A sculpture of Werner von Siemens, the founder of the Siemens company, on display at the factory in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Bloomberg
More than 170 years ago, on December 1846, Werner von Siemens improved the electrical pointer telegraph that was invented by Charles Wheatstone, an Englishman.

Von Siemens’ device was superior to the apparatus in common use until then, because it no longer worked like a clock mechanism. Instead, it automatically controlled the synchronisation between the transmitter and the receiver - an entirely new solution in electric communications.

The thirty-year-old inventor entrusted the construction of the telegraph to a precision mechanic named Johann Georg Halske, whom he knew from the “Physical Society”, an association of ambitious young researchers.

Halske produced experimental equipment for many well-known scientists of the day, as well as prototypes for inventions in the fields of precision mechanics, physics, optics and chemistry.

Von Siemens was able to convince the initially sceptical Halske of the potential of his engineering projects.

Careful calculations of the anticipated order volume made Halske so enthusiastic about the young officer’s visionary ideas that he gave up his existing business in the autumn of 1847 and accepted the risk of jointly launching a new company.

Since the individual telegraphs were hand-crafted, there was no need to purchase large machinery, which meant that the amount of capital needed by the founders (neither of whom had much money) was equally small.

Instead, Halske offered his “design talent”, while Von Siemens contributed to what we would today call his “network” as well as his technical innovations.

The start-up capital of 6842 talers (any of numerous silver coins that served as a unit of currency in certain Germanic countries between the 15th and 19th centuries) was provided by Werner’s cousin, Johann Georg Siemens, a magistrate and the father of the later co-founder of Deutsche Bank.

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Von Siemens, Johann Georg Halske and Johann Georg Siemens signed a partnership agreement on October 1, 1847, the official founding date.

Less than two weeks after the contract was signed, the “Telegraphen-Bauanstalt Von Siemens & Halske” began operations in a back building in Berlin on October 12, 1847. This day has been celebrated as Founding Day since 1872. That’s how Werner von Siemens built his company more than 170 years ago.

Siemens is at it again, to create another Siemens by supporting start-ups within the company. Next47, is a start-up by Siemens to create other start-ups with the focus on fields such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and others.

At Next47 the plan is to work with emerging innovations and combine them with the unparalleled advantages of Siemens to create future businesses. Next47 provides promising new companies with access to global markets and customers in more than 200 countries, cross-industry networking opportunities and the expertise of experienced Siemens specialists.

In addition, entrepreneurs have access to: deep vertical know-how, fast prototyping, access to real data to test your algorithms, real use cases and global access to Siemens customers. Plus the network of more than 200 manufacturing facilities around the world is ready for entrepreneurs.

The start-up is creating the optimal collaborative environment to turn great ideas into viable businesses. The dedicated team of experts forms a bridge between the start-up world and the Siemens ecosystem. On one side, high levels of flexibility and independence. On the other side, a strong customer base, stability and financial strength.

The same approaches used by Werner von Siemens to build his company more than 170 years ago are now applied by Next47 to build the next big thing. Every breakthrough idea is unique. So every Next47 partnership is unique, too. As venture capitalist, coach and adviser, the start-up has the flexibility to form smart collaborations that lead to mutual success.

The start-up is focused on technologies that will make impact in the future such as:

Artificial intelligence;

Autonomous machines;

Blockchain application;

Connected mobility; and

Distributed electrification.

These technologies are viewed as innovation fields that will become key drivers on the way to next-generation intelligence. This is an opportunity for start-ups in the African continent to partner with an established organisation to make an impact globally.