The karlsruhe.digital initiative unites Karlsruhe stakeholders from science, business, culture and administration with the aim of advancing Karlsruhe as a driver of digitalization – for competitiveness, quality of life and sovereignty. It pools expert knowledge, promotes networking and deals with topics holistically in order to actively shape the digital future of the city.
And there are people behind it. People who are committed, who are passionate about something and who use their time, their ideas and their expertise for precisely this reason. We want to make visible who these people, the digital minds, are. Once a month, we ask the Digital Minds what drives them and what visions they have.
Martin Hubschneider, Managing Director of CyberForum e.V., CEO of CAS Software AG, initiator of the city festival “Bunte Nacht der Digitalisierung” – and one of the chairmen of the karlsruhe.digital initiative – will kick things off.
It’s late summer and pretty hot. The asphalt of the TechnologiePark in the east of Karlsruhe shimmers, shimmers and radiates its relentless heat towards us. We are located on the CAS Software AG site, very close to the KIT Campus East, surrounded by other high-tech companies. In addition to the heat, the area also exudes serenity and tranquillity. Today, the green spaces are a particularly tempting place to find one of the many shady spots. But there’s no time for that now, because time is precious to Martin Hubschneider. We meet him in his office in the company that he himself founded in Karlsruhe in 1986 and which he still runs today with unbridled imagination.
“I was studying industrial engineering in Karlsruhe at the time and it was already clear to me during my studies that I would take the step into self-employment. In my entire life, I have only worked as an employee for a total of four weeks – as part of an internship at Daimler,” he tells us at the start, while his gaze wanders through the glass front of his office over the so-called CAS Campus. “For me, digitization as a cross-sectional technology has always been the innovation driver par excellence – and the software sector in particular, with its scaling possibilities, seemed to me to be an interesting field, as there was an incredible amount of potential here in the 1980s. We first worked our way up step by step to become the market leader for route planners and later the market leader for CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems in the SME sector. Our first customer back then was Mercedes-Benz,” he tells us and we can literally sense his enthusiasm.
Today, CAS employs more than 470 people, over 400 of them in Karlsruhe. As we talk, many of them are enjoying their lunch at the Culinarium, the canteen in the middle of the park-like grounds that form the center of the square office complex. Fresh food is cooked here every day – after all, a hungry stomach doesn’t like to study (or work).
A life for the IT location Karlsruhe
But Martin Hubschneider doesn’t want to talk much about CAS with us, because he is particularly interested in one thing: the IT location Karlsruhe with all its facets. For this reason, he has been a board member of CyberForum e.V., Europe’s largest regionally active high-tech entrepreneur network with over 1,200 members. “With over 60 permanent employees, we offer our CyberForum members many services that clearly set us apart from other IT regions. In this way, we have created the perfect ecosystem for IT companies. A good example of this is the new Smart Production Park. With it, we are moving into the interface between IT and production and ultimately also showing that IT is a cross-sectional technology that already determines the competitiveness of companies today,” Hubschneider explains the new start-up and growth center for start-ups in the field of smart production, which is also located on the Hoepfner Bräu site and has just been opened. Financed by the City of Karlsruhe, the State of Baden-Württemberg and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), it is operated by the CyberForum in cooperation with the Karlsruhe Economic Development Agency. For over 15 years, the CyberForum has been dedicated to, among other things, the placement of specialists and has put the IT region of Karlsruhe in the spotlight throughout Germany, continued Hubschneider.
And then there is another point that the 63-year-old emphasizes in the interview: “Of course, such a network is always about creating the right framework conditions: In order to be attractive to skilled workers, not only the companies, but also the city itself must be attractive – be it through comprehensive care and educational opportunities for children and young people, a good transport infrastructure or inspiring cultural and leisure activities.”
Hubschneider therefore has a very clear vision for Karlsruhe. When we ask him where he sees the city in 30 years’ time, he answers without hesitation: “one of the most liveable cities in the world”. The digital sector plays a central role for him: “If you like, we are shaping our future with it.”
Hubschneider is convinced that Karlsruhe will achieve this vision, above all because numerous efforts are already underway to sustainably secure and expand its position as a digital location. “All of this is made possible by the Karlsruhe principle of short distances: science, business, administration and culture are all sitting at the same table in Karlsruhe and working together to make Karlsruhe the engine of digitalization. And this “working together instead of against each other” is by no means a matter of course, as I see time and again during my visits to other cities,” explains Hubschneider.
