By Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange
Fifty years ago this month, humankind achieved arguably its greatest accomplishment to date and landed two earthlings on the Moon.
As many people already know, I have also always been a space geek. And I consider myself very lucky to have grown up after the Apollo era, when technological innovation - particularly in regards to space - was at the forefront of public consciousness.
I remember it all: Bruce McCandless’s first spacewalk, orbital assembly of the International Space Station, and - most recently - the pinpoint precision of SpaceX’s reusable Falcon Heavy boosters returning to land. It’s a fascinating journey that stems right back to the US’ establishment of Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) (and eventually DARPA when “defense” was added later) as a reaction to the successful launch of Sputnik by Soviet scientists in 1957.
In consequent years, ARPA/DARPA-funded projects have led to the development of some of the most innovative technologies of our time, including computer networking and the basis for the modern Internet, graphical user interfaces in information technology, and even GPS. You can only imagine my excitement when I learned that the German government is now building its own agency that follows the idea of DARPA, but without any military ambition and purely focused on fostering innovation.
After years of efforts amid fears that Germany will be left in the wake of Silicon Valley and China’s blistering forward momentum, it appears that the German government is finally doubling down and taking significant action to move the German innovation industry forward.
SprinD, which stands for “Agentur zur Förderung von Sprunginnovationen” and roughly translates to “agency that fosters disruptive innovations”, is a new public fund that helps finance large-scale, moonshot innovation projects that are failing to attract private investment or venture capital due to the level of funding or risk involved. Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation & Public Value, University College London said it best:
“Most venture capital funds are too short-termist and exit-driven to deal with the highly uncertain and lengthy innovation process.”
The fund has been granted €1 billion to spend over the next decade. And I have been offered the opportunity to become SprinD’s Founding Director to ultimately help decide how to spend this money.
I have always seized every available opportunity to be part of innovation; from founding my first company at the age of 16, to championing the incredible ID4me and Chat over IMAP (COI) initiatives at Open-Xchange. For me, this latest opportunity feels like a logical extension to my work at Open-Xchange, and I am very excited to take part in this new project.
Since founding the company in 2005, I have been immensely proud of what our team has achieved - and OX will remain the core focus of my work. More than anything, it is a testament to our long-term experienced leadership team and established processes, that I am now able to take on this additional role while continuing to help drive OX along the successful growth path that the company enjoyed over the past 14 years.
I am incredibly excited to add this new chapter to my career - and equally eager to see where the next 14 years take Open-Xchange. Together, we will continue to develop and champion innovative technologies that are open and available to all.