matthias friese

How an innovation challenge can foster inside-out company building

Inside-out company building describes the process to build ventures through internal ideation sources. An innovation challenge that incentivizes employees to create ideas and business models and the joint iteration towards a final event can be an important driver. Key aspects include a call to innovate, user-centric workshops, transparent feedback and evaluation, and the ambition to pilot a winning idea.

Every venture starts with an idea. For company builders, each venture starts with creating or finding this idea. What sounds common sense is of particular importance to establish an effective and frequent idea flow from which only a few may make it. This idea sourcing process is not a one-way street but instead relies on two channels:

  1. Ideas can be actively sourced from external founders, partners, or business angels outside-in.
  2. Clients, staff and, in the case of corporate-led company builders, employees from the corporation may provide the expertise and thus ideas for promising business models.

This article shares insights from the idea competition FIEGE Innovation Challengethat was established in 2017 and how it can foster inside-out company building.

FIEGE Innovation Challenge 2021. We want your best logistics ideas.


Set a call to innovate – and win people.

First, the company innovation process centers around the needs and expectations of employees. This includes a precise definition of the outcome and personal reward of an innovation challenge. In this case, FIEGE decided to attach personal benefits to an entrepreneurial call for action. As such, the competition provides the outlook of piloting winning ideas with the help of company building competencies and resources by creating and iterating an MVP. To reach this stage, transparent expectations for an idea and a business model guide the employee. Customized templates, for instance, are useful tools to define a problem, solution, and short business model assessment.

Also, an infrastructure of innovation coaches and decentralized workshops can help to empower employees to formulate creative ideas in teams and become ambassadors for the competition along the process. Together with the buy-in of the top management, the prerequisites to create ideas and find ideas are established.

Empower the creation of ideas – between business models and process optimisation.

With the submission of ideas by the candidates, the evaluation and feedback phase starts. The transparent expectations about each business model idea may be reflected in the evaluation scheme as well. Among others, potential questions include:

  1. Does the idea serve a need that can be identified and tested?
  2. Does the idea have the potential to evolve in a scalable business model?
  3. Does the idea incorporate the expertise of the company to build it?

Even though only a fraction of ideas may make it through this gate, every idea can have value in other parts of the organization. For this reason, personal and detailed feedback is beneficial beyond an innovation competition. However, the most promising ideas and their candidates are provided with personal coaching and expert feedback. Further, this includes methodological support like the definition of the value proposition or how to nail a pitch. Depending on the idea’s complexity, connections to industry experts can also be crucial to jointly shape the idea. This process can result in pivoting the idea through the course of pitches that decide which teams book their ticket to the final.

Steps and key activities for an innovation challenge

Steps and key activities for an innovation challenge (Source: XPRESS Ventures).

Evaluate, feedback and mentor – towards preliminary pitches.

Arguably, one of the biggest challenges may arise from what paradoxically used to be a key competence: How can customer-centric thinking enable ideas that may also lay outside the box? While years of competence in a certain industry, technical field or organizational topic have optimized internal processes and maximize the value for the customer – the perspective is mostly focusing on what already exists.

Many of the available design thinking techniques may be applicable to break-out from the daily business and efficiency-driven thinking. However, by choosing which method fits best, client-centric expertise can be combined with user-centric and cross-industry sessions. This way, workshops can not only focus on existing product optimization but also be an inspiration for something new. In addition, digital workshops and learning tracks, for instance, can further shape an idea towards a well-rounded business model before submission.

Find a winner – after the challenge is before the MVP.

The final pitch event is the fixpoint of the entire innovation challenge. A selection of up to 6 teams presents their ideas in front of a jury of top management executives, external experts, and business partners. The final selection is made through a scoring system different from the previous evaluation. At this stage, it balances the focus on both the idea and business model but also the pitch performance.

The expectation that was communicated at the beginning of the applicant’s journey should now be considered. This refers not only to a personal reward but also to the outlook of implementing their idea. Following the finale, the winners of the event should be given the chance to attend boot camp workshops that focus on the potential to create an MVP and receive reliable market feedback. As a result of the concentrated incentivizing and mentoring of promising ideas throughout the innovation challenge, ideas are already at an advanced stage. Hypotheses are already formulated, the idea initially validated in interviews and the business model guided with industry experts. This advantage can give inside-out company building processes backwind and empower employees to innovate and eventually become entrepreneurs.

FIEGE Innovation Challenge 2021

Challenge accepted?
Whether in a team or as a lone fighter –
apply here anytime until the deadline on 13 December 2020 for the first application round.

13 Dec 2020














About the FIEGE Innovation Challenge 2021

XPRESS Ventures invites all FIEGE employees and students to take their ideas to a new level with the FIEGE Innovation Challenge 2021 and to shape the logistics of tomorrow. Challenge accepted? Whether in a team or as a lone fighter – apply for the FIEGE Innovation Challenge anytime until the 13 December 2020 for the first application round. The best ideas and business models make it to the light pitch. Those who convince here have the chance to inspire the jury and a selected audience at the final pitch event. The most promising business model wins and receives not only attractive prize money of 5.000€ but also the chance to pilot the idea with a budget of up to 250.000€

About XPRESS Ventures

XPRESS Ventures is a Berlin-based company builder specializing in the development of innovative and disruptive start-ups – especially in the logistics sector. The XPRESS Ventures does not only offers the young companies the required know-how and background knowledge, but also the corresponding digital expertise, logistics assets and access to its network of investors, customers and partners. XPRESS Ventures was founded in 2019 by the family-run logistics medium-sized company FIEGE Logistik Stiftung & Co. KG in Greven, Germany. Matthias Friese, series founder and digital expert, is the managing partner of XPRESS Ventures.