Interview with Ralf Rottmann, Managing Partner of grandcentrix
grandcentrix is one of UIKonf’s Gold Sponsors this year.
In a nutshell, who is grandcentrix?
We are Germany’s largest system integrator focusing 100% on complex mobile solutions.
We consider us being a leader with regard to the quality of everything we do. Some would say, grandcentrix is an “App Agency”, though we are a bit reluctant using this term. Our roots are very clearly in engineering, not in advertising or marketing.
Obviously, user experience design and mobile development are a large part of our business. However, a significant revenue part comes from development and 24/7 operation of services. We selfhost these platforms for our clients on our own, DIN ISO 27001 compliant infrastructure. This sets grandcentrix apart from the typical App Agency.
In essence, with our more than 70 fulltime designers, coders, data center and performance marketing experts, we design, build and operate digital products.
Today, the majority of the end user touchpoints of those products are apps, but we are also working on conversational user interfaces, bots and exhaustively look into embedded software development, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?
I think, this is the toughest challenge for anybody who tries to build a company.
Understanding, that this possibly is your single most important success factor – particularly if you start small – is the easy part. Every startup advisor tells you so in the first five minutes of a conversation.
However, attracting and keeping the best of the best is hard. In fact, having the privilege to only work with some of the most brilliant talents in the market, was one of the driving forces for me to actually become a founder in the first place. At grandcentrix, we try hard to find projects, that are challenging in one way or the other.
Whether it’s apps that literally scale to millions of users, products that integrate deeply into proprietary hardware or solutions with very demanding security requirements. I believe, engineers love to solve problems, so we try to not engage in standard oftheshelf productions.
You won’t find our teams working on boring mobile web portals, just to fulfill some billable hours business objective.
Some of our competitors claim to have build 800+ apps. To our team and myself, this would be a huge warning sign! For us it’s not about quantity or the number of yearly new names on our customer list. We always strive for bestinclass quality. I believe, that is the number one reason, why many of our clients are also market leaders in their respective industries – because we share the same vision what it takes, to create awesome digital products.
grandcentrix solely solves unique and highly challenging user experience and technology problems. That usually attracts brilliant minds. Some might be “misfits” if you look at them from a corporate perspective. We don’t care. We are truly proud of and love the team we were able to build over the past seven years.
Everyone, who wants to become part of the grandcentrix family, has to go through a formal assessment. Candidate presentations are open for all grandcentrix team members. It is them who make the final call, not management.
This has proven to be a very effective filter. It also is a fantastic chance for people who are interested in working for us, to get to know our team early on, before they decide to jump on board.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
I’d say the number one mistake we made is that we started too late with scaling out our organisation, establishing the hierarchies you need if you grow beyond “just having fun together and enjoying Club Mate in a coworking space”.
Startups have become sort of the new cool.
This is good on the one hand, because it encourages entrepreneurship, which I think is unfortunately fundamentally underrepresented in our German education system. (And I could spend hours discussing just that.)
On the other hand, being in the business of building digital products, I’ve seen way too many really inexperienced folks reading billion dollar Silicon Valley success stories, hooking up a single page parallax web page the next day and start feeling entrepreneurish.
This is perfectly fine, if you just have to take care for yourself, but it has nothing to do with being a successful founder. Success inevitably means, you’re willing to rapidly take responsibility for others (and their families).
For way too long, Martin Willnow (my cofounder) and I tried to keep grandcentrix sort of “hipsterlean” and “hierarchyfree”, because for some weird reason we thought, hierarchies were uncool. We had to learn the hard way, that professionals demand an extremely professional work environment, which sounds very logical looking back.
As a consequence, 18 months ago we established a Management Team. Thankfully, we were able to completely recruit it from some of the most loyal team members, who were already working for grandcentrix at that time.
So far, it had an extremely positive impact on all aspects of our operations and we should have done this way earlier.
Where do you see grandcentrix in five or ten years?
Honestly, thinking about the future of my company, I’m extremely relaxed.
First – even at the risk of sounding a bit arrogant – I fundamentally believe, that once you’ve managed to have some of the most awesome talents in the industry on your team, you’ll never run out of opportunities.
Second, as I said earlier: grandcentrix is all about designing and building digital products and reliably operating those at scale.
Some analysts believe, we might see apps becoming less important and eventually going away. Others bet everything on augmented and virtual reality. However, the one thing everybody unequivocally agrees upon is, that we will see an explosion of digital experiences for years to come, touching every aspect of our lives.
grandcentrix is uniquely positioned to help its clients to build products their customers love and enjoy.
We recently hired our first hardware electronics and embedded expert. You might wonder why should an “App Agency” do so? Well, turns out, that delivering awesome digital experiences no longer stops at the software and services layer.
More and more – and as the term “Internet of Things” somewhat implies – it’s also key to deeply understanding the “Things”aspect of our digital lives, if you want to stay relevant beyond just the app hype.
Martin and I are committed to continue our investment to further establish grandcentrix’ pole position as a leading edge technology competence center. It’s a promise to our customers, that we will keep staying ahead of the market and to our team, that it’ll never get boring.
Any final remarks?
Sure. If you’re a UIKonf attendee, extremely good at what you’re doing and want to join forces, visit us at https://www.grandcentrix.net or ping me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ralf). I’d love to chat with you!
About Ralf Rottmann
Ralf Rottmann is grandcentrix’ Managing Partner, technical brains, the driving force of innovation and a developer at heart. He has been heavily involved in building Internet of Things platforms and services for major international consumer brands and smart home vendors.
Ralf has decades of cutting-edge experience in the conception and development of enterprise software and in 2008 he successfully sold his prior company to Alcatel. At grandcentrix, Ralf takes care for maintaining the delicate balance between technology and strategy.
In 2010 Ralf was listed as one of Germany’s most successful tech entrepreneurs by the well-known German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.
To get in touch, follow Ralf on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ralf).
grandcentrix is widely considered the market leading system integrator for building complex digital products in the German-speaking area.
We offer product management consulting, concept development, interaction design, implementation, system integration and 24/7 ISO 27001 services operation. Customers with a mobile-first approach profit from our special product teams, which help accelerate time-to-market and deliver interims management services for key areas like product management and infrastructure operation.
grandcentrix has launched many x-large productions for renowned industry customers like AXA, Miele, Migros, RTL Media Group, Siedle, Bosch and many others.