From the CONSTRUCTION phase to the OPENING and daily business

A retrospective with Jonas Wagner

His goal is for everyone to do only exactly what they do best. Jonas Wagner is the center manager of CUBEX ONE and CUBEX 41 - two of Mannheim's eight startup centers. They support MedTech startups in their development. He started his career at ABB in the field of renewable energies with the topics of energy management, smart grids and intelligent charging management of e-cars. In addition, he was self-employed twice. Most recently, he led the hydrogen innovation cluster of the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region. Networking is what he likes and enjoys. Who has what needs? How can he bring together different goals? And how can he use this to drive innovation?

Where the journey began

Jonas took over the management of the two MedTech centers as a parental leave substitute for Katharina Klotzbach and gives us an insight into the timeline of CUBEX ONE

How was your start at CUBEX and NEXT Mannheim? Was it challenging to get used to a new field?

Jonas: "MedTech is challenging and so was the handover! 😀 I had exactly 1 month to get to know NEXT MANNHEIM from the inside and take over two buildings - one of them was so new that I moved in with the furniture and the first few tenants. Everything was well prepared to take over quickly, and the (extended) team was set up in such a way that I could directly focus on community building. My strength is networking and I fully enjoyed that. I talked to everyone who seemed important and whom I could reach (over 250 companies in 1,5 years). And I took part in every event available. I quickly got into the completely new topic with a lot of questions and modesty because of my non existing MedTech knowledge - well at least deep enough to learn about the specific challenges of startups and find solutions or the right experts."

Jonas Wagner at the Opening of CUBEX ONE
Jonas Wagner at the Opening of CUBEX ONE

Can you tell us about your experience working as a center manager? Did your experience as a center manager meet your expectations?

Jonas: "I learned about the valley of death between research funding and private investors. The efforts of MedTech startups are extreme and start all over again with certification, commercialization and funding after many years of research. It is such a energy-sapping industry for founders and at the same time such a rewarding one because it directly improves and saves lives like few others.

Secondly, leadership - "learning by doing" plus having a good boss of your own to support you is probably the only way to improve step by step. Everyone is different and it needs a lot of instinct to orchestrate a team. Textbook situations arise and the only solution at that moment is gut feeling. Extremely exciting! And of course, mistakes are part of it and open communication about those crucial.

Thirdly, when things get crazy, it's okay and important to say "no" to e.g. processes, meetings, events or email responses that are too much at that moment. It took my courage to prioritize tactfully and perseverance because the decision may not be accepted until the third time I have made it.

It's incredible to see a team, a community or startups grow. That’s priceless!"

It is now the time to focus on the existing community to grow it more attractive and more attractive step by step!
Jonas Wagner

Could you share the major challenges and difficulties you encountered during your time?

Jonas: "How to quickly fill a startup hub with MedTech startups was the dominant question. MedTech startups often only have a very small period of time in which they decide on the location they establish their company at. They invest in e.g. labs and stay there for several years. It’s like trying to turn a tanker then. They are startups that are more complex than other startups and have the highest requirements for their premises. And what if several projects fell asleep partly due to corona, which have produced several spin-offs in the past. Apart from that, half of the team dropped out long-term due to illness. Court cases, final construction negotiations, working with clinics processes,... well, there weren’t too few challenges. But it would have been boring otherwise 😅"

de hub journey event on the rooftop terrace in CUBEX ONE in Mai 2021
de hub journey event on the rooftop terrace in CUBEX ONE in Mai 2021

And your personal highlight?

Jonas: "Over the entire time: The drive and cohesion in the youngest team! All of the events, the new tenants, the community that has developed and the reputation of our startup hub are only possible with a motivated team and support from the entire company and close network. And of course, that includes fights - that's what welds together emotionally.

It’s the CUBEX opening with 200 regional and national startups, students, doctors, industry partners, investors, politicians and other networks if I had to pick a single moment. An afternoon of great mood, a competition, a scholarship, scientific program, political opening, team power, 4 months of preparation, good weather at the right time, BBQ & live music... it was exciting and fun to host!"


Impressionen der Eröffnungsfeier

Throughout your time as a center manager, who did you find to be the most inspiring person that you encountered?

Jonas: "Elmar Bourdon - I was amazed how he manages to orchestrate people and their interests. People with seemingly completely different points of view at the same table left meetings with a satisfied smile. How!? And little joke on the side: how do so many people listen to him, even though he sometimes takes such long pauses 😯😀"

Visual Abstract

Among the startups, it is Visual Abstract! They live my vision! Everyone in the team of founders is different and does what they does best and loves to do. I wish Benito and Sari all the best! I am excited to see you evolve. Please always appreciate your differences.

With the CUBEX ONE being at full capacity, what are the current areas of focus?

Jonas: "Community, community, community. The focus is now on the community and details in the building. It is now the time to focus on the existing community to grow it more attractive and more attractive step by step. We have everything in our region: hospitals (UMM, ZI, BG, KliLu, BBT), universities (Uni MA, Uni HD, HS MA, DHBW, SRH), startups, industry partners (MedTech Cluster, BioRN...), network partners (5-HT, KI-Garage...) and one or other investor (Palatina Business Angels, Angels4Health...).

  1. On the investor side we want to become stronger. The beginnings for this have been made. Activities are being initiated at all levels - at the state of Baden-Württemberg, the city of Mannheim, with other network partners and within our hub.
  2. Strengthen technology transfer: We want to develop scientists with the right partners into entrepreneurial teams. It’s about bridging the gap between creative and design-oriented minds and detailed scientists. That’s an exciting challenge.
  3. And of course we support our tenants and refine the processes in our hubs. Soon, tenants will be able to book spaces themselves on an online platform.

I'm excited to see the next steps and everyone is welcome to join with their ideas! I wish Katharina and the team a lot of fun!"

As the CUBEX ONE project comes to a close for you, what are your future plans and where do you see your path leading you next?

Jonas: "I'll stay within the region until summer. After that my girlfriend and I have decided to move with her to the northern part of Germany. What’s going to be the next step there? I'm currently figuring that out. I'm sure it has something to do with startups or innovation and networking. If anyone knows anyone then let me know - I want to network and get to know some people."

Stay in touch

You would like to stay in touch with Jonas?

Make sure to connect with him on LinkedIn to see his future journey.

Get in touch