‘Sometimes I feel like I’m in Silicon Valley here’
A conversation with Jan Schriewer from Green IT Das Systemhaus GmbH about green know-how and innovative technologies in the Metropolis Ruhr
Around 100,000 people work in the environmental sector in the Metropolis Ruhr, generating a total turnover of 26 billion euros annually. Jan Schriewer is among them. The 35-year-old trained IT system sales rep and his business partner, Thomas Lesser, run the first green complete solution provider in Germany: Green IT. Their company focuses on sustainability in the office and combines economy with ecology.
We meet Jan Schriewer at the company offices in the TechnologieZentrum Dortmund. It’s green here – and we’re not just talking about the lawn outside. A smartflower, a mobile photovoltaic system, stands in front of the building. On our way to the entrance we pass an electric car with Green IT’s logo on it. We enter the building – and find ourselves in a forest. The wallpaper is printed with trees and birdsong helps set the scene. The sound is coming from a box on the wall.
The environment is buzzing – everyone is busy preparing for a big charity event that will take place at the company premises the following day. Despite the hustle and bustle, Jan Schriewer is in a good mood, relaxed and ready to chat.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in Silicon Valley here
In 2016 you won a special ‘Green Trade’ prize for a project at Dortmund Airport. In 2017 Green IT took first place in the ‘Growth Champion of 2017’ business competition in the category of ‘IT, Internet, Software & Services’. What does your success look like in numbers?
Schriewer: We started in January 2013 with just six employees – today we have 96 team members. Our customers valued green thinking from the start and placed their trust in our young company. As a result, we were able to generate 13 million euros in turnover even in our first year – and we made a profit. For a startup that really is extraordinary. Today our turnover is a good 32 million euros. This kind of rapid growth only works when you have a very dedicated team.
Green IT placed second for the NRW Entrepreneurs Prize in 2017. What was the idea behind founding your company?
Schriewer: When we first founded our company the ‘green’ idea was not a hot topic at all. But we were sure that it had a future – especially in the IT sector. We love the environment and want to protect it. Why not develop a business idea around that? Our idea puts you in a good position, because green business is not just positive for the environment, but also for your balance sheet. You use fewer resources, like electricity or paper, because you rely on digital processes. Green business is more environmentally friendly, but also significantly more cost-efficient as well. Ecology and economy: the two go hand in hand. Our business focuses on this overlap. We received an extremely high level of support right from the beginning from Dortmund’s Economic Development Agency. We always had a contact person on hand to answer our questions about financing and capital investments.
Why did you choose the Metropolis Ruhr as your base of operations?
Schriewer: The conditions here are fantastic. We have more companies in close proximity here than anywhere in Germany – and literally all industries are represented. You always hear about the entrepreneurial scene in Berlin or Hamburg – but the Metropolis Ruhr is a true hidden gem, a secret champion. The fact that an international global market leader like Wilo invested 60 million euros to build a huge campus at the edge of the Phoenix West district near Phoenix Lake shows just how attractive the location is for big business. There are lots of innovative companies here, especially in the green tech sector, which means there are a great number of opportunities for collaboration. Plus, the Metropolis Ruhr is our home. We like it here and this is where a majority of our customers are based. But of course we work with customers of all sizes across Germany, from SMEs to large enterprises.
Green IT is located right here in the middle of the TechnologieZentrum Dortmund. What are the advantages of being so close to such a large number of companies, experts and the Technical University of Dortmund?
Schriewer: This is one of the leading technology centres in Germany. It serves as a home to 350 companies – all of which are potential customers. Many already are our customers. Yesterday I went to a meeting literally just around the corner. It was about virtual reality. We brainstormed how a virtual green office of the future could be designed. On the way back from my meeting I passed a coworking space. Things like that are common in the Metropolis Ruhr – they aren’t restricted to places like London, Shanghai, San Francisco or Los Angeles. In the summer, actually, I feel like I’m in Silicon Valley here.Plus with the university so close, we’re able to recruit young, motivated specialists for our team.
You are a new member of the Junior Chamber and also GreenTechRuhr. What role do these types of networks play for your company?
Schriewer: Networks are always interesting for company development. They’re about getting input and exchanging ideas. It’s because of such networks that I first realised how many innovative companies are based in the Metropolis Ruhr. It is extremely exciting to network with others and develop new business ideas from that for our customers.
Computer nerd or environmental activist? What would you call yourself?
Schriewer: I’m a nerd at heart, even if I might not look like one. I go crazy for anything to do with technology, even in my personal life. But my wife and I also make an effort to live green at home, too: we have solar panels on our roof, we’ve retrofitted everything to LED and we drive an electric car. I’ve turned my passion into a profession, and that is a joy.
About the TechnologieZentrum Dortmund:
The TechnologieZentrum Dortmund is one of the leading sites in Europe for high tech. The site comprises 420 hectares, where over 350 companies with a total of around 100,000 employees conduct their work and research. As one of the first and most successful technology and entrepreneurial centres in the country, the TechnologieZentrum is an exemplary location for all of Germany with the optimal mix of scientific theory and practical world applications.