MAN Truck & Bus


MAN Impact Accelerator


Every year the MAN Impact Accelerator supports social business startups. The third round of the programme has now started. Which new companies are involved? And how does MAN help the startups in their development?

People stand next to each other in an office space.
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The atmosphere is good All the participants get to know each other before the start of the sessions to generate a working atmosphere based on trust.

Social business startups have a difficult time. That is why the MAN Impact Accelerator is supporting young social businesses from around the world for the third time – supporting companies from Europe, Africa and South America this time. Read here all about the challenges that the startups face and how MAN helps them.

Having an address is a matter of course for the majority of people. Nevertheless, four billion people on this planet are unable to give the street name, house number and postcode of their address. They are therefore denied essential opportunities without an address: they cannot open a bank account, obtain insurance or order products and have them delivered to their home. 

The Swedes Karoline Beronius and Maria Cheadle want to change this with their startup Addressya. For the past three years they have been working on an app that generates addresses from geodata, which can be used by private individuals, companies and governments. The app also offers them massive benefits: governments are therefore able to collect more data, allowing them to conduct representative surveys and derive appropriate measures from them for the population. 

However, as promising as a business idea might sound, startups have a long way to go before they are in the black or even manage a successful exit. The main problems faced by young entrepreneurs in Europe are profitability and liquidity. This is the result of the “EU Startup Monitor Report 2018” commissioned by the European Commission. And social entrepreneurs, in particular, find it hard to attract investment. These social businesses are characterised by an innovative approach to social and environmental problems, which is based on sustainable business models. The consultancy firm McKinsey conducted an analysis, which discovered that mainstream investors do not see enough potential for rapid scaling in social startups and, as a result, mainly focus on the expansion of tech startups. In short, there is a lack of support – financial as well as strategic.



This is precisely the gap that the MAN Impact Accelerator has filled since 2017. MAN and Yunus Social Business, an initiative launched by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, have joined forced for the mentoring programme. “We wish to support social business startups in mobility, transport and logistics to scale their business models through targeted mentoring, and to promote discussion and exchange within the ecosystem,” explains Florian Stehbeck Programme Coordinator of the MAN Impact Accelerator, who also works with partnerships within the framework of new business models in his role as Digital Innovation Manager with MAN. “To achieve this, every year we invite eight startups from across the globe to take part in our programme.” MAN does not support the startups financially. The focus of the programme is much more on supporting the growth of the startups with knowledge, a network and time. In the third batch, which started in November, young entrepreneurs from Europe, Africa and South America were able to take advantage of this opportunity: apart from Addressya, this cohort includes the startups Arone, Eu Vo, Koiki, Suma, Nina, XYT and Zembo.

Up until June 2020, the programme will take the founders to different stations in Munich, Sao Paulo, Lisbon and Johannesburg before it ends with an official closing ceremony in Munich. The aim of the programme: to hone the companies’ vision, configure their long-term organisational structure, plan their business growth and thereby reinforce their social impact. Throughout the accelerator programme, the participants will deal with issues including purpose, business development, impact, product development, marketing, communications, technology, growth and investment. The entrepreneurs have access to MAN mentors as well as experts from the broad Yunus Social Business network.


Simon Krämer
Head of Plant Infrastructure at MAN

So-called MAN “topic” mentors also support the startups and play a key role in their ongoing development as they can advise the entrepreneurs on specific subjects. The startups also have access to “lead” mentors from MAN Production, Logistics, Engineering, Digital Transformation & Business Models, IT, Sales, Product Strategy and Finance, in particular, for their personal and professional growth. They accompany the participants throughout the entire programme, ensuring that the young entrepreneurs structure the input from all mentors and are able to derive the next steps for their startups from this. One of them is Simon Krämer, Head of Plant Infrastructure at MAN. With the third batch, the lead mentor is responsible for the French startup XYT. The latter has developed a modular electric vehicle, which supports transport companies with last-mile deliveries and promotes green mobility. “Thanks to my many years of experience, I am able to support the founders of XYT on many issues and together with them find a way of moving forward the startup and their business model,” explains Krämer with certainty.


