currently includes the Heating-as-a-Service project – where Viessmann no longer sells boilers, instead it supplies heat as an all-inclusive service package – and the digital ‘FörderProfi’ funding professional. The FörderProfi funding professional is designed to provide customers who want to switch over to an environmentally friendly heating system with simple instructions for applying for state funding. Florian knows that, while this has not been available to date, it is important that the idea works. “We test our hypotheses again and again in short intervals, investing small amounts of money for this”, Florian explained. The product is constantly adapted in the light of these results. Agile development, just like a start-up in fact. “If we don’t have any paying customers after a few months, we close the issue”, said Florian. There are always new options and search fields to explore.

That’s why Florian is always looking for new additions to his team: people who can think creatively, people who can assess issues and make a totally new draft from nothing. “We need people who take on responsibility”, said Florian. “And they must have a nose for problems and their solutions.” Truffle-hunting pigs in fact, just like him.

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Are you interested in joining the Venture Development or do you have questions to Florian?