A new business model to stay ahead of the competition

When Nicolai Droll started working on a new business development model it is because other models did not incorporate what he thinks are the most important elements you need to consider right now and in the future: sustainability.

“I developed this new approach to enable more sustainable business models that really takes the environment into the equation. Because increasing requirements on new business models and the development of new ideas in the field of entrepreneurship are closely related to polymorphic environments. We need more future-ready business ideas to find solutions for the biggest threats and challenges humanity faces at the moment."

Nicolai Droll

You have developed a new entrepreneurial business model that breaks new ground for startups. Would you describe yourself as an entrepreneur?

For me, an entrepreneur is someone who believes in business ideas to solve real problems and wow people. Currently, I am responsible for the CyberLab Startup IT-Accelerator programme of the state of Baden-Württemberg to help startups growing. Here you can experience the fascinating entrepreneurial heartbeat every day. Furthermore, I have own founding experience, we built a platform business model for the financial sector and integrated this into a German sDax company.

I started my career in one of the biggest tech and media concern in Europe where my focus was on the digital business. After a while found myself in a consultancy role, helping clients like Alibaba to get a stronger business presence in Europe.

My personal (entrepreneurial) journey is strongly connected with smart technologies, and that’s something entrepreneurs need to create future-ready business cases - besides resilience and a passion for innovation.

So how did you come about creating a new entrepreneurial model?

I am really interested in the dynamics of innovation and the startup world as well as the workings of business models. As a result, I noticed the need for a different model and decided to take a shot at developing one myself – of course after an evaluation phase with a lot of expert discussions and practical testings. And that’s how I started the Early Stage Entrepreneurial Environment Analysis model (ESEEA model).

Was it born out of idealism because of the dominant part the environment plays in your model?

Not really in a first idea. I am fascinated about business models that really catch people and therefore I am very interested in what happens all around the world. In Asia and the US they are normally two or three steps ahead of Europe. Furthermore, they are currently creating the future.

In Europe we are taking baby steps - and we need to turn this! I am interested in new trends and the endless possibilities data gives you, of course with ethical aspects respected. Further, I want to work with and use the best and most sophisticated tools as well as business models.

That, and the best social entrepreneurial ideas give you a better life in the future - and I want to live there! The way we are going to interact with the environment will be the most important and constant factor in the coming years. Bigger businesses are slowly starting to understand this and they understand more and more that doesn’t mean setting up a trading scheme with in air pollution certificates. That’s not the answer to the questions out there.

So people and environment first instead of revenue streams first like other business models?

That’s the basic idea. Get the most important factors and trends in the discussion of new business models at the earliest stages.

Which are?

Increasing requirements on new business models and the development of new ideas in the field of entrepreneurship are closely related to polymorphic environments. The realisation and evaluation of entrepreneurial opportunities is increasingly depending on various environmental factors – economical or environmental aspects, social trends, technologies etc.. Therefore, the analysis of the environment becomes a very important element in the early stages of entrepreneurial ideas.”

When you start a new business, entrepreneurs usually only focus on the financial part and the customers. Nobody is focusing on the environment in a first step. That is why I developed the ESEEA model, to have a more sustainable business model that really takes the environment into the equation.

Does that make other models obsolete?

There are a lot of other great models on the market, the Business Model Canvas or the Impact Business Modell Canvas for example are great tools. But this new view on business development models can create stronger and more sustainable revenue models that are more fitting to the society and the challenges. This is why I created this new model. We have enough threats humanity faces at the moment. We need to find solutions.

But most businesses are not so much focussed on the environment, but on making profits. How do you make sure they take the environment into consideration as well?

I don’t suggest when you have an idea for a business, it is not about making any money.

Of course, making money is important for startups and companies, but when you think for example about laws around the environment that might change and when you think about the environment as a whole or social trends and use that knowledge and information, you get a more future ready business model. When you take the environment into the equation, I am convinced you can make more money in the end.

In short, how does the ESEEA model work?

You have two stages: the micro and the macro stage. On the macro stage you have six factors. You have the social trends, the environmental/ecological trends, the technology trends, the national economic trends, the political/legal trends and lastly the regulatory trends. And in the micro level you have customer prospects and the market situation. This is not a static model. I like to compare it with a planetary model. You have different parts and they are moving and they all influence each other. In the middle you always have your business idea. Formulate in a few sentences what your idea/business case is and then just start, using your idea and think about the different parts floating around it.

Can you give an example?

Well, let’s say you want to start a platform for young travelers. Let’s start with the social trends. Where and how will people live in the next few years? Will they move around a lot? Will they be working abroad? Visiting friends all over the world? Is there a change in mobility behavior you can think of? These different social trends have an influence on your platform.

For the technology part, there is a lot of new technology coming at us, like 5G, new mobile devices etc. This will all have an influence on your platform. Don’t forget about laws that will be put in place around privacy for example. And mostly, what are the consequences of climate change? All these variables will have an effect on your idea. By using the ESEEA model you can create a bigger impact.

Do you do more in depth research than other business models?

That is more or less the unique selling point of this model. That, and the fact that you are thinking more about what might happen in the future. You are thinking about the big trends that will happen in five to ten years. It makes this business model more sustainable and future ready.

The model sounds very logical. Why has this not been developed earlier?

Companies and also young startups are focusing a lot on the financial parts and on their clients, which is totally understandable, but is that really making your business future ready? Yes, the finances of the business are important and so are your clients. But you really need to think bigger: analyze the trends, have a look at the laws that are being shaped and might influence your business. Investigate which new techniques will play a role in the (near) future. It all helps to make a better and stronger business case.

Can you work with the model without having had some sort of workshop?

I have always found it important you can start working with this model on your own without a workshop. Of course, a short introduction is always helpful. Besides, I have made activity cards and questions for every facet of the model and it helps you on your way.

For the social trends for example there are questions like: how do we live in the future? How is mobility behavior going to change? What are the needs of the younger generation? I am sure when you work on this with your team and external persons, it will create a huge impact on your original idea.

When will this model be successful for you?

The fact that people are using it and getting stronger business cases is for me a success already. Of course, we need to wait five, ten years to see if the business models we created are going to be accepted by society, the market and will be good for the environment.

At the moment, the appreciation score of people who are using the model is high and they had a stronger business case than before. I am passionate by the idea that we are creating a better future with more sustainable business solutions.