How to build a 2.5 billion dollar Unicorn

Bastian Nominacher, the co-founder of Celonis, says he can be "a pain in the ass", if he wants to get something done

It wasn't an excuse for heavy drinking.

Actually, it was quite the opposite. When three friends started a student club in Munich it was all about business. Eight years ago Bastian Nominacher and his college friends Alexander Rinke and Martin Klenk realized that companies needed better advice in running IT processes. Born was Celonis.

Fast forward until today, Celonis climbed up the ladder and became one of the few top European unicorns. In conversation with Bits & Pretzels Editor-in-Chief Britta Weddeling Nominacher gives insights into how the engineers built the software firm and his personal simple secrets for success:

"If I want to get something done, I can be a pain in the ass."

The entrepreneur runs business development at the pioneer in a technology called “process mining”. The team writes algorithms to analyze data from companies to identify problems with certain processes and works out a solution for them to run things in a more efficient. Today, Celonis counts Lufthansa, BMW, Airbus, Siemens and Uber as customers and has about 800 employees ("Celonauts") and two headquarters in Munich and New York.

© Deutscher Zukunftspreis
© Deutscher Zukunftspreis
© Deutscher Zukunftspreis
© Deutscher Zukunftspreis
© Deutscher Zukunftspreis

But for Nominacher, it all started from very humble beginnings. The 35 years-old grew up as a son of a baker in Forstern, Bavaria, which is also why he loves Pretzels so much. He left school after 10 years with his high school diploma to start working in a computer shop. He only decided later that he needed to get his A levels and a university degree and that he initially was not driven enough:

"I didn't get A levels. I got bored. So, I had to course correct, go back to school, take A levels and then go to university."

So as it turns out, it’s never too late to aim for the next level.

Bastian also explains how the German software unicorn attracts and keeps talent, which could be a struggle for many companies in the field of artificial intelligence where they compete with international tech giants of the size of Google, Microsoft or Amazon. To beat their rivals the Celonis team had to built a global company from the early beginnings:

"We run the company on a global basis. If you are the market leader, if you're covered in more than 30 different countries around the globe, you can't afford to just think locally, because also most of our customers are global."

Production & Editing: Regina Körner, Migo Fricke, Hubert Honold. Design: Christian Lohmeier, Max Keis. With help of Janek Postpischiel.