Interview with Celonis founder: “We have a long-term ambition”

Celonis raises a billion dollars from investors. This means that the startup has even surpassed the latest sensational investments, for example at the online broker Trade Republic and the insurance startup Wefox. In an interview with ntv, co-boss Bastian Nominacher says what Celonis wants to do with the money.

The startup is a provider of software for the optimization of processes in companies, so-called execution management. According to its own statements, Celonis is the world market leader in this area. Customers include numerous large corporations such as Deutsche Telekom, Siemens and Deutsche Bank.

ntv: The last funding was not that long ago, it was almost $ 300 million in size. The new one is worth a billion dollars. Celonis is now valued at more than $ 11 billion – so it’s no longer a unicorn, but a decacorn. A big step?

Bastian Nominacher: That is of course a great development, which shows that our technology is in great demand among companies. In October last year, we launched our Execution Management System on the market, thus creating a new category of software that helps companies to execute processes intelligently and in a data-driven manner. The tremendously positive feedback from our customers shows that we have a unique opportunity to change and improve the way companies work by making every process in the world more efficient and sustainable.

What do you need the money for? You won’t buy computers or servers from it.

We are seeing tremendous demand for our Execution Management System as companies realize they need to modernize their business processes and the way they are executed. The new financial resources give us the opportunity to drive product development and innovation further, to accelerate our strong growth and to further expand our global technology and market leadership. Celonis will use the proceeds from the Series D financing to support companies in the use of data-driven intelligent execution management systems.

Is the acquisition of companies an issue?

In October last year, we acquired Integromat, the leading cloud-based automation platform that combines applications and services with powerful, code-free integrations to automate online workflows, in order to make our execution management platform even better for our customers. In this respect, we are not growing specifically through acquisitions, but if there are opportunities to strengthen our platform, then of course we will look at them. Thus, the additional capital gives us the opportunity to pursue acquisitions when we think they make sense in order to advance the execution management category.

You helped develop so-called process mining, i.e. AI-controlled optimization of processes in companies. Still the question: How labor intensive is your business?

Our employees are our greatest asset and crucial to the success of Celonis. We always get great feedback from our customers about how committed our employees are and that they always find ways and means to find and implement the best possible solution for our customers.

IT specialists are rare. Is the money primarily intended for personnel finding and recruiting?

Our focus is on expanding our execution management software category. This also means that we invest heavily in our employees, the so-called Celonauts. The number of our employees has almost doubled in the last year alone, so that we can support our customers in the best possible way. We can only continuously develop our technology with the best software developers, data scientists, product managers and many other roles.

You recently hired an ex-Google manager as CFO. Apparently, German startups can now poach in Silicon Valley. Have the US IT professionals discovered the German market?

We work closely with a wide variety of companies and managers, including from Silicon Valley. For example, we recently founded our CEO Council. The founding members include, for example, Michael Dell and Keith Block from Salesforce, but also Stefan Heidenreich, the former CEO of Beiersdorf. The mindset in America is different: In the USA it is common for corporate managers to switch to startups. That is still rather rare in Germany. But it is of course very helpful for us as a fast-growing company if we can win such experienced managers for us.

Our new CFO Carlos Kirjner is a real visionary and industry veteran and recognized the great potential of companies such as Google and Amazon very early on. At Google, he was in charge of finance for the core businesses Google Ads, Google Search and Google Maps, which generate around $ 150 billion in annual sales and employ tens of thousands of employees. We are proud that he recognized the potential of Celonis and joined our company to help us accelerate our tremendous growth even further.

Maybe a price after all? What did the new CFO cost?

Of course we can’t say anything about that.

How long will the Celonis founders continue to be at the forefront? Will there be a CEO soon as a hired manager?

Our goal is to build a successful company in the long term – that drives all three of us and is still great fun, and that’s why we have a long-term ambition. To drive this forward, we have also built a strong global management team. In addition to our new CFO, we recently gained a new Chief Information Security Officer and a Chief Legal Officer. And last year, with Miguel Milano, Arsenio Otero, Malhar Kamdar and André Heinz, other top managers also came to Celonis.

In all financing rounds of German startups, it is noticeable that there are no German investors from 100 million or more. It can’t be because of the money. Why is there again no German investor in your financing round?

In every financing round, it was important to us to work with the right partners for the respective phase and to systematically expand our network. We pursue a long-term strategy and our new Series D investors bring enormous expertise with them in building technology companies that are successful over the long term.

The choice of investors also supports our global strategy. Celonis is a global company that works with customers and partners around the world and is supported by international investors.

Is it still going to stay in Munich?

Absolutely! Because this is where our roots lie. Our development team is based here, and the German and also the European market are extremely important to us. Munich is a very good location for us, numerous large corporations and many of our customers are based here. And Munich also offers perfect conditions in terms of staffing and recruiting, as we have some great training centers in the technology sector here, such as the Technical University of Munich, the LMU and the Munich University of Applied Sciences.

What comes after this round? The Swedish payment service provider Klarna has reached a valuation of $ 31 billion and is now considering going public. Is that an option for Celonis in the next step?

The focus is on continuously developing our technology and delivering real added value to our customers. We don’t feel any time pressure with regard to an IPO, even if we can well imagine that we will one day be a listed company.

Klarna has earmarked part of the last financing round for sustainability projects. Your business has a lot to do with computer technology. Do you have goals in terms of sustainability and some carbon neutrality?

Sustainability is very important to us. We presented our corporate values ​​last year. One of them is “Earth is our future”. We also live sustainability in everyday work, although we are aware of how important it is to convert this conviction into long-term progress. This not only means optimizing your own carbon footprint, but also working for a fairer society. We try to meet this requirement by offering products and training free of charge as well as entering into partnerships with educational institutions. We give young people worldwide access to education and thus pave the way for the next generation of bright minds who will change the world with their ideas.

In addition, our technology makes an important contribution to making our customers more sustainable – for example at Lufthansa Cityline, who use our technology to save CO2 emissions.

Andreas Laukat spoke to Bastian Nominacher