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Coroplast Global | News | 03 Jun 2022 Success model: one common goal, two unequal partners and many advantages

Why does a startup put its revolutionary e-motorcycle on the road with the support of a traditional medium-sized company? In this interview, René Renger, Managing Director of Novus GmbH, and Philip Schröder, Business Unit Manager WeWire Global Market & Development, tell us why this unequal partnership is profitable for both sides.
René Renger and Philip Schröder with the Novus e-motorcycle
Successful collaboration: René Renger, Novus (right) and Philip Schröder, WeWire with the prototype of the Novus e-motorcycle


Mr. Renger, you are an industrial designer. How did you come up with the idea of developing and producing an e-bike? 

René Renger: The idea started when I was a student. At the time, a colleague from my current team and I were working together on a bachelor's thesis. The idea was to combine the lightness of e-bikes with the performance of motorcycles – and to do so in a revolutionary design. At those times, the first e-motorcycles were just coming onto the market, but they were anything but cool. At the same time, there were already the first concepts for electrified motorcycles. At that point, there was simply a huge box in the front for the battery, and the machines were neither powerful nor particularly stylish and didn't exploit the potential of e-mobility at all. Over many years, we therefore built a first prototype as a hobby, which we were allowed to present at a trade fair in the USA. The feedback was so tremendous that I founded the company Novus with a team of crazy people who believed in the idea. 

It's already difficult to build something that drives. But building something that can be approved and where the Federal Motor Transport Authority says everything fits - that's a real challenge.

René Renger | CEO and Founder, Novus GmbH

So how did the collaboration between Novus and WeWire come about? 

René Renger: We were looking for an industry partner to help us develop the product to meet the high standards in the automotive sector. We simply didn't have any experience with that ourselves. A colleague who had been with MAN for 20 years said to me: "Let's talk to the Coroplast Group and try to convince them to work with us. They're not too big, not a corporate group, that could work." The colleague then established contact and simply called. WeWire was immediately enthusiastic about the project. I was really surprised at how quickly it all went: An employee then came by here and shortly after that things went from strength to strength. 

Philip Schröder: I remember that at some point the head of our Service Center, Matthias Mehnert, came to me and said that he had come across a really exciting startup. With a product that would fit in very well with our activities in the area of innovation management. I was immediately enthusiastic about the project and, after an appointment in Wolfsburg, I drove by Novus without further ado. 

René Renger (right) and Philip Schröder with the Novus e-motorcycle and a roll of the installed HV cable
Design meets technology: WeWire brings its extensive expertise in high-voltage electrical systems to the revolutionary e-motorcycle concept.

Mr. Schröder, what motivates you to cooperate with startups? What makes the work? 

Philip Schröder: We are currently experiencing a cultural change at WeWire. And in this context, I'm interested in opening ourselves up much more to the outside world. We come from a rather traditional supplier environment. Our employees around the world have been used to working with traditional OEMs for decades. Now it's about bringing a new spirit into our company. With projects like this, WeWire, even as a relatively large and established player, can learn a lot from startups that approach their projects with a lot of passion.  

It's good for us to be in contact with young, dynamic companies like Novus. This helps us a lot to keep up with the changes in the mobility industry, and we have to if we want to be successful in the future.

Philip Emanuel Schröder | Business Unit Manager WeWire Global Markets & Development

And how did the collaboration work out? 

René Renger: Before the cooperation with WeWire, we had rather difficult experiences with the acquisition of partners. I was really surprised when it went so quickly and easily. We also work with other larger companies, but I have to say: WeWire is one of the most agile and decisive. The team simply says: "Yes, we like it. Let's do it together. Let's go." That gives me confidence and is great fun. 

Philip Schröder: I'm very pleased to hear that. Because agility, flexibility, speed, those are exactly the core elements that distinguish us. And the team is simply super. It has driven the issue forward completely autonomously. Sure, I was here and said we'd do it. But after that, the team drove everything else forward. It's a team that works on the cable sets in the garage on weekends and checks the installation on the computer at home. You can see the passion and enjoyment of the craft, and I see that as a great strength. 

Laid out wiring harness from WeWire with all the components that it connects.
Lifeline: The innovative wiring harness from WeWire is perfectly matched to the unusual installation space of the Novus bike and connects all components.

What are the differences between working with large manufacturers and a startup like Novus? 

Philip Schröder: First of all, corporations also tick very differently. But you can also sense cultural differences between established players or young companies. Of course, working with a startup involves different dimensions, approaches and standards: But with Novus, it took less than four weeks from the agreement – yes, we're doing this together – to implementation. The main difference is definitely the speed. 

For me, this is also the most important insight from the project with Novus: When it comes down to it, we can speed things up and we can also make spontaneous decisions. But we need a partner who is willing and able to do this. That's why I think it's great that we've now launched something together and pulled it off within a few weeks. We now have a finished set of cables on the table that connects all the elements in this vehicle. 

I believe speed will be the decisive factor in the future. Know-how is now accessible to almost anyone with the appropriate budget. But you can't buy courage and the will to make decisions anywhere.

René Renger | CEO and Founder, Novus GmbH

What were the biggest challenges for both of you on the project?  

René Renger: We have a vehicle concept that is very unconventional. The biggest challenge was finding the right partners for it and getting the different requirements together. We wanted to get a solution that works as quickly as possible. And WeWire naturally wanted the solution not just to work somehow, but to meet automotive standards. That's also the right thing to do, and you have to talk to each other. This ping-pong game between us worked very well. We had to learn what series meant. And WeWire has seen how you can also develop more pragmatically and faster. 

Philip Schröder: For all our speed and agility, we come from a world that is very driven by standards. That's also necessary because it's a matter of complying with safety precautions. Finding the right balance here was not always easy. The team had to say: Normally, we would do it like this, but then we would still have to carry out one validation and another. So what could be the right balance between speed and perfection that would still allow us to meet the necessary specifications?  

René Renger and Philip Schröder with the Novus e-motorcycle
Balancing act: WeWire had to find the right mix of speed and perfection during development.

How will the cooperation continue?  

René Renger: We are now building several test vehicles that will be extremely close to series production in terms of appearance and functionality. We'll use them for testing and then we'll have to see whether there's any further feedback and whether we need to adjust any details. In the middle of the year, we want to meet with WeWire again and think about what a first series might look like. We at Novus will then start planning the follow-up product, which will come in a larger quantity. And here, too, we will of course talk to WeWire again. After all, a trusting cooperation has been established – and I would like to continue that. 

Mr. Renger, Mr. Schröder, thank you very much.