This Karlsruhe principle of short distances is reflected in the karlsruhe.digital initiative. This emerged from the municipal council’s mandate in 2014 to strengthen the then “Internet Capital Karlsruhe”. Numerous stakeholders from business, science and administration decided at that time that a pure image campaign would fall short and that a communication concept would not be sufficient to continue Karlsruhe’s supremacy in the future. “It was clear that a joint effort was needed,” recalls Hubschneider, “and the result is the karlsruhe.digital initiative.”
In recent years, together with other digital minds from Karlsruhe, he has developed formats such as the AppArtAward (together with Prof. Peter Weibel and David Hermanns), the city festival “Bunte Nacht der Digitalisierung” and the Innovation Festival @karlsruhe.digital “They help us to make the power of innovation and the diversity resulting from digitalization tangible for the population. But they also give companies the opportunity to present themselves as attractive employers and draw the attention of skilled workers throughout Europe to the climate of innovation that prevails here.” Because Karlsruhe has plenty of attractive employers. Martin Hubschneider also joins the ranks with the CAS award as a “Great Place to Work”. In June, CAS was also named “Innovator of the Year” in the TOP 100 innovation competition.
“The digital future must be shaped fairly!”
As we take pictures in Martin Hubschneider’s office, our gaze falls on a screen next to his desk. It talks about “fair.digital DNA” and “digital sovereignty”. When we ask him what exactly this is all about, he puts down his coffee cup, starts talking and it quickly becomes clear that the next passionate affair of the busy entrepreneur is already lurking here. “It’s quite simple: the opposite of sovereignty is dependence – and nobody should be dependent on a few platforms. My favorite example in this context is booking.com: In order to be represented on the platform, hotels give between 15 and 30 percent of the booking price to booking.com. Although they are independent companies, they become dependent on booking.com and allow themselves to be treated like franchisees,” reports Hubschneider.
For entrepreneurs, the issue of data security is closely linked to this. Because data, whether private or business, should always be treated confidentially and protected accordingly. This is not the case with many platforms that operate their servers abroad. “That’s why I’ve been calling for the abolition of platform monopolies owned by profit-maximizing investors for a while now. What is needed instead are digitally sovereign platforms that are transferred into the ownership of the stakeholders,” says Martin Hubschneider passionately. To get closer to this goal, he founded the fair.digital association in 2020. It recognizes digital products and services that combine data protection, transparency and fairness.
Tuesday is Thinking Day
He is also involved in numerous other projects on a voluntary basis, including the freudeschenken.de association and the new WeCanChange.World initiative. As he tells us about his life and his many activities, one question keeps coming to mind: Where does the father of five daughters find the time and energy for all this?
When asked about this, he explains with a grin that his “secret is a clearly structured week.” Over the years, he has managed to develop certain routines that allow him to devote himself to his business and voluntary work while still having enough time for his family, he reveals with pride.
In practice, it would look like this: Hubschneider uses Mondays for jour fixes to plan the upcoming week together with his co-creators. This gives him the freedom to hold a “day of reflection” on Tuesday at a secret historical location. He has no appointments on this day. Instead, he develops strategies and new ideas. Joint decisions with the team are only made again on Wednesdays when it is the steering committees’ turn. Finally, Thursday is available for visits to customers and cooperation meetings, while on Friday he either attends external appointments or holds workshops and company meetings in the company. That leaves the weekend – and that is reserved entirely for his family and friends. “This structure is very important to me personally, which is why I start every day with half an hour of jogging,” adds Hubschneider at the end of our conversation. “I also like to go on a virtual journey with my thoughts and an inspiring book or enjoy what the Japanese call ‘shinrin-yoku’ in real nature: Forest bathing.”
We realize that we have almost lost track of time with all these exciting insights and impressions. The fact that Martin Hubschneider has given so much of his – valuable – time shows us once again very directly how passionate he is about the cause and how important his commitment to it is to him.
Fortunately, he is not alone in this and so the next digital mind behind karlsruhe.digital belongs to First Mayor Gabriele Luczak-Schwarz, who will open her office and her sewing box for us in November.