Founders Bastian Nominacher and Martin Klenk

“We had the ingredients we needed to set up business”

When Alumnus Bastian Nominacher founded his start-up together with his fellow students Martin Klenk and Alexander Rinke, they still used his private apartment as an improvised office. Today their company is valued at one billion US dollars.

Bastian Nominacher, Martin Klenk and Alexander Rinke ended up founding their company almost by chance. While studying at TUM, the three founders became involved in the student consultancy service, Academy Consult Munich. As part of a project, they wanted to improve customer service for broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk, but this could not be achieved using traditional methods. Suddenly, the founders noticed something, and this laid the foundations for their current start-up.

“The IT system automatically stored process data – an incredibly valuable feature that produced a constantly growing treasure trove,” says Bastian Nominacher. “It was clear to us that we had to analyze it, that there was an immense value behind it. Based on a publication by Dutch professor Wil van der Aalst, the three young men developed their own program. In 2011, shortly after completing their studies, the company was founded. “First the three of us worked in my apartment and, over time, we gained more and more customers,” says Nominacher. Large corporations such as Siemens were on board early on. “This allowed us to get by completely without external investment in the first five years – very unusual for a start-up,” says the TUM Alumnus.

A real unicorn from TUM

Today, the 33-year-old is co-CEO of one of the world’s most successful start-ups. Investors recently valued the TUM spin-off at one billion US dollars. Start-ups that achieve this enterprise value are referred to as “unicorns”. They are seen in Germany less frequently than in the USA or China: According to the “Handelsblatt”, only five start-ups have crossed the billion euro threshold in the past ten years.

As early as 2015, Celonis was the fastest growing technology company in Germany, and one year later the New York office was opened. One third of the DAX companies now use the technology. This makes Celonis the world market leader in so-called process mining. This enables companies to analyze all digital business processes and thus quickly recognize whether there are problems in the processes and, if yes, where these are to be found. “We are creating a completely new category of technology in this area,” says Bastian Nominacher. “This is what makes it all so incredibly exciting and exciting.

We have a bold vision, but we are 100% on board.

Although all three founders were in great demand on the labor market with their degrees from TUM, they decided quite without fear to set up the company. “Sure, it was a risk, but we didn’t have any obligations back then either, so it was manageable,” says Martin Klenk. And Bastian Nominacher adds:  “Despite everything, it was a big step for me, but in the end the enthusiasm of our customers convinced me to go on.” None of the three men had originally intended to leave university as company founders. “We simply had the right ingredients we needed to set up business,” says Bastian Nominacher. For him, this includes the right idea, the right timing, the right market and a great team. “If we had started out five years earlier, for example, the computer technology would not have been available to implement our idea.

TUM talent pool

TUM played an important role in the company’s  foundation. In addition to the TUM consuktancy service for company founders, the chairs of Business Informatics, Industrial Design and Entrepreneurship helped to develop the business model and a corporate identity. “Regardless of whether it is a question of software architecture or a complex financial model – we can always fall back on the knowledge provided by the university. This is incredibly important for us, since we didn’t have any business experience when we founded the company.”

The connection is still close today. More than a quarter of the 400 employees come from TUM: “The fact that we have our office in Munich on Theresienstraße is no coincidence,” says Bastian Nominacher. In fact, the proximity to the TUM is an important location factor. “We serve an almost infinitely large market, there is very strong demand and we need real talent at the highest level. Celonis receives more than 2,000 applications per quarter, but only a few are chosen. “We are very selective, but TUM offers us a very good local talent pool. If TUM didn’t exist here, we would probably have to move away because there simply wouldn’t be any employees there for us”

The future vision of growth

In addition to its headquarters in Munich and New York, Celonis has numerous other international offices. In the USA, the company has four locations and generates half of its turnover there. The leap across the Atlantic, which some considered risky, did not scare the founders. “We were certain that US companies would face the same business challenges in process optimization,” says Nominacher. In addition, Celonis had prepared well for the step by taking experienced investors as partners for the first time five years after the company was founded. Further growth is also forecast for the future. “I can well imagine that, in a few years, Celonis will be a company with several thousand employees,” says Bastian Nominacher. After all, the company is the absolute market leader in its field and currently has to cover demand from all over the world. The founders do not rule out going public, but they do say they won’t sell the company. ” We have a bold vision, but we are 100% on board,” Bastian Nominacher is convinced.