April 28

Kolektor is establishing a fund for financing tech startups!

The Kolektor concern is one of the leading global companies in the field of automotive systems and industrial technology. In the next few years, they also wish to grow in the field of industrial IoT and innovations in digitalization. With this vision and in the light of global startup disruptions, they are establishing a fund that will finance tech startups in early development stages. “Our financial stability, access to markets, networking, mentorship, applicative environment, and values that we support and live by all speak in favour of this project,” said Valter Leban in the interview. He is a member of the Kolektor concern management and will be one of the key speakers at this year's PODIM Conference to reveal more detailed plans and procedures for keeping a leading position on the market and actively connecting with startups.
In the Kolektor concern, how are you experiencing the influence of external startups that are disrupting business operations in practically all industries? Do you see them as a threat or as an opportunity?
So far, we haven't significantly felt these influences, because we traditionally work in fields defined by big players, for example the automotive industry or industrial technology. Besides that, we have been strong in the field of technological competences since the very beginning, innovating and developing for more than fifty years. But the world is constantly changing and we realize that Kolektor will also have to transform, catch this wave and take advantage of the opportunities shown on the global level.
This year, why are you actively attending an event such as the PODIM Conference, which is primarily intended for startups?
Last year, we've already decided for a new strategic orientation towards the field of digitalization, which will become an important business pillar of Kolektor in the upcoming years. We realize that growth in this field is connected to gaining new knowledge, competences, innovation suggestions. Because we are entering a field of business opportunities and high-impact innovations, we also wish to do this with the help of the startup ecosystem. We wish to introduce ourselves as a company offering collaboration opportunities to tech startups in this part of the region.
How would you describe your company in order to attract the attention of startups with which you wish to collaborate?
We pride ourselves on tradition, quality and global recognisability in highly specialized industrial manufacture. The company developed into a global company with its headquarters in Slovenia and a highly branched network of companies and subsidiaries in Europe, US and Asia. We have around 30 companies that are organizationally connected according to industries, including Components and systems, Energy and industrial technology, and Building technology and home products.
Startups working with lean principles also want to know what kind of a problem they're solving, for whom and in what way. What are then the development fields or products with which you wish to encourage them to collaborate with you?
Our main products are still connected to the automotive industry, which we supply with commutators, rotors, visual plastic car parts, hybrid pieces and magnetic components. We have our own manufacture of tools and machines as well as manufacturing information systems. In the past few years, we've entered the field of electro-energetics, namely transformers and hydropower plants.
And who are the final users of your technologies and products?
If we go to the pure level of users, you will meet our products in your car, when you use kitchen appliances, use electric energy, enter business and public buildings ... When we talk about the advantages, we usually mention our own manufacture of machines and tools, production automation, optic control, specific knowledge from the field of processing materials such as metals and plastic materials. All those can be challenges for startups who wish to participate in solving problems in the industry.
Startups also find collaboration with corporations important because of their globally branched business and sales network that can open many new doors ...
True! Kolektor is an export-oriented company that has experienced a transformation into a global player in the last few years, and that is one of our biggest achievements. We are present in the US, Mexico, Russia, China, South Korea, India, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and of course Slovenia. During this time, we've also experienced the biggest growth in revenue, which has reached nearly half a billion euros in the past year.
And how do you encourage employee-driven innovation and development of new high-impact innovations?
Innovations were always a part of Kolektor's culture and are actually one of the key values we live by. All employees were invited to innovate and give useful suggestions, and they can suggest their solutions at any moment. The other area is basic research done by a group inside Kolektor that closely collaborates with technical institutes in Slovenia and abroad, with ministries and educational institutions.
What are the results of such activities?
Such work results in products with improved properties, for example with nanotechnology. We also give a lot of emphasis to potential staff, meaning we collaborate with scholarship holders and students following technical courses. When it comes to high-impact innovations, I would like to mention that we made what is so far the biggest and heaviest transformer with the rated capacity of 400 MVA and rated voltage of 420 kV. Its total weight exceeds 400 tons and besides Kolektor, only a few big multinational companies are capable of making it.
We found out that exactly around the time of the PODIM Conference, you are planning to launch a completely new project for active, even equity collaboration with startups? 
We wish to establish a successful connection between Kolektor, innovators, institutes, universities and the startup ecosystem, which will result in applied innovations from the field we today call Industry 4.0. For this purpose, we are establishing a fund meant for financing tech companies in early development stages.
What are your key reasons for establishing such a fund?
We want to innovate faster! We wish to take advantage of the knowledge already present in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. We wish to grow with new products and create new jobs with higher value added. As a global company, we have everything that such a fund needs to succeed – financial stability, market access, networking, mentorship, environment for applying new products, and values that we support. This would be it in a nutshell, but for more information, I suggest a meeting at the PODIM Conference.
Author: Stanislava Vabšek, Start:up Slovenia Initiative
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For a more detailed overview of the special 'corpo' content segment at this year's PODIM Conference, click here. If you want any additional information, write to us  and we will be happy to answer you.

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Together, we are trying to spread best practices of the lean startup way of developing new business models, and simultaneously connect established experienced managers with innovative startup entrepreneurs
  • The Managers' Association of Slovenia, helping managers deal with challenges of implementing digital changes whose tempo is dictated by rapid, lean and innovative startup companies with their disruptive digital products and services.
  • Initiative Start:up Slovenia as the provider of key national programmes for startups and connector of public and private stakeholders of the Slovenian startup ecosystem, summarizing its activities every year at the PODIM Conference.
  • Business daily Finance with the media project Startupozavri or Startuposauruses, in which they highlight startup freshness in established Slovenian companies and thus contribute to healthy development of entrepreneurial spirit in the Slovenian society.
  • 30Lean as an established consultant and mentor of lean innovation in already established organizations, mentor of startup teams of the Slovene Enterprise Fund, ABC Accelerator and others, and the leading partner of the Slovenia Running Lean movement. 
Our first joint activities include gathering and sharing these types of good and bad experiences, and co-creating PODIM Conference content for established companies