Who’s behind Celonis?

Celonis was founded in 2011 by Martin Klenk, Bastian Nominacher and Alexander Rinke and quickly evolved into a leading provider of "process mining", a technology for the real-time analysis of business processes. Martin leads the software development and the technological focus of the company. Bastian is responsible for business operations, company expansion and new market development. Alexander manages the US market and is involved in further development of technology as a chief product owner; prior to founding the company he worked for Munich Re and was named by Forbes as among the "Top 30 Under 30 Europe" in 2016.

How did you all meet?

The foundations of Celonis were laid at the Technical University of Munich. We, the mathematician Alexander, the computer scientist Martin and certified IT business engineer Bastian, got to know each other at the Technical University of Munich during our studies while working on a project. In this project, we faced the challenge of analysing a large amount of process data. However, we found that conventional techniques for analysing data were too limited for our purpose. So we started to develop our own software and thus, laid the foundation for Celonis. The name is derived from the Greek god Zelos for "quest" and emphasises that there was a large vision behind the business idea right from the beginning.

What is unique about your business idea?

In the digital age, companies depend on IT-supported processes which are, as a rule, highly complex. This is where our innovative "big data technology process mining" can be used. This technology can automatically analyse processes end-to-end and hidden costs and vulnerabilities are uncovered along the way. Hidden process knowledge is therefore made transparent and available for companies. The analysis is usable, transparent and visualisable for several terabytes of data. The technology is universal and has so far already been used by more than 200 customers from different companies such as Siemens and Bayer.

Who assisted you when founding the company?

The Technical University of Munich played a significant role. On the one hand, we were supported by the TUM-Gründungsberatung [TUM consulation for start-ups] and on the other hand, by the EXIST Gründerstipendium [EXIST start-up grant], where we were given a mentor and jobs on-site.

Since 2012, we have been partners in the SAP Startups Focus Programm and since 2015, we have been a member of the SAP PartnerEdge® programme, through which we have been able to gain access to additional resources. In the same year we signed a global agreement with SAP. SAP now sells the process mining technology of Celonis worldwide under the name SAP® Process Mining by Celonis.

Did you take part in pitches or business plan competitions?

We have won multiple awards. In 2015, we won the Presidential Entrepreneurship Award of the TU Munich. Shortly after, Deloitte presented us with the Fast50 Award as the "fastest growing technology company in Germany". In the last two years, we received the SAP HANA Award, an award for innovative solutions.

What were the biggest challenges you had to face when founding the company? 

At first it was difficult for us to win the trust of large companies and to convince them of our product. Therefore, we consciously turned to innovators in the industry who have a sympathetic ear for new technologies. Another problem was finding the right tone. Initially, we communicated using very technical language, and it was difficult to convince our customers of the benefits of the product. Today, we have adapted our language in order to convey our arguments credibly.

Another challenge for us is the rapidly changing environment. We have to adapt continuously to new requirements and further develop our product. Lastly, it is important to remember to remain true to yourself. This means that, if necessary, we reject short-term, promising opportunities if they do not fit our long-term vision.

What advice can you give to new business entrepreneurs?

Put the customer benefits at the centre and don’t try to be a perfectionist! It is often better to start with a "minimum viable product", which has only a few features yet fulfills the needs of the customer. The next step is to develop the product together with the customer and adapt it to their needs. This approach saves time, money and reduces the risks. Final advice: fear can be an obstacle when trying to win over the right decision-makers. For example, our co-founder Alex presented SAP founder Hasso Plattner with our company presentation at just the right time. This was the beginning of our sales partnership today.

Why did you choose Munich or rather Bavaria as a business location?

Munich has always been the centre of our lives. Moreover, Celonis was founded at the TU Munich, so we decided to stay in Munich. Munich is also the headquarters of many large companies such as our customers Siemens and Bayerischer Rundfunk [Radio Bavaria]. Lastly, the city is an important linchpin in the technology industry and one of the main start-up cities in Germany. In this respect, we are able to benefit from many funding programmes, events and networks. With more than 100,000 students, Munich also has a large pool of potential future employees.

What aims do you have for the future?

Our goal is growth, in order to further exploit the potential of our core technology. We are therefore investing in the expansion of our sales and service infrastructure as well as in the development of our technology. We want to establish our new basic technology in order to analyse and optimise our customers' processes using process mining. We are currently fulfilling this vision by continually increasing our workforce. We want to employ more than 1,000 employees by 2020. We also want to further expand our business in the US and in Asia. Overall, we are planning to achieve a turnover of several hundred million by 2020 and to venture going public on the US technology stock exchange, NASDAQ.

Where can I find out more about Celonis?

You can find out everything you would like to know about us on www.celonis.de. And you can find out what exactly process mining is, and how it works, here.