Thinking ahead

Dr Stefanie Lemcke
Trend scout and consultant for innovation and technology, New York City, USA

Andreas Würfel
Head of Business Innovation, METRO GROUP, New York City, USA

Dr. Stephanie Lemcke Trend Scout (photo) Andreas Würfel Head of Business Innovation (photo)

Where ideas are born …

Andreas Würfel is a professional forward-thinker. His mission: finding new concepts, technologies and relevant innovations so that the company can offer customers the best possible products and services. That sounds like freedom, adventure and inventive talent, but in practice it has more to do with experience, a healthy dose of realism and a strong team.

Stefanie Lemcke and Andreas Würfel talking at a pier in New York (photo)

New York is a hot spot in the international start-up scene – and a meeting point for trailblazing thinkers like Stefanie Lemcke and Andreas Würfel.

Andreas Würfel has been Head of Business Innovation at METRO GROUP since 2014. “As an internal consultant, I stand with one foot outside – where the trends emerge and develop – and one foot inside the group, supporting our sales lines.” When the innovation manager says outside, he especially means the hot spots of the international start-up scene: places where new ideas emerge, are tested and rejected – or developed into promising concepts – on an almost daily basis. New York is one such place.

“Together with our trend scouts, I identify relevant innovations and what drives them, all the way through to potential innovation projects.”

“We’ve built up an international scouting expert network. It includes regional innovation consultants in the USA, Europe, Asia and, since October 2015, also in Africa,” says Würfel. One of these consultants is Dr Stefanie Lemcke. She works for METRO GROUP in New York and has a workplace that is the envy of others: “My desk is in my office in Manhattan, but most of the time I’m out and about in the city,” Lemcke explains. “I go to pitch events, meet start-up owners, check their concepts and pass on my recommendations to the Business Innovation team at METRO GROUP.” The well-connected consultant is never short of exciting new ideas – New York is the essence of inspiration.

Picture of a dish on a smartphone (photo) Stefanie Lemcke and Andreas Würfel discuss innovative concepts and ideas in front of a restaurant (photo)

On the move in the Meatpacking District: while touring the area, Stefanie Lemcke and Andreas Würfel discuss innovative concepts and ideas.

Stefanie Lemcke and Andreas Würfel cross a street in New York (photo)

Ideas for the think tank

Fascinating and diverse, incredibly fast-paced and ahead of the times, New York is one of the most popular locations in the world for start-ups. The city’s leading minds and innovators generate important ideas, concepts and technologies – including for METRO GROUP’s internal think tank.

“The interface between digital and bricks-and-mortar retail is much further developed here than in Europe – the US is up to two years ahead.”

“Here in New York, it’s very easy to observe changes in consumer behaviour,” says Stefanie Lemcke, whose company, New York International, focuses on innovation consultancy in the retail, food, “internet of things”, mobile, media and e-commerce sectors. “As soon as trends emerge here, concepts are quickly developed – and I take a look at them immediately.” Adopting a very practical approach, the consultant downloads the apps produced by start-ups onto her smartphone or tablet, tests them in shops, documents everything on video and shares information about the latest ideas from the start-up scene with Andreas Würfel on a regular basis.

After an initial check, METRO GROUP’s innovation area managers select the ideas that will be developed into pilot projects. “They check to what extent the concepts are feasible in the sales lines. Here, customer benefit is a keyword, and it’s also a key reason why we often end up with a shortlist of only three or four out of 100 start-ups,” says Würfel. Some are such a good fit that the decision is easy. This was the case, for instance, with Culinary Agents, an American networking and job matching site. Its partnership with METRO GROUP is an example of the successful collaboration between Stefanie Lemcke and Andreas Würfel.

Find out more about the topic of innovation at METRO GROUP in the interview with Gabriele Riedmann de Trinidad, Group Director Business Innovation.

Video interview with Gabriele Riedmann de Trinidad

Stefanie Lemcke shows Andreas Würfel a website on a iPad (photo) Stefanie Lemcke and Andreas Würfel discuss innovative concepts and ideas (photo)

Eating from the net: numerous start-ups in New York are developing on-demand platforms and services for the hospitality sector.

The forward-thinkers

Portrait of Andreas Würfel (photo)

Andreas Würfel

As Head of Business Innovation at METRO GROUP, Andreas Würfel is responsible for identifying innovations and what drives them. One of the ways in which he does this is with a network of experts that he has built up, which includes trend scouts in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa. Once his team has checked out information and ideas that are relevant to METRO GROUP and its sales lines, Andreas Würfel passes them on to his colleagues within the company. As a result, ideas become concepts, and concepts in turn become concrete projects.

Portrait of Stephanie Lemcke (photo)

Dr Stephanie Lemcke

Stefanie Lemcke developed a passion for the US and for New York at an early age. Then, ten years ago, she packed her bags and moved to the US, working, among others, for a media enterprise and in the technology sector. Stefanie Lemcke now works as a trend scout and consultant for innovation and technology. She loves her job not only because it isn’t your average office job, but also because she regularly gets to meet impressive people and sniff out new trends.