Glassdollar: A dating agency for corporations

Fabian Dudek

The founder of Glassdollar scouts the best business partners from the start-up scene for corporations.

Düsseldorf When corporations cooperate with start-ups, a lot is invested, even more effort is made – and in the end little comes around. Fabian Dudek knows the prejudices that he has to dispel: “In many companies, start-up partnerships have long had the reputation of not working,” says the 28-year-old. Nevertheless, he believes in the need for such partnerships: his company Glassdollar arranges start-ups as business partners for established companies.

The idea: Corporations should find all the innovations they want to implement in the Glassdollar search engine – and the best provider for them. In the database there is everything “from software for tracing the supply chain to plastic that can rot,” says Dudek. At the same time, Glassdollar is a kind of Check24 for start-ups, so it compares prices and scope of services.

“We answer every request with a list of three to five providers and the reasons why we think they are the best,” explains the founder. Behind it are assessments by Glassdollar employees and a search engine that also collects information from more than 40 sources about how the evaluation of companies is changing and how their software is assessed on developer platforms such as Product Hunt.

Dudek is certain that one of the most common mistakes in start-up partnerships can be avoided in this way: “Until now, start-up partnerships have often emerged from chance acquaintances that an innovation manager made at a conference,” he says – and they lose Company money and the start-ups time that they would have better invested in other projects.

Around a dozen companies are already using glass dollars, including Daimler, Deutsche Bahn or Siemens. You pay a five-digit amount a year – that’s less than traditional databases such as CBInsights require, argues the founder.

The Wayra innovation laboratory has also recently started looking for innovative start-up solutions using glass dollars for its parent company Telefónica: “In addition to an internal team of scouts, we use glass dollars every week to expand the scouting pool,” says Wayra’s chief strategy officer Katrin Bacic. This would ensure a “high quality screening of the start-up market” and increase the chance of tailor-made solutions.

Daimler is already using the partner search engine

In the current financial year, Glassdollar is aiming for seven-digit sales. In addition to subscription fees, revenue sharing is another source of income. Some of the start-ups leave four to twelve percent of the resulting sales to the broker in the first one to two years of a new cooperation. Those who refuse to participate are examined less thoroughly and have slightly fewer opportunities with potential customers.

Dudek is not the only one who has recognized start-up scouting as a business model. Consulting, innovation support programs and platforms such as Plug and Play, BCG Digital and Innospot also want to bring start-ups and companies together.

According to his own account, Dudek has already invested several hundred thousand euros in the development of his search engine. Among other things, he drew the money for this from the sale of his company Nestpick to Rocket Internet – a platform for furnished apartments that he started as a 22-year-old student abroad in Rotterdam. The idea for Glassdollar arose from the experiences he made as a young founder.

From 2017, Dudek first tried to find suitable investors for other founders with Glassdollar. But it wasn’t easy to commercialize, he says. A year ago he therefore switched to dating and is now convinced: “The most valuable support that you can offer a start-up is first customers.”

Ultimately, he wants to give himself and others the chance of entrepreneurship and the freedom that goes with it. From the founder’s point of view, start-ups are “incredibly good vehicles to decide for myself what influence I want to have every day and to lead a free life”.

For Fabian Dudek, this freedom also includes moving to winter quarters on Mallorca with his employees. For the next few months, the company with 14 full-time positions has relocated its headquarters to a holiday home on the island. People work and live together there – and there are hardly any corona restrictions.

More: Unicorns from the crystal ball: How AI should recognize start-ups with billions.


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