The future makers: Adlershof brings forth high-tech founders, not copycats

08. January 2020

The future makers

Adlershof brings forth high-tech founders, not copycats

asis-Geschäftsführer © WISTA Management GmbH

The asis managing director team: Michael Bogdoll, Steffen Buhle and Jens Hertlein (from left to right) © WISTA Management GmbH

Hanno Zwicker © WISTA Management GmbH

Serial founder Hanno Zwicker © WISTA Management GmbH

Starting a business in Adlershof is almost certainly a ticket to success. The strategies pursued by the founders, however, show that very different paths can lead them there. What unites them is that Adlershof turns good ideas into solid companies.

For many, making quick money with a mediocre idea is the way to go: downtown start-ups excel at bringing their ideas to market and then opting for a swift exit, selling their company for large profits. Looking at the past 25 years, this was never the right path for Jens Hertlein, the founder of asis Soft- und Hardware GmbH. In 1995, Hertlein and his colleagues grew increasingly weary of the working conditions at their former employer. So, they took what they had in capital and, especially, in good ideas to Adlershof and started their own business. That’s all it took. Then and now.

Today, 15 people work at asis, including the three CEOs Hertlein, Michael Bogdoll and Steffen Buhle. ‘We aim at long-term growth without external capital,’ explains Bogdoll. Hertlein adds: ‘For new developments, for instance, we only spend money that we actually have. This is the way we’ve always done it.’ The Adlershof-based company has gained a reputation for its software embedded in technical systems. Their customers include Deutsche Bank, Trumpf Medizin Systeme, Francotyp Postalia, and other companies in the automobile, train, engineering, and medical technology sector. ‘We neither have a sales, nor a marketing department. All our orders come in through word of mouth,’ says Hertlein.

Many hip downtown start-ups might rub their eyes in disbelief. What they now call ‘agile working’ and ‘new work’ has been common sense at the Adlershof-based company for the longest time: the team works on projects together, everybody contributes their skills, there are no hierarchies or departments, people are friendly and go to lunch together. All three CEOs also work in teams as developers. Nineteen years ago, after writing his final thesis as a student at the company, this was one of the reasons why Bogdoll decided to join the company as a shareholder. ‘It’s what makes it so appealing,’ says the 41-year-old. He would rather work in a team than delegate tasks. ‘If we grow very quickly, this will soon be impossible,’ he says. Ideally, the company will not grow beyond 20 employees. This is certainly an interesting take on the agile working approach.

In addition to his equally agile mind, Hanno Zwicker has founding businesses in his genes. Last October, the serial founder did it again: together with Gunnar Heilmann of gfai tech GmbH, Daniel Herfert, and Mario Koddenbrock of GFal e.V., the Society for the Promotion of Applied Computer Science, he founded Bowerbird GmbH. The company has created a patented scan code that can take on any shape or colour.

Replacing the widely used square black-and-white QR codes, Bowerbird’s code can be integrated into product design, advertising, and logos in every conceivable way. However, it is not only about looks. The scan code is also forgery-proof. ‘We aim for the code to be used for secure, cash-free payment. This is already commonplace in many Asian countries,’ explains Zwicker. The 57-year-old is currently seeking out investors to support the company in entering the international market. In just two years, they plan to spread the product all over India and China. The Bowerbird code can be scanned using the start-up’s free-of-charge app, which, Zwicker says, will never forward any user data. This is rare.

The fact that an IT company steers clear of the hyped-up start-up scene in Berlin-Mitte is equally rare. But for good reasons, as Zwicker pointedly remarks. ‘We appreciate Adlershof because, in Mitte, too much money is being burnt for relatively unimaginative ideas.’ The mindset in Adlershof is vastly different: ‘Whenever I talk to people, I get this sense that the future is being made here.’ Instead of starting up serial copycats, Zwicker says, ‘people here are focused and goal-driven.’

By Chris Löwer for Adlershof Journal


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