External mentors are also on board as well as internal mentors. Even during the first week of the programme, the participants of the third batch learned from employees of different companies, including Marley Spoon, Lumen Partners and the IKEA Group. Verena Liedgens, Strategy Consultant with Munich-based diffferent, was also available during the first week. During her mentoring sessions, she shared a number of tricks with the founders – from user research, business model design and investor pitches. She speaks from personal experience and can help the founders to avoid mistakes. After all, Liedgens founded a company herself, the logistics startup Agrippa in Columbia. “I am able to talk to the founders on a level playing field and assess their reality very well. That is sometimes more important than elaborate strategies on paper,” concludes Liedgens. During the course of the programme, the participants also meet mentors from major innovation drivers, such as Amazon, Google and Uber.

This combination of internal and external mentors is unique in the collaboration with social business startups from the global mobility, transport and logistics ecosystem. “That is precisely why our programme is so unique and successful,” stresses Florian Stehbeck. The positive results of the first batch provide proof of this in which MAN and Yunus Social Business focussed on startups from Europe, South Africa and India. One of them was Breeze Technologies, which took part in the second round of the accelerator. The founders Robert Heinecke and Sascha Kuntze developed a cost-effective monitoring system for air quality with Breeze Technologies, and were named in 2018 as one of the “Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs”.

Ajaita Shah from India is also one of the successful founders from the second batch. Her startup “Frontier Markets” sells sustainable energy solutions for rural areas, putting women at the centre of the value creation chain. Shah succeeded in turning thousands of Indian women into entrepreneurs who, in turn, supply their villages with solar power systems. The mentors in the MAN Impact Accelerator programme support Shah in scaling her business and put her in contact with possible investors, from whose knowledge and network she was able to benefit. Ajaita Shah is now even speaking at the UN General Assembly about her vision.


The success of the MAN Impact Accelerator is getting around. Only 80 startups applied in 2017, while this number had risen to over 300 in 2019. Florian Stehbeck explains: “Our decision does not solely depend on where the startups are in their development or whether they offer hardware- or software-based solutions”. The Programme Coordinator goes onto say that what counts more is whether MAN and Yunus Social Business can support the startups with their expertise and network, and make the greatest possible impact. “We are not looking for the new Facebook or Google,” adds Arunima Singh, who heads up the project for Yunus Social Business. “We are looking for companies which have the potential to act socially and combine this with sustainable business practices. This is not a contradiction in terms.”

This impact is ultimately the main objective and the reason why Joachim Drees, CEO of MAN, and Muhammad Yunus launched the MAN Impact Accelerator in 2017. “At MAN we are conscious of our social and environmental responsibility and wish to give something back to society,” states Stehbeck. However, the MAN Impact Accelerator is more than a corporate social responsibility programme as MAN also benefits from it. “We know that we have to change as a company to make our customers’ business simpler, more efficient and more successful in future,” explains Stehbeck, and continues “and we are convinced that our partnerships will help in this.” The mentoring programme is the best proof of this. Different views and perspectives come together here and a continuous, fruitful exchange is maintained, explains the Programme Coordinator. 

The accelerator programme also means that MAN is bringing innovative and entrepreneurial spirit back into the company. “Our mentors take back to their teams many positive impressions from their mentoring sessions,” explains Stehbeck. “We put people at the centre of new innovations and, by doing so, succeed in embracing important social problems and finding solutions for them.” This means that society changes in the long term, as does MAN’s corporate culture. All sides learn from each other and inspire each other, Stehbeck goes on to say. The participating startups, like Addressya, also welcome this exchange. “We are incredibly grateful to have been selected for the Impact Accelerator and have already gained a great deal of helpful stimulus from the first seminar sessions,” comments Maria Cheadle, co-founder of Addressya. “Up to June we can now exchange ideas and benefit from the expertise of MAN Truck & Bus and Yunus Social Business.”


from around the world applied in 2019 for the third round of the Impact Accelerator.


0 Startups

were selected and started their joint journey in Munich.


0 Mentors

look after the participants and share their knowledge and expertise.


Text   Tanita Hecking
Photos   Janek Stroisch


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